On Election Day, the voters of Westerly voiced overwhelming support (77%-22%) for a school construction bond which will allow the district to make significant upgrades to both Dunn’s Corners and Springbrook elementary schools, and a new state-of-the-art school to replace our tired, but beloved, State Street School.
After coming up short in both 2016 and 2019, the passage of this referendum marks an important step in the district’s efforts to provide our students with great facilities in which to learn and play. Our professionals will also benefit with workspaces that are bright, well-appointed and supportive of 21st-century teaching and learning. When completed, the planned work will provide for flexible use of classrooms and common areas, enhanced technology, and furnishings supportive of greater student collaboration and project-based learning. All three schools will see upgrades to building mechanical systems, new safety enhancements and improvements to climate and air quality. They will also reflect investments in outdoor learning and play spaces. Finally getting this across the finish line was due to the contributions of so many.
Parent and architect Justin Hopkins has provided outstanding leadership of the Building Subcommittee, and the subcommittee itself spent many months considering numerous plan proposals, weighing the pros and cons of each while working within a prescribed budget, strategizing how to get to “Yes”, and meeting with constituents to build support for the bond. Justin’s experience, expertise, and his thoughtful, calm leadership kept us all in line and focused. That same leadership will be invaluable as we now shift to what he describes as the “fun part.”
A piece that was missing from prior referendum attempts, and one that played a huge role, was the enthusiastic endorsement and promotion of this plan by our teachers and their union leadership. From early on, the Westerly Teachers Association recognized the importance of passage and the organization, and its members played an active and critical role in getting out the vote. We owe them our thanks.
Then there was Alli Lathrop!
Dunn’s Corner’s parents Dan and Alli Lathrop reached out several weeks back with a proposal for leading an aggressive grassroots ground game. Through donations, and using their own funds, they are the folks behind all the signs, car magnets, social media posts and more that helped spread the word and ultimately garner support. At any time of the day, Alli could be seen all over town delivering and placing signs. Changing 1s to 4s when our question got bumped down on the ballot. Smiling, shaking hands, and handing out flyers at open houses, at Trunk or Treat events, on the fields and probably at half the baptisms in town; taking advantage of every opportunity to build understanding and excitement. To say that she is a force would be an understatement. The contributions of the Lathrops and of other community members like WesterlyLive’s Shane Belanger (who also seeming dropped out the sky one day offering his services) helped put this one away. We could not be more grateful to them all.
Now comes the “fun part” and we will keep the community abreast of developments and updated on the project’s progress.
On Friday, Nov. 4, the Rhode Island Department of Education released the results of the 2022 Rhode Island Comprehensive Assessment System for Grades 3 and 8 as well as the most recent PSAT and SAT exams.
Not surprisingly, the impact of the last two-plus years of COVID is reflected in standardized-test performance throughout the country. In Rhode Island, the high-level and short story is that scores declined slightly in English language arts and showed some improvement in mathematics. Many Rhode Island districts saw declines in one or more areas of testing. Some experienced significant declines in proficiency at different grade spans (e.g. high school), but improvements in another. Some saw increases in mathematics, but declining scores in ELA or in both.
Westerly Public Schools was the only district in Rhode Island to demonstrate gains on every assessment, at every grade level for every subject area. The only one. Our district recorded improvements in ELA and mathematics (as well as in participation rates) at all grade spans and, again, ours was the only district to do so.
To be clear, we are not where we want to be (and we never will be until every student is achieving at the highest possible levels), but we are trending in the right direction thanks to the efforts of your children’s teachers, support staff, and our school administrators.
It has been a good couple of weeks in Bulldog Nation.
Mark Garceau is the superintendent of schools in Westerly.