School Board

RYE SCHOOL BOARD REPORT

(From the 2017 Rye Annual Report)

The Rye School Board is pleased to report on the activity of the 2016-2017 school year and the beginning of the 2017-2018 school year.  In March 2017, we welcomed one new school board member, Paula Tsetsilas and thanked Kate Hillman for her three years of devoted service to our schools.  We bid fond farewell Mr. Visciano (“Mr. V.”) who retired after almost 40 years of teaching at Rye Junior High. We will also miss 8th grade math teacher, Elise Catalano, and Michele Wirth, music teacher, at RJH, both of whom moved on to other opportunities. However, we are excited to welcome some terrific new teachers at RJH and RES.  Chandra Eves and Kacie Ferraro joined our 8th grade team as science and math teachers, respectively and Duy Bui is bringing fabulous energy to our junior high music program. We are excited to bring on two new teachers at the elementary school, Caitlin Piper and Katelyn O’Neill, as World Languages and Special Education teachers, respectively. Dr. Robin Ellwood transitioned from teaching 8th grade science to leading the interdisciplinary Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics (STEAM) initiative at RJH. 

Marie Soucy had a very successful first year as the principal of RJH.  Marie is an exceptional instructional leader and has been instrumental in continuing to increase the quality of learning that students experience in our schools. Amy R. Ransom joined the SAU 50 as our new Assistant Business Administrator.  Amy most recently served as the Business Administrator for SAU 16 in Exeter and surrounding towns and she hit the ground running for us.

Schools

The Rye School District has an elementary school and a middle school that serve approximately 400 students.  We are proud that our schools have a positive and nurturing culture which provides a welcoming place for students to learn.  Through the AREA (Authorized Regional Enrollment Area) agreement, an additional 178.5 Rye students (2016-2017) attend Portsmouth High School (one student attended only ½ year).  Portsmouth High School is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) and provides academic rigor, a broad range of diverse courses, athletic and musical excellence, and numerous extracurricular activities.

We are fortunate to have many experienced professional staff members focused on the individual learning needs of our students. We receive additional support from the SAU 50 staff: Superintendent, Mr. Salvatore Petralia; Assistant Superintendent, Kelli Killen; Director of Special Education, Sarah Reinhardt; Business Administrator, Jim Katkin; Amy R. Ransom, Assistant Business Administrator, and dedicated administrative personnel.  Our school system has an excellent reputation in the state, which demonstrates a positive effect on real estate values in town. 

 Accomplishments

Through the combined efforts of our educators and administrators, along with support from the school board, we undertook several key initiatives to improve and deepen student learning.  We, in Rye, are very fortunate to benefit from the generous support from both the Rye Educational Foundation and the PTA.  Many of the highlights noted below would not have been possible without the support of these two organizations.

  • Both schools implemented several project-based units where students collaboratively engaged in tackling real-world problems in order apply the knowledge and skills that they are learning in deep and meaningful ways.  This included activities such as the 7th grade students identifying school board policies that they wanted to see changed and then making public presentations to the school board.  The most impressive example of project-based learning was the 8th grade production of the “gear wall,” where students used sophisticated tools such as laser cutters and 3-D printers to create an 8-foot diameter wheel with interlocking gears that tell stories of major U.S. historical, social, and cultural events.  It is hanging in the RJH cafeteria and we urge community members to stop by to see this terrific installation.
  • Rye Elementary School teachers are beginning their third year of “co-teaching.” This started with our energetic second grade team and is now implemented in several other grades.  A co-teaching model means that all of the students at a given grade level are shared among the multiple teachers at the grade.  This allows the teachers to fluidly group students to better tailor instruction to the needs of individual students.  This is especially critical in reading, writing, and mathematics, but is effective for other subject areas as well.  A co-teaching approach requires considerable coordination and cooperation among the multiple teachers as well as leadership from Suzanne Lull, our exceptional elementary school principal.
  • With Mr. V’s retirement, Principal Marie Soucy took the opportunity to reshape the technology education program by working with Dr. Ellwood to create the new STEAM coordinator position.  In this role, Dr. Ellwood is working with students and teachers in all RJH grades to build magnificent row boats that will culminate with the Rye Rowing Regatta on May 31st at Rye Harbor.  To build these boats, students are relying on what they are learning in physics, engineering, wood working, mathematics, art, and language arts (focusing on The Boys in the Boat). We urge the community to join us for the Regatta and take advantage of the opportunity to purchase one of these beautiful boats.
  • We are not waiting until students get to the junior high school to begin project-based learning. One of the classrooms at Rye Elementary School has been converted into a “maker space” where students have opportunities to learn how to use technology to design and create objects related to what they are learning in their classes.

