Homeowner Fights Batting Cage At Cole

The batting cage planned for Cole Middle School would sit on the west side of the school.

By Elizabeth F. McNamara

It seemed like a nice idea – the EG Little League wanted to donate batting cages to the high school and Cole Middle School that could be used by school teams as well as Little League teams. The School Committee approved the offer last spring and equipment appeared at Cole to install the batting cage last Memorial Day weekend.

Except that placement of the proposed batting cage at Cole was on the west side of the school, the side closest to Sarah’s Trace, the street on which homeowners had sued the town over construction of the school in 2011 and which resulted in a settlement in 2015. When construction of the batting cage began, a Sarah’s Trace homeowner called police, citing a breach of the settlement. Police stopped the construction.

Now, nearly a year later, Little League representatives are hoping to get the construction back on track. The double batting cage at the high school was erected without incident after the failed attempt at Cole.

The challenge at Cole is there aren’t very many place to put the batting cages, Athletics Director Chris Cobain told the School Committee Tuesday night. He said there were only two sites at the school that don’t have anything to do with drainage, sewage, or electrical lines. One is near the tennis courts, close to houses on Wanton Shippee Road. The other is the side that abuts properties on Sarah’s Trace. Cobain said they chose the area closer to Sarah’s Trace because of the generous landscape buffer there. There is no such buffer on the Wanton Shippee side.

Cobain said he spoke with the homeowners who’d called the police.

“I talked to the family and heard, “We will fight, we will fight tooth and nail,” he said.

School Committee members said they needed to know just want was included in the settlement. If it was about equipment, could EGLL use hand tools to install the batting cage, they asked.

Committeeman Matt Plain said there was a difference between whether or not the settlement contained language about construction of something like a batting cage at Cole and the batting cage itself.

EGLL representative Russ Marcantonio agreed.

“If you let the threats of lawsuits dictate how you operate, that’s a bad precedent,” he said.

The School Committee decided to have their lawyer talk to the town about the issue, since it is the town that has the settlement with the homeowners.

School and Little League officials said they hoped the issue could be ironed out before spring baseball begins in earnest.

 

Cole Best Buddies Chapter Named ‘Outstanding’

The Cole Best Buddies club was recognized by the School Committee Dec. 19 for being named an ‘Outstanding Chapter’ by BB International.

The Best Buddies chapter at Cole Middle School recently was named an Outstanding Chapter by Best Buddies International and members of the group were recognized by the School Committee Tuesday night.

Best Buddies is a school club is dedicated to  enhancing the lives of students with intellectual and developmental disabilities through peer relationships – students with disabilities are paired with “buddy” students without disabilities. 

You can watch that part of the School Committee here. Keep watching to hear Lexi Scott’s speech. Lexi is the Cole chapter president.
Cole’s Best Buddies teacher-advisor is Lexi’s dad, science teacher Adam Scott. He says he kind of fell into the role.
“Sometimes in life, you simply stumble upon something that changes your life forever.  Five years ago, I was asked to coach the Unified Basketball Team for they needed a coach,” he said. “I said yes and never looked back. This school year, I also helped to pilot the Unified Cross Country team – along with two other middle schools – and with so many schools looking to join next year, it is going to take off and be another great opportunity for our athletes and partners.”
(Unified sports teams combine students with disabilities, the athletes, with typical peers, the partners.)
Scott added, “At Cole, I feel that I have two parts of my life moving at the same time each day.  One part is teaching science and the other part is my work with Best Buddies and the two Unified Sports teams.  I look at all our kids and, the father in me takes over, and I simply want each and every child here to be treated with the respect that they each deserve.  Programs such as Best Buddies makes you aware of how easy it really is to be kind to each other.  As Lexi mentioned the other night, we are trying to find the unique abilities that make us all special instead of just looking at disabilities.”
Members of Cole’s Best Buddy 2017-18 chapter:
Alexis Baker
Andrew Blake
Faith Cabrita
Matt Carosotto
Jared Cusick
Sean Giannelli
Gabriella Giulano
Madison Cavanaugh
Allison Cazmer
Aidan Meacham
Griffen Meacham
Zoe Meier
Sienna Petorski
Lucy Rosen
Ella Saint
Alexandra Scott, chapter president
Caroline Shea
Joseph Gendron
Adam Scott, faculty advisor

Cole Chess Team Continues Its Winning Ways

ColeChessTeamStateMeet 3-28-15
The Cole Chess Team at the R.I. State Scholastic Chess Championship March 28.

