standing Chariho High School

Chariho High School. Sun file photo

WOOD RIVER JCT. — The Chariho School Committee learned about the district’s development plan Tuesday in a presentation by Katharine Kirakosian, the development officer hired six months ago. 

The development position, a first for the district, was created to help Chariho thrive in an increasingly challenging field, in which school districts throughout Rhode Island are competing not only for funds but to attract and retain students.

Kirakosian’s contract, which would have expired on March 1, has been extended until June 30, 2021. She will earn $45,718, working on a half-time basis.

In addition to learning as much as she can about the district, Kirakosian said one of her priorities is to establish partnerships with entities such as the University of Rhode Island.

“I’ve tried to leverage the flexibility of my role as a way to get out and connect in ways that others in the district may not be able to, due to their needs in the classroom and in our buildings,” she said.

Kirakosian has submitted applications for four grants totaling $168,000, and has created a Google site where teachers and administrators can research grant opportunities. In the coming months, Kirakosian said she planned to begin reaching out to Chariho’s 12,000 alumni. She will also continue her effort to build stronger ties with URI.

“I think we would benefit from more connections with URI overall,” she said. “This is something that takes time, which is why I propose to reach out to senior [Chariho] leadership and brainstorm routes that they would like to connect with, so for example, perhaps getting more URI interns to assist with before- or after-school programs would be welcomed, or getting  our high school students internship opportunities or a ‘college student for a day’ experience for our middle and high school students.”

In the second year of her contract, Kirakosian said she planned to establish a prospect and donor database and set up a charitable foundation. Working with the new Chariho Foundation, Kirakosian said she would then launch an annual fundraising campaign.

Committee member Catherine Giusti said she welcomed having someone promoting the district.

“I’m confident you know what you’re getting yourself into,” she said. “Selling our district, even to the people in our community, is paramount to our success.”

Superintendent of Schools Barry Ricci provided highlights of a bill scheduled to be heard Tuesday in the Rhode Island House of Representatives that would change the funding process for career and technical schools to make it more equitable.

The bill, written on behalf of the Warwick School district, is sponsored by  Rep. Evan P. Shanley, D-Warwick. Rep. Brian Patrick Kennedy, D-Hopkinton, is one of the bill’s co-sponsors.

"This legislation would address the practice of students enrolling out of district when those same career and technical programs are offered in their home district," Shanley said. "This practice has become a huge financial drain on certain school districts in Rhode Island, while being a windfall for other districts." 

Ricci described the current career and technical school landscape in Rhode Island as one of intense pressure and competition. Chariho Tech, which is the regional center for southern Rhode Island, is losing students to schools such as Westerly, which has introduced several competing programs.

“In all honesty, career and tech right now is like the wild Wild West,” he told the committee. 

The legislation would require the Rhode Island Department of Education to establish rating systems for programs, and districts would not be required to pay transportation and tuition for programs with poor ratings.

Ricci said he planned to testify in favor of the bill and he encouraged committee members to do the same.

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