These efforts to maximize student learning benefit from activities designed to engage parents and community members in school activities and to maintain the safety of buildings.

  • We continue to work on improving the communication between our schools and parents through the Rye School Board Facebook page and increased communication from the schools.  Additionally, we have intentionally increased the opportunities for 5th grade students and parents to better understand the rich offerings for students when they transition to RJH.  These include “shadow days” for students and parent forums that occurred early this school year along and we plan additional outreach during the spring semester.
  • In response to a citizen’s petitioned warranted article that was approved in the 2017 election, the Board convened a School Use Feasibility Study Committee co-chaired by Paula Tsetsilas and former Board member, Peggy Balboni.  The Committee worked diligently for over five months to produce a comprehensive report on the issues and potential solutions for the Board to consider if enrollment in Rye continues to decline.  The Board has committed to continuing its study of the educational and financial implications of potential strategies to address declining enrollment.
  • As we continue to advocate for differentiated and personalized opportunities for students, we, under the leadership of our principals and assistant superintendent, have created more personalized opportunities for professional learning for our educators focused on common school goals and initiatives.
  • Given the very legitimate concerns about water quality in Rye, the school board now requires semi-annual testing of the water in both schools for a wide range of potential contaminants. Thus far, the water at the schools is safe and where problems have been found (slightly elevated copper at a couple of drinking fountains); the school board as immediately authorized expenditures to remedy the problem.
  • Rye Junior High School is a beautiful, historic building, but that means it requires regular maintenance and upkeep.  Unfortunately, one of our two boilers had to be replaced during the winter of 2017. We were lucky to be able to rely on our buildings and maintenance expendable trust to pay for most of the replacement.

2016-17 Rye School Board Goals

Each year the Board reviews student data, parent surveys, and administrator and staff input to develop annual goals that align with our mission “to provide an outstanding learning and teaching environment that meets every child’s academic, social, physical and personal needs”.  These goals are aligned to our Vision for Rye Students. All of our specific initiatives fit within three broad and coherent focal areas: Student Engagement; Instructional Quality; and Meaningful Content

These goals require the school district to continue to invest in curriculum materials and technology as a tool for learning, data collection and communication for students, staff and parents.

Through the combined efforts of our dedicated administrative team and professional staff, our schools continue to provide a strong educational program that meets the academic, physical, and social-emotional needs of our Rye students. We work to utilize the best resources and support available to teachers and students to ensure that our students meet or exceed curriculum standards in all areas.

Every year, we consider several factors that are important toward realizing this broad goal:

 We track student population needs to determine effective staffing ratios. 

  • We review staff qualifications, evaluation procedures and professional growth needs to be sure that our staff members have the necessary skills to meet the individual learning needs of our students.  As our student needs change, our staffing needs will change accordingly.
  • We analyze student assessment data to determine our programming needs. 
  • We devote the resources necessary to improve curriculum (including technology, materials and textbooks). 
  • We evaluate our facility needs to be sure that we have adequate space and a safe and healthy environment for our students and staff.

We are thankful for the many parents and community members who volunteer their time and energy in our schools, as well as the generosity of the Rye PTA and the Rye Education Foundation in providing additional opportunities to enhance our curriculum.  We also appreciate the assistance of the Rye Budget Committee in their review of our annual school budget and the financial support of the Rye taxpayers in providing our students with a high quality education.

We encourage you to visit our page on the schools’ websites to keep apprised of school board meetings and information. You can find us at http://www.sau50.org/rye/rjh, under the heading

About Us.

The Rye School Board thanks all of our partners in education:  students, teachers, support staff, administrators, parents/guardians, volunteers, and community members for their commitment to Rye’s children and their future.  

THE 2016 - 2017 RYE SCHOOL BOARD

Scott Marion, Chair
Kevin Brandon, Vice Chair
Paula Tsetsilas, Secretary
Jeanne Moynahan
Margaret Honda

THE 2017 - 2018 RYE SCHOOL BOARD

Margaret Honda, Chair
Scott Marion, Vice Chair
Paula Tsetsilas, Secretary
Debra Crapo
Jeanne Moynahan

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