EAST PROVIDENCE — At its meeting of May 24, the East Providence School Committee passed Phase I of the reorganization plan for the city’s elementary, middle and high schools. The plan, which includes the implementation of full-day kindergarten in September and the addition of teaching staff, also eliminates several positions within the district.
District-wide, nine teaching assistants, four education specialists, the high school PBGR coordinator, and 14 liaison positions will be eliminated, mostly through layoffs. Schools Supt. Mario Cirillo estimated that even with the addition of all-day kindergarten, the district will still realize savings of $241,000. She also said the changes will allow the school district to be in compliance with the Rhode Island Department of Education's Basic Education Plan.
Phase I at the high school focuses on five key areas: to lead the focus on learning and achievement, to recruit, support and retain highly qualified staff; to guide the implementation of curriculum, instruction and assessment; to use information for planning and accountability; and to engage families and the community to promote positive student achievement and behavior, while providing the opportunity for adult alternative learning opportunities. Each component of the plan moves the focus of the administrative teams from discipline issues and concerns to critical areas which support teaching and student learning.
While educators and some parents expressed their support for full-day kindergarten, Colleen Kinder, a teacher assistant, raised concerns about the impact the elimination of teachers' aides will have on students with learning challenges. Kinder felt these students thrive on the one-on-one relationship developed with the teachers' assistants. Cirillo assured residents and the committee that no child’s education would be compromised as a result of the lay-offs.
Assistant Supt. Caroline Caswell reviewed NECAP scores showing that district-wide, there is improvement in reading proficiency. She said that the same cohort of students in grade 8 has been followed since grade 3 and the trend indicates consistent growth over the five year period. However, she said that math and writing remain a challenge for the district and will be addressed during the next school year. She also pointed out that the increase in the high school drop-out rate may be a result of the increased graduation requirements now mandated by the state.
School Committee member Chrissy Rossi reported on consolidation with the city’s administration, and suggested that currently there is a potential overlap in the administration of IT, human resources, maintenance, and finance operations. Rossi also proposed researching areas to generate additional revenue for the school department such as placement of advertisements on school buses and expanding the city’s adult education programs.