A conversion with Superintendent Barry Ricci - Part 2 (2019)
Community 2000: We’re one year away from a new decade. Can you talk a little on the challenges you see for the District as we prepare to enter the third decade of the twenty-first century?
Mr. Ricci: In some ways, the challenges will be the same. To name a few, addressing the related issues of adequate funding along with finding ways to relieve the burden on taxpayers, maintaining our older elementary schools, helping all students and their families to understand that education opens doors that might otherwise be closed, and delivering a quality product that guarantees proficiency for all students. The newer challenges will include identifying the skills our students will need for careers that don’t yet exist.
Community 2000: Do you have any specific thoughts that you’d like to share on Vision 2023, the Districts’s new, 5-year Strategic Plan?
Mr. Ricci: I was very pleased with the development process, in that various stakeholder voices were heard as the Plan evolved. Our strategic plan continues to emphasize what works and what has worked for Chariho: high expectations, a rigorous and engaging curriculum, expert instruction, intervention at the first sign of struggle, and student accountability. At the same time, the Plan is forward looking, with an emphasis on personalization, increased community involvement, and global citizenship.
Community 2000: What’s going on with District efforts to improve the standardized RICAS test results from the “respectable” level to “satisfactory or excellent”?
Mr. Ricci: Given that the RICAS is a more difficult standardized assessment than PARCC (more correct answers are required on the RICAS to score at the same level as on the PARCC), our results were respectable, but not good enough. We’ve taken two immediate steps: (1) review of our internal common assessments to be sure that they are RICAS-like in format and level of difficulty and (2) the identification of Massachusetts schools with similar demographics to ours that scored higher than Chariho, to establish a new standard of performance from which to learn.
Community 2000: With the cap on Town funding increases, Hopkinton and Richmond will have difficulties with the upcoming District budget. Is there a long term solution to this problem?
Mr. Ricci: I have suggested a study of the impact of using a five-year rolling enrollment average, which the Director of Administration and Finance will facilitate. This would require a change to the Chariho Act, which is always a challenge. Other changes to the Act could also help to reduce costs. Taking advantage of the school construction bond also has the potential of reducing operational costs.
Community 2000: School districts teach a variety of useful skills, e.g., reading, writing, computer literacy, personal finance, -- and a range of valuable topics, e.g., math, science & engineering, business, history, civics , etc.; as well as the range of acceptable and unacceptable behaviors that are important for maintaining order and efficiency in the classroom. My impression is that values are not a significant part of the District’s curriculum, and that most students derive their value systems predominantly from their home environment. Is that correct in your view? Does the District offer any courses associated with values, ethics or religious studies?
Mr. Ricci: I thought we agreed that there would be no trick questions! I strongly believe that the development of a student’s value system should be rooted in family and faith. That said, there are values, let’s call them American values, like a strong work ethic, the importance of civic responsibility and engagement, tolerance, entrepreneurship, honesty and democracy, that we absolutely promote through curriculum, policy and practice.
Community 2000: What’s new with technology planning?
Mr. Ricci: We have fully implemented our technology plan for students. We plan to introduce a new web page later this year and are very excited about PowerSchool Analytics, which will allow us to better analyze and quickly respond to student achievement data.
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