Monday, October 28, 2019
South Kingstown High School Cafeteria
215 Columbia Street
Wakefield, RI 02879
Attendees - voting members
Stephanie Canter - Chair
Attendees – Staff
Linda Savastano – Superintendent
Maryanne Crawford – CFO
Breta Combs – Director PPS
Chip McGair - Principal
Coleen Smith – Principal
Kimberly Komocar – Principal
Elizabeth McGuire – Principal
Tammy McNeiece – Principal
Jennifer Enck – Principal
Patricia Aull - Principal
Terry Lynch – Director of Athletics
Russell Hill – Maintenance Director
Doug Snow – Technology Coordinator
Attendees – Other
Ed Collins – Chief Facilities Management & Capital Projects-Cranston Public Schools
A. Call to Order
Stephanie Canter called the October 28, 2019 School Committee Meeting to order at 7:00 PM. She asked that the School Committee allow the community comments to come before the vote on the School Facilities Plan. The committee unanimously agreed and Stephanie turned the meeting over to the Superintendent.
A. Discussion/Action: School Facilities Plan
Superintendent Savastano began the conversation by stating that she would be discussing the school buildings, student learning, and how to move forward with the facility plan. She then gave a brief presentation stressing the importance of looking at our educational programming and essential values as a school department but also as a larger community and using those values as the guiding factors for the facility plan. She stated that she sees the essential values as Equity, Excellence and the Environment. She then discussed the classroom, touching on how children learn and how our spaces should facilitate and support the learning process.
After her presentation, Superintendent Savastano introduced Ed Collins, Director of Facilities for Cranston Public Schools, who she asked to join her at the table to explain the process of their recent construction project, specifically Eden Park Elementary School.
Ed Collins described the recent renovation to Eden Park Elementary School which entailed revamping one wing (18,000 sq.ft.) of the school. He explained that previously the district was spending millions of dollars each summer to fix code compliance issues, yet none of the money was actually impacting the students. They decided to change the narrative and focus on the education of their students. They involved the district staff, students, and families in the discussion before beginning construction. They saw this renovation as an opportunity to show the community what their schools could look like before they vote on $133M of bonds in November 2020.
Linda Savastano then reviewed the current facility improvement program and asked for the committee to reflect on how they want to move forward. She asked, considering the acreage of the site, if they should think about putting an addition on Curtis Corner and making it the high school and eventually closing the high school instead. She then turned the meeting back to the school committee for questions.
Alycia Collins asked if there is enough space at the Curtis Corner site for an addition.
Linda Savastano said that while she does not have specifics tonight because she needed to gauge interest before pursuing an in-depth study, she imagines that with adjustments such as moving the tennis court or a field house or possibly using the Admin building as well, she believes it is possible.
Emily Cummiskey expressed her excitement for this idea.
Kate Macinanti brought up the fact that the public may view this change as indecisive but stated that the current Stage II set-up is not very popular so stopping to re-evaluate and change direction if necessary may actually be looked at in a positive manner. She also stated that we did look at doing a high school at Curtis Corner briefly but it was not fully vetted so she thinks doing a full study would make a lot of sense.
Jacy Northup stated that she likes the idea of switching gears and thinks that taking the time to do this right is very important.
Stephanie Canter thanked the Superintendent for bringing up this idea, saying that she isn’t sure the current plan was being steered by the educational values and student engagement that they want to accomplish. She feels like this is something the students would be excited to know they were discussing.
Michelle Brousseau stated she is very interested to see what the students, teachers and community have to say but she does have concerns. She has already heard that community feels like the School Committee is not making decisions and moving forward so she is on the fence as to whether changing gears right now is a good idea or not. Her big concern is that we have already spent two years gathering community input and forming a plan. She also sees parking at Curtis Corner as a major issue considering that there are two parking lots at the current high school and still a lot of overflow along Kingstown Rd.
Emily Cummiskey said there is access to the property on South Road – the parking could be explored but at this point we are looking at the bigger picture to see if this is even an option that should be explored. It is important to stay at a high level right now and not get into the weeds of where people will park.
A. Comments from the Community
Stephanie Canter opened the discussion to the community members in attendance.
Raissa Mosher stated that there are a lot of new people involved but she hopes the time and work that was put into the Ed Spec meetings would be looked at and taken into account.
