Because of a number of complex issues facing the Warwick School Committee in 2014, Committee Chairwoman Beth Furtado believes it will be best if Superintendent Dr. Richard D’Agostino’s contract is extended another year.
D’Agostino, who is also director of special education for the district, was named interim superintendent in September 2012, following former superintendent Peter Horoschak being placed on administrative leave. In February 2013, D’Agostino was named superintendent through July 2014.
“We’ve gotten bogged down with all the other stuff,” explained Furtado. “Being that we’re this far into it, I am going to suggest that I believe it would be best, if Dr. D’Agostino agrees, that we extend his contract another year.”
She further explained that it does take time for someone to come into a district and become acclimated; because of the uncertainty regarding school consolidation, teachers’ contracts and more, Furtado feels it would be a difficult transition to bring in someone new.
She also feels that D’Agostino has been successful in his role.
“I think Dr. D’Agostino is doing a fantastic job,” she said. “He’s accomplished what he wanted to do.”
When asked if he is prepared to stay on as superintendent, D’Agostino said he was on board if that is what the committee decides.
“I’m ready to meet the challenge,” said D’Agostino, who has worked within the Warwick school system for 32 years. “I think I understand the district and the needs of the district.”
Furtado also took time to explain why the motion to table the vote on the consolidation of Warwick Vets, and the resulting motions, were included on the agenda for tonight’s meeting at 7 p.m. at the Robert J. Shapiro Cultural Arts Center at Toll Gate High School; it was initially believed the matter was handled at the last committee meeting on Dec. 10 but a “procedural error” requires more action tonight.
“It was brought to our attention a few weeks ago,” explained Furtado. “We need to take a vote to table the vote.”
Furtado explained that during the Dec. 10 meeting after committee member Karen Bachus made her motion to hire an outside consultant to look at the district and Furtado made her amendment requesting specific needs be met by the selected consultant, Furtado had simply said the vote on the original recommendation to re-purpose Warwick Vets was tabled.
“We need to take a vote to table because the chair cannot unilaterally vote,” said Furtado.
So on the agenda for tonight’s meeting, three votes are listed; the vote to table the original recommendation, a vote on Bachus’ motion to hire the outside consultant, and a vote on Furtado’s amendment.
Furtado added that there was an explosion on social media she saw that said the committee was trying to change the decision and ultimately go with the original recommendation. Furtado said there is no truth to that; it is simply a technicality that needs to be corrected for procedure purposes.
“Wording will remain the same on the motions, just the order in which they occurred needs to be rectified,” said Furtado.
Furtado also hopes to use this opportunity to clarify exactly what the School Committee hopes to see from the consultant selected to do the work.
Because of this technicality, D’Agostino explained that he has been unable to send the request for an outside consultant out to bid. However, once this situation is rectified tonight and what needs to be included in the request is finalized, the bid will go out.
“When they all agree about what needs to be in it,” said D’Agostino.
Looking down the road into 2014, Furtado named re-negotiating teacher contracts and the budget as issues on the forefront of her mind.
“Due to the lack of consolidation, the belt tightening is going to be occurring,” said Furtado.
Furtado added that the schools have received $118 million on the city appropriation side, but the state and federal funding has also been declining because of declining enrollment.
“It’s a vicious cycle,” she said.
While teachers’ contract negotiations and planning the budget are items weighing on D’Agostino’s mind, he is also concerned with the implementation of the Common Core Standards and ensuring those students who did not pass the New England Common Assessment Program (NECAP) in October 2012 graduate in June.
“Central administrators and all high school principals went to the Department of Ed a few weeks ago to go over NECAP,” explained D’Agostino.
He added that within the next few weeks, the results from October’s tests would be delivered. That will show how many of the 253 seniors who earned a 1 on their October 2012 Math NECAPs remain in danger of not graduating.
The results will also reveal how many juniors are now at risk of not graduating in June 2015 because of the requirement to show proficiency on the Math NECAP.
D’Agostino said those juniors would be able to take advantage of the support system that was put in place last year, which includes special courses during the year and in the summer, alternative assessments and extra math labs.
While he is hopeful the 253 seniors will show improvement on the NECAPs, D’Agostino explained there is a plan ready to go for those students still at risk of not graduating in June.
“If a student has completed necessary course work, their senior project and e-portfolio, there is a waiver process in place,” said D’Agostino. “That information will be going home to parents when the results come in.”
D’Agostino explained students in that situation, along with their parents, will have individual meetings to address the steps they need to take.
While this waiver is in place, D’Agostino said leadership within the School Department has also been working to try to get every student to take one of the alternative assessments in the hope that score will be better and help them to graduate without the waiver process.
“We’re trying our best to get them to do their best and take those alternative assessments,” he said.
Alternative assessments include CCRI’s Accuplacer, the SAT and the ACT. D’Agostino hopes these alternative assessments provide relief to students who may have just been sick or had an off day when they took the NECAP.
As for the Common Core, D’Agostino explained that preparations are in place and the district is moving toward implementation.
“We’ve been moving in that direction, mostly with English but moving into other areas,” said D’Agostino. “It’s a combination of things.”
He went on to explain that to fully implement the Common Core, which is mandated by the state to occur this year, new text books, professional development and ensure the requirements for each grade are known are some of the items that need to happen.
Overall, however, D’Agostino believes the Common Core will be beneficial to the students because it means students in Warwick will be learning the same thing at the same time as students throughout the entire country.
Although the School Committee does not have a role in implementing the Common Core or tracking the needs of students who cannot graduate because of NECAP scores, Furtado said the committee still needs to show support and unity.
“With the committee, we’re there to support administration and teachers,” she said.
In addition, D’Agostino is also preparing for a pilot program of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC assessment this spring.
“Every school will have one or two grades taking the new PARCC assessment,” said D’Agostino. “Certain schools will have paper, others will have online versions.”
D’Agostino added that next year, all students will be able to take the PARCC assessment online.
PARCC is the state assessment that will replace NECAP when Common Core is officially instated.
D’Agostino pointed out that many positive things are coming to the district this year, including wireless Internet; review and approval of the vendor to do the work within the district is on tonight’s committee agenda.
“We’re almost there,” said D’Agostino, explaining that the cost would be $1.2 million, provided by a Wi-Fi grant.
Overall, Furtado is looking ahead to what she believes will be a tough year.
“I don’t have a horse in the race; I have all the horses in this race,” she said. “It’s going to be a long, arduous five months.”