October 22, 2014
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LETTERS
Schools derogate from responsibility to higher performing students

To the Editor: 

In the 1980s, I was a student in the Accelerated Learning Activities Program (ALAP) in Warwick, and my daughter has been in the program for the last two years. While I appreciate the attention that the ALAP teachers have given to me and my daughter, I also view the elimination of ALAP funding in the 2013-14 school department budget as a breath of fresh air. Frankly, ALAP was in the 1980s, and has remained little more than a token gesture of the school department to accommodate the special needs of its higher-performing students. Now, with the elimination of ALAP, the school department cannot hide behind that token gesture – it is now crystal-clear that the school department offers absolutely no additional program for its higher-performing elementary students.

Whether that failure of Warwick Public Schools is legal or not might be debated, but, in fact, it has been the case for decades that the school department derogates from its responsibility to its higher-performing students. The elimination of ALAP is a healthy exposure of what has always been true. It is disappointing but inevitable, given those currently in charge, that our school committee and administration prefer to purchase new vehicles and provide administrators with raises, rather than invest in substantive programs for students at all levels of performance.

George W. Shuster Jr.

Riverview


Comments
11 comments on this item

Amen.

For years ALAP has been a shut-up program aimed at parents. Your kids aren't being challenged, well we have a program that meets a couple of hours a week and does a little something for them. Not much, but something.

Don't believe me? Look at the numbers of children in the program by school. If you can convince me that most of the "gifted" children go to Cedar Hills, then I will paint your house. Parents are involved there and the department knows (knew) that they have to do something to shut the parents up. Kids at Oakland Beach, well the department knows that the parents there will not complain.

Warwick could have a great program for these students but chooses not too. The politicians and unions have seen to that.

Like most government entities, the Warwick public schools are fully invested in mediocre outcomes with never a hint of accountability. When a tough decision needs to be made, a committee is formed. But when a few extra dollars are found in the budget at the end of a fiscal year, $300,000 is quickly but quietly spent on new vehicles!

There is a glaring problem that I see with the numbers and it doesn't take a math wizard to see it. The percentage given is not appropriate. If you look at the total population of the schools, 300 of 9600 students is 3%. How do they get .5%????? Maybe they should have the ALAP kids show the school committee and administration how to figure out the percentages, they can certainly get that right. In fact, the school committee shouldn't be comparing the 300 against the total population of the schools as the Secondary schools have honors programs that the elementary students do not have. ALAP is the honors program for the elementary students. I believe there are approximately 4600 elementary students and the 300 students are a part of that budget. So 300 out of 4600 is 6.5% not .5 percent.

So in order to have the budget help more than .5% of the students you need only to do correct math. It is 6.5% of the elementary students.

If they want to look at a fair comparison $325K is 0.0018 of $158,000,000. Alap is less than 2 one-thousandths of a percent of the total budget. They are putting less than 2 one-thousandths of the budget into 6.2% of the elementary kids.

Two of my 3 children are in ALAP and I have seen the difference in the programs. My non-alap child never had any homework, only work she didn't finish in class. My 2 alap students have projects that taught them time management and required them the do research learning computer skills too. This was more than a program to shut parents up.

So, ALAP was the best the school department could do for the gifted students?

They tossed this population of students a bone and told them to be happy with it or it would be taken away.

In the past ten years the program has been threatened to be cut off numerous times. Never expanded. Never looked at. The program was cut out of the junior high schools. High schools? Yes they have AP courses, but the students PAY to take the tests. So if you have an kid who does well across the board, you are going to have to pay for that in the public schools.

Try to get a School Committee person to give a rat's behind.

Schools are being funded an run as giant day-care centers where the future is being sold to the lowest bidder. The school department is just telling the round kids to fit into the square holes of conformity.

Justanidiot. ALAP is the best Warwick can do for gifted kids. What would you expect? how would you make it better? How would you expand it? I was on the school committee and all the people I served with worked hard to keep the program because we believed in it. The schools have a budget problem. In the last 5 years the city budget has gone up $30 million annually and the school budget has gone up $500K during the same period while the schools have been responsible for repairing roofs, fire code upgrades, etc. These repairs were voted by the citizens of Warwick to be fixed in a 2005 Bond. The mayor never released the bond money but the repairs have needed to be done. I voted against raises for staff on numerous occasions to keep money in the programs. The only time I ever voted to give staff a salary increase was when I found the money by getting a concession from the unions. We saved millions of dollars which allowed us to keep programs. There are good members on the committee, they need to do more than follow the instructions of the administration. They should be leaders.

