WOOD RIVER JCT. — Chariho Superintendent of Schools Barry Ricci presented his list of 2019 goals at the Jan. 22 School Committee meeting, outlining ambitious targets for student performance. The initiative to create specialty elementary schools will also be finalized this year.
Ricci said his goals were derived from the district’s new five-year strategic plan, Vision 2023, a collaborative effort that in addition to Chariho administrators and teachers, also included students and the general public. Approved by the School Committee at the Dec. 11 meeting, Vision 2023 will guide all district policies and programs.
“My goals address components of Vision 2023 which I believe will be most impactful,” Ricci said.
One of Ricci’s priorities is ensuring that every school, including the Chariho Alternative Learning Academy, or CALA, receives four or five stars in the next statewide schools ranking.
Although most Chariho schools received high, four- or five-star ratings in the state “report card” released last December, CALA, which serves the district’s special-needs students, received the lowest rating of one star and has been identified as requiring additional state oversight. Ricci said he welcomed the challenge of improving performance at the school and did not see any reason to expect less from CALA than the district’s other schools.
“One of the reasons CALA is a school as opposed to a program is that we want it held to the same standards as all other schools,” he said. “Our students deserve no less.”
Learning from Massachusetts
Ricci’s plan to improve Chariho test scores includes learning from schools in neighboring Massachusetts. After identifying demographically similar but higher-scoring schools in Massachusetts, which, on a state level, outperformed Rhode Island on standardized assessments, Ricci matched them with Chariho schools. The hope is that the Chariho schools will learn how and why their Massachusetts counterparts perform at such high levels.
Chariho High School has been paired with Dartmouth High School, the middle school with Harold Quarters Middle School in Mansfield, Ashaway Elementary School with Cushing Elementary School in Scituate, Charlestown elementary with Winthrop elementary in Ipswich, Hope Valley elementary with Carlisle elementary in Carlisle and Richmond elementary with Fiske elementary in Wellesley.
“I hope to see improvement in some schools very quickly, as they were very close to a higher rating,” Ricci said. “Unfortunately, we received results very late, which delayed our analysis and implementation of next steps.”
Specialization moves ahead
The four elementary schools are finalizing their respective specialties, which, the district hopes, will attract and retain students who might otherwise attend charter or private schools. The district is required to pay the transportation for students attending schools outside Chariho, and the specialty initiative is an effort to keep them in the district, in an increasingly competitive academic environment. It will also provide more flexibility for students who live in one town but wish to attend an elementary school in another.
“The four elementary principals will present to the School Committee this spring,” Ricci said. “The work is quite far along. We have received some interest from parents of new kindergarten students. Our transportation policy currently allows for group stops. Group bus stops may be established to facilitate transportation among elementary schools."
In addition to the required standard curriculum, Charlestown Elementary will offer outdoor learning, Richmond will focus on health and wellness, Ashaway will focus on engineering and robotics and Hope Valley will feature media and technical arts. The specialties were chosen by the schools and their communities.
The district will also explore new ways to keep high school students engaged in their senior year.
“Examples include independent study, internship, expansion of career and technical education programs and advanced placement courses, and Incubator [a program encouraging entrepreneurship and business innovation],” Ricci said. “We are interested in opportunities that provide seniors with more control over and responsibility for their learning, learning that aligns with post-high school plans and career interests.”