New School Year Kicks Off in East Greenwich

by | Sep 7, 2023

Highlights include new district website, focus on basics, collaboration 

This week, East Greenwich students begin the 2023 school year with one new principal, an upcoming $150 million school construction bond referendum, and high temperatures. 

“These are some of the hottest days that East Greenwich has seen this calendar year,” Supt. Brian Ricca said Wednesday (9/6/23), prompting his decision to release students early on Thursday. “We’re doing the best we can right now.”

Along with teachers getting students acclimated to the new school year, Ricca said many have had to be creative, take breaks, and juggle spaces to battle the heat. He pointed to the heat as a “real talking point when we ask people to consider the [school construction] master plan.”

As students and teachers settle in, Ricca mentioned getting “back to basics.” This would include focusing on the state-mandated Right to Read, a literacy approach, and limiting additional initiatives unless mandated by the state.” He said this would help both teachers and students because “we are still feeling the ripple effects of the pandemic.”

One way the pandemic still plays a role in EG schools is attendance.

We certainly saw our attendance rates adversely impacted during and following the pandemic,” said Daniel Seger, principal of Eldredge, in a statement. “We are using multiple strategies to improve attendance overall, including the use of the RIDE attendance ‘Nudge’ communication tool as an evidence-based intervention/action.”

Coleen Smith, the new principal of Hanaford, said she was eager to start the school year.

“You can feel the strength of the school culture here,” she said. Smith dates that back to when her son, now an EG High School student, attended Hanaford. She described the environment as “compassionate and collaborative.”

Teachers at Hanaford have had to be collaborative and think outside the box, given the overpopulation of students at the elementary level. For instance, a second modular classroom was delivered to the school over the summer break, which will house art and music classes. 

“Overcrowding happens in the best of districts,” Smith said. “People want to be here for a reason.”

The new trailer at Hanaford houses art and music classes.

Additionally, Smith pointed to “vacancies in the district” as another hurdle to overcome, which she has tried to solve by partnering with local institutions like the University of Rhode Island to find “the best quality people and not just filling the spot.” While she admitted that it might take time to find the right candidates for these positions, she said she’s encouraged by the collaboration she’s seen within the district. 

One major change at Cole this year is that former Hanaford principal Beth Cauley will be the vice principal at the middle school. Additionally, students at Cole will have more freedom in their schedules this year.

Melissa Centracchio, principal at Cole, said she’s “excited to roll out a brand new 7-period rotating schedule which allows all students the opportunity to take an elective.” Previously, students with special education and reading intervention classes couldn’t take an elective. “We are excited to provide access to these classes to all of our students.”

While she admits that the new schedule might “be challenging at times” because it’s a change, “we are prepared to assist faculty, staff, students, and families with the rotating schedule.”

Another new element this year for all schools is the updated and overhauled website. The remodeled website can be found HERE.

“The new website is beautiful and easy to navigate,” said Centracchio in a statement, noting that representatives from each school had completed training on the platform. “A few ‘banners’ have been created on each school page to highlight the most important information. In the coming months, we will continue to work on this, adding/changing content based on feedback from community stakeholders.”

Seger, a member of the website committee, said he also found the new website useful. 

“At the school level, the plan is definitely to leverage the new site to the best degree possible to support communication across our community,” he said.

In addition to the website, Seger mentioned there being “much to celebrate about our school” along with “unique challenges,” referring to some test score data. “Our School Improvement Team has played a pivotal role in identifying specific challenges and planning how to best address them as a community,” he said.

This year at Meadowbrook, students and faculty members are encouraged to focus on “friendship, working well with others, trustworthiness, respect, safety,” according to Principal Domenic Giusti. In a statement, he said, “We are very excited about our new PBIS program and corresponding new mascot – The Falcon.” PBIS stands for positive behavioral interventions and supports.

The program, which will begin in early October, is a “major introduction to our new positive behavior system,” he explained. “Students and staff will be involved in monthly assemblies based upon a pillar or character building focus.”

When asked about students and teachers getting acclimated to another school year, Supt. Ricca said he was grateful for all the people who “worked tirelessly throughout the summer” and  “I’m really proud of the work that the people do in East Greenwich Public Schools.”

EG News did not hear back from EGHS and Frenchtown Elementary for their updates.

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