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14 Takeaways from the Jan. 11 School Committee Meeting

1. The first half hour of the meeting was the budget workshop for the 2023-2024 school year. The preliminary budget can be found in the School Committee packet here. TPS Business Manager Eileen Osbourne gave tonight’s update. FY24 will be a 3% increase to the overall budget. Regular and unclassified expenses will raise 1.51%, special education costs will be up 6.51% and salary and operation expenses will raise 3.12%. Capital overlay, however, will be drop by 3.5%.

Any COVID ESSR funds will need to be used by 2024; currently there are 12 positions being paid for through these funds. Administration is looking at these positions to see which will still be needed and how to continue to fund them.

The district will still have access to $3 million dollars in grants.

2. The regular meeting began with recognitions for the Girl’s Varsity Volleyball team, the MIAA Div III state champions, and the ESports Team, the MSAA Esports Rocket League State Champions.

3. The TPS pre-school options were tonight’s presentation. Currently the Dewing pre-school program offers special education services, not available at the Heath Brook program, and the Heath Brook program offers a full-day program not available at the Dewing.

The Dewing currently serves 115 students and the Heath Brook, 45. In the Dewing program, 43 are in the Heath Brook district, and 10 Heath Brook students live in the Dewing district. Next year the plan is to have both schools offer both options and to have students attend their home schools based on address. There is no plan to expand the program at the moment.

The only change to the pre-school program offered at TMHS is a one-time $100 fee. Additional information about pricing can be found in the School Committee packet.

4. Brenda Regan’s superintendent report started out with a thank you to the Tewksbury Fire Department for offering a CPR class for Food and Nutrition Services staff.

Mockup of the Ryan and Center Schools

Next Regan discussed the opening of the new Center Elementary School. She spoke of the leadership of Principal Jay Harding and Assistant Principal Rob Rogers, who held three days of student field trips and hosted parent and student tours during the student December break. Over 1,000 people toured over three nights.

Staff was able to pack up the schools prior to the December break and, as of the first day back, 99% of the moving crates had been unpacked. She noted many staff members had come in over the vacation week to begin unpacking.

Both the move manager and the moving company said this was one of the top projects they’d ever worked on.

January 5 welcomed 755 students to the new school. They all received a bagged breakfast and a new Center Elementary shirt, courtesy of the PAC. All staff and students wore their new shirts Friday for the first spirit day.

Both lunches and drop off and pick up are going smoothly. The last bus is arriving at 8:50 and the district is working to improve that.

Regan commended the staff and said parents and students have been great.

An official ribbon cutting is planned for February 3 during the school day, but for the safety of the students, it is an invite-only ceremony. There will be an open house for the community on February 4. The March 8 School Committee meeting will be held at the new school.

5. Lori McDermott’s Assistant Superintendent report concerned the ongoing ELA pilot. Teachers are already seeing positive results from the new programs. The hope is to have a proposal in April for one of the programs.

Kindergarten registration is beginning for the 2023-2024 school year. All registration information can be found on the district’s website here.

6. Sub-Committee Reports:

  • Elementary School Building Committee: There is still some construction closeout happening.
  • Tewksbury SEPAC: There is a basic rights workshop that is taking place on Thursday, January 19 at 6:30 p.m. Registration in advance is required and the workshop is virtual.

7. The Policy Subcommittee had a few more updates before they take a break. Changes can be found in the School Committee packet.

Policies for consideration for revision on second and final reading (unanimously approved)

  • EB-Safety Program
  • EBB-First Aid
  • EBC-Emergency Plans
  • EBCD-Emergency Closings
  • EC-Buildings and Grounds Management
  • ECA-Buildings and Grounds Security
  • ECAC-Vandalism
  • EDC-Authorized Use of School-Owned Materials
  • EEA-Student Transportation Services
  • EEAA-Walkers and Riders
  • EEAE-School Bus Safety Program
  • EEAEB-Drug and Alcohol Testing for School Bus and Commercial Vehicle Drivers
  • EEAG-Student Transportation in Private Vehicles
  • EEAJ-Motor Vehicles Idling on School Grounds

8. Assistant Superintendent McDermott gave an update on the professional development done just before the December break and in early January. Teachers had PD on the vision of a learner, fostering a sense of belonging and social emotional learning. And, Center Elementary School staff engaged in activities to set up their new space, learn about their new school and their building.

9. The Wynn and TMHS Drama Programs sought approval for a trip to NYC to see & Juliet on Broadway. Students will see the show, do a Broadway workshop and eat dinner for a total cost of $277 per student. There would be 45 students with three chaperones. This is a great opportunity to bridge the middle school and high school programs and give students the opportunity to see live theater. There was unanimous approval.

10. The preschool program requested the purchase of the Frog Street textbooks for a new pre-school curriculum. The entire pre-school team agrees that this is the program that would best meet the needs of the district’s youngest learners. The motion passed unanimously.

11. A copy of the 2023-2024 School Calendar Draft and the 2023 MCAS dates can also be found in the packet, here.

12. It was time for the Superintendent mid-year review, which is goal focused. All committee members rated Regan as progressing or meeting expectations in all categories. She is making sufficient progress to meet the goals established for the 2022-2023 school year. She has maintained communication with the members of the school committee and has been effectively working to restore and maintain relationships throughout all stakeholders.

Per Committee Chair Bridget Garabedian, Regan “has developed, presented and is working through implementation of a well-written entry plan in her first year as superintendent. She has laid out a strategic plan to develop her skills, leadership and relationships with all stakeholders.”

The Center Elementary building project was delivered on time on budget despite some very challenging times. While opening a new school, she has maintained the priority of supporting building administrators and instructional leaders.

13. In School Committee matters of interest, member Rich Russo share that he was a judge for the DECA program at UMASS Lowell and thought the day was successful. Vice Chair Keith Sullivan gave a shout out to residents for trust in the district and leadership in the process of opening a new school.

14. Upcoming meeting dates:

  • Budget Public Hearing & School Committee 2/8
  • Budget Public Hearing & School Committee 3/8
  • Reorganization Meeting & Regular School Committee 4/12
  • Elementary School Building Committee 1/12
  • TSEPAC Basic Rights Workshop 1/19
  • Wellness Advisory Committee 3/1
Julie Naughton
Julie Naughton

Julie likes coffee and covers education and all things concerning the Tewksbury Public Schools, along with other topics, for the Carnation. Contact her at: attn Julie N.

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