Letter: School Committee Members Urge Residents to Support School Programs

Four of the seven school committee members are asking voters to support school programs in next year's budget.

The North Kingstown Town Council will be having several meetings at the end of this month and the beginning of next month to .  The agenda for these meetings has not been set as of this date but the meeting dates are April 30 at 7 p.m. and May 1, if needed, at noon.  Final certification of the budget will be on May 2.

So what can we expect this budget will hold for our taxpayers?  This is anyone's guess but we do know that the school budget – if funded at less than the 4 percent increase that has been requested – will result in reductions in many areas.  Some feel that these reductions are just a threat to get the parents’ attention to support the budget. Not so.  

Over the last three budgets, the school department has cut staffing, negotiated labor agreements that have saved the district hundreds of thousands of dollars, put in place an early retirement program that has already saved the district more than a million dollars, frozen the wages of all administrators for the past three years, frozen purchases and raised health insurance co-share payments to the highest level of any school district in Rhode Island.  All of this while our operating cost has increased in the last two years by approximately $2.4 million each year.

While all of this was going on, we had to work to keep our school programs intact and meet all of the state required mandates, many that are unfunded.  Yet with all of this we are a high performing school district.  Our teachers have received recognition for the student performance that is nationally recognized.   We’ve received awards in nationwide testing for results, , had more students of any school district in the Rhode Island All State Orchestra and Chorus,  won second place in statewide Science Olympiad for middle schools, won second place in state science testing, saw consistent growth and improvement in the NECAP scores, have a 94.5 percent graduation rate and an athletic program that is full of honor students.

The taxpayers are getting a bargain for their investment in the North Kingstown School District – high performance throughout the district and below average cost for operation and cost per student, 13th lowest in the state.  We have an administration that thinks out of the box and is working to motivate all students. The recent school audit done by the town council proved that we are meeting our Rhode Island Department of Education requirements in the Basic Education Programs while being under funded by almost $2 million. You just can't do much better than that.

We are still working to improve the operations of our district and won't stop until the job is finished, but we must protect the programs that we have to be able to continue to produce the excellent results that we have achieved to date.  We of course understand that times are hard on some of our taxpayers and that is why we are continuing to work to improve the operation of the district.  We have yet again frozen wages of all administrators, are looking into which will help underwrite the cost of operating that building and allow the additional uses for special needs students with state required transition services, all while adding revenue to the district.  We have recently added Block Island Schools to our IT department’s list of shared services and continue to look for revenue sources to help underwrite the cost of education in North Kingstown.

I ask for your support by attending the town council meetings listed above and/or calling your council members and ask that they continue to support our high performing education program in North Kingstown.  Our future is our students and what they can achieve.  Your voice is needed. Please don't let them down.

Kimberly Page, Chairwoman
Richard Welch, Vice Chairman
Larry Ceresi
Lynda Avanzato