By Carol Baum and Derryl DePriest

The Cole Middle School Chess Team just wrapped up their season, and what a season it was!  Youth chess has a strong traditon in East Greenwich, and the 11 boys who formed this year’s team upheld the winning tradition.

In the Rhode Island Middle School Scholastic League, the team brought home both the school championship as well as the Scholastic Blitz Chess Championship. In addition, the team placed second in the the Rhode Island Scholastic Chess Championship this past weekend at Rhode Island College for both the 5-6th Grade and 7th-8th Grade divisions.

Individuallly, Tom Sorokin was Rhode Island co-champion of the 5-6th Grade Division while Spencer Wood placed 7th, and Caleb Gupta placed 3rd in the state and David Delbonis 4th for the 7-8th grade division.  Congratulations to the entire team and each of the individual winners!

For the Rhode Island Scholastic League season the team managed to go undefeated at 6-0 and managed to bring home the championship against very tough competition.The team consisted of 8th Graders Wyatt DePriest, Owen Petito, and Logan Roberts; 7th graders Caleb Gupta, Brandon Zhang, David Delbonis, Jonathan Yao, Andy Babb, and Sunny Sait; and 6th Graders Tom Sorokin and Spencer Wood.  Wyatt, Brandon, Caleb, Owen, David, Tom, and Logan all participated at the varsity level during the season during which the team went 21-3 in individual varsity matches.

The team was coached by former alumni of the Cole team, East Greenwich residents Sameer Khanbhei (now at Wheeler High) and Grant Whitney (now at LaSalle). Grant and Sameer did a great job teaching the boys strategy and tactics.

In addition to the League championship, the team also won first place as a team at the Rhode Island Scholastic Blitz Chess Championship held this past Thursday, March 26th.  The Blitz format is very fast-paced with players having a limited time to strategize and make their moves.  The Cole team placed 2nd through 5th in individual competition as well with Caleb Gupta and Brandon Zhang tying for second place, and David Delbonis and Owen Petito tying for 4th.

The team photo (above) was taken at the Rhode Island State Scholastic Chess Championship held at Rhode Island College, March 28.  Front row, left to right: Sameer Khanbhei (coach), Logan Roberts, Sunny Sait, David Delbonis, Spencer Wood, Owen Petito, and Grant Whitney (coach).  Top row, left to right: Jonathan Yao, Caleb Gupta, Wyatt DePriest, and Tom Sorokin. Not pictured: Brandon Zhang and Andy Babb.

The Cole chess team is a great way to experience chess.  Any new students interested in joining the team for the next academic year is encouraged to contact Carol Baum at carol.baum.ri@gmail.com.  The team especially welcomes 5th graders who will be coming to Cole in the fall from Eldredge or Hanaford.


 

Do you have an East Greenwich story to tell? EG News would love to post it. Contact editor@eastgreenwichnews.com. 

Getting Fired Up for Cole’s Unified Basketball Season

 

Adam Scott is all in for Unified sports, as evidenced by his participation last weekend in the Rhode Island Special Olympics Unified Plunge at Salty Brine State Beach (he raised $2,282 – the most raised by any Unified Plunge participant). Then, on Friday, he organized an assembly, a pep rally of sorts, to kick off the season for the Cole Middle School Unified Basketball team.

Scott has coached soccer teams at both Cole and EGHS over his 17 years as a science teacher at Cole, but when he took over as a coach of the Cole Unified Basketball team last year, it was just a different experience.

“Our first practice, once I got into it, I absolutely fell in love with the program,” he said Friday. “I fell in love with every single thing about it.”

