Charting the course 
        for public education...

Rhode Island School Superintendents' Association


  • 12 Oct 2017 12:11 PM | Tom DiPaola (Administrator)

    Members of RISSA and RIASBO enjoy productive day hearing from Ben Scungio and his colleagues and from representatives of the Interlocal Trust and the Governor's Workforce Board.

  • 30 Sep 2017 6:26 PM | Tom DiPaola (Administrator)

    Three RI Schools Receive National Blue Ribbon Awards Sept 2017

    he U.S. Department of Education today announced three Rhode Island schools as National Blue Ribbon Schools for 2017, based on their overall academic excellence or their progress in closing achievement gaps.

    The schools receiving this honor are Classical High School in Providence, Community Elementary Schoolin Cumberland, and Fishing Cove Elementary School in North Kingstown.

    “Providing challenging, high-quality, and engaging learning experiences is what our public schools are called upon to do, and our Blue Ribbon Schools set the bar high,” said Governor Gina M. Raimondo. “Our success as a state, economically and otherwise, relies on education, and our Blue Ribbon Schools serve as a model for how we can improve outcomes for all schools and all students. Congratulations to these school communities on this exciting achievement.”

    “Being recognized as a Blue Ribbon School is a tremendous accomplishment. It takes strong leadership, dedicated educators, hard-working students, and a school culture that inspires excellence,” said Barbara S. Cottam, Chair of the Board of Education. “Thank you to Classical, Community, and Fishing Cove Schools for your commitment to great teaching and learning.”

  • 14 Sep 2017 2:45 PM | Tom DiPaola (Administrator)

    Governor Raimondo creates School Building Task Force for recommendations in advance of FY19 budget


    PROVIDENCE, R.I. – School buildings in every district in the state get a failing grade in Rhode Island’s first-ever statewide, independent study of public school facilities.


    The R.I. Department of Education (RIDE)’s 2017 State of Rhode Island Schoolhouses report, a year-long assessment commissioned by the School Building Authority (SBA) and completed by Jacobs Engineering, forecasts $627.6 million in high-priority construction and repairs needed to keep students and teachers warm, safe and dry in their classrooms. The statewide cost to bring all school buildings into ideal condition is estimated at $2.2 billion.


    “Every generation of Rhode Islanders has worked hard and made sacrifices so the next generation has more opportunity than the one before. But most of our classrooms and school buildings haven’t been improved in 25 years,” Governor Gina M. Raimondo said. “We must make a once-in-a-generation investment in our school buildings to address immediate health and safety needs in every district, and to give our children the 21st century classrooms they need to compete in the world today.”


    At a press conference at the Bristol-Warren district’s Kickemuit Middle School attended by Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education Ken Wagner, General Treasurer Seth Magaziner and dozens of state and local school officials, community leaders and elected officials, Raimondo signed an executive order creating the Rhode Island School Buildings Task Force. The group will consider district feedback and public input to develop an action plan that includes potential funding streams and recommendations on how to effectively maximize resources. The task force will report its recommendations to the Governor by December 2017.


    Raimondo also said she will hold a series of community forums in October to solicit feedback from parents, students, teachers and school administrators before including a comprehensive school infrastructure plan in her proposed FY19 budget.


    “This is a call to action, and it is our hope that this data-based approach will empower communities to thoughtfully prioritize their needs and make smart investments, accordingly,” said Commissioner Wagner. “RIDE will continue to support districts in their efforts to modernize and improve school infrastructure, with a renewed emphasis on projects that have emerged as most urgently needed for the safety, well-being, and success of our students.”


    The task force, which is co-chaired by Treasurer Magaziner and Commissioner Wagner, includes the following members:

    • DOA Director Michael DiBiase, School Building Authority Advisory Board
    • Senator Hannah Gallo (Cranston) on behalf of the Senate
    • Jamestown Town Manager Andy Nota, on behalf of the League of Cities and Towns
    • Joseph Dewhirst, Chairman, Rhode Island Health and Education Building Corporation
    • Michael Sabitoni, President, RI Building and Construction Trades Council and Business Manager, Laborers Local 271
    • Frank Flynn, President, Rhode Island Federation of Teachers and Health Professionals
    • Larry Purtill, President, National Education Association of Rhode Island and Member, Council of Elementary and Secondary Education
    • Kinzel Thomas, Providence School Board, on behalf of the RI Association of School Committees
    • Barry Ricci, Chariho Superintendent, on behalf of the RI School Superintendents Association
    • Patricia Flanagan, M.D., Pediatrician-in-Chief at Hasbro Children’s Hospital and professor of pediatrics at Brown Medical School
    • Neil Steinberg, Rhode Island Foundation President
    • John Hazen White, Jr., President & CEO, Taco, Inc.
    • Elizabeth Burke Bryant, Executive Director, Rhode Island KIDS COUNT

    “Our public schools are the foundation of economic opportunity and Rhode Islanders have had to settle for antiquated and inadequate schools for too long,” Treasurer Magaziner said. “We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to get smarter about how we plan and finance school construction at the State and local levels. I look forward to bringing together stakeholders from throughout the Ocean State to develop a plan that puts Rhode Islanders to work building the schools that will allow our next generations to compete and succeed.”


