Tuesday, December 29, 2015

December 29, 2015

Happy Holidays! I wish you all a very happy and healthy New Year. It is hard to believe that after a spring-like Christmas Eve and Christmas Day we woke up to snow this morning. Welcome to New England!

Stars of the Week
December is a very busy time of year in all of our schools. I had the chance to visit every building during the last few days before winter break and saw many happy, excited children involved in an array of holiday activities. Perhaps one of the most special performances came from Mrs. Gaumond's third grade class, as they sang and signed several holiday songs for their peers, staff and families on Tuesday morning. On Monday, the class performed for the residents of a local Exeter nursing home. Last year, I was able to attend the performance with Mrs. Gaumond's class and the residents were so appreciative.
Thank you, Mrs. Gaumond, for providing such a unique and memorable opportunity for the students in your class. It was obvious from watching your prior year students sign along with the class on Tuesday morning that your children will remember what you have taught them for a long time. Your class holiday performance is something I look forward to every year. It is very special and so are you!
Other News
On December 9th, the District hosted a parent & community forum to discuss the results of the first round of the new state assessment program (PARCC) that took place last year. Those who attended learned that the students in EWG performed exceptionally well, relative to the state and relative to other similar communities. In fact, our junior high school scored in the top ten of all Rhode Island public middle schools in both English Language Arts/Literacy and Mathematics, and our senior high school scored in the top five of all Rhode Island public high schools in both ELA/Literacy and Mathematics. Our math scores were the second highest in the state!
Given the historical performance of the students in our District, the results come as no surprise. We have an exceptional staff, supportive families and communities, and children who consistently try their best. There is no doubt that Exeter-West Greenwich will continue to shine, regardless of what assessment measure is used by our State. For a full copy of the presentation slides that were released on December 9th, click the link below.
In other news, Exeter-West Greenwich ranked #5 in the State according to the annual golocalprov high school report that was published last week. For a full review of the rankings, click on the link below. Exeter-West Greenwich has maintained a top-five ranking every year since the annual report was first published. Congratulations students, staff and families!
Stay informed throughout the annual school budget development process. Look for a mailing that will be sent to every household in our member towns next week that outlines the important dates and meetings open to the public prior to School Committee adoption of the 2016-17 school budget.
January 12th - School Committee meeting; Initial draft of the budget is presented
January 27th - Budget workshop
February 11th - Joint meeting of the School Committee and Town Councils to review the school
                          budget draft
February 23rd - School Committee meeting; Scheduled adoption of the Superintendent's proposed
Stay warm and wish for a mild winter with snow falling only on weekends. Happy New Year!

Friday, December 4, 2015

December 4, 2015

I hope you all enjoyed a restful Thanksgiving break with families and friends! Now, the countdown to a new year begins. December is always a very active month in our schools as children prepare for the excitement of the upcoming holidays and an extended winter break.

Our Junior-Senior High School theater production of A Christmas Carol will take place this month from December 10th through December 13th. Our talented cast has been rehearsing for quite some time, but they are now in overdrive. A few photos from this afternoon's rehearsal as things were just getting underway:


Join the cast as they present the Charles Dickens classic holiday story A Christmas Carol - A family friendly adaptation of the story of Ebenezer Scrooge, London's most infamous miser who is given a rare chance to change his life for the better by welcoming in the spirit of Christmas.

Performance Dates:
Thursday December 10th @ 7:00PM
Friday December 11th @ 7:00PM
Saturday December 12th @ 7:00PM
Sunday December 13th @ 2:00PM
For more information regarding tickets email: EWGDramaTickets@gmail.com or call 1-800-607-8150

