2017-01-12 / Opinion

Technology Tops Liaison Agenda

By Lynne Tungett

A light agenda was addressed at the Jan. 9 meeting of the Newport Schools/City Council Liaison Subcommittee.

The first update on the city side was a discussion of the municipal strategic plan. Council Vice Chair Lynn Ceglie reported that the city is still making changes to the plan, but feels that the city and the School Committee are on target with common goals and the budget.

Ceglie also reported that the city’s gift of $200,000 was transferred to the Pell School Technology Endowment Fund.

“That should put us close to the $1 million mark. We were at about $750,000 before that commitment,” said School Committee member Jo Eva Gaines, who also reported that the schools are in the “implementation stage” of their strategic plan.

In response to a query from Ceglie on technology instruction at Rogers, School Committee member Sandra Flowers said, “There is more to technology than hardware; the staff is integrating technology across the curriculum.”

Gaines echoed, “Students need access to hardware, but they need the hands-on, too.”

Ceglie feels that there is a misconception that Rogers has not had its technology upgraded despite upgrades to its wiring. There was a consensus that more professional development is needed.

She continued the discussion by saying the council needs to know where the technology deficiencies are and, above and beyond the budget, how much will be needed on a yearly basis to remedy the situation. “There needs to be a three- to five-year plan, to stay on top of it, and these needs must be brought to council.”

School Committee member Kathy Silvia asked about the first budget meeting with the council, and offered to contact City Manager Joe Nicholson and School Superintendent Colleen Jermain to set up a schedule between the committee and the council. Gaines suggested that the budget could be a topic at the upcoming joint session with state legislators.

To round out her report, Gaines stated that Newport had the largest contingency at the recent statewide “Working Cities” meeting. Newport is among seven Rhode Island cities and towns to have been awarded a Working City grant, an economic initiative designed to strengthen collaboration and leadership among low-to-moderate income sectors of city populations.

Gaines said, “A lot of people are finally convinced that their voice is being heard. Pell School was the beginning. It has brought people together in spite of themselves.”

The last item on the agenda was an update on shared services. Gaines said, “We’re in a good place.” Adrienne Haylor, a member of the Newport Public Education Foundation, concurred. She said the recently adopted maintenance contract with the city should work well.

Ceglie offered the Engage Newport website as an avenue for the School Department and the School Committee to disseminate more information to a wider audience. She encouraged everyone to visit engagenewport.com and to subscribe to the monthly newsletter which arrives by email.

The meeting ended on a jovial note with a mention of the Colonial Dining Room’s menu. Flowers said, “The food there is fabulous. It is our duty to eat there and support the program.”

Not present at the liaison meeting were councilors Jeanne-Marie Napolitano and Jamie Bova. The next meeting is scheduled for Monday, Feb. 13, location to be determined.

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