Judith Paolucci – Smithfield School District
1. What’s the number one thing parents and students should know about this district this year?
Parents may be wondering about the timeline for the elementary reconfiguration project. The architects are now putting together detailed drawings and plans for each of our three renovation projects. In the winter, we will be going out to bid for construction, which is expected to start in the spring. At this time, we are also working on detailed phasing plans so that construction can take place while students are in the building, but in parts of the building not accessible to students. We are also hoping to capitalize on summer breakers to the greatest degree possible. Our primary concern is safety.
2. What is the biggest challenge your district faces?
With a FY20 budget that is 1% less than the FY19 budget, the district is operating very efficiently. We will continue to find savings whenever possible so that the educational experiences of our students are unaffected by diminishing funding. Since state aid to education is erratic (last year we had an increase of about $1.5 million and this year we had a decrease of about the same amount), it will be important for the town to provide adequate supports for sustained quality of service.
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?
To determine vaccination rates, the state collected data for students enrolled in Kindergarten, 7th, 8th, 9th, and 12th grade. Our report includes vaccination rates for public, Catholic, charter, and independent/private schools. You can find our report here, as well as the reports of all other districts: http://www.health.ri.gov/data/schools/immunization/.
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 ban electronic devices/cell phones but expect students to use them respectfully and outside of instructional time. Such expectations are life lessons — too many adults do not respect others’ time and take out phones at inappropriate times!
5. Tell us something nobody knows about your district.
Smithfield schools have exceptional school cultures where students and teachers have mutual respect for each other. This, however, isn’t by chance. Where there are issues, it is addressed systematically and fairly quickly. Teachers are learning Responsive Classroom techniques in the elementary grades, for example, to explicitly teach routines that ensure efficient use of instructional time and respectful behavior. As we have seen an increase in racist language, next year we are partnering with the Anti-defamation League to leverage student leaders at GMS and SHS to address these issues. SurveyWorks data helps us to identify goals in this area, while the data also shows us to have a significantly better school culture than other Rhode Island schools.
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