Five candidates are running for election or re-election to the Barrington School Committee.
Patch asked them why? Here are their answers.
Patrick Guida, School Committee Chairman
I was first elected to the Barrington School Committee in 1996. At that point my relevant Barrington education related experience consisted of service, commencing in the late 80's, on District Strategic Planning Action Teams, three (3) years as Chair of the High School Improvement Team (1993-1996), and three (3) years as President of the Boosters Club (1993-1996). More importantly, I brought with me a passion for high quality and effective public education for all kids. The Rhode Island General Laws provide within Section16-2-9.1, being the Code of Basic Management Principles and Ethical School Standards, that School Committee members shall "Recognize that the first and greatest concern must be the educational welfare of the students attending the public schools." That statutory duty aligned well with my own values and belief system.
I fervently believe that a community is best known by the quality of its schools. It has always been my objective to help make our schools the signature of our town throughout the region. I understood that in order to accomplish high quality public education in the face of very limited state aid (including recent increases, state aid is still only 7.3% of our budget now), we would have to maximize available resources and make sacrifices as necessary to retain and expand the most effective programs. During my tenure, the District has focused our resources on cost effective academic programs and pedagogy. For example, we have introduced the "Senior Project" to the State and refined that Senior Project experience to take full advantage of its potential. The State has now followed Barrington and adopted the Senior Project as an accepted, standard graduation requirement. We have invested in literacy coaches for embedded professional development of our staff in the elementary grades. This program allows for teachers to get professional development within the Barrington classroom. That training is both more effective and avoids the cost and disruption of teachers going out of the District on school days for training. While not all professional development can be done with coaches in district, the program serves an important role in the effort. We have identified significant increases in student performance as a direct result of this re-direction of our professional development resources. We have also expanded the Advanced Placement Program from 8 to 15 courses. The Program will be further expanded to 16 courses next year. I explain more about the AP Program below.
I believe that the success of our School System is dependent, more than anything else, on the quality and effectiveness of our administrators and faculty. We have been and are now blessed with great educators. I personally have great admiration and respect for our staff and the job they do. As the critical players of our team, they and our students deserve the most professional working and learning environment we can provide. During my tenure and with my full support, the District adopted the Professional Learning Community model as the foundation for the collaborative delivery of instruction by our educator team. The PLC model has been acknowledged by our faculty as an effective set of protocols for managing the delivery of instruction to the benefit of all kids. If re-elected I will continue to work toward further enhancing this collaborative, team culture and that environment. The cost of the redirection of resources to introduce and expand such programs and pedagogy has been negligible. The dividends have been impressive. We are now in the second year of implementing the State's new educator evaluation system. That new evaluation system will require adjustments at both the state and local level as we move forward. Ultimately, that system has to encourage the delivery of highly effective instruction and work in the best interests of our students. I am anxious to help make that happen at both the state and local level.
My qualifications for continuing service on the School Committee is perhaps best measured by the performance of our schools during the previous 16 years. The District has distinguished itself in many ways. We have consistently over the last 12 years achieved the highest aggregate state assessment (currently NECAP) scores in the State. Our aggregate SAT scores are 30 points higher than the next highest in Rhode Island. The District and its schools have also achieved prominence in numerous national rankings. Earlier this year, U.S. News & World Report gave Barrington High School its Gold Medal award, ranking it among the top 2% in the nation. The criteria for that ranking is heavily dependent on AP results. This distinction could only have been achieved through the expansion and focus placed on our AP Program, where the results have been trending in a positive direction over the last several years. Of the 561 AP tests taken last year, 479 (over 85%) were at college level mastery. Considering our high participation rate and the percentage of those achieving mastery, these results place Barrington not only at the top in Rhode Island but also among the most successful nationally. This accomplishment is attributable not only to our expansion of AP offerings, but also to greater motivation of many more students to accept the challenge and the highly effective delivery of instruction by Barrington teachers at both the basic and AP course level. Although we might further increase the percentage of those achieving college level mastery by discouraging all but the higher ability learners from engaging in AP courses, our philosophy has been to encourage all students to participate in the AP program. We expect this trend of more participants and higher percentage of those achieving mastery to continue for so long as we have a supportive School Committee and Administration.
In the last ten years, both our High School and Middle School have been recognized for the first time by the U. S. Department of Education as "Blue Ribbon Schools," a distinction reserved for only a few hundred schools every year. Barrington has had more "Presidential Scholars" identified in the last 12 years than in our entire previous history for a program first established in 1964. Fewer than 150 students are identified as Presidential Scholars each year.
In 2011, Forbes Magazine ranked Barrington as the fourth (4th) best public school community in the nation for your real estate buck. Indeed, we have maximized the use of available resources to realize our accomplishments. Only three (3) school districts in Rhode Island spend less per pupil. Our challenge is to continue to identify further opportunities for savings in order to implement those valuable programs promising higher student achievement. You may have heard about certain Boston area suburban high schools which achieved combined (reading, writing and math) SAT scores 50 points or more higher than Barrington High School. We applaud such achievement and must continue to increase the level of our performance. That said, it is important to recognize that those Boston area suburban high schools with such higher scores spent, on average, approximately $2,500 more per pupil than Barrington. Spending at that level for Barrington would translate into an approximately $8.5 Million or 19% increase in our annual operating budget. It is also fair to point out that of the 50 top Boston area high schools identified by Boston Magazine, more than 30 had SAT combined scores less than Barrington and many of those also spend more per pupil than Barrington.