    The Jacobs study began in January 2016 and involved the on-site assessment of 306 school campuses, accounting for more than 24 million square feet, by teams of architects, engineers, and specialists. These assessment teams evaluated everything from roofs and HVAC systems to technology and acoustics, identifying deficiencies and creating a five-year lifecycle forecast for each facility. Potential energy cost savings were also identified, amounting to $33.6 million annually across the state.


    The report breaks down five levels of priority costs, ranging from mission critical to aesthetic enhancements. The $627.6 million safe, warm, and dry standard represents priorities 1 and 2 from the total facility deficiencies. Of that figure, $54.5 million in deficiencies are considered “priority 1,” or “mission critical concerns,” such as building safety or code compliance.


    “This marks the end of the study but just the beginning of a conversation on how we can better protect and maximize school facilities across the state, because investing in our schools and our students cannot wait,” said Barbara S. Cottam, Chair of the Board of Education. “With this clear understanding of the state of our school facilities, all stakeholders – from the schoolhouse to the State House – are better positioned to move forward, together, and improve conditions for all kids.”


    In addition to the assessment report and the recommended action plan delivered by Jacobs, the public has full access to the data, broken down by district and individual schools. An interactive map available on RIDE’s website enables Rhode Islanders to compare districts and review findings for their local schools. 


  • 14 Sep 2017 2:23 PM | Tom DiPaola (Administrator)

    Ms. Karen Tarasevich, Superintendent of the West Warwick Public Schools, has been chosen as the 2018 Rhode Island Superintendent of the Year. Her selection by the Rhode Island School Superintendents' Association (RISSA) was announced at its General Membership Meeting on August 16, 2017. The ovation accorded to Ms.Tarasevich by her colleagues 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 Karen by Dr. Kristen Stringfellow, Superintendent of the South Kingstown Public Schools, winner of the 2017 Superintendent of the Year award and RISSA President. In addition to her fellow administrators, Rhode Island Education Commissioner Ken Wagner, Karen’s husband Paul and friend Maribeth Williamson were in attendance. 

    Ms. Tarasevich has served as the Superintendent in West Warwick since 2013. She previously served as the high school principal in West Warwick. Prior to that she served as the Associate Principal of Secondary Schools in West Warwick, and she was a middle school and high school English teacher in Narragansett. 

    Karen was recognized by President Obama at the White House in November 2014 for West Warwick Public School’s commitment to Future Ready learning and technology integration in education (one of 100 Superintendents chosen nationally). 

    Karen served as a presenter at the RI Innovation Technology Conference in 2014, 2015 and 2016. She has served on the Ridley Lowell Technical Institute Advisory Board since 2014 and was the keynote speaker at the Institute’s inaugural graduation. She was invited to present at the National Conference on Labor Management in Washington DC in September of 2015. U.S. Department of Education Secretary, John King, and Governor Gina Raimondo visited West Warwick High School in December of 2016 when West Warwick High School was chosen as a model example of computer science programming and implementation. Karen is the author of “Blended learning in West Warwick and the Rewards of Reaching 1:1 Ratio” published in the Blended Chronicle, 2016. 

    Under her leadership, the district has taken on numerous initiatives. They increased the graduation rate by 19% in 4 years. Students make consistent gains in standardized testing scores in English Language Arts and Mathematics. They implemented an intensive Dropout Prevention Initiative and transition program. They created a proficiency based summer school and engaged in credit retrieval and ramp up opportunities for students. They implemented Lab Classrooms across the district and West Warwick students received state and national recognition from NEEDS Science Renewable Energy Association and SKILLS USA. 

    Karen has been an active member of RISSA serving as Secretary, Executive Committee member since 2013. She currently serves as the Vice-President of RISSA. 

    Ms. Tarasevich received her Bachelor’s degrees in Secondary Education with a minor in English from the University of Rhode Island. She received her Master’s degree from Providence College in School Administration. 

    Karen and her husband Paul reside in South Kingstown with their children Paul and Joe. She is a lifelong Rhode Island resident. Karen is beginning her 18th year in education and her 5th year as Superintendent of Schools. 

    Karen Tarasevich will be honored by the American Association of School Administrators at the National Conference on Education to be held in Nashville, TN in February, 2017.

  • 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.


2480 Post Road, Warwick, RI  02886

Mailing Address:  PO Box 7791, Warwick, RI  02887

(p) 401.272.9811, Press 3
(f) 401.272.9834
Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software