opinion Newport Rhode Island

On Monday evening, I attended a meeting dedicated to “conversation” about school regionalization. At that meeting, I made a presentation intended to promote renewed collaboration between Newport and Middletown that would benefit the students in both communities.

My presentation detailed a plan that would demonstrate the way that the two high schools could function as a single unit for the benefit of all the students. 

I regarded my plan as the answer to all the questions about educational improvement that had resulted in the failed November ballot question. 

However, I came away surprised at what I now regard as even more respect for the comprehensiveness of the NACTC Program at RHS that has re-enforced my convictions that high school unification can be successfully accomplished at 2 separate sites and that the goal going forward should focus on unifying the middle schools. 

Let me be clear. Based on the embarrassing state assessment results in both districts, I still believe that substantial curriculum revision is necessary at all grade levels. All students are NOT the same. Schools need to focus less on “covering the material” and more on ensuring that all the students have learned. 

We all know that diversity is an issue in assessment.  We can’t change that. But how much more CAN we do going forward to improve achievement for ALL the students if we combine our resources?

Both Newport and Middletown are facing a crisis related to buildings and finance. These issues can be resolved more easily and expeditiously by regionalizing and combining the middle schools in a single facility

However, just housing our students in a single building will not, by itself, improve the quality of their education. 

Bringing the middle grade students together can have educational benefits – but only if those in charge take steps to improve the educational quality to be provided in a new facility. 

Schools need to do more than merely implement state mandates which may be inescapable. However, there are other methods and resources that have proven to be more productive. 

Administrators and teachers need to explore potential improvements that promise better results. Educators in both the existing schools need to work together now to explore and develop additional techniques that will increase student success.

We all need to put disappointment regarding high school unification aside and recognize that, while there is just as much need there for improvement in curriculum and instruction, that ship has sailed.

The future – academic, structural, and financial – depends on the two municipalities joining together for regionalization, beginning with a commitment to building a unified middle school. 

The reality has always been – We Can Do Better Together.

Barbara A. VonVillas