John O’Malley stated he was a builder for 18 years before becoming a teacher and he feels that if we are going to spend $50M on a high school, the current high school building may not be the best option. This building is very big; it is not very community friendly. We also need to take into consideration 21st century energy needs. To re-configure classrooms at the current HS would be too expensive.
Pamela L spoke in favor of keeping CCMS open and keeping the fields. She also mentioned the possibility of using the South Road School as a place for a CTE program. She then stressed the importance of sustainable design for a 21st century school.
Jeanne Silversmith also expressed that she is excited about this idea. She stated that community input from the last 2 years discussed learning but not building and that she is all for looking at CCMS.
Mark Levitt stated his support for re-thinking the plan and supports creating a more porous environment with connection between the outdoors and indoors.
Beth Violet mentioned LEED for Schools which can provide a nice framework for using the school building as a teaching tool, the sustainability of the site, the materials, etc.
Roland Benjamin stated that the education piece was discussed during the Ed Spec meetings. He also stated that there is a RIDE requirement for who needs to be on the building committee and also a town charter that has some vague language about appointing the majority of the building committee. This language led to the appointment of 14 members, 8 appointed by the Town Council. A leadership change caused the building committee to be headed by a Town Council member which took education out of the forefront. If we are going to re-visit and make education a priority we need to reconsider the committee. We also need to consider the size of the tax burden, Ed Collins mentioned that Cranston is asking for $133M in bonds for 27 schools, we are looking at $80M for 7 schools.
Karen Mcglynn stated that we have South Road; maybe we could use South Road for a senior campus? She also stated that Westerly bonds recently did not pass and she does not think the bond would pass right now. She also stated that the plan, whether it be closing CCMS or the HS needs to be communicated to the community with enough time for parents to help their students understand what is happening and why.
Diane Paolino thanked the committee for bringing up CCMS as an option for the high school. She thinks it makes a lot of sense and thinks it will have a lot of support within the community.
Kaitlin Blachley thanked the committee for bringing up CCMS for the high school and wants to hear that families are moving to South Kingstown for the high school. She hears this about the DLI program but wants to hear it about our entire school system. Too many local students are going to private school and it should not be that way. We have beautiful land with the bike path and fields and should be incorporating that into the plan for students to enjoy.
Laura Roebuck stated that for years we have been talking; now we need a plan. We need buy-in from the teachers, the unions, we need to come together to form a plan and then present it to the community.
Jimmy Champion stated that this idea was brought in front of the school committee 35 years ago. It was a good idea then and it is a good idea now. Our basketball court used to be the best in the state, now the high school courts are the fifth oldest in the state. The Curtis Corner fields are great and should be used by the high school students. The elementary schools are doing great, Broad Rock is the newest building in the district, but by the time you get to the middle and high school level we need an upgrade. He feels like we are on the right path with this idea.
Karen Hans supports the idea. She said Cranston’s idea to involve the Alumni Association and the teams in the rebuilding of the fields was very successful. She expressed concern that the town/school has dropped the ball with permits, etc. when it comes to fixing parking lots in the past.
Tara Upperson agrees that this is not a bad idea and likes the idea of more community buy-in but asked that before we change direction we get some basic assurances that we will be able to afford this and that it could be possible.
Dorald Beasley stated that a change to Stage II was long overdue. If we took the current plan to a vote in November it would be defeated badly. This school committee has been in office for a year and this plan is floundering. It is the committee’s fault. The building committee needs to be re-vamped. It should have an engineer/construction professional on the committee to answer questions. He thinks we need to build a new high school at Curtis Corner and if it is done right, this community will support it and pay for it.
Stacey Bodziony stated that she supports this option she wonders why our Superintendent is the only educator on the building committee. If we are talking about building schools, we need to have more educators on the committee.
(MSV 1) Move to direct the Building Committee to proceed with an investigation into Stage II Application to show feasibility of expansion to CCMS for grades 9-12 along with closure of the current high school facility as recommended by Superintendent Savastano.
Motion made by: Jacy Northup
Second by: Emily Cummiskey
Vote: Unanimously approved.
MSV (2) Move to adjourn at 9:03 PM
Motion made by: Jacy Northup
Second by: Kate Macinanti
Vote: Unanimously approved.