Charting the course 
        for public education...

Rhode Island School Superintendents' Association


  • 23 May 2017 1:46 PM | Judy Spremulli (Administrator)

    Reading partnership strengthens student, staff development

    Approximately two-thirds of fourth-grade students read at or below the basic level of competency, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

    By partnering with higher education institutions, schools can enhance elementary reading initiatives and set students on a higher reading plane.

    Kristen Stringfellow,superintendent of the South Kingston (R.I.) School District, embraced
    a partnership with Columbia University’s Reading and Writing Project to improve K-8 reading outcomes.  After adopting the program,all four elementary schools in South Kingston
    scored in the upper 5 percent of Rhode Island elementary schools in English Language Arts. “In my former district, we were going through a significant change in our reading curriculum and one of the providers we found was Columbia University,”she said. “When I came to South Kingston, there wasn’t a reading curriculum in place.”During Stringfellow’s first few months as superintendent, she visited classrooms and engaged her elementary principals
    for an in-service day. What she quickly realized was that the district had a potpourri of reading programs.
    “I asked the principals how they can help teachers commonly plan together, and also about the strategies that students are using to read with comprehension and fluency,” Stringfellow said. “It took that understanding of what we didn’t have to figure out what we needed. We
    looked at several different programs and let our principals and teachers figure out what matched our needs to bring children to higher levels of reading success.”
    One of the elementary schools in South Kingston was chosen to pilot the Columbia University reading program, with the district providing professional development and support through reading coaches.  “We capitalized on our previous experience with the
    program and the teachers helped make it flourish,”Stringfellow said. “We now have the Columbia University reading and writing program in grades K-8.
    It’s taken several years to work through the grade levels, particularly in middle school where we’ve had to make adaptations because of the schedule.”Stringfellow provided the following tips on reading initiatives:

    • Get staff on board. “Staff had been waiting for a
    reading program that worked,” Stringfellow said. “At
    the outset, they didn’t have authentic literature in the
    classroom because we had funding challenges to purchase
    books to build classroom libraries. We altered
    some of our investments to invest more in libraries and
    pulled back on investments in copying machines and
    workbooks.” She noted that one of the problem areas
    was having substitute teachers who were unfamiliar
    with the structure of a mini-lesson and reading logs. As
    such, the district hired permanent substitute teachers
    in each building who can attend the training with their
    permanent teaching colleagues, Stringfellow said.

    • Provide professional development. During the
    summer, many of the teachers in the district visit
    Columbia University and hear from authors. “Teachers-
    in-residence at Columbia University demonstrate
    model lessons for the staff for two- to three-day intervals
    several times a year,” Stringfellow said. “The staff
    member then discusses the lesson and encourages
    participation. There is a lot of professional dialogue
    among teachers and they have close relationships
    with the staff developers from Columbia.”

    • See model programs. Visit districts that have
    implemented successful reading programs. Talk to
    the teachers and administrators who’ve experienced
    success. “If you have high staff turnover, it will be
    more difficult because the training takes a couple of
    years,” Stringfellow said. “You need to have principals
    who are the lead learners — and the district leader
    has to embrace the program as the lead learner.”
    Develop rapport with peers in other districts to wade
    through stumbling blocks.

    • Involve parents. Focus on teaching parents
    what to do when children come home. Stringfellow
    said it’s important for children to find a book that
    is right for their reading level. “To be a great reader,
    you have to read a lot,” she said. “We have embedded
    time in the school day where children can build their
    reading stamina. It’s different from what parents
    previously knew — and that takes coaching and
    professional learning for parents.”

    • Assess partnership success. Determine success
    by student and teacher engagement. “Our teachers
    are continually eager to leave their home state and
    visit Columbia University to learn as much as they
    can about the program,” Stringfellow said. “That
    tells me that the teachers view the program as vitally
    important to the child’s success. The goal is for
    our teachers to build their professional network to
    extend and expand the program.”
    Email Stringfellow at


    © 2017 LRP Publications - Reproduction Prohibited Vol. 20, Iss. 1

  • 22 May 2017 10:45 AM | Judy Spremulli (Administrator)


    The RISSA Annual Meeting was held on May 12 at Save the Bay Headquarters in Providence. The featured speakers were Noelle Ellerson and Leslie Finnan, our AASA National Policy analysts, who gave an update on events at the National level. Following their excellent and informative presentation, they joined Mary Ann Snider from RIDE, and Roy Seitsinger for a discussion of ESSA plans at the state level. Kristen Stringfellow served as moderator.


    The RISSA Officers for 2017-19 were elected Kristen Stringfellow, President; Victor Mercurio, President-Elect; Karen Tarasevich, Vice President; Kathy Crowley, Secretary; Donna Ottaviano, Treasurer; and Mike Barnes, Past -President.


