Block Island School receives state ranking

Fri, 01/24/2020 - 10:45am

Principal Kristine Monje had generally good news for the New Shoreham School Committee at its most recent meeting on the school’s ranking among the state’s public schools, with concerns in one “area of weakness” that brought the overall ranking down to a “3-Star School”.

The R.I. Department of Education combines several types of education data into a “report card” for each school and school district, summarized on a scale of one to five stars, five being the highest. The overall rating is the lowest score among the six major categories.

Four of the five indicators scored for the BI School – all related to academic achievement and graduation rates – earned four or five stars. The exception was “chronic absenteeism,” combined for students and teachers. That score of three stars means that the BI School’s overall rating is three stars.

According to the RIDE web site’s Report Card pages, 19.6 percent of Block Island School students and 10.0 percent of teachers were chronically absent during the data collection period. (The baseline was 133 students and 24 teachers, as of October 2018.)

Monje explained to the School Committee that the state’s method of calculating absenteeism doesn’t take the “Block Island factor” into consideration. Here, she said, the “factor” is students and teachers not being in school because of travel to the mainland for medical appointments. The state does not differentiate between excused and unexcused absences, she added. She called the threshold for teacher absenteeism “low.”

The issue the absenteeism score raises, Monje continued, is how reported absences for home-schooled students affect the district’s totals. “We need to look really closely at home schooling plan requests, especially for kids (who have accumulated) absences before home schooling.”

Superintendent Michael Convery and School Committee Chair William Padien agreed that chronic absenteeism must be addressed. Padien got a commitment from Monje and Convery that they will develop solutions for both absenteeism and home-schooling policies, to be on the Committee’s February or March regular meeting agendas.

How to give medicine to students

The school’s existing policy on administration of medicines to students during school hours was also on the January agenda, with Superintendent Convery proposing additional subsections addressing giving medications to students during field trips. Committee members had questions about training school personnel (including parent chaperones) attending the field trips to administer the medications. Because any of the school’s teachers may go on a field trip, might all the teachers have to be trained?

Field trips are tricky, Convery explained. A trip will be canceled if even one student can’t participate because of a medication issue – such as, in the new language, if a teacher or chaperone is unwilling or won’t agree to carry the medication and make it available.

The medication policy was written and adopted in 2000 and revised in 2014 and 2019. It applies to prescription medications administered during school hours (including time on the school bus) when requested in writing by the student’s doctor and authorized by the student’s parent or legal guardian. Students may be allowed to carry and use their own Epi-pens and rescue inhalers. The policy does not address non-prescription medications such as pain relievers.

Committee member Kara Stinnett noticed that the one-page policy and the authorization form refer to the “school nurse.” The B.I. School has no school nurse of its own, instead relying on an arrangement with Block Island Health Services for its personnel to serve in that role.

After discovering the discrepancies regarding nursing personnel, the committee decided to ask its attorney to review the entire policy. No school policy required by the state is official until it has been posted for comment and then approved by the School Committee.