Tower Street School Community Center to End Year in Black

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1 K-12 UPDATE A P u b l i c a t i o n f r o m t h e W e s t e r l y S c h o o l C o m m i t t e e In an effort to improve communication and better connect with the community, the Westerly School Committee formed the Strategic Communications Subcommittee. We hope to provide people with easy access to information about Westerly Public Schools current issues or ongoing discussions, and what is happening in our schools. This newsletter is part of that process. Tower Street School Community Center to End Year in Black In October 2008, the School Committee made the decision to close Tower Street School and possibly mothball the building. After much thought and discussion, it was later decided to reopen the building on July 1, 2009 as Tower Street School Community Center with a goal of creating a revenue stream for the school department. We are happy to say that Tower Street School Community is a success and we are right on track in achieving that goal. The Center currently provides opportunities for community rental space: Gymnasium and Stage Kitchen and Banquet facility Computer Lab Classrooms and Meeting rooms Has several organizations occupying the building either through long-term leases or facility rentals: Career Pilot Literacy Volunteers of Washington County The Bradley School Families Learning Together The Olean Center The Church at Westerly Westerly Community Yoga Center And provides a myriad of community education & recreation programs: The Homework Club Grins and Giggles Playschool Computer Courses Languages Dance Music and the Performing Arts Westerly High School Beauty School And much more. Total revenues for 2009/2010 are projected at approximately $220,360 with expenses at $145,338. The end result is a profit of $75,122. Moving forward we will continue to look for other sources of revenue and ways to reduce expenses.

2 Westerly Public Schools (WPS) Budget The Westerly Public Schools (WPS) Budget The Westerly Public Schools (WPS) budget is funded from three primary sources. These sources are funds provided by the Town of Westerly (mostly from property taxes), funds provided by the State of Rhode Island, and funds provided by the Federal government. As shown in the below chart, the vast majority of the funds for WPS (88%) are provided by the Town of Westerly. The average for the percentage of local funding in support of school districts in Rhode Island is 65.3%. Of the 36 school districts in Rhode Island, only three (3) districts receive a higher percentage of local funding to education than Westerly. WPS Budget Funding Sources 8% 3% 1% Local Funds (includes Property Taxes, etc.) ($43,086,951 ) State Funds (Unrestricted) ($4,079,501) State Funds (Restricted) ($1,665,133) Federal Funds: American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) ($338,414) 88% Rhode Island is the only state in the Union that does not have a funding formula for education. Each year, the school districts do not know how much State funding for education they will receive until just before that school year commences. This makes it very difficult to plan the school budget. If the Governor s proposed cuts to education are approved by the Legislature, Westerly will lose $150,000 in State funds for the current (SY 09-10) budget. The WPS budget also must be considered based on how the money can be spent. There are unrestricted funds and restricted funds.

3 The below chart shows the breakdown of unrestricted and restricted funds in the WPS budget. WPS Budget Type of Funds 3% 1% 96% General Revenues and State Aid (Unrestricted) ($47,166,452) Restricted Receipts ($1,665,133) Federal Funds ($338,414) Unrestricted funds can be spent on any item: salaries, benefits, operations, maintenances, school supplies, etc. Restricted funds only can be spent on very specific programs. These programs are as follows: Title I funds: Can be spent only on improving the academic achievement of disadvantaged students. Title II funds: Can be spent only on preparing, training, and recruiting high quality teachers and principals. Title II funds also support professional development for teachers of all core academic subjects as well as for principals and administrators to strengthen their leadership of efforts to improve student academic achievement. Title III funds: Can be spent only n language instruction for English Language Learners (ELLs), and for immigrant students. Title III is a Federal formula grant program that makes supplemental funds available to local school districts based on the number of ELL and immigrant students enrolled in the district. Title IV funds: Can be spent only to support programs to prevent violence in and around schools and to strengthen programs that prevent the illegal use of alcohol, tobacco, and drugs. Title V funds: Can be spent only to support local educational reform efforts, to implement promising reform and school improvement programs based on scientifically based research, to support library services and instruction and media programs, and to meet the educational needs of all students, including at-risk youth. Even Start Funds: Can be spent only to support local family literacy projects that integrate early childhood education, adult literacy (adult basic and secondary-level education and

