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School District Hoping to Add Staff and Courses Over Next Five Years

In a presentation to the school committee Monday night, the district schools explained their needs for the next five years.

The leaders of Seekonk's high school, middle school and elementary schools in Seekonk are hoping that programs and positions are restored to pre-budget cut levels over the next five years.

The previous years’ budgets have forced cuts to staffing, programs and materials. According to Superintendent Maddie Meyer, the district has just been treading water when they need to focus on improving.

 “We will have to cut programs, add fees," Meyer said. "I’m not sure what we will have to do, but it will be ugly-looking unless we have support for the parents and the town."

's Principal Marcia McGovern highlighted the need for a longer day and additional advanced placement courses.

“The next school in the South Coast Conference has 20 minutes more a day,” McGovern said.

Additionally, she showed that Seekonk only offered five AP courses, while most of the other schools in the SCC offered at least eight.

McGovern said additional AP courses are needed to allow students to challenge themselves as well as prepare them for college.

One possibility suggested by school committee member David Quinn was to look at of eliminating honors classes and replacing them with AP ones.

 Principal Dr. Joan Fargnoli showed the need for two additional teachers that would allow the school to return to smaller class sizes. As of now, most classes are at 27 or 28 students, whereas they are preferred to be closer to 20.

Additionally, Dr. Fargnoli would like to see a return to the foreign language program at the middle school, something that was eliminated in previous budget cuts.

In the elementary schools,  Principal Bart Lush and  Principal Nancy Gagliardi both said they would like to see a full time adjustment councilor at each school. Right now they share one councilor, which makes scheduling time difficult as well as gives the one councilor a large case load.

They would also like to see two additional library media aides to help with the implementation of technology as well as an additional special education teacher at each school.

Currently, they said their staffs are stretched thin and overtaxed.

These ideas are part of a five year plan to improve the schools and Superintendent Meyer said they still need to be prioritized by what can be down in each year.

“It’s not a simple fix. It’s all over the board and in every grade,” Meyer said. “We can’t afford to go backwards anymore.”

