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6 Highlights From the March 9 School Committee Meeting

This week’s meeting was upbeat, with recognition for a longtime educator and a guest appearance by Officer Waffles.

Business manager Dave Libby shared some updated numbers for the budget. The district is now looking for 2.12% increase — versus the 2.34% reported in February — to the salary, operating and capital outlay budget. The change is due to a decrease in salary expenditures.

Our breakdown of last month’s budget presentation can be found here, and Libby’s full presentation is available here.

The town had planned on a 6% increase to Shawsheen Valley Technical High School expenditures, but Shaw Tech’s budget request came in approximately $123,000 higher than anticipated. Due to recent retirements and replacements and moving one nurse’s salary to ESSER III grant money, the district was able provide $115,327 of those funds. Town manager Richard Montuori will fund the balance from the town budget. This creates a decrease in the district’s salary expenses, lowering the budgetary needs for the 2022-2023 school year.

For the fixed costs and debt portion of the budget, the district is now looking at a 1.49% increase, down from the 1.66% increase anticipated last month.

George Paul was honored by colleagues and the School Committee as he retires for the second time. Paul began his tenure in 1966 and is finishing his 56th year of service to Tewksbury. He retired as the Louise Davy Trahan Elementary School principal in 2008, but was immediately recruited as co-director of the Title 1 Grant program. He is a much loved and respected figure and will be missed.

SRO Eric Hanley and his partner, Officer Waffles, were at the meeting to give an update on Waffles’ progress. The puppy is growing fast and will be six months old on March 13. Waffles has been preforming fantastically at his training, even being named “Valedogtorian” of his last six-week training program. Waffles continues his training at Auntie Dog, in town, and Officer Hanley plans to pursue a certified therapy dog program when Waffles comes of age.

“I want that for the dog,” said Hanley, whose committment to the partnership is evident.

Technology and curriculum updates were next on the agenda. Jason Stamp, STEM director, gave an update on the district’s technology. Currently there are 4,000 Chromebooks, 1,500 iPads and 350 teacher laptops in use. TMHS supports one-to-one device usage, which is creating equity for all students. The plan is to roll this one-to-one ratio out to grades 5-8 next year.

The district is also moving away from outdated SmartBoards to the newer and more advanced Clear Touch Interactive panels. The new panels will be in every classroom in the new Center Elementary School, and as the older boards fail, they will be replaced with the Clear Touch model. If you’d like to see the new technology, check out this demo.

Stamp also noted that the district is currently without technology coaches but is in the process of staffing that position, and support for technology will be back in the fall.

District math coaches Erin Swanson, Laura Szum and Sarah Yore spoke about the new K-4 math curriculum. In order to bring the curriculum up to current standards, the district will be moving away from GoMath. The math coaches have put together a curriculum to meet the new standards and have begun rolling that out. Kindergarten and 1st grade have started using the new curriculum, and grades 2-4 will begin next year. Coaches will be available to support teachers during this transition.

Heath Brook Elementary School principal Felicia Cenanovic gave an update on K-6 literacy instructional materials. The district currently uses MMH Journeys for their curriculum but is interested in purchasing new materials to address educational gaps that have been identified. Due to the new school opening, implementation of new materials won’t happen until the 2023-2024 school year. Next year, the focus will be on planning and piloting a new literacy program.

The majority of staff support piloting a new program, with 32% expressing interest in participating in the pilot.

Interim superintendent Brenda Regan’s update hit multiple topics. Regan noted that masks became optional on Feb. 28 and shared that 20% of students and staff are opting to still wear masks. She was pleased to report that there was no spike in COVID cases after the February vacation, unlike the uptick seen after the December vacation.

Parent/teacher conferences will be hybrid this spring. Parents can opt for either an in person or a remote conference.

The Social Host and Underage Drinking Law presentation that was postponed will now be on March 23 and will be a live stream. This program is put on by the Middlesex County District Attorney’s Office and the Tewksbury Police Department and covers potential civil and criminal liability for residents who allow minors to drink in their homes. Massachusetts’ Melanie’s Law provides for more stringent license suspensions for those under 21 convicted of an OUI, and hosts who furnish alcohol to minors may be subject to penalties up to $2,000 in fines and a year in prison.

Junior and Senior students and their parents are required to attend if the student is planning on attending the prom. An email will be sent to families with the link.

The district’s ESSER III grant was approved. The grant is for $2.77 million and has to be spent by Sept. 1, 2024. The district will allot 50% of these finds to address learning loss. To see the the full breakdown of the ESSER grant, click here. A $200,000 Accelerating Literacy Learning with High-Quality Instructional Materials grant will also be awarded by DESE. These funds will be used to purchase any materials needed for the literacy program update.

MCAS testing begins March 21, and all dates can be found on the district calendar.

After the unfortunate assault and battery with a dangerous weapon incident at a recent TMHS/Billerica basketball game, 24 students — 12 from each school — will be meeting to discuss the commonalities that all students share and how they can maintain positive relationships even as rivals.

TMHS updates:

The Drama club is working hard at its presentation of Mama Mia. Performances will be April 28, 29 and 30. Tickets can be purchased here.

Thirty-four DECA students are heading to Boston this weekend to for state competitions.

The THMS hockey team made it to the state quarter finals 🎉 and won their game last night.

This week marked the last official meeting for School Committee members Shannon Demos and John Stadtman, and we all wish them luck in their next endeavors. TMHS student Jack Stadtman will also be ending his tenure as the Student Representative to the School Committee; all members wished him well and said he would be missed.

The next School Committee meeting is a special meeting to discuss the superintendent search and will be March 16 at 3 p.m. The next regular meeting is April 13.

Click here to see the full School Committee packet that includes the slides for the evening’s presentations.

And click here to see the recording of the meeting.

Julie Naughton
Julie Naughton

Julie likes coffee and covers education and all things concerning the Tewksbury Public Schools for the Carnation.
Contact her at:
editor@tewksburycarnation.org, attn Julie N.

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