    Karen Tarasevich and Larry Filippelli made moving tributes to the Rising Star scholarship awardees, Matthew Susi from West Warwick and Brandon Huff of Scituate.

  • 15 Mar 2017 11:51 AM | Judy Spremulli (Administrator)

    News: Jo Eva Gaines: 2017 Paul Crowley Award Winner

    The Rhode Island School Superintendents’ Association (RISSA) tenth annual Paul W. Crowley Award is awarded to Jo Eva Gaines. Mrs. Gaines is two-time Chair and present member of the Newport School Committee and serves on the Rhode Island Board of Education. The presentation was given in the State Room of the Rhode Island State House at 3:00 pm on March 1, 2017.


    The PAUL CROWLEY AWARD is given each year by the Rhode Island School Superintendents’ Association to a Rhode Island citizen or organization who, in his or her professional and personal capacity, has demonstrated a long-standing commitment to improving the quality of education for the children of Rhode Island as did Representative Paul Crowley throughout his career as a state representative from Newport. A $1,000 scholarship will be awarded to a deserving senior planning a career in education and graduating from a Rhode Island public high school in the name of the Foundations.


    Jo Eva Gaines has been a strong advocate for children and public education in Rhode Island. In addition to her service on the Newport School Committee and the Board of Education, she has been an active member of the Rhode Island Association of School Committees, serving on its Executive Board for many years.


    Speakers at the presentation included Governor Raimondo, Senate President Paiva Weed, House HEW Chair Joe McNamara, Chair of the Board of Education Barbara Cottam, and Commissioner Ken Wagner.



     The link to the event is:


  • 05 Oct 2016 10:12 AM | Judy Spremulli (Administrator)


    New England Association of School Superintendents Honor RISSA Members Rosemarie Kraeger, Arthur Campbell, and Tim Ryan


    The New England Association of School Superintendents (NEASS) held their 199th Annual Fall Conference in Newport. The conference theme was: Social-Emotional Learning and the new ESSA: Current State of Research, Policy, and Practice. The following awards were presented:


    The NEASS President’s Award was presented to Rosemarie Kraeger, Superintendent of the Middletown Schools for the past 19 years. Mrs. Kraeger is recognized by her peers as a distinguished educator and advocate for public schools. Mrs. Kraeger has been the recipient of numerous awards including The National Distinguished Principals Award, Milliken Family Educators Award, Fordham University Alumni Achievement Award, as well as the Rhode Island Superintendent of the Year. She has served as the President of the Rhode Island School Superintendents Association (RISSA), presented at numerous national conferences and is national Vice Chair of the Military Interstate Children’s Compact. She began her career teaching in the New York City Public Schools.


    The Alice Duckworth Achievement in Education Award winner is Arthur Campbell. Mr. Campbell began his career as a teacher of math and science in Jamestown and South Kingstown. He was appointed Superintendent of the South Kingstown Schools in 1984 and served until 1996. He also served as interim Superintendent of Schools in South Kingstown, Narragansett, and Lincoln. Mr. Campbell was selected as RISSA 1995 Superintendent of the Year and 2004 Rhode Island College Alumnus of the Year.

    He is the past President of the Rhode Island School Superintendents Association, long-time Executive Committee member, and the organization’s Executive Director from 1996 to 2006. Mr. Campbell is recognized as a consummate professional who has embodied the characteristics of an educational leader throughout his long career serving public education in Rhode Island.


    The Lincoln Lynch Career Achievement Award recipient is Dr. Timothy P. Ryan, Executive Director of the Rhode Island School Superintendents Association. Dr. Ryan began his career as a public school teacher in Newport in1972 and served as a principal in Newport and Portsmouth. He served six years as Superintendent of Schools in Portsmouth, interim Superintendent in North Providence, and worked in numerous districts in Rhode Island as an administrator and consultant. His research interest is the relationship between educational spending and student achievement. He has been active at the Rhode Island State House as an advocate for public education and served on numerous commissions and public policy groups.

  • 24 Aug 2016 12:44 PM | Judy Spremulli (Administrator)

    Kristen Stringfellow, Superintendent of the South Kingstown Schools, has recently been named the 2017 Rhode Island Superintendent of the year.  The announcement was made at the August 17 RISSA meeting.

    This award is given for outstanding achievement in school district leadership, dedication to education of all students and a commitment to the Superintendent's Association.

    Kristen has been superintendent of South Kingstown schools since 2009 and under her leadership the district has implemented a one-to-one laptop computer program at the high school.  She has pioneered a dual-language Spanish immersion program in Kindergarten and first grade.  Her district team has instituted curriculum reform created an alternative high school credit recovery program and Saturday school, boosted student performance, and narrowed the achievement gap.

  • 10 May 2016 10:12 AM | Judy Spremulli (Administrator)

    North Providence school superintendent Melinda Smith received the 2016 Honor Roll Award from Rhode Island College(RIC) at a special ceremony held on May 5.