In Unified sports, students with intellectual and developmental disabilities play accompanied by “partners,” typically developing fellow students. The partners play a pivotal but secondary role to the athletes, setting up plays, passing the ball, encouraging the athletes. (Full disclosure: My son is a Unified athlete at EGHS.)

Unified sports are sponsored by Rhode Island Special Olympics in conjunction with R.I. Interscholastic Sports. This year, there are 17 middle school Unified Basketball teams, up from just 11 last year.

“It’s so rewarding for me to see the work I get to do with the athletes and the partners and to see how they really come together,” said Scott.

He credits adaptive physical education teacher Lisa McKay with giving him a lot of techniques to help the athletes succeed. As coach of the North Kingstown Special Olympics team, McKay knows her stuff.

“I’ve just had so much support in this building to keep this program as successful as it’s been,” Scott said.

The 15-person Cole team will play five games, including two home games (April 9 and April 30, at 3:30 p.m.). At the assembly Friday, Scott encouraged the student body to turn out for the home games – and to cheer as loudly for the opposing team as the Unified Lancers. Because that’s what Unified is all about.


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Cole’s Badminton Tourney: Shuttlecock Spectacular

Winners Daniel Sun and Sarah Turcetta.
Winners Daniel Sun and Sarah Turcetta

Cole Middle School’s annual badminton tournament is always a highlight of the year, but maybe especially so during this year, where winter seems to have a death grip on us.

Sixty-four students and eleven faculty members participated in the 23rd Cole Annual Badminton Tournament on Thursday. There was also the second annual Unified badminton exhibition.

Student winners were Daniel Sun and Sarah Turcetta. The faculty winner was Mr. Garneau.

The students play badminton in gym for the month of February, narrowing down to the best 32 boys and 32 girls across all three grades. The playoffs, with master of ceremony Deb McMullen, are held as a school assembly.

Big thanks to parent Dana Gee, who took all these picture and submitted them.

The 32 girl finalists
The 32 girl finalists
Mr. Testa
Mr. Testa
Sophie
Sophie Fulghum
Final Four: James Harwood, Wyatt DePriest, Jack McMullen, and Daniel Sun; Sarah Turchetta, Sophie Fulghum, Julia Mattus, and Maddie Jenkins.
Final Four: James Harwood, Wyatt DePriest, Jack McMullen, and Daniel Sun; Sarah Turchetta, Sophie Fulghum, Julia Mattus, and Maddie Jenkins.
Jack
Jack McMullen
Daniel Sun
Daniel Sun
Officer Bert
Officer Bert
Harrison
Harrison

Cole Construction Trial to Begin Monday

Archie_R_Cole_Middle_School_2012_1024
Cole Middle School

More than four years after the initial complaint was filed, the lawsuit against the town, the school department and various construction companies by homeowners over damage they say was caused by construction of the new Cole Middle School is slated to begin Monday.

Scheduled as a 10-day jury trial, it will be heard before Superior Court Judge Bennett R. Gallo at Kent County Courthouse.

Three couples who live on Sarah’s Trace, just west of Cole, say construction of the new Cole Middle School caused cracks in their walls and foundations, threatening the structural integrity of their houses.

Construction on the new school begin in fall 2009. Homeowners Chris and Sue Lamendola, at 50 Sarah’s Trace, and Tom Hogan and Cynthia Pelosi, 40 Sarah’s Trace, sought help from the town early on, after they said they noticed cracks in their homes. They went public with their complaints in November 2009, filing a police report to document to the damage.

At issue, according to the homeowners, were the vibrations caused by construction machinery. Homeowners asked contractors to stop using large vibratory rollers to compact the earth but the construction team said they could not guarantee the structural integrity of the school building without using the rollers and use was continued.

Seismic readings taken by engineers hired by the contractor failed to show that the vibrations were sufficient to cause the kind of structural damage reported by the homeowners so insurers refused to cover costs of repairs. The homeowners, meanwhile, questioned the validity and timing of the seismic readings.

The Lamendolas and Hogan/Pelosis filed their lawsuit in February 2011, with plaintiffs Keith and Wendy Amelotte, at 35 Sarah’s Trace, signing on a short time later.