OrangesPoranges April 27, 2012 at 03:47 PM
Well, at least that shiny new MBTA train will make it easier to get to Massachusetts, where the jobs are (she remarked, in a voice dripping with sarcasm).
MeanE April 27, 2012 at 04:01 PM
"We have a lot of homes on the market right now at low prices." Not sure what you consider to be low prices? The average listing price right now is $509,000. Here are a few numbers that I found for Washington County towns. Looks like other towns in South County are struggling just as much if not more then NK. 27% of homes in Charlestown are vacant! NK- 259 homes on market 3.58% vacant homes 45.42% of homes have children. SK- 334 homes on market 16.26% vacant Narr- 578 homes 20.16% vacant Charlestown- 170 homes 27.64% vacant Exeter- 57 homes 3.72% vacant Hopkinton- 21 homes 5.59% vacant Richmond- 204 homes 3.24% vacant Westerly-384 homes 13.09% vacant
Concerned Resident April 27, 2012 at 05:15 PM
@MeanE: do you have an opinion as to whether the the SC / SD has done what they can ensuring lean operation and savings?
MeanE April 27, 2012 at 05:31 PM
For the most part I do. Is there more to come, Food service, IT, probably so. Are they stealing money & doing other shady illegal things like previous administrations, no they are not. Would I be upset if extra curricular activities were not funded. No I wouldn't. Parents have paid for these things out of their own pocket up until High School, why should that change once they get there. i understand that there are low income students that live in NK and would find it difficult to "pay-to-play". However, there are ways that they can work to generate the funds needed to participate. Am I completely enamored with SC, SD, Teachers Unions. No I am not. However, I do not let my political affiliation, or in my case none, get in the way of my opinions. Not implying that you do or don't, just that many on here do and are only looking out for themselves and their interests. I just try, key word try, to be more open minded.
OrangesPoranges April 27, 2012 at 05:35 PM
@MeanE: a search of RILiving just now revealed that 235 North Kingstown homes are n the markett right now. Of those, approximately 100 are under $300,000. Only 57 are between $500,000 and $1million, and 9 are in the $1 - $7 million range. The latter are all large waterfront properties and are seriously skewing the average North Kingstown sale price higher than the mean. After reading all of these comments, I would like to see if a realtor and/or a mortgage officer would chime in with his/her expertise about how property taxes and other costs affect resale value and buyer interest. I know that when I went to refinance my mortgage, the loan officer said I would be better off in Narragansett than North Kingstown, tax-wise, and the quality of life is similar. The larger question is, what is Narragansett doing better than NK, and can we follow their example?
NKGOP Watch April 27, 2012 at 05:52 PM
"Are they stealing money & doing other shady illegal things like previous administrations, no they are not." - AGREED. Only correction is that was ONE previous administration called the JAMES HALLEY administration. Incompetent arrogant public service kleptos with huge waist lines. What a pile of infected blubber the JAMES HALLEY ADMINISTRATION really was. Imagine abusing the illness of an enrolled child student to get at the actively involved mom (now on the school board so there IS justice) because you dont like what she and her friends are starting to find! And misusing special ed money! Lying and denying public information to the residents! And it was FULLY and nearly EXCLUSIVELY supported by the NK REPUBLICANS like Hueston (his "business partner", Dolan, Defedele, that moron Martasian, that twit Halloran and the rest. - Pure filth. - What we have today for an SC and SD is HEAVEN ON EARTH by comparison.
OrangesPoranges April 27, 2012 at 05:59 PM
Note media sale price is $235,000 and not $500+ as MeanE stated. This is from RILiving.com. True the stats are from last year but housing prices have decreased, not increased since then so it could actually be lower: North Kingstown Home Sales Statistics: 1st Quarter Single Family Sales - 2011 Details » Median Sales Price: $235,000.00 Number of Units Sold: 45 Avg Days on Market: 99
MeanE April 27, 2012 at 06:02 PM
@oranges I might be looking at your post wrong, but I only see 166 homes accounted for out of the 235 that you quoted. Am I missing something? I would agree with you about a expert chiming in, would be helpful. I am also not opposed to following the example of other towns in RI and beyond that have been successful. I am going to assume that our elected officials are doing their due diligence in this area of discovery on how to better our community in all areas, including tax rates. I seriously doubt that any of these folks "want" to raise taxes, including their own.
MeanE April 27, 2012 at 06:14 PM
