Parents say new programs can't replace ALAP


Although Superintendent Dr. Richard D’Agostino and Committee member Karen Bacchus suggested alternatives to the Accelerated Learning Activities Program (ALAP), parents made a passionate plea for the reinstatement of the program Tuesday night.

Bacchus, who abstained in the two-to-two vote resulting in the elimination of the program, presented her idea for the Creative Enrichment Program.

“As many people have commented in the last month, I did vote not to continue ALAP because I think it has some deficits, and I think we can do better,” said Bacchus.

Her vision is for a new after-school enrichment program for all elementary students in grades 4 through 6 who wish to participate. Each of the 16 elementary schools would offer the program once a week for two hours, one and a half hours for the children and a half hour for teacher planning and preparation. Bacchus said for this year she sees the program starting in January, but being a 30-week program in the future.

“The curriculum is not written, but I see it as very broad. I see it as cultures of the world to include the literature of that time if the kids can understand it, the history, philosophy, the music, musical instruments, food, etc. for the kids to have as much tactile, hands-on as well as creative academics,” said Bacchus, who explained that she is looking at various curriculums.

She continued to explain her vision, which she has briefly discussed with D’Agostino, Chairwoman Beth Furtado, Elementary Director Robert Bushell and legal counsel, would be a three-phase program with a different curriculum for each grade so a student would never repeat the program.

Bacchus placed the cost of starting the program for January at around $75,000 and believes the funds can be taken from substitute salaries and the professional development fund. Bacchus said teachers would work for the program and be paid a $42 per hour tutoring stipend for their time.

“If you went 30 weeks, it’s less than $100,000,” said Bacchus.

To pay two teachers for two hours a week for 30 weeks at 16 elementary schools, the cost would be $80,640 in tutoring stipends. Bacchus also said she could see the program operating every other week if necessary.

“This would be a creative venue. It would be things that you can’t do necessarily in the classroom. You don’t have time,” said Bacchus.

She also called into question the claim that children liked being taken out of the classroom for ALAP.

“I talked to a lot of kids who were in ALAP who hated to miss their class when they were in ALAP and vice versa. The kids that were left over in the classroom, a lot of them were labeled as ‘dumb kids’ and they weren’t necessarily dumb,” said Bacchus.

Making improvements to in-class instruction is what D’Agostino suggests. He said that since ALAP was cut from the budget, he met with Bushell and Director of Curriculum Anne Siesel to look at alternatives. The three have also been in contact with Dr. Joseph Renzulli, director of the National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented at the University of Connecticut, to learn ways education is provided to gifted students. The superintendent said Renzulli is a leader in gifted and talented education and provides support to states and districts.

D’Agostino also said he has spoken with other communities, including Cranston and Coventry, to see how they educate their gifted and talented students. The discovery is that most use differentiated learning, which D’Agostino explained is “a method of teaching students and grouping them in different groups and focusing the instruction on those different groups.” He explained that Westbay Collaborative has individuals experienced in differentiated learning who would be able to deliver professional development to Warwick teachers.

Bacchus also pointed out that the state teacher’s exam includes a portion on differentiated learning.

“Anybody who’s come out in the past few years since they started that should have experience in [differentiated learning],” said Bacchus.

In addition to this process, D’Agostino said after-school programs are being looked at.

“Mr. Bushell is going to make an analysis of the elementary schools to see what they are providing and then we can incorporate into the program at the same time,” said the superintendent, pointing out a number of after-school enrichment programs offered at various elementary schools including chess club, dance, Spanish Club and even Latin Club.

Siesel addressed Bacchus’ Creative Enrichment Program and said many of the curriculums she has researched would be in the same vein.

“So there are already curriculums out there we can certainly explore and we would like to explore either as an after-school experience or possibly something that some children can do in addition to what they are doing in the regular classroom,” said Siesel.

D’Agostino asked for time to look at other communities and recommendations from UConn as to how programs are funded and for how long.

“With that information, we can make a recommendation this is realistic, that we can afford and that is beneficial to all of the students you talk about,” said D’Agostino.

After the plans were announced and explained, committee member Eugene Nadeau spoke up on behalf of the ALAP students.