This Saturday, Dec. 5, don't miss the annual EWG Holiday Bazaar, happening at Metcalf Elementary from 9 am to 3 pm. Nearly 70 vendors are on hand to sell their unique gift items, including some of our own EWG teachers, staff and students! Professional Santa photos are available, as well as a full kitchen café, baked goods, kids shopping area (all items $5 or less!), penny social, and a 50/50 raffle, this year benefitting a couple of staff members who are bravely battling cancer. This is a great community event that supports a lot of small businesses as well as our three elementary schools...please join us!
Next Wednesday, the District will host a community forum to present and discuss the results of the first round of PARCC testing that took place last year at Metcalf and our Junior-Senior High School. The event will begin at 6:00 PM in the Metcalf cafetorium. As you may be aware, the District performed very well relative to state averages  and similar communities in both ELA and math. We will be discussing our strengths, areas in need of focus, and action steps going forward. Please join District and school-based administrators, RIDE representative(s), School Committee members and other staff members for what should be a very informative presentation highlighting our schools and our students.
I will be publishing one more blog post before the winter break. Take some time to enjoy some of the many events sponsored by our schools during this time of year to help get you in the holiday spirit!

Monday, November 16, 2015

November 16, 2015

Once every two weeks, I publish a blog to highlight some of the many outstanding individuals and events that remind us all of the privilege we have to be a part of Exeter-West Greenwich!

Stars of the Week:
Sometimes, the work that goes on "behind the scenes" goes unrecognized. However, I can assure you that our support staff is absolutely critical to the success of Exeter-West Greenwich schools. Although we probably don't say it enough, THANK YOU for what you do every day for our children , our communities and our schools.
Above: Metcalf Secretary Jeanette Rathbun, District Data Clerk and Student Information System Technician Julie Dionne, and Teacher Assistant Karen Taraska collaborate in the Metcalf office recently. This dynamic trio is just one of many examples of the talented staff that help make our schools great places to learn.
Recently, I was invited to a kindergarten student's presentation of the individualized work he has been completing with teacher Mrs. Pigeon. Ethan loves dinosaurs, so Mrs. Pigeon helped to design a project-based learning opportunity where Ethan completed dinosaur math, read about and wrote stories about dinosaurs, and built a Lego representation of "Jurrasic Park" as part of his culminating project.
Ethan invited many individuals to his presentation, including his mom and several school staff members. He proudly read us the book that he wrote with Mrs. Pigeon about dinosaurs and then talked about his Lego creation.
As a school district, we are committed to finding the right "hook" for every child. We want to build academic and social skills, but also encourage creativity and love for learning. Ethan's huge smile says it all. I look forward to the many more amazing things that he will do with Mrs. Pigeon as they continue their work together at Wawaloam!
Ethan W. and Mrs. Pigeon

Additional Information:
The support of families and our community has made the PTA annual walk-a-thon fundraiser a tremendous success. The PTA continues to support our schools with funding for amazing learning opportunities - including resources, school-wide field trips, and guest performances. Thank you to the PTA officers and members for their efforts to make this new event such a success. We all appreciate it more than you know!
On Wednesday evening (11/18/15) the district will host a parent forum to educate parents and the community about drug use, recent state and national trends - including misuse of otherwise legal substances, and dangers and warning signs. The event will be held at 6:00 PM in the JSHS auditorium, and it is open to all. Awareness is everyone's responsibility. If there is ever a topic that requires us all to be unified and consistent - this is it. Our children deserve our support.
PARCC scores will be public this week. I am planning an evening presentation to share our district's results and discuss how they will be used in EWG as one measure to inform our work. As Superintendent, I do not support nor encourage "teaching to the test." We will continue to focus on providing a high quality education for all children that focuses on academic rigor and engaging instruction. If we continue to do these things well, then the evidence of learning will naturally occur. Once we have identified the date for this event, it will be widely publicized.
My next blog post will be after the Thanksgiving recess. I hope you all enjoy this time with your families. I am looking forward to it myself!
Thank you and Happy Thanksgiving!
Jim Erinakes

Monday, November 2, 2015

October 30, 2015

October 30, 2015

This week, my blog focuses on two topics: Recognizing the Lineham preschool program and preparing for the release of the first round of PARCC assessment results.

Lineham houses our District's public preschool program - a program that was the first public early childhood facility to earn a "4-star" rating through the Bright Stars tiered assessment system supported by the Rhode Island Department of Education. With the support of Mrs. Corsi, our Early Childhood Coordinator, Exeter-West Greenwich continues to seek quality improvement funds (another component of the Bright Stars program) to support ongoing improvements toward the ultimate goal of a "5 star" rating. For more information on Bright Stars, follow the link below.