In addition to the town and the school department, the list of defendants includes Strategic Building Solutions (which oversaw and coordinated construction), Fleet Construction Co. (contractor), Gilbane Building Co. (contractor), Manafort Brothers (site development contractors), Paul B. Aldinger and Assoc. (engineer),  and SMMA (architect).

In July, the Town Council approved a settlement with the three Sarah’s Trace homeowners that reduced their property tax bills by 50 percent over four years (2013-16). The cost to the town will be around $70,000 – the exact cost won’t be determined until the tax rate is set for fiscal year 2016. Included in the settlement, the town agreed to pay up to $8,000 in legal fees and court costs.

 

The homeowners (plaintiffs) have so far subpoenaed 16 people to testify in the trial. Here’s the list of those subpoenaed as of Feb. 24, 2015:

Richard Buonauito – member of the East Greenwich Town Council from 2008 to 2010

Peter Calcagni – superintendent at Manafort Brothers

Bob Durante – member of the EG School Committee from 2008-12

Jay Gowell – School Building Committee chairman from 2005 to 2012

Jean Ann Guliano – member of the School Committee from 2006 to 2010, chairwoman 2009 to 2010

Ilene Hoffman – resident of 47 Lillibridge Drive; has complained about damage to their home from the construction

Peter Hoffman – resident of 47 Lillibridge Drive; has complained about damage to their home from the construction

Michael Isaacs – president of the East Greenwich Town Council from 2004 to present.

Victor Mercurio – school superintendent from 2009 to present

Matthew Oliverio – lawyer for the district now and at the time of the Cole construction

Susan Records – member of the School Committee from 2008 to 2014

Jody Richards – engineer for Aldinger & Assoc.

Michael Rongione – managing engineer for Pare Corp., an engineering company hired by EGSD in 2010 to evaluate potential damage to Sarah’s Trace houses

John Walwood – project manager at Manafort Brothers

Christopher Whitney – lawyer specializing in construction law, hired by EGSD in 2010

Mary Ellen Winters – member of the School Committee from 2008 to present; member of the School Building Committee 2008 to present

You can find an archive of all the stories written about this case on EG News here.


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8th Grade Algebra: Too Tough or Appropriate Challenge?

In December, parent frustration over Eighth Grade Algebra I at Cole Middle School bubbled onto social media, where concerns over the level of difficulty, class size and the need for outside tutoring were among the topics mentioned. Administrators, meanwhile, argue while the class is rigorous, nearly two-thirds of students got an A or B in the first quarter and no students got a failing grade.

Hand writing algebra equations

In grades 7 and 8, students take Math 7 and Math 8 or a higher level course. Students who have top grades and teacher recommendation (or are waived in by their parents) are eligible to take Accelerated Math 7, which includes all of Math 7 plus some of Math 8, and Eighth Grade Algebra I, which includes the rest of Math 8 and all of Algebra I.

“I told my son a B in that class is great – it’s hard!” wrote one parent on the EG Parents for Excellence Facebook page. “… He is more stressed than I possibly have ever seen him. I just want to be sure he is properly learning the material. Also… the kids getting D’s…how will they adapt and move on to harder math in HS? Are they not learning the basics of Algebra? I think the biggest issue is the pace is just too fast.”

Another parent questioned the size of the class: “My daughter is in accelerated math … and is struggling – more so than in any previous school year. I agree with what [Cole principal] Mrs. Meyer have said about it being a challenge to shift to Algebra, but it’s clear to me that there are other factors at play. Personally, I struggle with the fact that my daughter’s class has 31 students. How can any student get the attention he/she needs in a class that size?”

According to Meyers, there are 106 8th graders in the higher level math classes, just over half the total number of 8th graders (210) this year.

“More than any course that students have taken to this point, Algebra I is a rigorous course that requires students to approach mathematics conceptually, to grapple with problems, and to develop the habits of mind that lead to productive learning,” said Math Department Chair Patricia Dulac in a memo released to the press.

As to whether or not parents should be allowed to waive in their child, Principal Meyer said that was a family choice, but she said the fact that the course is challenging shouldn’t be a reason to avoid it, especially during middle school.

