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WTU: Science Curriculum Rollout ‘Botched’

[CREDIT: File Photo] Warwick Veterans Jr. High School at 2401 W Shore Road.
[CREDIT: File Photo] Warwick Veterans Jr. High School at 2401 W Shore Road.
[CREDIT: File Photo] Warwick Veterans Jr. High School at 2401 W Shore Road.

WARWICK, RI – Darlene Netcoh, president of the WarwickTeachers Union, lambasted the Warwick School Department for their handling ofscience programs in the district during the Warwick School Committee’s meeting

at Warwick Veterans School Tuesday night.

Netcoh spoke following a presentation from representativesof GEMS-Net (The Guiding Education in Math and Science Network), a partnershipamong the University of Rhode Island’s School of Education, scientists andengineers, and public school districts.

“Grade 5 students will be taking the state standardized testthis year,” Netcoh said. “Grade 5 teachers have not received training. Theyreceived some ‘training’ on the website for two and a half hours on the firstday of school. How will this botched science program prepare the students?”

Netcoh quoted one teacher as saying “the rollout of this initiativeis possibly the worst I’ve seen in my 19 years.”

Teachers complained about not receiving “hard copy manuals,no hard copy worksheets or materials for students, the chromebooks do notsupport the materials, there are not enough chromebooks for students.”

Netcoh said teachers were required to bring in their ownmaterials for Grades 1, 2, and 5.

“Some elementary science is working right now, for the mostpart it is not,” Netcoh noted. “Eliminating the program that had been in place

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for 60 years to save money hasn’t produced results or even saved any money. Thedirectives from the district as illustrated in the checklists and the e-mailfrom the curriculum director and the concerns and comments from teachers shouldserve as evidence that this district has been doing its best to destroy scienceeducation in the elementary schools.”

Committee member Nathan Cornell found the photos of thematerials being used in the classrooms to be “disturbing.”

“Something definitely needs to change,” Cornell said.

“Our scores are tanking badly,” said committee member JudithCobden, who said the GEMS-Net presentation looked “hopeful.”

“We can’t cut programs that are the core of our education,”Cobden said. “It’s not fair to the teachers and it’s ruining our kids’ education.”

“We can be nostalgic for the old program, but it didn’twork,” said Committee member David Testa. “We need to move forward on science.”

Testa said GEMS-Net was “a very good program” and said thedistrict was dealing with the effects of a $4.5 million budget shortfall.

“We knew it was going to be challenging,” Testa added.

Committee chairwoman Karen Bachus was blunt in herassessment: “We need to get our act together.”

In other business Tuesday night, the Committee approved the calendar for 2019-2020 school

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year. The February vacation period will have two additional days in 2020.

“We tried to come up with the best solution from the e-mailsthat we got,” explained Vice-Chair Judith Cobden on Wednesday. “We know we’renot going to be able to make everybody happy.”

During the meeting’s public comments section, Netcoh urgedthe committee to reinstate February vacation. The committee eliminated Februaryvacation in March 2017.

“The buildings need time to air out,” Netcoh said. “Studentsneed time to relax, teachers need time to relax.

Mary Tashjian, the school nurse at Park Elementary School,also advocated for February break due to health issues. Tashjian reportednumerous cases of strep throat last month.

“We need that time to air out, to clean out,” Tashjian said.

The Committee also agreed to obey the Commissioner of Education’sorder to the General Treasurer to deduct the sum of $304,040 from the schoolaid owed to the Warwick School District and provide those funds to the NorthKingstown School Department.

The North Kingstown school department filed the request forwithholding of state aid to the city of Warwick and remission of funds to NorthKingstown on Jan. 22.

Joe Siegel
Author: Joe Siegel

Joe Siegel is a regular contributing writer for His reporting has appeared in The Sun Chronicle in Attleboro and EDGE.