Most recently, Lineham has written for and been awarded funds to support the development of an expanded outdoor play area for children to engage in structured and free play. This is an area that we know will help improve our program rating, but most importantly it will allow us to expand the opportunities for our youngest children to thrive.

Lineham added a third preschool classroom at the start of this school year and we were fortunate to welcome (below, left to right) Mrs. Pastore, Mrs. Hart, and teacher Mrs. Schofield to Lineham.

Mrs. Dunford, Teacher Mrs. Piermettai, and Mrs. Lagergren (left to right in both photos below) dressed in themed costumes this past Thursday as the children participated in their costume parade.
Below, Teacher Mrs. Chaves, Mrs. Stomberg and Mrs. Lorme enjoy the fabulous October weather last week with their students.

It is important to recognize all who contribute to the incredible learning environment that defines Lineham. Below is Mrs. Fornuto (Occupational Therapist), Mrs. Angell-Flynn (Speech and Language Pathologist) and Mrs. Babcock.

Finally, I would like to thank the PTA for supporting special programs and expanded learning opportunities for the children at Lineham, including the recent walk-a-thon and guest musician Barbi Beyer from Sing with B Music. I had the opportunity to see the kids (and the staff) signing and dancing along with our guest musician last week. It was awesome!

The District prepares for the release of PARCC results

This month, Exeter-West Greenwich will receive feedback on the first year of implementation of the new state assessment program. These results are important to us, as they will be used to establish our baseline performance and will provide us with valuable information to help us identify areas of strength and areas of focus with respect to our K-12 curriculum.  Test results will be used for no other reason other than to help us improve our practice and ensure that we are providing learning opportunities that effectively balance the academic rigor established by the Common Core State Standards and the creativity and high levels of student engagement prioritized through our District's 5-year strategic plan. More information will be shared as it becomes available.

To view blogs posted by principals at all of our schools, please follow the links below:

Wawaloam Blog (Posted by Principal Marino):   melissamarinowawaloam.blogspot.com

Metcalf Blog (Posted by Principal Ratigan):      http://metcalfprincipal.blogspot.com/

JHS Blog (Posted by Principal Slattery):     http://ewgjrhsprincipal.blogspot.com/

SHS Blog (Posted by Principal Chandler):   http://susanchandlerewghs.blogspot.com/

Happy November! My next blog is scheduled to be posted on November 13th.


Friday, October 16, 2015

October 16, 2015

Once every two weeks, I publish a blog to highlight some of the many outstanding individuals and events that remind us all of the privilege we have to be a part of Exeter-West Greenwich!

October is National Principal's Month

The National Association of Elementary and Secondary Principals reminds us that "The key to student success is a great school, and the key to a great school is a great principal." In Exeter-West Greenwich, we have a small but dedicated group of building leaders who are committed to student and staff success. I am honored to take this opportunity to thank Mrs. Marino, Mrs. Ratigan, Mrs. Fish, Mrs. Slattery, Mr. Anthony, Mrs. Chandler, and Mr. Alves for all that they do every day to ensure a safe and motivating environment for our children and our staff to thrive. 

On October 9th, our elementary and junior high school teachers were engaged in a full-day professional development program at their respective schools. Later this month, teachers at the senior high school will have the same opportunity while the remaining schools host parent-teacher conferences on October 30th.

Each school developed a professional development agenda specific to the needs of the building. Dr. Ahern and I had the opportunity to visit each school to see our teachers engaged in a myriad of activities designed to support teaching and learning in Exeter-West Greenwich. 

 Check out our pirates at Wawaloam (Clockwise from above: Mrs. Cash, Mrs. Curry, Mrs. Levett, Miss Caron, and Mrs. Patty) as they prepared to skype with David Burgess, author of Teach Like a Pirate. What an engaging and high-energy discussion focusing on student engagement!

At Metcalf, teachers participated in a very thought-provoking and reflective activity/discussion about grading practices and grading philosophies. The school is looking at a standards-based grading system in the 2016-17 school year. 

