When Newport voters go the polls on November 8th, they will see that they have the option to choose seven out of twelve candidates (and the option to write-in their own candidate) to fill the seven At-Large seats on the Newport School Committee.

Adrienne Haylor, Ray Gomes, Jennifer Jackson, Henry Kniskern and Thomas Phelan are running against current Newport School Committee Members – Rebecca Bolan, David Carlin, Sandra Flowers, Jo Eva Gaines, David Hanos Jr.,  Robert Leary and Kathleen Silvia. All seats are for two-year terms.

What’sUpNewp posed several questions to the Newport School Committee Candidates over the last few days.

Below are their responses to the following question: “What is the most important issue facing our school system and what specific plans do you have to address it?

What is the most important issue facing our school system and what specific plans do you have to address it?

In order of how they appear on the November 8th ballot.

Rebecca Bolan

Our biggest issue facing our Community is our lack of progress in the areas of Math and Science. We are not making the needed progress to prepare our students for a completely different work force than the one we entered. We need to provide a steam education that is embedded in every classroom. We have to provide ongoing professional development for our staff .We need to focus on the needs of every student. As a Community we have to be willing to commit the needed resources to achieve this.

David Carlin

Has not responded with answers. If this candidate responds, we will update this story with their answers.

Sandra Flowers

Informing and educating the general public on the following issues is one of my main goals. To me, the seeming disparity between test scores and achievement demonstrated by students is caused in part by the excessive absence and tardiness rate . What I find especially puzzling is the decrease in the standardized test scores’ proficiency rating among the high school students; in my estimation, motivation seems to be lacking. Another concern is the need to provide our students with needed pathways to success that match and broaden the middle and high school students’ interests and career goals. While this is receiving considerable attention and action by the administration and school committee members, many in the community still need to be aware of what is being offered. Many people are seeking answers regarding early childhood education—in particular pre-K—for all children. We know that assuring grade level reading ability by Grade 3 is vital to student success. As learning begins in infancy, early childhood education with support and encouragement of parents/caregivers are key factors. Perhaps most of these issues can come under one heading: are we—taxpayers and consumers—getting our money’s worth?

Jo Eva Gaines

It’s difficult to prioritize. There is probably no agreement on what is MOST important. My top priority, today, is absenteeism and tardiness. Students need to be in school every day, all day! I recall prizes being awarded for perfect attendance many years ago, so this has been a long standing problem. Realizing that the schools cannot do it alone, we are focusing on this problem with the collaboration of community agencies and private funders through CEATRI (Chronic Early Absenteeism & Truancy Reduction Initiative). There has been some improvement and sporadic days of attendance at 90% and above in individual schools. The goal is to make these reports more consistent.

Raymond Gomes

I think that the most important issue for the School Committee is a lack of constituent confidence in the school system based on performance. I believe that this is in part due to the inability of the current School committee to work cohesively on the issues necessary to improve performance. I think that the emerging strategic plan will help with some of this as it details four important primary goals. I believe the plan details in length the role of all stakeholders from students to community leaders and business. The plan provides a framework for the stakeholders that will allow all to be able to track and understand their roles toward achieving the goals. This framework would allow all to work toward the goals of the plan in a measured cohesive manner. I would make adoption of the strategic plan and achieving the goals one of my first priorities if elected to the school committee.

David Hanos Jr.

The most important things is our scores and perception that our system is not doing a good job. Our schools are doing a good job and the scores just don’t reflect those areas. We need to be able to track our kids success in order to better understand how we reach pour kids and how successful they become. By doing so and reporting back out we can give a better picture of our other successes like prepping kids for work and society. I will help institute more help for those younger kids who need to be proficient in reading and math at an early age and ensure we have the staffing and tools to do it. In the upper grades we need to target our kids who may not be interested in school and find ways to help them decide on a career path in the Career Tech school at RHS campus.

Adrienne Haylor

There are many issues facing the school system which will be addressed through the implementation of the 5 Year strategic plan. This plan addresses ‘six (6) strategies that concentrate on the already identified gaps. With the School Committee’s acceptance of the strategic plan, strong support and fiscal oversight the plan lays out definite pathways to insure student success. As a committee member I would support this plan, working with administration, teachers and staff to achieve the goals stated in the plan: PreK Enrollment, Early Education-Literacy in Reading and Numeracy for all students by grade three, Development of a Technology Plan(TMS & RHS) to meet the needs of students in the 21 st century World we live in, Professional Training for Teachers and Staff to strengthen their high- quality abilities and guarantee their success in the delivery of education to students. These are all significant components to the “most important issue” facing us today.

Jennifer Jackson

 I feel that the lack of honest and open communication has cause the foundation of the school structure to crumble. Staff feels that their voices go unheard by administrators, parents don’t feel like they are being heard or told the whole truth. I feel that the school should open the doors of communication and allow every voice to be heard without repercussions. I would like to have better open forums during meetings to allow people to openly talk and be addressed. I will always have my door open for all.

Henry Kniskern

The two most important educational issues facing our community are the need to invest in early childhood education and technology in the classroom. The third is the implementation of a flexible, dynamic and creative curriculum at the high school level. Educational research shows that all of these initiatives can remarkably affect student academic achievement and participation in the classroom.

Robert Leary

Our test results which are tied to our absentee and tardy extremely high rate.  It is often said , you are what your test results are. We have to start holding everyone accountable. Last year we had over 50,000 incidents of absent and tardy students. This is unacceptable, we must reduce that number. We are talking with the truancy judge, relooking at and reprograming the way truancy officer does his job, and changing start times for the schools. Obviously this extremely high rate of absent and tardy students  effects our test results. Clearly, there is much work to be done in our test results. The district, along with the principals and teachers must analyze the data and make changes that will produce results. No more excuses! It is important to look at each grade level. This is where principals and teachers dig into the data to identify possible causes, but also more importantly identify solutions. Our dismal results cannot continue. You have ask yourself this question of the Newport school Department’s total budget of almost $40,000,000 , are you satisfied with the results? I’m surely am not.

Thomas Phelan

Has not responded with answers. If this candidate responds, we will update this story with their answers.

Kathleen Silvia

It is difficult to identify one issue as the most important.  Truancy, expansion of pre-K education, reading on grade level by Grade3, and raising PARCC scores are all extremely important.  However, the current truancy/absenteeism rate, especially at Rogers High School, is unacceptable.  With initiatives currently undertaken we should be able to realize more immediate results.  I will continue to support efforts undertaken through the CEATRI (Chronic Early Absenteeism and Truancy Initiative) Grant from the Van Buren Foundation whereby absenteeism is monitored weekly and interventions are implemented.  In addition, family-service coordinated efforts by each school to foster parent interaction must be expanded.  A parent’s active participation in a child’s education plays an important role in student attendance and achievement.

More On Newport School Committee Candidates

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School Committee Candidates Share What They Believe Is The Most Important Issue Facing School System

What’s Broken and How do we Improve Newport’s Public School System? School Committee Candidates Share Their Ideas

Newport School Committee Candidates Share What They Believe Sets Them Apart From Other Candidates

Ryan Belmore is the Owner and Publisher of What's Up Newp. He was born and raised in Rhode Island and graduated from Coventry High School. He serves as Vice President of Fort Adams Trust and serves on the Board of Directors for Potter League for Animals. Ryan also is currently the Senior Editor - North America for Mountain News, publisher of OnTheSnow. Ryan is a member of Local Independent Online News (LION) Publishers and North American Snowsports Journalists Association (NASJA).