4 instruction for ELLs), parenting education, and interactive parent and child literacy activities for low-income families. Part B funds: Can be spent only in support of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Section 619 funds, as required under IDEA, can only be spent to provide services to student with disabilities who are placed by their parents in Private Educational Programs for Very Young Children. Preschool programs considered to meet the State s definition currently are limited to those programs that are educational extensions of an approved Independent Private or Religious School or are a Private Educational Program for Very Young Children that includes a kindergarten program. It is illegal for a school district to spend restricted funds for any other purpose than for those programs for which they were intended. Restricted funds cannot be spent on unrestricted programs. American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds can only be spent to supplement, and, to the extent practical, increase the level of funds that would, in the absence of Federal funds, be made available from non-federal (State and local) sources for the education of participating students. In Rhode Island, ARRA funds were used to replace general school funding that was eliminated by the State. ARRA funds are also known as plug funds. Commissioner Gist visits Westerly Public Schools On December 16th the Westerly school district received a visit from Commissioner Gist. Since her appointment as Rhode Island s Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education in July, she has been scheduling visits to public schools throughout Rhode Island. These visits are intended as an opportunity for her to learn about each community and to create a dialog with school administrators, teachers, students, parents and community members. The visit began with a breakfast and a community panel of School Committee members, Town Council members, school and town administrators, teachers and public school parents. Each participant had the opportunity to share their viewpoint and raise issues affecting education in Westerly and across the state. The meeting was open to the public and breakfast was prepared by Westerly High School's own Culinary Arts students, and included an array of fruit, breads and an omelet station. Some of the issues raised during the panel discussion were unique to Westerly, whereas others were themes resounding from other localities. Parents expressed a need for a period of stability in the schools while the district recovers from the upheaval of school closings and considerable administrative transitions, and asked for the state's support during this difficult time. Parents also vocalized frustration that Rhode Island did not set its expectations for student performance high enough,

5 and suggested that students who perform at a higher level be defined as having educational needs as justifiable for state and local support as those of other populations. Financial support from the state was a major theme of panel members, with many members expressing worries of cuts in state aid to Westerly. Other concerns involved the belief that suburban Westerly is often overlooked when disbursements are being made by the state in favor for larger urban communities. Commissioner Gist made several points in response. She stated her belief that our state education system is adequately funded and has the resources it needs to succeed. She also contended that the state's funding to local communities would be allocated in an equitable fashion based on need, focusing in particular on students in poverty, and thus preventing larger and more costly social problems down the line. She was also interested in identifying investments in school systems that pay off with improvements in student performance, and finding more productive, student directed uses of funds currently distributed in categories that are not linked to improved student performance and success. She gave the example of higher pay for graduate teaching degrees as an instance where our country invests billions of dollars on a resource which has been unproven to provide positive results in schools. Gist also spoke about the need for educators to create a tool for assessing teaching skills in the classroom, a tool which would need to be developed in collaboration with teachers. At the conclusion of the community panel Ms. Gist also heard from a representative group of Westerly High School students. Students discussed those characteristics they appreciate in a teacher and how they best can learn. Students also shared a range of opinions regarding the student portfolio and student exhibition, which they are required to perform in order to graduate. In addition to her visit to the high school, Commissioner Gist also visited Dunn's Corners Elementary School and sat in on a Response to Intervention Meeting. Here she observed a reading intervention team which was also attended by Dunn's Corners School Principal, Chris Haskins, Reading Specialist Lisa Rapoza, first grade teacher Michelle Simmons, and District Reading Coordinator, Barbara Boyle. She asked the group a range of questions, including what supports were used for teaching, how data collected is utilized, and what kinds of results we are seeing through our approach. The Commissioner's Westerly visit concluded with a tour of Westerly Middle School. Later in the day Commissioner Gist posted the following comment on her facebook page, had a wonderful visit to Westerly today where I received feedback from students on graduation requirements and saw a true model for what Response to Intervention can mean for students...great day! K12 UPDATE is published periodically by the Westerly School Committee s Strategic Communications Subcommittee: Louis Sposato, Chair; David Patten, Clarence Cable, Christina Haase and Georganna Koppermann, Ex Officio.

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