Michael Barnes – Foster Glocester School District
1. What’s the number one thing parents and students should know about this district this year?
Providing a personalized, collaborative, and relevant education supported by technology is a focus of our teachers, staff, and administrators. Our educators and support staff care about our students, go above and beyond on their behalf and do a commendable job of supporting their academic, personal, and social development.
We recognize that our graduates, in addition to competing with students from neighboring towns and states, will compete with students from around the world. To provide our students with a competitive edge we purposefully work to prepare them for college and careers. During the 2019-2020 school year, we will maintain and enhance our emphasis on three broad initiatives:
1) Implementing rigorous new curricula in English Language Arts and Mathematics that advances our school-wide effort to restructure instruction to foster deeper learning and transferable professional skills;
2) Supporting learning and teaching with technology-enhanced learning experiences that engage students in problem-based and work-based learning experiences; and
3) Provide students autonomy and flexibility in their studies as they pursue College and Career Pathways designed to lead to college credit(s) and/or industry certification(s).
This year we will also continue investing in our school facilities to support learning in and out of school. Over the past seven years, we invested over $2,000,000 in equipment, instructional materials, and facilities to support our pathways and academic programs.
Our district currently has ten (10) state-approved pathways that provide cutting-edge opportunities to students who live in Foster-Glocester as well as tuition-based students from more than 10 neighboring communities. Our state-approved college and career pathways include: 1) Engineering (includes robotics), 2) BioMedical Sciences, 3) Plant and Animal Biosciences, 4) Computer Science and Informational Technology (includes gaming), 5) Music and Performing Arts, 6) Materials and Manufacturing and Construction Management, 7) Visual Arts, 8) Health Careers EMT, 9) Criminal Justice, and 10) Business.
2. What is the biggest challenge your district faces?
An ongoing challenge in our district, like all districts, is concurrently meeting the needs of high-achieving and underperforming students with a high-quality education while simultaneously maintaining fiscally responsible budgets. The needs of students continuously change and the services and opportunities we provide to them continue to expand. While we have made great strides providing personalized pathways that prepare students for college and careers, more needs to be done to ensure the success of all students. To accomplish our goals in a fiscally responsible way we cut expenses where we can and purposefully reallocate resources to align with our strategic priorities.
Another big challenge for our district last year remains a challenge this year – expanding student access to work-based learning opportunities that support and reinforce the learning occurring in our schools. Ponaganset is a rural school serving multiple communities spread over 200 square miles. Our school structures, curricula, instruction, school schedule, small number of local businesses and lack of public transportation limit the work/community-based learning opportunities available to students. Our district is fortunate to have dedicated and experienced professional staff to develop partnerships with business and higher education to foster students’ out-of-school learning experiences. Nevertheless, the lack of fully developed systems in our state, the geographical location of our schools, and rural nature of our communities all exacerbate this challenge.
3. What is the vaccination rate for your district and what is your policy for opting out? Have you seen a spike or decline in the number of parents opting out over the last two years?
The table below was taken from information found on the RI Department of Health Website. It contains the number and percentage of students immunized in grades 7, 8, 9 and 12. Our district adheres to the opt-out provisions for immunization found in RIGL 16-38-2. This law requires: “a certificate from a licensed physician stating that the person is not a fit subject for immunization for medical reasons, or a certificate signed by the pupil, if over eighteen (18) years of age, or by the parent or guardian stating that immunization and/or testing for communicable diseases is contrary to that person’s religious beliefs.” While there are year-to-year fluctuations in the number of students immunized, we have not seen a notable spike or decrease in immunizations from year-to-year for immunizations with the exception of the HPV vaccination.
School nurse teachers maintain records to document that a student has received an immunization or has a permissible exemption. In addition, several times a year, our school nurse teachers host “Vaccinate Before You Graduate” clinics to provide students and parents with a convenient way to catch up on vaccines which have to be given at specific ages.
Grade Total Students at Grade Level Assessed # Students Fully Immunized* % Students Fully Immunized* % Students Fully Immunized Statewide*
9 244 191 78.3% 81.3%
8 177 123 69.5% 75.7%
7 164 117 71.3% 75.3%
12 212 201 94.8% 84.8%
4. Some school districts in the state are banning electronic devices/cell phones. What is your current policy? Do you have plans to also ban electronic devices? If so, why?
We do not plan to outright ban electronic devices. Used properly they can be a powerful tool to support the acquisition, analysis, and presentation of ideas. They are an integral part of people’s personal and professional lives. It is important that students understand how and when to use electronic devices. Banning them would limit students’ opportunities to learn first-hand the skills and etiquette needed for appropriate use of technology in the college, careers, and life. Below are excerpts from our student handbooks:
At Ponaganset High School administration, faculty and staff believe in “freedom with responsibility,” students are permitted to use electronic devices appropriately during passing time, lunch, and before and after school. However, students are to turn off and put away these devices at the direction of their teachers or other school staff. Electronic devices are not to be used in restrooms or locker rooms. Using electronic devices to record, photograph or film students, adults or school activities is not allowed and is considered a breach of privacy and will result in disciplinary action. The administration reserves the right to alter this policy based on student behavior.
At Ponaganset Middle School Ipods, Smartphones, Mp3 players, handheld video games, cell phones, cameras, and other electronics should not be brought to school. These items are expensive and easily stolen. If you must bring any electronic device to school, it must remain locked in your locker unless it is being used for an academic purpose. I Cameras and cell phone camera use are prohibited in school. Cell phones, electronics, and games that are not being used for academic reasons with teacher permission will be confiscated and held until the parent can come to school to pick them up.
5. Tell us something nobody knows about your district.
While our district has received a variety of recognitions, we still believe we are one of the best-kept secrets in Rhode Island. Our schools are a central point of our communities and our graduates often return here to live and raise their families. With the leadership and support of the Ponaganset Educational Foundation, we are able to offer the First-Class Scholarship Program – a scholarship supported by alumni and community members that is earmarked for student(s) whose parents did not graduate from a four-year college.
During the 2019-2020 school year, we will be engaging students, teachers, staff, parents, and the community to fundamentally rethink how Ponaganset High School is organized to prepare students for college and careers. To ensure the economic well-being of our state and drive our economy, Rhode Island needs to graduate students from every high school with well-developed academic, career-technical, and transferrable professional skills. Ponaganset High School has been a statewide leader in Career and Technical Education and we are committed to building on our current success. To that end, we plan to rethink how we use time, class schedules, learning in and out of school, support struggling students, foster professional collaboration, and how we can further personalize our curricula, instruction, and assessments to meet the needs of all students.
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