“I don’t have a problem with this kind of an idea to benefit students, but how in the name of God are we advancing the education when we vote two-to-two to eliminate the ALAP program. That’s a disgrace,” said Nadeau. “We must restore ALAP. We must restore ALAP.”

As Nadeau finished his remarks, the small audience cheered and applauded, with pleas to restore ALAP continuing during public comment.

Toll Gate High School English teacher Darlene Netcoh stood up and explained that “grouping” was eliminated at the high school level. She has also attended a number of workshops on differentiated learning and said the higher performing group is often just given more work.

“Well, put yourself in that position. Because you get to finish the work and you’re working at a higher pace and a higher level, the response is just to give you more work,” said Netcoh. “Does that make sense? I don’t think so because whose going to want to do that? Whose going to want to work to their ability if that just means you have more work to do?”

“People move here because of these programs that we have here and people will leave if we don’t have them,” said Patrick Maloney Jr., adding that the committee should keep track of ALAP students and see how many leave the district.

He later spoke of his belief that eliminating ALAP is not a budgetary issue, but the administration is attempting to slow the learning of the highest performing students in the hope of closing the educational gap between the highest and lowest performing students. Maloney said Warwick Schools have been warned about closing the gap for two years, yet it is only increasing.

“They would be forced to let go of teachers, let go of administrators – exactly what happened in Central Falls,” said Maloney.

Additional ALAP parents argued to restore the program.

“My kids have been motivated by being with other children, other highly motivated, highly skilled, highly intelligent children,” said Jim Fraser.

Kathleen Ogni said after-school enrichment for all students is a great thing, but it is not a replacement for ALAP, which challenged her child with higher thinking and creative problem solving.

“I think we should enrich all of the kids as much as we can, but we’re talking about educating our kids during the school day, their normal part of education,” said Ogni.

“The kids that need help get the tutors and student teachers help them. Why can’t we do that on the other side of the spectrum for the people that don’t need help but need encouragement,” said Steve Anderson.

“You have many children in this city that have to go to after-school care. They can’t attend after-school programs. So you are excluding children,” said Pam Dillon, who added that in the classroom her two gifted children are already “teaching” other students or spend most of the class reading their own books. She also questioned the cost of the program and the addition cost of administrators to be in the building as supervisors.

“If you’re going to spend money for something like that, you might as well spend it on the ALAP program,” said Dillon.

Janine Nazareth made one of the evening’s most defiant statements as a parent of a gifted child and a special needs child.

“Inclusion works on both ends of the spectrum,” said Nazareth. “You can’t say a student with special needs has to be included unless there’s a special reason but then look at the gifted child and say, ‘No, it’s OK. They can be in that classroom.’”

Nazareth also pointed out that her gifted daughter read two Harry Potter books in the last month of school during her class time because she finished her work. She has also already finished her 200 math problems and read a 361-page book meant for sixth and seventh graders. “How are you going to keep her active in school?”

While the fate of the ALAP program or proposed replacements still appears to be up in the air with two weeks until the start of school, the ALAP PTA will hold a meeting Monday night at 6 at the Warwick Library to discuss future plans. School Committee members and administrators are invited to attend. There is also talk of a special School Committee meeting occurring, but no date has been set.


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I would like to explain further the problem Warwick Schools have with the educational gap between Warwick's highest performing students and our lowest performing students. Warwick schools have received deficiencies by the Department of Education for multiple years and are in a "Warning" status. I have talked with several administrators in the last 6 months and they have confirmed this for me. I first became aware of it while I was on the School Committee. A Jr high school was placed on warning and if the Jr High school did not close the gap between these 2 groups the Dept of Ed would take corrective action just as action was taken in Central Falls. It was explained to me by an administrator that in the last 2 years not only was the gap not closed but the gap increased because the lowest performing students did not increase performance, and the highest performing students (ALAP and Honors students) did increase performance. Warwick Schools have been under a warning status and according to the administrator I spoke with, if the gap is not closed by the end of the year, the State will take corrective action. The schools have the money to keep ALAP. They are choosing not to keep ALAP.

