Chariho Superintendent Ricci Holds Open Forum at Charlestown Town Hall

Thanks to Mary Lou Gentz for the following report of the Chariho public forum held October 26 at Charlestown Town Hall.

Superintendent Barry Ricci, the twelve-year veteran of the Chariho Regional School District, responded to questions about a variety of topics on Thursday night. He addressed the INCubator Program, the progress on construction for the Chariho Alternative Learning Academy (CALA), the Chariho Area Career and Technical Center, new AP courses, preschools, and the budget.

Ricci also introduced the new director of the Chariho Area Career and Technical Center, Gerry Auth, and reacted modestly to those who thanked Ricci for his service. This year, three Chariho elementary schools were deemed “commended” as was the high school, the only high school in the state in the commended category with a career and technical center program. Ricci noted that the Middle School only missed the “commended” category by two points and that the Ashaway School achieved more than 80 points. As always, he emphasized the teamwork of administrators, teachers, parents, volunteers, and students. Those present congratulated Ricci for his leadership of the team effort.

Auth, a Westerly resident and former administrator in the Cranston Area Career and Technical Center, said that after four days on the job in Chariho, he identified with students who were just “learning their way around.” Earlier in the day, he and Ricci tried out the culinary arts lunch in the “South County Room” at the Career and Technical Center and described a professionally presented pulled pork sandwich with cold slaw, fries, and a free dessert – all for a bargain price of $6.00. Auth and Ricci invited members of the community to dine at the venue any Thursday or Friday from 11:15am to 12:15pm. The offer of free dessert extends through Thanksgiving!

At the end of the evening, the two shared a story about the successful completion of a chicken coop in the agricultural area of campus. Students from the Career and Technical Center used CAD to design what turned into a hotel for the chickens; those in the carpentry program built the coop according to the specifications, and those in the electrical program finished the wiring. Chariho will have eggs in the future, and one seventh grader in the Chariho Alternative Learning Academy asked to serve as manager of the coop. He now has a business card.

INCubator Program
Funded with grants from the Kimball Foundation, the RI Office of Innovation, Community 2000, and the Chariho Rotary, Chariho became the first high school in New England to adopt the nationally certified, $20,000 curriculum, INCubatoredu. Ricci said the program is open to all seniors and is part of an overall goal of repurposing the senior year to serve as a bridge between high school and college and careers. Program participants will develop products, business plans, and ideas for marketing. At the grand finale, they will present their concepts in a “shark tankish” competition during Pitch Week that will provide funding for the implementation of some student projects.

Chariho’s INCubator instructor, Susan Scanapieco, attended the organizations’s national conference in Chicago this summer and returned confident the program will bring high school entrepreneurship to a new level. In an effort to make up for lost time during the implementation, the current senior class will participate in a double-block format during the second semester. Interested students should contact their guidance counselors. The school district is still looking for volunteers with business experience to mentor students or teams of students.

Redoing Senior Year
There is an interest in repurposing the senior year for those students who are graduation-ready. In addition to existing career and technical programs, options include the INCubator program, independent study, internships, Virtual High School, and the recently approved Agricultural Science Seminar, which includes a Community Enhancement Project. Moving toward an experience that allows students to apply their skills in school and in the community is the goal.

Pre AP under consideration
Ricci noted that the School Committee was considering a Pre AP option for grade 9 students, which would include courses in English, Algebra, Biology, World History, Geography, and Visual and Performing Arts. The High School has submitted a letter of interest and is awaiting word from the College Board.

Chariho Area Career and Technical Center
Director Gerry Auth expressed his enthusiasm about joining a school system whose decisions are based on data and looked forward to building relationships with the high school that would encourage collaboration. He said the high school administrators had welcomed him and his ideas and that he had already seen possibilities with the carpentry and math departments and the agriculture and biology areas.

Chariho Alternative Learning Academy
Thus far, the Building Committee has successfully implemented the construction project without one change order to the plan. With the excavation complete, they do not anticipate overwhelming complications and are on target to finish the outside construction so that work can be done on the inside this winter. The building should be finished on June 15.

Specialty Elementary Schools
Under consideration is the possibility of creating school wide themes for each of the elementary schools that would provide each with the opportunity to become a “destination.”
Ashaway – Engineering
Charlestown – Outdoor, Environmental
Hope Valley – Humanities
Richmond – Health and Wellness

The Hope Valley Elementary PreSchool became the second public school preschool in the state to receive the five star, BrightStars rating. Hope Valley provides early intervention for eligible three and four year olds and accepts the balance of the student population for a fee. Outreach Screening is advertised through doctors’ offices and other local venues, and the district promotes screenings for all pre-school children. Interested parents may call 401-364-1160 to request a screening. The Chariho Career and Technical Center also offers a preschool as part of their Early Childhood/Elementary Education program.

Superintendent Ricci expects this year’s budget to be similar to last year’s. The Education Commissioner has indicated transportation aid to the four regional school districts will be level funded. Ricci said he drafted a letter to the state budget office to request an increase in aid in an effort to change the budget before it’s introduced in the legislature. From experience, Ricci knows that changing the budget after it’s introduced is more difficult.

Superintendent Ricci covered an enormous amount of territory and responded unhurriedly to each question. To the audience, the minutes seemed to fly. What was obvious was that Superintendent Ricci has the best interest of all our children from three to 18plus always in his sight.