EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Right before the new school year got underway, 12 News sent a five-question survey to every superintendent in Rhode Island to get a sense of how their district is affecting by issues like staffing shortages and inflation.

The fifth and final question was simple: what’s the single biggest challenge your district faces going into the new school year? Eight district superintendents said financial issues were their biggest challenge, six superintendents named addressing student social emotional needs as the top concern, and five superintendents listed staffing shortages as the biggest obstacle.

Here are the superintendents’ responses in full:

Question: What is the single biggest challenge your district faces going into the 2022-23 school year?

School District (Superintendent)Response
Barrington (Michael Messore)Transitioning back to school, after what we experienced during our two years of COVID. This year will be critical that we are focused on to helping both our staff and students establish a feeling of normalcy and community in their school and classrooms.
Bristol-Warren (Ana Riley)No response
Burrillville (Michael Sollitto)Rising need for social and emotional support for students.
Central Falls (Stephanie Downey Toledo)Ensuring that we have qualified teachers and staff that can also meet the needs of this community.
Chariho (Gina Picard)Maintaining a focus on the supports for our students to ensure we prioritize their mental health and their learning.
Coventry (Craig Levis)Preparing for the challenges that may be ahead of us. What will this new normal look like? We have overcome everything we have faced through this pandemic. I hear many people worrying about a new wave of COVID. Will this happen? What impact will it have on me, my family, my students, my school? Fear is a constant thread throughout our journey. Creating the confidence in our entire school community by reinforcing that by working together, there is very little that we cannot overcome!
Cranston (Jeannine Nota-Masse)Making sure we support students, families and staff while we return to school with few/no restrictions after two years impacted by COVID.
Cumberland (Phil Thornton)Refocusing the work of teaching and learning in the post-pandemic educational world will continue to be a challenge as we start the 22-23 school year.
East Greenwich (Brian G. Ricca)The reality that our students have been impacted by COVID the past two school years. Even if we have a minimal impact from COVID, we have a lot of work to do in terms of social-emotional well being of students, faculty, staff, and families; and then we have educational goals to reach for!
East Providence (Sandra Forand)Our single biggest challenge for the upcoming school year is attendance. Over the last couple years with COVID, our chronic absenteeism rate has increased steadily. We will be focusing on getting students to attend school daily.
Exeter-West Greenwich (James Erinakes)Aside from the technical challenges, we are working through implementation of a new reading curriculum across all grade levels and completing our training of all teachers in the science of reading. These two initiatives are exciting, but require an intense level of commitment and time on the part of our teachers. We know that we need to maintain our focus on student outcomes while also maintaining a healthy balance for staff.
Foster (Dr. Michael Barnes)The single biggest challenge will be maintaining and enhancing the high-quality education we provide to our students and families, while supporting our teachers and staff as they implement the increasingly complex strategies needed to meet our students needs with resources that are stretched thinner due to inflationary pressures.
Foster-Glocester (Renee Palazzo)No response
Glocester (Patricia Dubois)Being able to provide the services needed in order to have a quality educational system with the available revenue.
Jamestown (Ken Duva, Ed.D.)We are all excited to begin a new school year with new programs, staff, and students in a more typical learning environment than we have experienced over the past two years. However, we will be focusing closely on our school budget and preparing for next year’s budget. We are proud of one of our Capital Improvement projects that will be helping our environment and the future school budgets. By January of 2023, we will have installed a Solar Power Carport at the Melrose School and a Roof Array of Solar Panels at the Lawn School. Both initiatives are projected to generate up to 90% of our energy use.
Johnston (Bernard DiLullo Jr.)Ensuring all open positions are filled with highly qualified educators and support staff.
Lincoln (Dr. Lawrence Filippelli)We are planning major construction projects in our schools and we need to anticipate and plan around the aforementioned shortages and cost increases.
Little Compton (Dr. Laurie Dias-Mitchell)Like all districts, we face the challenge of uncertainties that are beyond our control. However, no matter what the future holds, the entire school and greater community have shown that, when it comes to the health, safety, and education of the town’s schoolchildren and teens, we are “all in” — and together we will work through problems, reach consensus, support and at times, yes, forgive each other. At the end of the day, it’s all about the kids.
Middletown (Rosemarie K. Kraeger)Sufficient dollars to maintain a strong program that supports all students. We have used our ESSER dollars for staff to supplement our operating budget. Positions like guidance, social workers, student success teachers. These positions are critical to address the COVID loss and social emotional needs of students.
Narragansett (Dr. Peter Cummings)We continue to address the aftereffects of the pandemic, including learning loss, mental health needs, and other related issues. Additionally, continuing to ensure our schools are safe and secure is an essential part of our work with our community.
Newport (Colleen Burns Jermain, Ed.D.)Staffing
New Shoreham (Robert Gerardi)The rising costs of all goods and services impacts many expense in the general budget as well as construction project expenses.
North Kingstown (Michael Waterman)The single biggest challenge facing our district is the hiring of a permanent Superintendent and Assistant Superintendent.
North Providence (Joseph Goho)Continued remediation of pandemic learning loss and support for ongoing social emotional duress in students and staff as a result of the pandemic.
North Smithfield (Michael St. Jean)There are ongoing fiscal challenges and making up for any COVID-related learning loss.
Pawtucket (Dr. Cheryl McWilliams)Increasing the number of substitute teachers available to address absences in the event teachers are affected by COVID-19 or its variants.
Portsmouth (Thomas Kenworthy)We want each school year to be the best experience that a student has had and improve upon that every year.
Providence (Dr. Javier Montañez)Making sure students and staff are here every day. Attendance is the key to success in so many areas. That’s one of the main reasons the pandemic has had such an enormous impact on education. Not only were people out of school for health reasons, but the social-emotional toll of COVID also affected attendance. We have a number of new outreach programs and alternative scheduling options to make sure that students have every chance to be here and thrive.
Scituate (Laurie Andries)Filling vacancies and getting volunteers to work with us on writing our district strategic plan.
Smithfield (Dawn Bartz)Finances. Our district lost $300,000 after the budget season in June from RIDE. We were only able to recoup $75,000. For a small district, this cut coming after the budget season, combined with increased costs for fuel and materials presents a challenge in balancing the budget.
South Kingstown (Mark Prince)No response
Tiverton (Peter Sanchioni)We are set for 22-23, the challenge is next year when ESSER funds run out and we will have budget deficits.
Warwick (Lynn Dambruch)State and local funding. Once ESSER funds are depleted, we will face serious funding issues.
Westerly (Mark Garceau)We are working hard to get back on our feet post COVID. We are also spending an inordinate amount of time addressing the fallout of a toxic political climate.
West Warwick (Karen Tarasevich)We continue to be concerned about the mental health and academic stability of our students. (Running close behind are staffing, public health crises, and access to resources.)
Woonsocket (Patrick McGee)Student mental health concerns following COVID, as well as the need to support students in conflict resolution.

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