I find no reasonable explanation why they would not want to keep it. I have heard that principals have complained that ALAP creates a scheduling issue as they must use a classroom and there might not be room so they have to work to find a room for them. This is a complaint that has been forwarded to the Director of Elementary Ed. I have heard that teachers don't like students being taken out of the classroom. Karen Bachus is doing interviews with students? She should be talking with the parents not the students. If you ask any student a question the right way, you can get the answer you want. Her solution, after school program with stipends for teachers. More money for teachers? I'm not surprised. There is no reason NOT to keep this program until a real solution is found. This program has existed for 30+ years.

I believe that Warwick schools has given up on trying to close the gap by increasing the performance of the lowest performing students and they are attempting to slow the learning of the highest performing students to correct the gap. Why would they want to do this? It is simple. According to the administrator that I spoke with, the Department of Ed will come into the schools that have not closed the gap and they will relieve all administrators at the school form their job. The principal will be relieved of their job and will lose their certification in the State of RI. The teachers can be let go and only 50% will be able to be rehired. It will be just like Central Falls right here in Warwick.

This is a very real problem for the Warwick Schools. If the lowest performing students can not increase their scores at the elementary level, then the Superintendent should be let go. The director of Elementary Education should be let go, the Principals at those schools should be let go, the teachers should be let go and the School Committee should take action to NOT renew all of the people I have listed. Instead, they will attempt to correct the problem by cutting the program that benefits the highest performing students. It is immoral, and I will not stand for it.

I am surprised that we have not seen a full story on this in the Beacon. It would take a simple call to the Dept of Ed to ask which schools are under warning and what the consequences are if they do not improve performance.

It should be noted that all students by RI policy are to be provided a free AND APPROPRIATE education. This means students at each level of the learning spectrum. I fought for every special education student while on the committee, I fought for every accelerated student while on the committee and I will fight for every student even if I am not on the committee. It is appropriate that these students receive this instruction. If they do not receive this instruction, I expect each parent of an ALAP student to go to the school immediately and ask for an IEP for their student. Request... demand an IEP for your student. The Warwick Schools must provide a response by law as to why they will not provide an appropriate education for your student. It will certainly cost much less to provide ALAP to every student who qualifies than to create an IEP for each student.

I know this seems like a drastic course of action to preserve the program but administration does not care about the program, finds no benefit to keeping the program and the program will be lost forever. Switching to an after school program is a temporary solution as the after school program will immediately be cut.

Finally, Warwick administration insists that the program costs $325,000. The fact is that outside of the 2.5 Teachers assigned to the program only $2650 is spent on the program. If the 2.5 Teachers are returned to the regular classroom which is the plan, only $2650 will be saved. $2650 plus the salaries of the 3 teachers that do not need to be recalled from the lay off list. Ten of the lowest paid teachers have been laid off and of these 10, 3 will stay laid off if the ALAP program in not reinstated. The salaries and benefits of these 3 teachers is approximately $165,000 at a maximum. So, if the 3 ALAP teachers return to the classroom, the schools save $165K plus the $2650, a total of $167,650. The school committee currently has a $170K surplus that must be placed somewhere. They can easily reinstate the program. In fact, if they take the 2.5 ALAP teachers and place them in the classroom, they increase costs because the .5 teacher becomes a full time teacher so they have a net loss because the ALAP teacher is a higher step than the teacher that would be recalled from the lay off list.

The argument to take the ALAP budget, $2650 for supplies and disperse it among all the Warwick students is a joke as well. If you take $2650 and divide it amongst 9500 students, that is 28 Cents per student. I believe 28 cents buys a pencil today. So, we can provide a pencil to each student on the first day of class, let administrators keep their jobs by closing the gap between our highest performing students and our lowest performing students by lowering the bar rather than working harder to prepare our low performing students or we can keep a program that has served the Students of Warwick for decades. What do you think is the right thing to do. Please contact your School committee member and let them know what you think. Jennifer Ahearn and Eugene Nadeau have already voted to keep ALAP. Contact Beth Furtado, Karen Bachus and Teri Mederios. Contact the Superintendent too. Let him know you are want this program in the Warwick Schools.

