Letter to the Editor – Newport Public Schools ALN Forum

On Thursday, March 10th the Alliance For A Livable Newport (ALN) held one our most important public forums of the year featuring the Newport Public Schools (NPS). Even though advance publicity was good; the turnout was disappointing. This was unfortunate in that the presentation by School Committee members and School Administration officers was outstanding. Their plans for continuous improvement were informative, comprehensive and impressive.

View the presentation slides here: >> NPS ALN Presentation Final-03102016

Npt_Public_Schools_Presentation

A small, but well-informed audience raised important issues. One asked if opportunity remains for high school regionalization among Aquidneck communities and learned that this may still be possible, but will require concentrated effort to overcome negative stereotypes about Newport schools. In fact, opportunities exist today that allow our students to attend classes in other districts, and a unique “schools within a school” curriculum has been developed at Rogers High School to custom tailor educational opportunities for college and work force readiness. “Every student will now graduate with a plan,” promised NPS School Superintendent, Colleen Jermain.

Our schools – Newport’s largest budget expenditure and our hope for the future – have been the brunt of long standing criticism. The presentations belied such an impression. At the end of the evening, cautious optimism prevailed. The Superintendent is committed to community outreach, developing partnerships with businesses, families, and residents. This is the concept of “One Newport” that anchors the NPS Five Year Strategic Plan now in development. It will come to pass only if the community is willing to engage and commit to our schools. Apathy, as evidenced by the low turnout, appears to be our biggest hurdle.

As a member of the strategic planning process and having attended over a dozen meetings, I’ve been converted from a skeptic to an enthusiastic supporter of our public schools and their future plans.

No one involved denies there is a lot of heavy lifting ahead to improve graduation rates, test scores, truancy levels and early childhood school readiness. Yet even today, we have a lot to be proud of. You don’t believe me? See for yourself. The slides from the Forum and a summary of the Five Year Plan are on the ALN website at www.newportalliance.org.

The NPS Strategic Planning Committee is actively looking for volunteers to serve on seven important and far ranging sub-committees. If you are willing to commit your time, energy and experience, contact strategicplanning@npsri.net. Whether you volunteer or not, we all should be better informed about our City’s public schools. They are our responsibility; they serve our children and our future.

As Jimmy Buffet sings, “Is it ignorance or apathy? Hey, I don’t know and I don’t care.”

Sincerely and with hope for Newport’s future,

Isabel Griffith

Co-President

Alliance for a Livable Newport