School safety tops list of updates at CEAB

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Members of the Cranston Education Advisory Board (CEAB) gathered for their first meeting of the new school year on Oct. 6 at Cranston High School West.

Present were chairperson Ed Angilly, vice chair Jaqueline Kelley and secretary Cindy Wilson-Frias. Representing the Cranston Public Schools central administration was Assistant Superintendent Jeannine Nota-Masse. Administrators from many schools were present, including Principal Tom Barbieri from Cranston High School West, Principal Anthony Corrente from Western Hills Middle School and Principal Kim Magnelli from Orchard Farms. Jeff Gale represented the Cranston School Committee, and there were parent representatives present from Hope Highlands Elementary School, Park View Middle School and Cranston East High School.

Nota-Masse was asked to give some updates on topics raised at the last meeting in June. ALICE training was first on the agenda.

“From September to June, all teachers, faculty, secretaries, anyone present in the buildings were trained, and all of the students were trained during that time as well. Over the course of the last school year, we trained approximately 13,000 people,” she said. “This year we’ve had two trainings in September to train anyone who missed last year, any new hires. We’ll be doing the new kindergarteners next, as well as any elementary, middle and high school students who are new to our district.”

Nota-Masse spoke about the issue of the open position for a district safety coordinator.

“We are in a holding pattern for the safety coordinator. We posted the position last July and interviewed six candidates in August. We offered the job to one gentleman who declined the position because there was some confusion where he thought it was a full-time position when it was actually part time. No one else we’d interviewed really wowed us and made us feel comfortable enough to let them take on this initiative. This is a huge deal for our district and the person in place needs to be really solid,” she said. “So we’re back to the drawing board. We’ve had some preliminary conversations with the new police chief about getting a dedicated person from the police department for this job. The Cranston police know all our regulations, all our campuses, our building layouts. If we can consolidate and get a police officer rather than a new hire from the outside, we’d prefer that. The previous police administration wasn’t willing to do that, so we had to post the position. We’re hoping that’s going to change.”

Nota-Masse emphasized that this was not a case of the Cranston School Department dragging their feet on a new hire.

“We are not going to just put anyone in this position. It’s too important. I’m still working closely with Sgt. Jennings on anything related to ALICE. We’re considering doing ALICE drills in the schools, but we haven’t made a final decision on that yet. We’re wrestling with the idea of how to have teachers using the strategies for practice without having fear and panic for the kids. We also don’t want ALICE drills to become the fire drills of today where at times some may take on a laissez faire type of attitude when something is done too often. We don’t want ALICE drills to be like that,” she said. “But rest assured, school safety is still very much a topic that is alive and well.”

Angilly asked for updates in several other areas, and presentations were planned for future CEAB meetings on topics such as the district’s Strategic Plan and the Attendance Counts initiative.

Gale gave an update about full-day kindergarten in Cranston, stating that the city is looking to the 2016-17 school year for the program to be instituted. He also asked for help in seeking support from Cranston voters regarding the upcoming $15 million school improvement bond question up for a vote in November.

“This is an important bond and is earmarked to update things that affect student and staff safety and health,” Gale said.

Nota-Masse gave an update about several teachers who had participated in math coach training and the completion of their program.

“Fifteen of our teachers were part of the first cohort to graduate from Rhode Island College as certified math coaches. They’ll be eligible for the new math coach certification which goes into effect in 2015,” she said. “These teachers are all out in the classrooms teaching now.”

As the meeting wrapped up, it was decided that the Nov. 3 CEAB meeting would be dedicated to a training for parents on the ASPEN computer system used district-wide in varying degrees for areas like attendance, grades, assignments, messaging and other communications. Magnelli will be running the November meeting as a workshop, showing those present how ASPEN works whether logging in as a parent, a teacher or a student.

The Nov. 3 meeting will be held at 7 p.m. in the Media Center at Cranston High School East.

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