Chris January 25, 2012 at 01:46 PM
Deb: Schools are not "going backwards" they are facing reality of what is in front of them and that's the students and their needs. Athletics from what I gather, the middle school doesn't have very much and what they have I believe they already pay a fee. My child plays on a sports team for another state/town and I pay my fee for my child to play, because we don't have it for the elementary level. If the kids do play sports, they play for the town and pay a fee. As I mentioned before, perhaps the residents of Seekonk need to volunteer their time at the schools and help out and you will see what actually goes on and see why the schools are asking for teachers.
deb of see-attleboro January 25, 2012 at 02:26 PM
Sorry, Dave. I can't do that. This is simply my opinion. I could say athletics, transportation, recess aids and even school lunches have little to do with education. You would make a solid argument defending all four budget items. I can't back up an opinion with facts.
deb of see-attleboro January 25, 2012 at 02:33 PM
I think most of us can relate. That is why we all are faced with setting priorities. If a need arises for a teachers aide in a classroom, I would consider that a priority and the school department should be prepared to supply one. Or perhaps parents could volunteer on a rotating basis.
deb of see-attleboro January 25, 2012 at 02:39 PM
Chris: Not my words. To quote this article: Mrs. Meyer said "We can't afford to go backwards anymore." My understanding is there are no fees. Possibly at the middle school there are. Maybe Dave can clarify.
Dave Abbott January 25, 2012 at 03:30 PM
A few clarifications; Their are currently no athletic fees. I am against fees for athletics and consider it part of character development and no different than other out of classroom activities. If a fee does come down (I will be out of office at the time a final budget is passed) I think it should be one set fee across the board for ALL activities and some sytem must be in place so students can participate regardless of ability to pay. The middle school only runs one sport per season, so no major cost there. When I coached HMS boys soccer I think I was paid around $1200 for the season. Transportation, lunch, and recess, are required by law. This means funding must go to them and since we are all liable if something goes wrong, safety and supervision is a priority.
deb of see-attleboro January 25, 2012 at 04:29 PM
Dave: Does anyone ever wonder why the state and feds must impose mandates on cities and towns?. Schools must be forced to prioritize. If given the opportunity, I am sure there are some stakeholders who would eliminate transportation, lunch, recess etc. so they could keep interscholastic sports, band etc. The Commonwealth also provides municipalities with the option of imposing fees. IMO, we are fortunate for that. Why we wait until we are "going backwards" is beyond me. I don't know if a program fee should be the same regardless of cost to implement. I tend to think any fee should be based on the cost combined with the success of a program and let the parents decide if the program is worth the investment. Any fee should include income consideration, maybe based on lunch subsidies. BTW, I often wonder why our students are charged a fee to attend sporting events, band concerts, plays etc. If the student participant isn't charged a fee, the student spectator should not be charged a fee either. Just a thought.
Carol Bragg January 25, 2012 at 07:57 PM
If the problems in our community are any reflection of the educational system, the greatest failure of our schools nationwide is that we're not teaching ethics, not teaching the peaceful resolution of conflicts, not teaching anger management skills, not teaching the value of diverse points of view to the democratic process, and not teaching how to synthesize ideas. We are also not doing very well teaching basic relationship and lifeskills. This failure translates into greater need for law enforcement. We need to re-think what it means to educate and what it means to be an educated person.
Chris January 25, 2012 at 08:07 PM
Kindergarten/Pre-K are currently not a full day program, so they don't have lunch at the schools. They do bring their own snacks from home to school. As far as lunch, that isn't free either. It's up to the students/parents if they want to buy lunch that day. I know some kids in the town play other sports that is not offered here in town and parents pay the fee. There are kids who play hockey, soccer etc.
deb of see-attleboro January 25, 2012 at 08:52 PM
I do not think the the price the individual student pays for the lunch covers all the ancillary costs that go along with providing school lunch. I also believe that even in Seekonk, there are quite a few children who receive free or reduced lunch. In fact, someone told me they received a notice at the beginning of the year from the superintendent urging ALL parents to fill out the free lunch application even if the parent(s) felt willing and able to pay for or provide lunch from home. Again, maybe Dave can verify and/or explain the reasoning for such a request.
Dave Abbott January 25, 2012 at 11:30 PM
Robert P- Do you have a civic responsibility to provide a lunch to a student that shows up to school without food? Whether you want to or not it is illegal to not provide food to a student that forgot their lunch, as it is illegal to not provide busing through grade 6. Athletics- yes a gray area, I have my opinion and others have theirs. I always look for the middle ground and if at the end of the day a kid gets to play the sport even if he cannot afford it then I would be open to a compromise. A student-athlete (or other activities) is a more well rounded student- but that is not just my opinion. If you want to have more choices for college then it is crucial that a student have more involvement in their school then just attending classes. Carol- I think the non-violence speech sounds wonderful, however having an actual solution would be even better. Debate is what makes our society great and as adults we are each responsible for our own actions. Deb- easy one, it is all tied into state aid and we do not get a lot of it. Why? because we are on paper an affluent community. We have a lot of money in the town bank and not a lot of kids on reduced or free lunches when compared to those around us. We are far from broke, but we are frugal- and we should be. Now if there are kids that are eligible for those lunches and are not using the program then we do not get the data needed to increase state aid- hence the push to be more accountable in that area.
deb of see-attleboro January 25, 2012 at 11:57 PM
FINALLY!! Something to be proud of!!. We do not have a lot of kids on reduced or free lunch. CONGRATULATIONS to parents who PRIORITIZE the nutrition needs of their children!!! As for being an affluent community? The Town of Seekonk as a unit has resources to raise revenue. The meals tax is an example. That does not mean that the median income is considered "affluent".
Dave Abbott January 26, 2012 at 12:20 AM
Deb- Um free or reduced lunch is based on a families income- it has nothing to do with priorities. We are above the median you speak of, which explains why we get so little state aid.
deb of see-attleboro January 26, 2012 at 12:36 AM
Um Dave. I assure you there are families who do supply lunch for their children even if they could qualify for this entitlement. Otherwise, what would be the point of the superintendent urging parents to fill out the form and hand over income info?
Dave Abbott January 26, 2012 at 01:24 AM
Do you think that is possible that some parents who could qualify find the process awkward? This is not a new idea on the part of the Superintendent, another district did the same thing last year and they saw a significant increase in state aid. At the state level the pie is out there, how big a piece we get depends on the amount of students who qualify for aid. I think Deb that you and I can agree that every penny should count- the state certainly has no problem keeping the majority of the lottery money that is generated in our town- you know the money that goes to state education aid.
Carol Bragg January 26, 2012 at 02:01 AM