This committee/ administration voted to give raises without doing its due diligence, they didn't have the guts to close a school saving money, and they are looking to get the money for the raises they already spent at the expense of this program. Raises this year cost $437K annually and they didn't close a school, where will the money come from now? Low hanging fruit... this program. What will be cut next? Will it be music like Cranston?

Is the program perfect? Is any program perfect? It doesn't take much to give these kids extra, but taking the little they have will have a large impact on the education they get.

One inexpensive way that the program could have been bettered is to make it a program where students were together all day with students from other grade schools. Instead of the teachers running around, teaching out of their cars, and shoehorning kids into unused corners, dedicated space could be found where the students could have had a chance to really soar.

ALAP University was an attempt by the parents to do this at least once a year and was a success.

You ever wonder why private schools do so well in this State?

Many Private schools have alumni programs that ask for graduates to take time to go back and visit the schools to see what they are doing. The Alumni also donate money to the schools to help make them better.

I was the ALAP PTA president for a year and have been involved with ALAP University for the last 5 years. ALAP University was a success every year because of the Parent Volunteers.

You have some good ideas. I should point of that during my time on the school committee they did look at bussing all the kids to one or 2 schools for instruction but the costs were too much. Most schools have a space for extra programs. JBF uses the auditorium for music and chorus. They used to have a dedicated room but this room was converted for special education needs. It should be noted that ALAP students have special education needs as well at a different part of the learning spectrum.

The cost of ALAP university each year is around $4-5,000. All of the money is raised by the PTA and through donations. Each student pays a small cost for the 6 hour event that includes lunch. If a student can not afford the cost of the event, they are allowed to attend regardless. Any extra food has been donated to local food banks and shelters.

And when my kids were in it, they met in a hallway.

And administratively, the person who was the head of ALAP was generally the person who was late to the meeting and had it dumped into their lap. If the department had been serious about the program, they would have put someone in charge who put in the time and effort. ALAP was the hot potato that got passed around.

The department did this because they knew that the parents would step up and do things for free that they should be paying someone for. In light of that, why doesn't the ALAP PTA get a grant to fund the program outside of school hours?

When were your kids in the program? Several years ago, the person in charge of the program didn't care. He was a year away from retirement and should have retired earlier. In my opinion, It has been run well the last 5 years. The ALAP PTA is only the PTA. If ALAP is gone there will be no PTA.

It seems as if ALAP has been cut. I expected the School Committee to meet to discuss it. I guess they chose not to even look into it. At first they said there was no money in the budget but then they said they had the money but didn't want to fund a program that helped so few, .5% of the children. The numbers were off. .5% of the children would be 50 kids, the same number as a football team. The sports programs gets $90,000 for referees, $45K for Ice Rink Rental, $12K for Pool rental, uniforms, 63,000, etc. ALAP required only 2.5 Teachers, a cost of approximately $180,000. Sports rates higher than education apparently.

When I was on the school committee, I was the committee member most knowledgable with technology and IT information. I reviewed the current budget. The IT software budget was increased after I left from $336,000 a year to $669,000 a year. This is DOUBLE THE BUDGETED AMOUNT IN 1 YEAR! Do your kids have all new computers in school? Do they all have new ipads and/or tablets?

Why did the School Committee let the IT department run amok with their budget? Why did NOT ONE MEMBER of the committee question the request for DOUBLE the IT budget? Why would they approve a budget for any department to be DOUBLE? Why is no one questioning this? If the Police Dept doubled their budget would it be questioned? The fire Dept?

There would be more than enough money in the budget for great programs like ALAP in the schools if the committee didn't approve absurd requests like twice the amount of the previous year. Demand that your child get more computers in schools with twice the funding for IT.

Please note, the computers that were installed in the schools last year were purchased with the previous year budget not the increased amount. The IT department should be completely outsourced in my opinion.

Contracted Nursing Services in 2010, $183K. Nursing services in 2012...$304K, in 2013.... $446,244.

Transportation costs also went from $4.6 Million to $6 Million. Is ANYONE asking why?

Here is a link to the School Budget. Do you see anything that should be questioned?

http://webmail.warwickschools.org/scpublicdocs/FOV1-0005CEAD/

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