@ Oranges - I did not state a sale price, I stated the list price of houses on the market in direct response to a comment that there were a lot of of homes on the market at low prices. If you want to look at details go here: http://www.trulia.com/real_estate/North_Kingstown-Rhode_Island/ It is pretty good site. Summary: Average price per square foot for North Kingstown RI was $150, an increase of 2.7% compared to the same period last year. The median sales price for homes in North Kingstown RI for Jan 12 to Mar 12 was $245,200 based on 37 home sales. Compared to the same period one year ago, the median home sales price increased 11.5%, or $25,200, and the number of home sales decreased 14%. There are currently 316 resale and new homes in North Kingstown on Trulia, including 18 open houses, as well as 41 homes in the pre-foreclosure, auction, or bank-owned stages of the foreclosure process. The average listing price for homes for sale in North Kingstown RI was $509,564 for the week ending Apr 18, which represents a decrease of 0.5%, or $2,470, compared to the prior week.
SausageFingers April 27, 2012 at 08:21 PM
I know it's Popular to point the finger at the unions, but keep in mind any organization whether private or publics largest expenditures are labor. From what I read in this letter from members if our sc, our teachers in nk don't have "cadillac health plans", in fact; you can look up the definition of a Cadillac plan, and I assure you even someone with no copay working for the school system doesn't qualify. It seems to me the increased cost of living is catching up to us. Also, has anyone thought about the many families that crossroads is moving into this town? Along devils ft road all those apartment complexes, sect 8, subsidized housing, crossroads. They tax our school system tremendously, and yet none of those families pay property taxes. I'm not saying those families are bad people, I'm just stating the simple fact that they are not contributing. Those buildings I'm sure account for a few hundred children. At 11k per student that adds up! Regaurdless; fund the schools. They r well worth it. My children better have the same opportunity at nk schools as I did.
Concerned Resident April 27, 2012 at 08:57 PM
I will support additional when all aspects of the town (including nk schools) are lean. This is not to say that NK has to be the most efficient but I do feel that any and all low hanging fruit that probably should have already been addressed; is addressed. Without knowing all, this should include wages, benefits and pensions. At that point I will support more...........until then I am against any and all tax increases.
SausageFingers April 27, 2012 at 09:21 PM
Definition of Cadillac health plan(aka gold plated plan) Per us senate, a high-cost health plan is defined as costing more than $10,200 for an individual or $27,500 for a family. I don't think NKsd teachers are receiving this benefit some of you claim they get.
BG April 27, 2012 at 09:25 PM
Wow MeanE is a thin skinned individual. Seems he or she has to be right about everything all the time. Good grief.
Concerned Resident April 27, 2012 at 09:44 PM
Curious as to how their plans stack up against yours and or the average private sector plans....including co-pays.
Concerned Resident April 27, 2012 at 09:48 PM
As you previously mentioned union, curious as to how the following compares to union plans - http://247wallst.com/2012/04/27/americans-no-longer-expect-retirement-at-65/
SausageFingers April 27, 2012 at 09:59 PM
Concerned- there is no "union plan" as you say. From what I have been reading in papers lately, 20% coshares seem to be pretty reasonable. Also, recent laws pertaining to teacher retirements have been passed, I think I heard teachers now must work at least 35 years before being eligible to retire. I don't know about you but that doesn't seem over generous to me. Just saying.... I read that article u posted too. It says Americans can no longer plan to retire at 65 anymore. It says that dream has been killed by the us gov. The average retirement age is now 67. A whole 2 years more. What's your point?
SausageFingers April 27, 2012 at 10:00 PM
Just so you know because you asked, I pay a 20% coshare for my insurance. What do u pay?
Concerned Resident April 28, 2012 at 01:42 AM
Lets see, 22 + 35 = 57.......2 years more you say - hmmmmmmmmmmmm Will you be able to retire @ 57? I won't. 30% co-pay When you retire what will you have for insurance? When you retire what will you be collecting for SS? When teachers retire what will they be collecting for retirement?
NKGOP Watch April 28, 2012 at 01:51 AM
Union Teachers get about 1.5 MILLION DOLLARS in retirement. Thats after almost $100k per year in total compensation. Not bad for a 3/4 time job!
MeanE April 28, 2012 at 11:52 AM
