Getting ready for a new school year

Fri, 08/19/2022 - 5:15pm

It’s back to school time, but will there be a bus? An electric bus, that is. Block Island School Superintendent Bob Gerardi told the School Committee on Tuesday, Aug. 16 that they were still waiting delivery of the vehicle, which is a donation from the Block Island Solar Initiative.
Gerardi also said he was trying to coordinate a celebration, but he didn’t know exactly when the bus might get here. The bus was ordered by Anderson Motors, which ordered three in total, two for the town of Westerly, and one for Block Island. But, since Westerly ordered theirs before Block Island did, they got delivery of the first two buses. Still, he is hopeful the bus will arrive in time for the opening of school.
The school is also lacking a bus driver, although Gerardi said they will be able to use last year’s driver until he can be replaced.
“And do we have a plan B?” asked School Committee Chair Jessica Willi.
“No, we do not,” answered Gerardi.
There are people interested in the job, but they need to be certified as bus drivers, a multi-step process that includes testing at the Rhode Island Division of Motor Vehicles.
“We’re doing everything we can to help facilitate the process,” said Gerardi.” Again, the previous bus company is being very helpful.”
Gerardi is also working on obtaining another electric vehicle, a mini-bus, to be used by sports teams and for field trips on the mainland. Under an Environmental Protection Agency rebate program, the school could recover the full cost of the bus and a charger. The problem is in finding a “partner” on the mainland that would host the charging station and allow the mini-bus to park there. Another problem is that the grant application is due by August 19.
Under the terms of the grant, Block Island would have to trade in the minibus it currently uses, and Gerardi said that Anderson Motors would be willing to take it.
“If the grant goes through and is accepted, we have two years,” to act on it, said Gerardi. “It does seem like it makes sense.”
Transportation for sports has been difficult. Many towns on the mainland suffered from bus driver shortages during the last academic year, and Block Island, which contracts with other districts for buses, was left in a lurch.
Another factor that made sports difficult last year was finding a new athletic director. After Robert Closter stepped down from the position, Matthew Moran stepped in temporarily, and he does not wish to continue. Gerardi said Moran had already done much of the “summer work, and [Finance Director] Melanie Reeves and I continued the work.”
Willi thanked Moran for “stepping up in that tumultuous year.

When it came time in the meeting for “appointments,” Gerardi said that Chris Crawford had accepted an offer for the position of athletic director for the coming school year. (All of the appointments suggested by Gerardi were formally approved by the School Committee during the meeting.)
School Committee member Anne Hall asked about his experience.
“He has a significant amount of experience in coaching and in business,” answered Gerardi.
For fall sports, Rob Martin was appointed head coach of the female varsity volleyball team, with Ben Foster as assistant coach. Tracy Heinz will be the head coach for middle school soccer, and there is an assistant on
board, but the information did not make it onto the agenda in time for the meeting.
As far as varsity soccer, that position also has an interested candidate, but he won’t know until August 19 if he can fulfill the commitment.
There were several retirements at the end of the last school year, and so the island school will be seeing some new faces. With the retirement of Deborah Hart as the kindergarten teacher, Judy Durden, who was on sabbatical last year, will be taking over the youngest class. Replacing Durden in the third grade classroom will be Alexa Pucci. Paige Linda will be the new fourth grade teacher.
Long-time teacher and principal Kristine Monje has also retired, and Kyle Riley, who was a co-principal last year will take over as both the principal and director of student services.
There are still a few positions to fill at the school. Teacher assistant Eileen Dinolfo Miller is taking a year’s leave of absence, and a part-time custodian is needed, besides the bus driver and remaining coaching staff.