EAST PROVIDENCE — The East Providence School Committee conducted its first meeting since the recent passing of sitting member Richard “Spunk” Pimentel when the board gathered Tuesday evening, Aug. 12, in the City Hall Chamber.
The meeting began with the traditional reciting of the Pledge of Allegiance and a brief remembrance of Mr. Pimentel, who died Friday, Aug. 1, and former Schools Superintendent Dr. John DeGoes, who passed on Monday, Aug. 4, by Committee Chairman Joel Monteiro.
Fighting back tears, Mr. Monteiro noted a lighted candle had been placed on the dais where “Spunk” once sat. He added, “Obviously, most people know we lost Mr. Pimentel and Dr. DeGoes. (Pointing towards the candle) And that will stay lit in memory of ‘Spunky’ for the rest of the term…He will be missed.”
New EPHS program
As for the business of the committee, Dawn August, School Department Director of Instruction and Intervention, led an introduction to a new program being offered at East Providence High School with the start of the 2014-15 year entitled “Accelerated Learning Community.”
The ALC, which will operate under the motto of “building bridges, not walls,” is meant to help students struggling both academically and socially become more engaged in their education and prepare them to attend college or enter the workforce. Students being considered for the ALC have repeated grades once or multiple times.
The multi-faceted program is also a response, in part, to a recent decline in the high school’s graduation rate, from 74 to 71 percent, and a small up-tick in the rate of dropouts, from 14 to 16 percent.
ALC is meant to create a “small, personalized setting” for students, according to Ms. August. Among its goals are to improve academics and behavior, identify students at risk of failing courses earlier and structure learning time to hone a participants skills. To remain in the program, students must maintain an attendance rate of 90 percent. Their school day will run from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. The start and end times are about an hour later than for the rest of the EPHS students.
The program does not change the requirements for grade advancement or graduation, Ms. August said, adding “but the way they get there maybe quite different” than what takes place is a usual classroom setting.
The ALC will be administered by former system principals Stephen Prew and David Britto under the auspices of the superintendent’s office. The program will be housed in the Career and Tech Center building and instructed by Patricia Piros, a long-time teacher in the system. The EPHS guidance department and the school’s resource officer (SRO) will also be involved in the program.
According to Mr. Prew, the former Riverside Middle School principal, as many as 23 students have been identified to be part of the initial ALC offering. “We’ve reached out to the parents and kids to see if they’re interested,” he said. “We don’t want to force them into the program. We want them to help us build this from the ground up.”
Mr. Britto, who returns from a year’s sabbatical after being the principal of Hennessey Elementary, said “the key about this initiative is that it’s small and hopefully those students who come into the program will feel a greater sense of community and belonging.”
Seed money for the program comes from the United Way. ALC is being offered in nine other districts, Ms. August said, which will allow administrators to coordinate with and learn from each other going forward.
The most contentious part of Tuesday’s meeting came during the monthly facilities update.
Ward 2 Committee member Anthony Ferreira, the board’s unofficial construction watch dog, implored his peers to take a more aggressive stance in regard to holding contractors accountable for the work being done on school property.
Mr. Ferreira questioned whether Whiteknact Elementary will be ready in time for the start of school considering the amount of work remaining to be completed there. The committee was told the installation of a new roof was 65 percent complete. Mr. Ferreira took issue with the placement of a handicap accessible ramp and wondered if painting of the school’s library would be done in a timely manner.
Mr. Ferreira next directed his ire towards the problem-plagued construction of new Science labs at EPHS. The latest issue with the project, which was supposed to be completed and ready for use last term, was the need for contractors to return to fix improperly installed counter tops.
Mr. Ferreira, backed by Mr. Monteiro, demanded a so-called “punch list” of final details for all on-going construction be delivered to the committee in short order.
Yanaiza Gallant, at Orlo Elementary, and Donna Paluzzo, at Oldham Elementary, were each approved by the committee to serve as principals for the 14-15 term. Ms. Gallant was approved by a 3-1 vote, Mr. Ferreira being the lone opposing vote. Ms. Paluzzo was approved by a unanimous 4-0 count.
Of note as well, previously Cheri Guerra, formerly the assistant principal at Martin Middle, was approved as the new principal of Riverside Middle replacing Mr. Prew.
The first day of the 2014-15 term for East Providence Schools is Thursday, Sept. 4. Student Transportation Inc. has been hired to take over the bus routing for the district. A full and complete schedule will run in the Thursday, Aug. 28, edition of The East Providence Post and will be available as well online at eastbayri.com.