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



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.

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Below are their responses to the following question: “What’s broken and how do we improve Newport’s public school system?

What’s broken and how do we improve Newport’s public school system?

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

Rebecca Bolan

In the last question I focused on what was broken, I'd like to turn this around and focus on what is going well and the progress we have made. We have a new Superintendent that has a vision in education and knows the direction Newport Public Schools needs to head. We have a new assistant Superintendent who excels in Curriculum and is already made many innovative changes. We have a Career and Tech program that is flourishing! We have the state funded PTEC program. We have reinvested in our accelerated learning program providing an alternative path to graduation for many at risk students. Graduation rates are up.Our math scores at the elementary school show improvement for every cohort! More students are not hungry at school. We have adjusted the school hours to better align with the needs of our students. We are teaching all Second graders how to swim. Our strategic plan addresses the need for all students to be on grade level or by the Third grade. These are just some of the exciting initiatives that have been put in place to make Newport schools great.

David Carlin

Has not responded with answers. If we receive, we will update this story with their answer.

Sandra Flowers

Poor attendance and tardiness among a significant number of students, coupled with limited cooperation from parents/caretakers, impact negatively on student achievement. Therefore, the School Committee must support the NPS’ tireless efforts to convince parents that attendance and punctuality are necessary for student achievement. The improved collaboration between Newport Public Schools and the numerous social service agencies has brought about some improvement in this area. I am confident that this situation will improve. Assurance that teaching and learning are aligned with the standards set by RIDE must be paired with valid and objective evaluation through some standardized testing. For years (including my career in Newport schools) I have seen the continual re-prioritizing of academic goals and the resulting frustration among the educators, students, parents, and public when some test scores are poor. I hear complaints and misinterpretation of test preparation as “teaching to the test,” with many adults publicly advocating against the standardization of goals and testing. Younger students are upset; some older ones feel that these efforts are purposeless. Therefore, we need frank and open discussion about the importance of student evaluation via many methods; also, students must learn from their earliest years to have pride in their work and to aim for the highest goals.

Jo Eva Gaines

There is always room for improvement, and Newport’s schools are definitely improving. Having been on the School Committee since 2000, I have seen changes that have made the difference. Our schools are improving because many of the citizens of Newport have come to the rescue. There is realization that good schools are good for the growth of the City. The development of our 2016-2021 Strategic Plan is a perfect example of citizens coming to the table, bringing their experience, interest and expertise, and contributing their time is help our schools improve. Our schools are improving because we have received increased revenue from the city. This additional funding allows expansion of offerings for students, and additional professional development for teachers, both of which contribute to improved outcomes for all students. We must continue these efforts.

Raymond Gomes

I don’t believe that anything is necessarily broken with the schools, I believe there are issues with the performance of our schools. We need to improve school performance and preparing our children for their futures whether that future takes them to college or directly into the work force. The priority for me would be to ensure that as a member of the School committee I work openly and collaboratively with all stakeholders to ensure that we meet this goal one hundred percent every year. The first step toward this would be to adopt and begin to implement the Strategic Plan. Working collectively toward common goals is the best way toward great achievement. To achieve this plan there are many hurdles to overcome. The recently announced plan to have all children read at grade level by grade three will be the first hurdle. To clear this hurdle, we must ensure that we have participation in the appropriate early childhood education for all our children prior to them entering kindergarten. We must also have children present in school, kids can’t learn if they are not in a classroom, to learn from our dedicated teachers. We must also ensure that these teachers are prepared and have appropriate professional development available to them. As our children move on from third grade we must provide them a curriculum that continues to provide and increase their exposure to stem/steam. This exposure will allow for the student, families and teachers to make an informed decision as to which is the best path through the secondary education portion of their journey through Newport Public Schools. Their journey through middle and high school must support their most probable path after high school. The Newport Area Career and Technical Center is critical to giving those students that may chose the path toward the workforce the vocational skills needed to be successful in the fields that they chose. I believe that performance will increase if we can overcome some hurdles and move forward with the belief that we all achieve when children achieve.

David Hanos Jr.

Whats broken assumes that things are broken. What I’m finding out as we move through to the end of my first term is theres room for improvement across the board. Things are being addressed now to help fix areas in need ie ;new roof on RHS and a 5year maintenance plan for all of our campus’s and the need for expansion at the Pell school is our next very important and big issue in the here and now. Rolling out our strategic plan also addresses other areas in need of work but with a plan an vision.

Adrienne Haylor

I would not say broken, but flawed, with room for improvement, we need to grow with the challenges of caring and preparation for the students first. The development of STEM and STEAM curriculum throughout all the grades K-12 is a necessity for our students who will be entering a world of 21 st century employment. More development and support of the vocational pathways for student choices, careers and/or college bound. The communication between the teaching staff, support staff and administration appears to be inconsistent on some campuses, with may result in lack of respect and credibility. The proposal of Empowerment schools is moving forward in our state, this proposal would give principals and teachers control over most of the major decisions made in their classrooms on a daily basis. Empowering administration and staff to take responsibility for their campuses, failures and ultimate success’ requires one to be invested, which I believe would bring positive results.

Jennifer Jackson

I hate always focusing on the negative, we have some great staff that are fully dedicated to our children, we also have excellent parents and community. We have a very diverse and unique community. Now with that being said, I feel that the NPS isn’t able to reach all our students. NPS need to better understand the people of the community and the true needs of the children. We need to allow our teacher the power to teach the children for a life time not just for the test. I trust that the teacher are able to evaluate our children better then a test. Whatever the child’s standards are they should be challenged in order to keep them motivated to learn. We need to focus on all levels of standards not just the lower ones and how to help them. We should also have classes for those at or above standards. And look into alternative learning to inspire children to learn.

Henry Kniskern

Newport schools have very good teachers and administrators. Prior to this superintendent, Colleen Jermain, there was very little investment in the educational process … in technology, professional development, or future planning. Part of the problem was that there was no long term assessment, strategy or goals. Challenges like we are facing in Newport can only be accomplished when there is leadership, collaboration and trust. Our community wants to be more engaged in supporting our schools, but the community is reluctant to commit full confidence when the school committee, union and administration are at constant tension.

Robert Leary

Finances, not the amount of money but getting the proper finance director. We have numerous finance directors over the years to no avail of problems. For example, retirees billing has continued to be problem with financial errors and incorrect billing. Its time, with the present financial director leaving in December , to do what four reports have told us to do combine with the city’s finance department. Over the years we have had financial reviews completed. There was the Berkshire Report, LGCD Report, Report of the City Financial Review Committee, Laura Sitrin , Newport Finance Director, Report, and finally in 2014 the voters approved with 70% saying yes to merge departments within the city. All these reports and the ballot question confirms we need to merge finance departments with the city. What are we waiting for?

Thomas Phelan

Has not responded with answers. We will update this story if we receive their answer.

Kathleen Silvia

I’m not sure that I see anything as “broken” in our school system; however, there are certainly areas that need improvement, some to a greater degree than others.  The PARCC scores were very disappointing.  Although I don’t believe the scores are a true reflection of the schools and the learning within,  many people do.  The school administration and teachers have been delving into what needs to be done to raise these scores, including reviewing what programs are being used in other school systems comparable to Newport that have scored better which could help our children in the learning and testing process. I will support their recommendations for any changes that will assist our children in achieving their highest potentials in literacy, math and science


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