You can reach your school committee members here:

The superintendent contact info is:

Richard D'Agostino, Ed.D.


The director of Elementary Ed contact info is here:

Director of Elementary Education

Robert Bushell: 401-734-3010


Former Warwick SC member,

Patrick Maloney Jr.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Great schools are the back bone of a Great city and many people relocating look at schools as a primary reason for choosing where to live. When we have a school system that people can be proud of then people will move here and this will stabilize our finances by broadening our tax base. I want people to move here and I don't want people to leave. Cutting this program is a terrible choice and once it is cut people will chose not to come here and more will chose to leave. Saving this program is a step in the right direction to making this city stronger.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Cutting Warwick's ALAP program is more evidence of what a mess the Warwick School Department / School Committee is and how it has a complete lack of direction and leadership. After Tuesday's School Committee meeting its ever more clear that there was and is no plan to meet the needs of Warwick's gifted and talented students post-ALAP.

It defies logic to cut a program THEN come up with alternatives to meet the needs of the students that program supported. To make things worse, many of the alternatives suggested, particularly the after-school "enrichment" program, weren't at all intended to meet the needs of the gifted and talented students in Warwick. Ms. Backus insults our best and brightest students first by cowardly abstaining from voting whether to keep or cut ALAP, then takes that insult further by suggesting an alternative at the very next school committee meeting that doesn't meet the needs of these gifted students.

I continue to believe that ALAP is an excellent program that serves the gifted and talented elementary students in Warwick well. While its imperative that ALAP be reinstated, if it is not to be part of Warwick's long term plan (if a long term plan even exists) the next best option, in my opinion, is to keep ALAP until a suitable alternative can be identified, planned, and implemented. The current cut-first, plan-later process doesn't serve students and parents well, and is simply foolish. The students and parents in Warwick deserve better.

If I acted in my professional life the way the school administration and school committee has handled ALAP and school planning in general, I wouldn't have a professional life.

Friday, August 16, 2013

At the school committee meeting it was mentioned that Warwick was in the minority in Rhode Island providing a gifted program such as ALAP, which I think was something to be proud of. However the context of those comments seemed to be that therefore a program like ALAP was not needed or desirable. I think if we are going to use that sort of contextual comparison we should look nationwide. Rhode Island is one of only 10 states with no legislation mandating or funding gifted education. What a shame and disservice to our children! The following links to a map on the status of gifted education policy state by state.

I still do not understand how an afterschool creative enrichment program available to children whose parent's work schedules allow for that time frame addresses the vacuum left in ALAP's absence for children who have a specialized learning need. I think creative enrichment programs are a fabulous idea, I really do, but it doesn't address ALAP at all. We are talking about removing a program addressing children's educational needs as part of their school day education, not a supplement to education but a program to address their unique needs during their school day vs. an after school extra.

I also am disheartedned by Ms. Bachus' comments regarding the children in the classroom not in ALAP. I have never heard an ALAP student or parent refer to or consider kid's not in ALAP as dumb, that is a ridiculous assumption and assertion. Many ALAP families have children in and out of ALAP in the same family. I know in my daughter's grade there were four students in ALAP, is Ms. Bachus asserting that every other child in her grade somehow then was burdened with a label of being dumb? Not only is that untrue I think it is a deliberate red herring thrown in to muddy the true issue of providing adequate education for every child and learning type. I don't know what children she spoke to that didn't like being pulled for ALAP, but it is a voluntary program, and if she had listened to the sobbing outside the auditorium door when ALAP was cut I am sure that she is fully aware that isn't the case for most ALAP students.

I sincerely hope to see the school committee members, Dr. D'Agostino and Mr.Bushell attend the meeting on Monday at 6 pm at the Warwick Library to hear the concerns of the parents of students affected as well as to hopefully form an effective partnership for ensuring all the children in Warwick elementary schools receive an appropriate education for their unique needs.

Friday, August 16, 2013

I would also like to thank Jennifer Rodrigues and the Warwick Beacon for continuing to cover this issue. I know that it doesn't involve as many students as the closing of a junior high or raise the community ire like sports cuts...but it is really important and does truthfully affect deeply a portion of our elementary school students and by extension the community as a whole. I am grateful for the coverage despite it being a "minority" of the population issue.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Regarding the suggestion to employ differentiated learning, following is from the newsletter on the web site:

Q. There is a lot of talk in our district about “differentiation” for gifted students. Do you recommend it, and is it an effective strategy for serving gifted students? S.D.

