NARRAGANSETT – In a letter to parents and guardians, the Narragansett School System (NSS) announced it would be eliminating the assistant principal position at the Narragansett Elementary School (NES). The cut, according to the district, is being made due to budget constraints and declining enrollment. 

“The assistant principal position was eliminated during the budget process as our student population continues to decline,” the letter to parents, written by Narragansett Superintendent Peter Cummings, reads. “The role was originally in place when the student population at NES was at or over 600 students 15-20 years ago, while the projected enrollment for next year is 436, including preschool. This administrative change reflects the reductions in teaching and support staff that have accompanied having gradually fewer students in the school over the past decade. Unfortunately, this cut is necessary in order to responsibly manage our school and district budget given the limited increase available from the Town of Narragansett and cuts to our Education Aid from the State of Rhode Island.” 

The current NES assistant principal, Ann Marie Zaborski, has been in the role for three years. 

NSS submitted a $31.5 million budget for FY 2019-20, an increase over the previous year’s total by almost $900,000. The budget included partial staffing reductions, including 0.5 of a resource teacher, 0.2 of a literacy teacher and 0.75 of a secretary position. The district also added one full-time preschool teacher at the school, electing to add resources at points that can contribute to increasing enrollment for the future of the district. In total, NES’ budget this year comes to just over $8 million, about $175,000 higher than last year’s figure, to fund operations at the school. Before becoming assistant principal at NES in 2016, Zaborski was a social studies teacher at the school.  

“I hope you join me in wishing Ms. Zaborski all the best in her future leadership roles in education and in thanking her for her years of service to the children of Narragansett,” Cummings’ letter concludes. 

While it has been a topic of concern for the school district over the past several years, this is the first elimination of a high-level position within NSS due to enrollment declines. At the time of submitting its budget this year, the district hosted about 1,278 students, and is projected to enroll 1,237 students in the 2019-20 school year. For comparison, in June of 2016, enrollment totaled over 1,350 students. Declining enrollment is likely attributed to the pricey local housing market, as young families typically struggle to afford to live in Narragansett. The local school system, despite the declines, has remained one of the top public school districts in the state and has put a new emphasis on programs and initiatives intended to increase enrollment in the future, such as the recent addition of an all-day pre-K option. 

The elimination of the assistant principal position comes as NES is shaking things up at its highest level of administration. Last year, NSS announced current NES Principal, Gail Dandurand, would be vacating the position to take on a new role as district curriculum director. In February, the district named Lisa Wilson, a former assistant principal at NES and principal in South Kingstown, to take over Dandurand’s post. Wilson is expected to start in the NES principal position on July 1. 

In December, the Rhode Island Department of Education gave NES a five-stars-out-of-five rating based on a number of factors including standardized testing results and growth. The rating is the highest possible score from the education department. 

Cummings said he would be working with Wilson to carry NES into the future despite the staffing change. 

“In order to account for this change, I will be working with Lisa and Gail to ensure supports for social-emotional learning and behavior management are fully in place for the new school year,” said Cummings in the letter. “Adoption of the Conscious Discipline program as well as other mental health and wellness initiatives will be a part of the school’s approach to creating an environment conducive to learning. Lisa has a great deal of experience in partnering with families to ensure every child feels safe, respected and valued, and I look forward to her leadership in this area.” 

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