Johnston Schools Superintendent Dr. Bernard DiLullo Jr. delivered his End-of-Year Report at Tuesday night’s School Committee meeting.
“School began on Sept. 14, 2020 and ended on June 25, 2021,” DiLullo told the Committee and members of the audience. “School Administrators, this School Committee, nurses, teachers and support staff came together to have a solid opening plan.”
The COVID pandemic made the typically routine school opening perhaps more challenging than ever. The previous year was chaotic, in-person classes shifted to at-home learning, and the 2020-21 school year promised to provide a host of obstacles.
“Facilities were maintained and provided clean and safe environments,” DiLullo continued. “Most classrooms in the district have been repainted. Additional facilities equipment and a van were obtained through COVID funds. All rooms have air purifiers in place. Nursing offices have been updated or expanded to provide safe zones for students and staff. Ongoing meetings have occurred to gather information on new and updated facility planning.”
DiLullo also submitted a School Behavior Report detailing incidents of bullying at each school.
“Four incidents of bullying reported at the ECC (Early Childhood Center),” DiLullo read to the School Committee. “Two students were suspended as a result of the Principal’s investigation.”
“Three incidents of Cyberbullying through the use of computers, personal cell phones or social media at Barnes Elementary School were identified,” DiLullo continued. “The incidents were investigated and students were suspended and/or moved to remote learning. Reports were given to the Johnston Police.”
“Two reported cases of bullying at Ferri Middle School,” DiLullo said. “One was unfounded and one was supported as a result of the Principal’s investigation. Scheduling adjustments were recommended and no contact offered between the students.”
“Three bullying reports were filed at Winsor Hills,” DiLullo said. “Through investigation, the Principal determined that none of the instances were bullying. Consequences were given to several students this year for harassment (verbal and cyber) as well as physical altercations that were not associated with the bullying reports.”
Johnston High School
DiLullo delivered a report on Johnston High School, informing the School Committee that “200 seniors were enrolled this year; 183 graduated in June and 17 seniors are attending summer school with an August graduation possibility.”
“Staff and students worked as a team at the high school to keep everyone safe,” DiLullo said. “The high school moved many of their celebrations and information to virtual formats this year.”
Athletics and extracurricular events, through team effort, resembled normalcy this year.
“All sports teams were able to compete and did well this year,” DiLullo said. “The Mock Trial Team placed second in the state competition. The Academic Decathlon Team placed third in the state and won 18 medals.”
Other projects were worth mentioning as well, according to DiLullo’s report.
“A video tour and program description was produced to give 8th graders information on our high school,” he said. “They also participated in an in person tour.”
Standardized testing also proceeded as usual.
“Over 90 percent of the Junior Class and 92 percent of the sophomore class participated in state testing SAT,” DiLullo said. “The high school is offering summer school to 83 students for credit.”
Ferri Middle School
“The principal reports that the teachers did an exceptional job as they were flexible and worked hard to meet the needs of our students,” DiLullo told the committee. “The administrative team is working to plan for next year as some of the protocols of COVID worked well such as some schedule changes and offering virtual meetings to parents.”
“The Middle school is also offering summer school over the last three weeks and so far it has been met with success.”
Reflecting the times, “virtual open houses and parent teacher conferences were held at the beginning and middle of the year,” DiLullo told the School Committee. “Elementary students came to school for four days a week, if they were in-person until May, when the schools returned to five days of in-person learning.”
“PTOs also held virtual events such as book fairs, story hours, virtual dances, and paint nights.”
“Our Social Emotional Learning teams at all schools were very busy as they supported both in-school learners and virtual learners with regular check-ins and interventions,” DiLullo said.
He added that, “All administrators worked seven days a week to complete contact tracing based on notifications of positive cases from the Rhode Island Department of Health.”
“Many of our schools adjusted parent drop-off and pick-up as well as bus transportation to keep all students and staff safe,” DiLullo said. “New high quality curriculum in reading, writing and math is being introduced in our school. The district received a $1 million grant to support the required implementation of the reading and writing program.”
Throughout the pandemic, many of the town’s families needed help.
“Many of our schools continued to support our neediest families through food and clothing drives and donations or Christmas presents at holiday time,” DiLullo reported. “Luckily at the end of the year, many of our celebrations were in-person.”
“On a final note, I thank all of you on the school committee, our administrative team, teachers support staff, teachers’ aids, families and students for working together to make this year as successful as possible,” DiLullo said. “Without the cooperation of all, it wouldn’t have been possible.”
Hopefully, better, more normal times await on the horizon.
“As Mrs. Denham wrote in her annual school summary, ‘all learning is best done in-person,’ and that sentiment is shared by all in our community,” DiLullo said. “That’s the plan for this coming September for all students to be in school full-time and in-person.”