“Why wouldn’t we open every opportunity for kids, especially at this young age? They’re young, they’re learning, they’re developing – why not give them the challenge?” she said. “Much of the defining documents for middle school education talk about creating every opportunity for middle schoolers.

That is in stark contrast to years back, when Cole was a “junior high school.” In those years, Meyer recalled, there were five different levels of math offered in each grade. For the students who ended up in the very lowest level of math, it could become a self-fulfilling prophecy, she said, with low expectations leading to low results.

Student success is an indication the course is appropriate, Meyer and Dulac both said. In the first quarter, 25 percent of students in Eighth Grade Algebra I got an A in the class, with another 33 percent getting a B and 34 percent getting a C. Eight students (7.5 percent) got a D in the course. No one failed.

“Really, a solid B in this kind of work is something to celebrate,” said Meyer. “It’s OK for kids to grapple and struggle with these kinds of classes.”

Nearly every East Greenwich student takes Algebra I, said Dulac. The question is when.

“It is not the case that better/smarter students take Algebra I in middle school rather than in high school. When a student takes Algebra I is based on development ability, not cognitive ability,” she said.

But one reason to take Algebra I at Cole is so a student will have room in his or her schedule to take calculus at the high school without doubling up in math classes at some point. Of course, by doing that, they are effectively doubling up in middle school instead.

There is some help for students who are struggling: the teachers stay late one or two afternoons a week to meet with students. But some parents say there are too many students who need help. Some have found help with outside resources.

And, recently, some students established the Math Geek Study Group on Tuesdays after school so students could work together and help each other that way.

Postscript: Patricia Dulac, math chair, said no class exceeds 30 students due to a contractual limit on the number of students allowed per class.

“There are four Eighth Grade Algebra I classes with the following enrollments:  23, 25, 29, and 29,” she said via email.
She said 12 percent of students were waived into the class by their parents.

 

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Looking Ahead, Stories for 2015

Over the past year, a few stories percolated along, updating with a chapter or two, but generally keeping a low profile. Some of them have been going on for years – and may yet continue beyond 2015 – but we suspect all of these will make some noise in the year ahead. Stay tuned.

Here are stories to follow in 2015:

1. In Countersuit, Odeum Corp. Accuses Erinakes Of Conflict of Interest

One of the first big stories for 2015 may be a ruling from Judge Brian Stern (himself an EG resident) on whether or not Steve Erinakes still has a stake in the Greenwich Odeum theater building. Stern is due to make a ruling on that and on the Odeum’s claim that Erinakes failed in his fiduciary duty to the nonprofit.

2. Town Settles Tax Dispute With Sarah’s Trace Homeowners For $70,000 and

Trial Date Set In Homeowner Lawsuit Over Cole Construction

We’re back in court for this next one. The lawsuit pitting Sarah’s Trace homeowners against the EG School District, the Town of East Greenwich and various construction-related entities is set to go to trial March 2, 2015 – four years after the suit was filed. The homeowners say construction of the new Cole Middle School caused cracks in their walls and foundations, threatening the structural integrity of the houses. In July, the town settled with homeowners over a lesser point, the assessed value of their houses.

3. Districtwide All-Day K Would Add $800,000 to Budget

All-day kindergarten seems to be a foregone conclusion, if state and national trends are any indication. But it won’t come cheap. To institute it in the next school year, it would cost $800,o00. There’s a vocal lobby of residents pushing full-day K. The question in 2015 is whether or not it will happen this September – partially or completely.

4. Moving School Start Later Is A Mindset, Says Sharon Principal

Another big issue is the idea of pushing back the start time an hour for middle and high school students. As with full-day K, much of the research supports such an idea. But some question how it would work – with after-school sports in particular – and whether the change would really give kids more sleep time, or just an excuse to stay up later.

5. New England Tech’s $120 Million Expansion To Bring Dorm to EG by ’17

Now, this is a sleeper story. East Greenwich is going to be learning from Bristol, Newport, Smithfield and Providence about what it means to be a college town, with New England Tech’s first dorm do to open by 2017.