There are a lot of things that I don't understand. One of them is why so many people complain about what teachers earn, how much time off they get, that they have the best benefits, and are set for life because of their union. If being a teacher is such an ideal job, why didn't these people ride the "gravy train"? Why don't we attract the the very best college graduates to become educators? Are some teachers overpaid and under performing, yes. Are some teachers underpaid and over performing, yes. No different then any other profession. Did I used to get mad when my teachers in my lilly white CT suburb schools complained when they were some of the highest paid teachers in the US, when some poor stiff that worked in the inner city was making half their salary and had to worry about being assaulted by students and walk through a metal detector to do their job. Would I like to see teachers and ALL public servants switch to 401K instead of pensions, yes I would. But blaming the SC for an issue that is much bigger then litlle old NK is barking up the wrong tree. Teachers are instrumental in the development of future generations and their pay seems appropriate. Do we need to implement reviews to remove under performing teachers to assure that we are getting our monies worth, you bet. My suggestion has always been video cameras in every classroom to monitor both teacher and student behavior.
Common Sense April 29, 2012 at 01:17 AM
Well it is Saturday night and you have managed to comment on this article 85 times about all kinds of reasons why things are wrong at the school department. I am not surprised that all of you have failed to mention and to comment on the article on the NKPatch about Diane Heneault on April 24th for winning the national science award given by Amgen. She along with the principal at Stoney Lane Elementary school, Mr. Farario, have both won this award. Congrats to both of them but even more to the school administration and school committee for hiring these excellent teachers for our students. You should all step back and try a little kindness in your approach. We don't live in a perfect world and you are not trasnparent in your remarks or your agendas. Stand up and use your real names or are you embarrased to do so. June is coming up fast and before you know it your chance to declare for the November election will be gone and so will your chance to save North Kingstown.
Concerned Resident April 29, 2012 at 02:14 AM
Wow, use your real names as demanded by "common Sense".....speak volumes about you attitude.
OrangesPoranges April 29, 2012 at 04:31 PM
As another poster wrote earlier, it is an ironic screen name, for sure :)
OrangesPoranges April 30, 2012 at 01:53 AM
My suggestion has always been video cameras in every classroom to monitor both teacher and student behavior - not a bad idea, but how will this help reign in the budget? And what would be the legal ramifications?
OrangesPoranges April 30, 2012 at 01:59 AM
Thirty-five pluss 22 is 57, not 67 - that is a retirement date ten years earlier than the rest of us. It is not so much what the school workers are paying for health insurance now, but the healthcare they stand to get at retirment. I say school workers because it is not just teachers. And truthfully, I would rather see the administrative jobs cut before the teaching positions. A lot more of those than there were thirty years ago when I was in school.
Concerned Resident April 30, 2012 at 11:38 AM
The union would never accept camera's in the classroom......wonder why?
MeanE April 30, 2012 at 01:55 PM
@oranges - my thoughts are that if there are cameras in the classroom, principals can use them to assess the teachers classroom ability. As it stands right now, the teachers are informed when they will be observed, which in most cases does not give a true picture of how they interact on a daily basis with their students. In addition, it can be used as a training tool to point out ways in which teachers can engage students differently. The cameras can also be used as a deterrent to disruptive students. I feel that these video cameras would be a component to allow for more of a results/performane based pay scale and help to weed out the under performing teachers.
OrangesPoranges April 30, 2012 at 02:50 PM
@MeanE -- how about if the parents could also observe via video feed to computer what is going on in the classroom? I think that would be empowering for parents to know whether their children are being treated fairly by teachers and to see whether any teacher is exercising undue political influence over their children. I had an experience at NK high school with a particular English teacher, who made fun of my religious beliefs in front of the entire class, and in fact got most of the other students to turn against me and mock me. I was a 15-year-old sophomore at the time and a good student, advanced college prep track, with no behavioral issues, and it made me despise her and dread going to class. I told my parents, who were outraged, but nothing ever came of it. She had tenure and was protected by her union. So, the video idea could be a good one, but I think would really only work as you suggested if, as CR intimated, the power of the union is diminished and tenure made a thing of the past.
MeanE April 30, 2012 at 03:30 PM
Agreed. Most of us have probably dealt with a similar situation in school. If I was a teacher, I would want a camera in my classroom. I am all about transparency.
Concerned Resident April 30, 2012 at 05:15 PM
@MeanE: if teachers had the same attitude as you regarding camera's it would seem that among many positive's, viewers could also learn much about our schools.


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