School Committee Discusses Budget Options; Commends Western Coventry Administrators
The Committee was impressed with the sense of community at the elementary school.
Students from Western Coventry Elementary School kicked off Tuesday night's School Committee meeting by showcasing their talents by performing song and dance numbers that they have been learning in school.
A group of kindergartners performed "Alphabet in Motion", a number that teaches children the alphabet as well as gets them physically active. The school's Drama Club performed three energetic selections from the play, "Little Orphan Annie" including "Hard Knock Life", "You're Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile" and "Tomorrow".
Second grader Zachary Padula and fifth grader Audrey Buffy read their Young Authors stories to the Committee. Sherri Arnold, a reading assistant at the school and member of the ELA Committee explained how Western Coventry has approached Reading Month by creating a school-wide story consisting of one sentence from each class, having the staff participate in a storybook, and allow two students each day to read to Principal Janice Sullivan.
Washington Oak parent Michelle Carignan addressed the Committee about her part on the Health and Wellness Committee. The initiative teaches parents and children how to make healthy decisions and incorporate physical activity and exercise into their everyday lives. Several examples of what the school has been doing to encourage these lifestyle changes have been allowing the children to make "gingerbread houses" out of graham crackers, pretzel rods, seeds, soy nut butter, animal crackers, coconut and shredded wheat instead of the traditional unhealthy and processed ingredients. Teachers also have the students do morning stretches each day in class as well as "energizers" that allow them to move around and stretch in the middle of the day. The school also has a walking club where kids utilize pedometers to track their progress.
Principal Sullivan expressed her gratitude to her staff, the PTA and the Unified Learning staff at Western Coventry. She also thanked Superintendent Mike Convery and Assistant Superintendent James Erinakes for their support and help with the "cutting edge initiatives that are going on in Coventry," such as the new teacher evaluation system that she referred to as an "amazing feat."
Sullivan also took the time to share with the Committee the grants that the school has been awarded this year including Summer Technology E2T2 awards totaling $39,000, Feinstein Leadership School Stipends totaling $7,000 and an award of $5,000 because of Kristen Deschene's selection as the "Amgen Teacher of the Year."
She also discussed several challenges that the school has faced recently including overcrowding due to re-districting at the third and fifth grade levels, lack of updated technology including copiers to replace the overused machines currently in use and the removal of monitors from the school busses which Sullivan referred to as "the biggest struggle I had as a principal."
District One representative Tom Hetherman explained to Sullivan that during his time on the Committee he has never once received a complaint against Western Coventry School and is impressed but not surprised by that fact.
"I love Western Coventry," he said. "I wish I still had kids that went here."
Chairperson Katherine Patenaude agreed with Hetherman saying that she is very impressed by how the parents and administrators come together to benefit the students.
FY12 Budget Discussion
Finance Director Robin Reasor presented the FY12 Budget plan that was shown to the Town Council on April 4. The Committee also discussed several worst-case scenarios for School Department cuts in upcoming years, all that are "unpalatable" according to Chairperson Patenaude.
"At some point we feel there is nothing left to give and we feel we are at that point," said Erinakes.
In the report Assistant Superintendent Erinakes explained that during last week's Professional Development day, administrators were given an introduction to the new evaluation system and were given a side-by-side comparison of the RIDE model and the Coventry model. "People's anxiety levels have gone way down now that they are aware of how the system works and everything I've heard has been pretty positive."
Superintendent Convery announced that the Aspen Information System training sessions will begin soon for a May 16 launch date and the planning of a new School Improvement Plan will being shortly with a deadline of June 30.
The next School Committee meeting will be held on April 26 at 7 p.m.