6. The future of the Bostitch property.

No story to click on here, just some words from Town Council President Michael Isaacs at an October candidates’ forum that an announcement is in the offing on a plan to use the South County Trail facility.


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No Easy Or Cheap Fixes For Cole’s Hot Third Floor

Ever since the new Cole Middle School opened in 2011, hot days at the beginning and the end of the school year have been an issue on the third floor. When three eighth grade students were removed from the school because of heat-related issues one day last June, school officials decided to explore possible fixes.

Cole was built without air conditioning because of the added expense – in the range of millions of dollars – and because the architect (SMMA) said schools in New England generally didn’t need air conditioning, said former School Building Committee Chairman Jay Gowell. None of the other five EG schools is air-conditioned, although each building – including Cole – has some limited air conditioning (usually the main office and maybe a classroom or library).

But in light of the June incident and ongoing complaints about heat, especially on Cole’s third floor, the School Committee asked the building panel to look a the issue.

The School Building Committee got details of three possible fixes at a meeting Nov. 5 but any kind of fix would be costly and not necessarily all that effective, according to facilities director Bob Wilmarth. Of the three options presented, prices ranged from $200,000 to $5 million, not counting the added electricity and maintenance costs.

“The initial estimates are highly cost prohibitive,” said School Committeeman Jack Sommer at the School Committee meeting Nov. 18.

The most comprehensive – and expensive – of the proposals would be to swap out the two current “energy recovery units” that sit atop the three-floor classroom stack of the building and replace them with energy recovery units that have an air conditioning component. Sadly, according to Wilmarth, it’s not possible to retrofit the current ERUs – they do not have enough room.

The energy recovery units do help keep heating costs down in the winter and they help, a little anyway, keep the building cooler in the summer, Wilmarth explained.

The cost to replace the two ERUs would be $5 million. “It would, however, be the most energy-efficient solution and also the longest lasting,” he said. “That’s really the way to do it” – if cost were not an issue.

The second proposal would be to provide each classroom with a “ductless mini-split” air conditioner, a cassette-type unit that attaches high on a wall. Several units could be connected to one central, optimally placed (i.e. in the shade) condenser outside.

According to Wilmarth, while they would not work as well as new ERUs, “they would work a lot better than individual window units [option 3] because they would offer better control, be more energy efficient and quieter.

To provide ductless mini-splits would cost around $750,000 per floor, around $2.25 million for all three floors.

That third option, the window units, would cost $195,000 to $225,000 for the three floors, said Wilmarth. One problem with window units is they need windows. And most windows at Cole were placed to capture sunlight, so the units would be working extra hard on the hottest sunny days. They also would need to be replaced every few years – more often than the other options.

In addition, said Wilmarth, they will be hard to service and less efficient. But, he said, “window unites would be the cheap, down-and-dirty way to go.”

Wilmarth noted another downside to both the second and third options: the existing ERUs would remain in place and their job is to bring in air from the outside. “In summer, that means hot air,” said Wilmarth. “It would be like paddling a canoe with a hole in it.”

At the meeting Nov. 5, the Building Committee told Wilmarth to hire a company to study the current ventilation system to see if there’s anything that could be done to make it work better. He is working on a proposal for that now.

Cole Costume Contest: Funny, Scary, and Crazy Original

Seventh grade winners, from left to right: Anya Almeida, Elizabeth Amelotte, Cody Dadura, Jordan Felicio, and Colin Carcieri Cassidy.
The Cole Middle Cole student council held a costume contest during Friday lunch periods, in honor of Halloween, and gave awards for funniest, scariest and most original costumes. Congratulations to all the winners!
image4
Sixth grade winners, from left: Lourdes Woolfson-Wright, Lily Wunsch, Sean Miranda, and Matthew Tibbits.
image3
Eighth grade winners, from left to right: Jack Eustis, Jack Callanan, Lucas Massaro and Alex Ataly.
image2
Cole Middle School police force expands for one day: Students Hope Silvia, Emma Tedeschi and Eli Coleman with EGPD School Resource Officer Bert Montalban.