Dave: I have broached more than once the subject of training in nonviolence or conflict resolution in the schools but there has been no discernible interest. I raised with a couple of the members of the Board of Selectmen training for that Board in nonviolent communication skills. No response. I've suggested to the police department training similar to that in Providence that led to police officers running a nonviolence training academy for at-risk youth. When children learn these skills they take them back into their homes and neighborhoods. I recall the story of one third-grader in Nashville who went home and had his parents sit at either end of the dining room table as he gave them instruction about how to solve an argument. There are a number of different models available and funding options. In Rhode Island, the Governor's Justice Commission funded a nonviolence training program at the RI Training School for Youth that the DCYF Director credited for keeping things calm when the population was way over the maximum allowed. In France, Sarkozy asked that the schools devote one hour a week to teaching ethics. There needs to be some training. Apparently, teachers weren't quite sure what to do during that hour. We can at least start having conversations about some of these ideas.
deb of see-attleboro January 26, 2012 at 10:55 AM
I agree every penny should count, Dave. I do, however, find a contradiction in fully funding sports for "chacacter development" on the one hand, while seducing parents into "freebies" on the other. As for the lottery, one could argue that the lottery terminals increase consumer traffic in Seekonk increasing commercial property values, which adds to town coffers. Personally, i wish we were not so dependent on lottery and liquor to sustain government at any level. But we are. With casinos, govenment will likely grow larger and even more dependent on industries that contribute to societal ills. .
Dave Abbott January 26, 2012 at 01:27 PM
We can agree to disagree. I find a contradiction to complain when the school system develops a five year plan to get things to pre-recession services, while also complaining about efforts to make sure the kids are getting their fair share of state aid. Carol I do not disagree with you, I had yearly training in conflict resolution and I do think some portion of it would be beneficial to interested parties in the town.
Joe January 26, 2012 at 02:13 PM
I've seen first hand the education kids get in this town. They graduate and can't spell don't know how to do math etc but the teachers still get their hefty raises at the taxpayers expense. How many of the people that work in the school system live in Seekonk and pay taxes. That would be a very interesting statistic to print I am sure. Get off your high horse and wake up.
Joe January 26, 2012 at 02:16 PM
When you coached you were PAID. why didn't you volunteer and then that money that went to your salery could be used somewhere else where it is needed.
Carol Bragg January 26, 2012 at 02:33 PM
Whether it's called "win-win" or "getting to 'yes'" we desperately need to change the paradigm away from "win-lose" in this period of contracting resources and increasing demands. There are teachable ways of looking at things and skills that can help us get there as a community. If you decide to appoint a subcommittee to look into this, please let me know.
Dave Abbott January 26, 2012 at 03:18 PM
Robert I am not judging you, just responding to your original thoughts with questions of my own. Since you were on the SC you know darn well that mandates are mandates, we have no voice on that at the local level. Special Ed is a major cost and a lot of that expense is on the property owners. I really do not like that system, but it is the system that we live in. The quip about backroom dealings, maybe in your term, but not in mine. I think that the actions taken by the SC in the past 3 years have clearly fallen within the "live within your means" policy. I can leave office in roughly two more months knowing that we did what we had to do, even if it was not pleasing or popular. Perhaps that is why I get perturbed with the complaints about school spending.
deb of see-attleboro January 26, 2012 at 04:03 PM
Dave: I am all for planning while moving forward, not necessarily to go back. It would be enlightening to know what services were cut and/or added during the recession while taxpayers fully funded sports, band etc. I believe over the years the public schools have taken a hatchet to in-house vocational programs and physical education. And in my opinion, kids have suffered for it. As your time on the SC draws to a close, I hope you use your blog to reflect on your time on the SC. I also hope that you will continue to be involved in town government. We need more people like you, Bill and Carol who find it useful to engage the community.
Carol Bragg January 26, 2012 at 04:05 PM
Robert, Dave: I was on the Futures Task Force for the regional planning agency. We produced a report 4 years ago that you can find online at srpedd.org. Among the recommendations for government spending and education was that we move away from education funded community by community with the property tax to state-funding for education. One of the problems with our current system is that the state makes the rules, and our communities pay for implementation. It doesn't work well for someone else to decide what you have to do and then tell you to pick up the tab.
Dave Abbott January 27, 2012 at 02:21 PM
Sorry Joe I have to disagree there. My child is at the high school and is getting a quality education. You get out of it what you put into it. If you come out unable to spell and cannot do basic math then I think it has a lot less to do with the teacher and a lot more to do with the attitude of the student.
Dave Abbott January 27, 2012 at 02:24 PM
Another solid idea Joe. Go to work and don't get paid. Let me know how that works out for you.
Carol Bragg January 27, 2012 at 03:05 PM
This has become a debate and adversarial. Everyone thinks they're right and that that's the only way of looking at the situation. But an "M" upside down looks like a "W." Is it possible that everyone has a piece of the truth and that all perspectives need to be integrated into the resolution? This is a complex problem and not a football game. How would you seek to reconcile the different points of view?
Dave Abbott January 27, 2012 at 03:53 PM
Carol there is nothing to be reconciled. Debate by its very nature is adversarial and you know what- that leads to spirited debate and is the American way. I have taken feedback from various debates and information/concerns from various posts over the past three years and some of it has aided me in my decision process. If you want to create actual changes to some of this issues discussed in this topic then you need to be prepared to get involved in politics at the state level. I have volunteered (no pun intended Joe) my time at the local level in many ways since moving here. I am now looking forward to taking a step back and spending more time being a parent who watches their child play a game, rather than coaching a game, running a league, or voting on behalf of the district.
Carol Bragg January 27, 2012 at 06:25 PM
Adversarial is the American Way, but so, too, is compromise. That's what the Founding Fathers did. We have difficulty compromising in this town. One side wins, the other side loses. When there are different points of view, they need to be reconciled so everyone feels they have been heard and are part of the solution. Please consider this as a possible approach to bringing together the concerns of taxpayers, schools, and other town departments. Debate may make our society great; compromise is what holds it together.
Dave Abbott February 01, 2012 at 01:05 PM
An interesting proposal on the part of RI Governor Chafee, a 2% hike in the meals tax to be distributed to local education. Nobody wants to see a tax increase, but I would rather have EVERYONE in the state pay towards education, particularly special education, than it fall squarely on the backs of a property owner. This should also be good for our local eateries, as that tax increase will make our own rates more attractive.
deb of see-attleboro February 01, 2012 at 01:36 PM
I think we should make Chafee an honorary citizen of Seekonk:)

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