As the start to the new school year gets closer, John McCarthy is reflecting on the successes of his first year as chair of the Cranston Educational Advisory Board (CEAB) and looking ahead.
The group meets monthly all year long to discuss important educational issues going on in Cranston Public Schools. Each school across the district is required to have a representative – at least one parent, teacher, or administrator – at each meeting in order to bring back vital information.
Representatives are also present each month from the Cranston School Committee and the Central Administration to share important updates.
Over the years, the group has experienced varying levels of success, but McCarthy believes this past year has been one of the best yet thanks to a roster of guest speakers.
“This year was all about the guests, and as the representative for CEAB from Park View Middle School in the past, I found this year’s format of hosting different guest speakers each month to be the most valuable,” he said. “We began the year with [Superintendent] Jeannine Nota-Masse, who was new to her position in the district. She came to our first meeting, and it was at that meeting that we heard the first information about the various transitions which would be taking place across the district over the school year, from the all-day kindergarten changes to the new middle school model being incorporated, which added the sixth grade into the middle schools, and took it out of the elementary schools.”
Another change for last year’s CEAB meetings was the opportunity to showcase both Cranston East and Cranston West, as well as the Cranston Area Career and Technical Center (CACTC) housed at West, by alternately hosting the meetings at each of the high schools every other month. This also allowed for the meetings to be equitably located on both the eastern and western sides of the city. Administrators from the high schools were able to address the group.
“I’d like to continue showcasing various schools this year,” McCarthy said. “I’d like to have representatives come to the meetings and share the things that are going on in their schools, too. There are new administrators at many of the schools, and it would be great to be able to meet them and hear about what’s going on at their schools.”
With the new format at the middle schools and the new kindergarten programming for the 2016-17 school year, McCarthy sees opportunities for those types of forums in the coming year and for a new chairperson in the future to be able to continue on with that same format if they wish.
He saw several other positive outcomes from last year’s forums, including the opportunity for a meeting with the new school safety officer and the Cranston Police Department regarding ALICE trainings for both staff and students, as well as the safety plans being put in place in the various buildings.
It also included the opportunity to hear an in-depth presentation from Ayana Crichton, who is the program director for Cranston 21st Century Afterschool Programs and Vacation Camps, overseeing the KidVenture, Camp XL, and Bain programs at Gladstone Elementary School and Hugh B. Bain Middle School.
“We had several parent representatives who were hearing about these programs for the first time, and it was a good opportunity for them to get an overview of what’s available, especially for those whose children have aged out of some of the other programs offered,” McCarthy said. “I know for a fact we had parents who took advantage of those opportunities over the summer after hearing that presentation. That’s exactly the type of results we’re hoping to continue this year.”
A guest speaker from the spring, Emma Saccoccio, spoke about digital abuse, and McCarthy learned that after hearing her presentation at CEAB, an assistant principal from Cranston West brought the presentation to his school.
“Her presentation was later viewed by the entire student body at Cranston West over the course of four assemblies,” McCarthy said. “That’s the type of achievement and success I was hoping for this year. That’s the one that has really met what I wanted to do – to connect and disseminate information to school representatives so that they can bring these things back to their own schools and then use them.”
Another huge step for CEAB this year was the ability to be involved in a district initiative, helping to connect the Cranston Public Schools with their community in the quest to create a district motto.
Over the course of several meeting sessions, CEAB partnered with the central office staff to come up with a shared vision for the project, help to disseminate the information out to the community, and to collect it and vote on it along the way. The process will be continued into the fall, and a logo art contest will soon take place.
Although in the past the CEAB board has struggled to fill its open positions, McCarthy was pleased to see the board filled at the conclusion of the past school year, with new board members ready to start the year together with those finishing out their terms.
“That’s not always something that was achieved in the past,” he said.
Going forward, McCarthy looks forward to a strong start to the new school year. CEAB’s first meeting will take place Oct. 17, and he has already started planning for a meet-and-greet format, with the opportunity for the parent representatives to share the types of guest speakers they’d like to hear from this year as well as the opportunity to share any issues that are important to them.
Most importantly, McCarthy hopes to continue the positive and informative atmosphere at each meeting.
“We have a cpsed.net email address now, and I’ve been able to really update our email list this year, so I can communicate out more effectively with our school representatives,” McCarthy said. “We’re also now an ASPEN page, we are on the school department’s website and we’re really accessible. People who may not be able to make it to the meetings can always email me to give me information to share out at the meetings about their school’s upcoming events or accomplishments.”
McCarthy can be reached at email@example.com with any questions, or to share upcoming events with the community for future meetings.