    The Honor Roll Award is granted annually to recognize Rhode Island College Alumni for their achievements in their chosen fields and their distinction as role models.   A student from RIC's Feinstein School of Education and Human Development was co-honored with a $1,000 scholarship from the Alumni Association in conjunction with Melinda's honor.

    RISSA congratulates Melinda on this well-deserved recognition.

  • 24 Mar 2016 10:21 AM | Judy Spremulli (Administrator)

     Excerpts from a letter to RIchard Culatta from Michael Barnes, RISSA President:

    "Personally, I believe the Governor’s Computer Science for RI initiative will help schools throughout Rhode Island prepare students for high-demand and high-wage jobs and advance the economic well-being of our state. Since the roll out of the initiative I have spoken to a number of my colleagues who had positive views and expressed strong support for the underlying goals articulated on Monday." 

    "A focus on Computer Science in schools throughout our state, that builds on existing work, is a helpful step toward closing the skills gap in RI and expanding opportunities for students. There are a number of logistical challenges to K-12 implementation such as professional development, the inability to engage in some types of programming in a non-cloud based setting using Chromebooks, and current graduation requirements at the high school level that call for a specific number of credits in different subject areas. These requirements, coupled with college and university expectations for courses to be taken in high school, can limit the opportunities that students have to take advantage of opportunities such as Computer Science over multiple years. These are solvable problems with flexibility and innovative thinking."


  • 03 Sep 2015 11:03 AM | Judy Spremulli (Administrator)


    Georgia Fortunato, Superintendent in Lincoln,

    Selected as 2016

    Rhode Island Superintendent of the Year



    Georgia Fortunato, Superintendent of the Lincoln Public Schools, is the 2015-16Rhode Island Superintendent of the Year. Her selection by the Rhode Island School Superintendents' Association (RISSA) was announced at its General Membership Meeting on August 19. The ovation accorded to Ms. Fortunato by hercolleagues was an indication of the high esteem in which she is held.  The award recognizes outstanding achievement in school district leadership, dedication to the education of all children, commitment to the community, and service to RISSA.  The award was presented to Georgia by Barry Ricci, Chariho Regional School District Superintendent, and winner of the 2014-15 award. In addition to herfellow administrators, Rhode Island Education Commissioner Ken Wagner, the event’s guest speaker, Dr. Tom DiPaola, RISSA Crowley Award winner of 2014, and Carol Blanchette, Superintendent of the Jamestown Schools and RISSA President-Elect, her Lincoln administration team members, and her daughter Katina were in attendance.

    Ms. Fortunato has served as the Superintendent in Lincoln since 2007 and previously served the district as special education teacher, Transition Coordinator, and Director of Student Services. She is the Chair of the Northern Collaborate Board of Superintendents, a member of the RIC Alumni Board of Directors, the New England Association of Schools and College’s Advisory committee, and a guest lecturer at CCRI, Providence College, and RIC.

    Under her leadership, the district has taken a global approach to closing achievement gaps. She has directed incredible infrastructure efforts for her district with a $2.2 million technology initiative, 2.3 million facility upgrade, and $1.5 million security initiative. As Superintendent, Lincoln has won a $935,000 Teaching American History grant, $400,000 World of Work grant, and a $100,000 Champlin Foundation grant to establish a broadcast studio. Her nominators for the award describe her as “an organized, innovative and effective leader, contributing valuable input on behalf of public education both locally and nationally while maintaining a clear educational vision upholding the most rigorous standards and expectations”.

    Georgia has been an active member of RISSA serving multiple terms on the Executive Committee, Special Awards Committee, and Legislative Committee. She is also active in statewide committees and policy development.

    Ms. Fortunato received her bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from Rhode Island College. She is a graduate of Classical High School.

    Ms. Fortunato will be honored by the American Association of School Administrators at the National Conference on Education to be held in Phoenix in February 2016.  








  • 12 May 2015 10:24 AM | Judy Spremulli (Administrator)

     Retiree Ennis Bisbano, the Retired Superintendent of Bristol Public Schools Ennis Bisbano ’55, M.Ed. ’61 received the Charles B. Willard Achievement Award for bringing honor to RIC through distinguished professional achievement.  RIC President Nancy Carrioulo and Alumni Association President Bill Fazioli presented Ennis with the Award.  Upon receiving the award, Ennis acknowledged his family and thanked the Rhode Island College community for granting him this honor in the twilight of his life.

  • 07 May 2015 2:16 PM | Judy Spremulli (Administrator)

    Below is a link to the Data Team Minutes


2480 Post Road, Warwick, RI  02886

Mailing Address:  PO Box 7791, Warwick, RI  02887

(p) 401.272.9811, Press 3
(f) 401.272.9834
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