A. It depends on the type of classroom differentiation being considered as an accommodation of gifted learners. A differentiated curriculum in a mixed ability classroom, containing only a few gifted students, is not a practical solution as it is not likely to serve the students or the teacher. As Joyce Van Tassel-Baska, one of the leading experts on differentiation notes, “Without grouping in some form, differentiated curriculum is difficult if not impossible to accomplish.” If the differentiated curriculum is in a classroom for gifted students whose abilities range from moderately gifted to highly gifted, differentiation can be an effective teaching tool to accommodate this range of abilities. The more homogeneous the composition of the classroom, the more successful differentiation is likely to be. Differentiation takes a great deal of teacher training and experience; we’ve also observed that certain personality types are more effective using differentiation as a teaching tool than others. Differentiation is a good concept, but difficult to execute well. We strongly encourage schools to consider other options to address the educational needs of gifted learners.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

My comments and post were questioned above by a reader in a different article. They said my opinion did not hold much water. I do not just post my opinions, I back them up with facts. Here is my response:

I want to be clear. I sat in a meeting with a building administrator for 2 hours and discussed this topic at the end of 2011. I went to a central administrator at the beginning of 2012 and made sure they were aware of this and they confirmed they were aware and were trying to come up with a solution. I have heard they have not resolved the issue to raise the performance of the lower scoring students. I am not a conspiracy theorist. I saw decisions from the inside.

Warning according to the RIDE chart for Aldrich: A combination of low achievement in reading and math, unacceptable gaps, little or no improvement in achievement or graduation rates, and/or failure to test enough students

Aldrich: 2013- 8 targets passed out of 12 targets (4 failures to meet objectives). A warning school 2 years in a row, not meeting AYP at Aldrich.

The 2012 Report card shows Aldrich at 7 Passed targets out of 12.

Aldrich is on RIDE's radar as shown by the number of targets looked at last year compared to this year. Last year 8 targets were evaluated. Aldrich was placed on Warning. This year 12 targets are reviewed and not only did they not improve in the one area, they failed in 4 areas in 2013. Repeating a failure for the goal of closing the gap.

From RIDE:

Gap-closing: Is the school serving all students, including those with disabilities and English Learners? This measure indicates whether student groups in each school are closing achievement gaps. This measure compares the scores of a high-performing group of students within the district against the performance of other student groups within the school.

RIDE:How We Intervene in and Support Schools

On identification as a Priority School, the school and RIDE begin a three- to five-year intervention process:

Diagnosis and planning: The school will undergo a diagnostic screening and develop a plan for improvement that includes a comprehensive package of interventions, including at least nine strategies that respond to the diagnosis findings and are subject to the Commissioner’s approval; the district may also opt to close the school or to reopen the school under new education management.

Implementation and monitoring: The district and school will put the improvement plan into action. District leadership will oversee this process, through quarterly performance reviews with RIDE.

Warning Schools will implement a plan for improvement, but on a limited scale and without intensive RIDE oversight. RIDE expects all other schools to focus on meeting all Annual Measurable Objectives and to strive for continued improvement of student achievement.

Winman 2012 Warning 5 of 8 targets met. 2013 Winman Typical 8 of 8 targets met. Gorton: 2013 Typical. 8of 8 met.

AYP, Academic Yearly progress is not the Academic Gap.

School Districts Not Meeting AYP School Year 2010-11

B. InterventionStatus

First Year 2010-2011: Warwick

Next year, Aldrich, potentially in its 3rd year of Warning status, could move from a Warning School to a Focus school. And RIDE could change from a plan for improvement to intensive Oversight. Do you think Administrators want this. What should their solution be to improve things for lower scoring students within one year to prevent RIDE from intruding? If they can't improve the lowest performing students, what should they do. I requested at the last school committee meeting that the school committee follow the progress of the ALAP students to see if their progress improved, stayed the same or fell if ALAP was cancelled. We will wait to see what the results are or if they actually decide to track results of their decision.