We are currently involved in: completing a new five year strategic plan; implementing and enriching the new Common Core of Learning internationally benchmarked standards and the new assessments (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) aligned to those standards; exploring and implementing opportunities for virtual learning, including "blended learning", and other online resources to supplement and enrich instruction; implementing and assessing our new educator evaluation system; and planning for substantial future capital and building improvements to enhance the safety and efficiency of the delivery of instruction. Certain of these efforts will require an expansion of our technology capabilities, including our bandwidth.
Notwithstanding our many District accomplishments, we certainly have room for improvement. In an "All Kids Agenda", more of our students need to realize proficiency and proficiency with distinction in designated subject areas. I hope to have an opportunity to provide continuing leadership in making those improvements a reality. I intend to remain vigilant in the pursuit of further program enhancements, including all-day kindergarten, expanded world language opportunities in the elementary grades, and enrichment opportunities across the curriculum, including the arts. Once again, our challenge is to realize these objectives through the identification of further opportunities for savings.
We will soon be negotiating a new three (3) year contract with NEA Barrington. I believe I can make a substantial contribution to this process. I have the experience of chairing the School Committee during the negotiation of four (4) prior contracts in a collaborative process with NEA Barrington. I believe that over the years I have developed a high level of credibility with our professional staff, as have they with me. I am prepared to take an even more active role, as necessary, in our upcoming negotiation with NEA Barrington in the face of very challenging fiscal conditions.
I also have the experience of having negotiated the Construction Management Contract for our High School Major Renovation and Addition several years ago. My vocational experience as a transactional lawyer also affords me the opportunities of regularly representing my law firm clients in a myriad of construction and construction financing projects. I am also serving as the School Committee representative to our Building Committee formed earlier this year. These experiences should prove valuable as we move forward with the Middle School and other capital projects.
We have recently assembled a new, highly effective leadership team to mobilize our professional learning community to accomplish our objectives. They and our professional teaching staff and support educators are key to our past and future success. I am running again for School Committee in order to offer and afford the community what I believe are the benefits of the above recited beliefs, stated objectives and leadership experience in order that every Barrington student may realize his or her full potential in a safe and effective learning environment.
Robert Shea, School Committe member
I desire to champion the needs of diverse learners. That’s the reason I ran for my first term.
I think there is a sense that Barrington is an excellent district for excellent kids. We need to be excellent for all students so everyone reaches their maximum potential.
Special education is especially near and dear to me. I got involved in the schools through the special education advisory committee. I have three children; one with special needs. We need to meet the needs of all students, not just high performers.
Barrington does a good job. But there is more work to be done. I am concerned that with the implementation of the Common Core of learning that certain students will not be able to meet partial proficiency to graduate.
I have also been involved in health and wellness issues -- the well-being of all students -- as the chairman of that subcommittee. As chairman, I have helped to shape the policy that is now a model for other districts. Our allergy police also is a model. And Chartwells has really responded to our efforts.
Personally, I will continue to push for the change in the school start times, even though I may be alone on this issue. I think the science out there supports this change.
Overall, I want a second term because I still think there is work to be done on these issues.
Christopher Ramsden, School Committee member
I’m running for re-election because I believe we have many tasks to still accomplish in the district. We have many new administrators who are both talented and motivated. If we combine the central staff with a focused and disciplined School Committee, I believe the district can achieve a tremendous amount in the next four years.
I am seeking election to the School Committee because I believe I will bring a depth of educational experience combined with a parent's perspective. We chose to move to Barrington 19 years ago for the wonderful sense of community and the excellent school system. Now that our children are older and out of the Barrington schools it feels like the right time to run.
I believe public education to be a combination of children's individual experiences within a collaborative whole. How we achieve that balance remains a challenge. With many new leaders of our school system in place, this year is a time of tremendous growth and opportunity in Barrington. We should examine how we continue to support excellent programs and maximize learning for all students while being fiscally responsible. The educational success of our students depends on teachers and administrators partnering with families. I believe I would add value as a member of the School Committee in strengthening those partnerships.
I am running for School Committee because I think we need a new vision, new energy, and new, independent ideas in order for Barrington to advance to being a public school district of true world-class excellence.
I want Barrington to be known for its pace-setting schools, strong fiscal oversight and transparency, and commitment to using the best evidence for decision-making.
As a mother of two children attending the public schools, I have seen great teachers, principals, and staff doing their utmost for our children, but it is the actions of the school committee that ultimately shape the conditions for learners’ success. School committee leadership matters. Right now, a Barrington parent can get in a car, start driving, and before they go through a quarter tank of gas arrive at a dozen communities in Connecticut and Massachusetts whose public schools allow their young people to academically soar at much higher levels. Our children and our community need us to do better, and it takes leadership at the school committee level to chart the way to such improvement.