Above, Mr. Anthony leads a discussion at the junior high school on Response to Intervention documentation during the morning block. In the afternoon, teachers selected from a variety of mini-sessions to learn more about innovative ways that technology is being used by their own colleagues in our junior high school. 

Finally, a HUGE shout out to our PTA for an incredibly successful walk-a-thon held at Lineham, Wawaloam and Metcalf. I had the opportunity to see 3 of our Wawaloam kindergarten classes during their scheduled walk time. The weather was beautiful and kids (and staff) had a blast. On the left, see Mrs. Petrarca making her way around the "track." Thanks to all who volunteered to make this such a great success.

Have a wonderful weekend. Please look for my next blog post on October 30th.

Friday, October 2, 2015

October 2, 2015

Welcome back! As a reminder, the superintendent's blog is posted at least once every two weeks to highlight major events, share important information, and recognize outstanding members of our school community.

Stars of the Week
Congratulations to Marc Hamlin, who was recently named as the JSHS English Language Arts & Reading Department Chair. Students in Mr. Hamlin's Elements of Writing classes, along with those in Mr. Walsh and Ms. Sutton's classes, have been participating in an on-line vocabulary mastery contest (The Vocabulary Bowl) since the start of the school year. He recently received the following communication releasing our high school results for the month of September:
"We're excited to announce that Exeter-West Greenwich Regional earned the following achievements:
·         Rhode Island State Champion  September 2015
Every month, thousands of schools across the US and Canada compete in the Vocabulary Bowl. Winning these awards is quite an achievement. Keep up the good work!"
Our small school of only 550 students is currently ranked 60th in the nation! What an amazing accomplishment.
Mr. Hamlin is also being recognized for his efforts to rehabilitate a nature trail on our campus so that it can be used for multiple purposes, including cross-country running. As the coach of that team, Mr. Hamlin was supported in his efforts by Scott Millar (parent and community member) as well as Thomas Riccuitti, a local Scout and current 11th grader here in EWG. Mr. Millar spearheaded the effort to secure a DEM grant that took care of all associated costs and Thomas organized the entire volunteer effort to accomplish the task as part of his service project. Thank you to Mr. Hamlin, Mr. Millar, Thomas, and all who came out to make this happen!
Additional Information
Our high school celebrated Spirit Week this week. Although the weather did not completely cooperate with the events that were scheduled, it did not stop our students from demonstrating their spirit. Below is a class picture taken in Ms. Nardi's ELA class earlier today.

This is quite a spirited group!

On Tuesday and Wednesday of this week, EWG hosted a training for staff and community members on Youth Mental Health Awareness. This is the second time we have offered this training, and we now have close to 50 individuals who are connected to our schools and who have completed the course. Thank you to Mrs. Teri Donovan from the School Committee and to Mr. Frank Herrera from the Exeter Juvenile Hearing Board for joing us this week.

There are many exciting things happening in the district, as always! I hope you all have an enjoyable weekend. The next blog will be posted on October 16th.

Friday, September 18, 2015

September 18, 2015

Welcome back! As a reminder, the superintendent's blog is posted at least once every two weeks to highlight major events, share important information, and recognize outstanding members of our school community.

Star of the Week

This week I am recognizing Mrs. Lerner, one of our new kindergarten teachers at Wawaloam Elementary School. Mrs. Lerner taught previously in Burrilville after completing her student teaching requirement right here in EWG. In the picture, she is reviewing the classroom birthday chart with some of her friends - including a discussion about the months of the year.

Mrs. Lerner has created a welcoming environment filled with music and structured play for her young students. She has taught her students procedures to ensure safety in the classroom and in the school. She maintains a consistent focus on recognizing positive behaviors, encouraging respect and responsibility, and providing an engaging atmosphere for learning. When I stopped by her classroom this week, she told me that "all of her children deserve to be loved and appreciated." We are so fortunate to welcome you back to Exeter-West Greenwich!
Additional Information
In my previous blog, I reported that Mrs. LaFrenaye was named the 2015 district teacher of the year at our orientation day ceremonies on August 24th. Today, I am happy to report that she has also been named the 2015 Rhode Island Art Education Association Elementary Art Educator of the Year. She will be recognized for this accomplishment at the September 22nd School Committee meeting at 6:00 pm in the JSHS library. Another well-deserved honor!

