NORTH SMITHFIELD – While the district is still waiting for instruction from state officials regarding plans for reopening, North Smithfield schools have been preparing for options, with new teachers and staff members ready to greet this year’s crop of students, and a new program to help others who may want to retire.
School officials recalled five teachers this month, and announced the appointment of five more, along with a new technology network administrator.
Supt. Michael St. Jean announced that Joshua Almeida will takeover the district’s network system computer management. Almeida replaces Joseph Caparco, who was hired in 2017.
St. Jean thanked Caparco, noting he has been an asset to North Smithfield schools.
“A district the size of North Smithfield, we should not have been able to snag a full-time systems engineer,” St. Jean said. “He has made an amazing difference with our technology and everything we have been able to accomplish in North Smithfield.”
“My concern when Joe left was we could never possibly replace him with anyone close to a similar skill set,” St. Jean added, noting of Almeida, “We have somebody with a similar skill set. We scored a major coup.”
Returning to the district is grade 4 teacher Sarah Glover, who taught at Halliwell Elementary School prior to its closing last year.
“She left us last year,” St. Jean said. “She had an adventure elsewhere and she has come back, and we could not be any more thrilled to welcome Sarah.”
At the high school, Lindsay Ando has been hired as a new science/chemistry teacher.
“We stole her from another district and I’m not apologizing to the other district for having Lindsay when they don’t,” St. Jean said. “Good for North Smithfield. As always, we’re going to attract and recruit the very best.”
For third grade at North Smithfield Elementary School, Jamie Krause was chosen out of some 180 applicants for handful of positions, according to the superintendent.
Recent University of Rhode Island graduate Elise Felker, meanwhile, will serve as the music teacher at North Smithfield Middle School.
“I fully expect that the North Smithfield music program will continue to excel with Elise on board,” said St. Jean.
The School Committee also approved recall of five teachers, the last to be called back out of those who had previously been laid off, a decision St. Jean noted had been postponed due to budget uncertainties.
“We cannot have you wait any more. We can not wait anymore,” he said. “We have to draw a line in the sand and move forward.”
St Jean noted that with the returns, the district is whole minus two teachers who left to take jobs in other districts.
Committee member Paul Jones thanked the teachers, “who have stuck with us and been so patient.”
To save money and offer older teachers who may have health concerns options amid uncertainty during Covid-19, the district also brought back a program offering incentives for retirement.
“We did something similar a number of years ago to save some money,” noted School Committee Chairman James Lombardi.
“It’s not to try to push anybody out the door. The reality is, we have an unusual year where we have a number of teachers of a certain age that may have medical complications,” said St. Jean. “We also have a difficult financial situation in that we still do not know what the state aid to education will be.”
Teachers who submit their intent to retire prior to the August 15 deadline will receive a one-time payment of $10,000 through the initiative, which is expected to save the district some $37,000 in the first year.
“We’re looking at an incentive for them to help them make their decision as well as ultimately save the district a substantial amount of money, because we honestly do not know what our budget will be,” St. Jean said.
Committee member Jean Meo thanked administrators and union leadership for their work on the program, which was approved unanimously.
“I’m really happy to see we’re offering this a a possibility, because I think it gives some support and some options to teachers who fit the eligibility requirements and may be uncomfortable about returning,” Meo said. “I’m really glad we are making this offer.”