Finally, if a Jr high school closes this year, it forces a reboot of the RIDE data. Gorton was the only jr high school that met AYP and met all goals for the last 3 years.

Sunday, August 18, 2013


You must take the blame for some of the things that are happening in the schools. You hired the people at the top, D'agostino, Mullin, Healey,Mullins son,and loads of others who have come up with the plan to cut alap and other things.You and others clap and tell Furcci he is doing a good job when he sets the budget and we have 1.9 to 6 million surplus. Every year. You and Beth cry wolf to the city make cuts and then have a surplus. No wonder the mayor increases the city side by 30 million over 6 years he never cuts any thing but the schools get 500,000 in the same time span. Spend the money keep the programs and all the schools open. we have cut enough. The Mayor and his friend Marc c have no kids in public schools so they do not care about public education. Next year lets really get some one to run for mayor vs Scott it's time for a change. Maybe Scott will get that D.C. job. Fund the schools fully I want my children to be educated fully not used as a pawn in his Tax game.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

HI DirtyPool. If I wasn't on the committee this program and many others would have been cut years ago.

I hired D'Agostino for a temporary EMERGENCY position as he was one of the few qualified people on staff. If I were on the committee, we would have opened the position up to all applicants. The fact is the school committee broke its own policy hiring him without allowing all to apply. This was a new policy 2 years ago and they didn't follow it. I hired Mullins to be the Director of 2nd Ed, he is doing an ok job as far as I can tell. He walked into a situation that was already in place and he was an excellent principal at Pilgrim. Healey was there before I arrived and the superintendent choses to keep her in the same capacity. I was extremely familiar with ROn Porier, the former Math/Science coordinator. I thought he did a good job. I researched Mullins son separately and questioned the appointment more than anyone else and I felt he was qualified. We did not have many applicants for the position but I don't know what Mullin's son has to do with alap? He has nothing to do with ALAP. THe only people involved with keeping or removing it is the School Committee pushed by the Superintendent and Director of Elementary Ed.

Ferrucci does do a good job. He reports the information every month, something never done before. This was a request of the Parent COmmunication Committee. I sat on the committee for 4 years. They asked for more transparency regarding the budget.

I never cried wolf, the fact is, the schools have been under funded and the fact is schools need to close. I don't know what you mean by "No wonder the city increases the budget $30 Million"? Are you serious... do you live in Warwick? TAX AND SPEND that is what happens in Warwick and the State. The Mayor raised taxes every year in office and the schools had a level budget each of the 4 years I was on the committee. My decisions included cuts and I solved the School deficit created prior to my being elected (I didn't do it alone, but I will take some of the credit for good decision making.) One problem is we are required by law to give lay off notices in March, Present a budget in April, all before we know what our year end is... AND teachers can wait until the day before school starts to put in for their retirement. The lay off requirement should be changed to June, teachers should be required to notify the schools by May of their intent to retire and budgets should be presented after we know how much the state and feds will give us. It isn't perfect by and means.

I am no longer on the committee so I have no choice to fund or not fund something. I can only say I want something and that I do not agree with the choices they have made and I am clueless as to the way they chose to make them.

Monday, August 19, 2013

I wanted 4 more years to continue to make positive changes but the voters elected a union hack, Karen Bachus. Her first order of business without even going to one budget meeting... her first month, give raises to the WISE union who stood outside the polling places to get her elected. I made a promise to the voters to stay within the budget and I did it. I didn't take any campaign contributions because I didn't want anyone to feel I owed them a favor. I only owed the voters for giving me a chance to serve and I believe I served them honorably.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Home values are going to take a hit as our schools continue to race for the bottom. Right now the only people who are going to move to Warwick for the schools are going to be poor people with kids that need IEP's. Warwick counts kids on IEP's as 1.5 or 2 students to increase the funding and support of those kids. We are going to attract poor families that are likely to rent, and ensure that any families with cash who value education aren't going to buy a home in Warwick. One more nail in Warwick's coffin. This is just another contributor to the death spiral of a once proud city.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013