If you did not have the opportunity to read about the new mentoring program that will be introduced to a group of lucky sixth graders from Metcalf Elementary School in the local paper, then you missed this extraordinary announcement! In partnership with Amgen and Big Brothers/Big Sisters of RI, about 20-25 Metcalf sixth grade students will be paired with a mentor from Amgen to learn about science and career opportunities in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) field. This will be a year-long pilot with plans to expand the program in the 2016-17 school year and beyond. Thank you to these organizations for supporting and funding the entire program. What a terrific opportunity to connect some of our community partners with our district students!

Check out our new tennis courts! This photo was taken yesterday, and shows that the final touches are being added to the surface - scarlet red courts with green trim. Nets will be added and the courts will be ready for action today. This has been a long process, but the end result is another incredible athletic playing area to add to our facility.

The district will be hosting its second round of training in Youth Mental Health on September 29th and September 30th. We conducted this same session last year for a group of 25 staff and community members and it was very well received. This training provides participants with the skills necessary to identify and respond appropriately to children in crisis. Look for additional information that will be sent out by Monday - the participant list will be finalized next week, and if there continues to be a need for further training sessions we will schedule them. This activity is consistent with our strategic plan focus areas (Responsive Student/Family Support and Intervention and School Safety, Security and Wellness).

Have a wonderful weekend!

Friday, September 4, 2015

September 4, 2015

Welcome to the 2015-2016 school year!

At least once every other week, I will be posting information on my new blog to highlight some of the incredible programs and incredible individuals who represent our school community. I will also share important announcements in an effort to keep everyone connected to this amazing school district. I welcome any feedback or recommendations, and can be reached easily via email (my address can be found on the right hand side of the web page). Just click, write and send.

Stars of the Week

Parker C. is a fourth grade student in Mrs. O's class at Metcalf Elementary School. I met Parker last year and we talked about his desire to read faster. He set a rigorous goal for himself to reach the 120 words per minute level, and he worked so hard all year to reach his goal. Parker kept track of his progress with the help of his third grade teacher and at the end of the year he sent me the nicest letter. Filled with pride, he met his goal! What a great example of the Growth Mindset. I am so proud of you, Parker, for putting your mind and effort toward something important and modeling what all good learners should aspire to be. Thank you for being a great representative for our schools!

As you know, we opened the new school year on Monday, August 24th with a full faculty and staff orientation. Several recognitions were announced, including the 2015 District Teacher of the Year - Mrs. Sharon LaFrenaye. Mrs. LaFrenaye is our Metcalf art teacher who is described as compassionate with an unwavering commitment to positivity. Her classroom is a special place where all children are inspired to reach their highest potential. Sharon is an outstanding representative of the many caring and devoted teachers who serve in our district. Congratulations and thank you, Mrs. LaFrenaye for all you do!

A copy of the entire surprise announcement can be found on the right hand side of my web page.

Other Announcements
Thank you to everyone for helping to make our opening the smoothest I have experienced in my 26 years in education. I have visited every building multiple times, and I continue to be impressed!
Over the summer, the district had several major projects to complete, including new security construction and safety camera installation at every building and the removal and replacement of the tennis courts at the Junior-Senior High School. It is incredible to think of how much was accomplished in such a short period of time. We are finalizing the last elements of the safety project this week and our brand new tennis courts will be ready for action in the next couple of weeks. Thank you to our School Committee and our communities for their ongoing commitment to our schools.
Finally, I am so excited to begin our work defined by the new 5-year district strategic plan. There are many individuals, representing all facets of the organization, who committed their time over the course of the entire 2014-15 school year to create a comprehensive plan that will help to build on the many successes we have already achieved in Exeter-West Greenwich. Opening up additional modes of communication and increasing opportunities for recognizing outstanding individuals in our school system is just one of the many action steps that are highlighted in the plan.
I hope that this school year continues to be great for all of you. Have an enjoyable long Labor Day weekend and check back for a new post on September 18th.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015