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13 Takeaways from the April 12 School Committee Meeting

Garabedian will repeat as chair, with backup from Biagioni-Smith

1. This was the first meeting after the local town election, and the first meeting for new member Katie Anderson. It began with a reorganization of the officers. Bridget Garabedian was re-elected chair unanimously. Both Rich Russo and Kayla Biagioni-Smith were nominated for vice-chair; ultimately Biagioni-Smith was elected 4-1, and newcomer Anderson was elected clerk unanimously.

2. Rania Eloui’s Student Council representative report included that the council is planning Teacher Appreciation events and will be chairing a special education prom at TMHS. There will be a college fair on April 14. The Theatre Company’s production of Beauty and the Beast will debut on April 29. The NHS induction was March 29, and the junior prom was April 6. Seniors are currently working on their senior projects.

3. Superintendent Brenda Regan gave a presentation on DESE’s Comprehensive District Review (CDR) and Superintendent Entry findings. Tewksbury was randomly chosen to participate in the CDR process in May 2022. The review focuses on six standards that DESE deems important. In addition to this review, the superintendent and assistant superintendent, Lori McDermott, met with various stakeholders in the community to further understand the district. Twenty hours of interviews were conducted with 65 stakeholders, and 60 classroom observations were done.

The district currently has 3,201 students enrolled; 79.4% are white, 5.2% African American, 4.9% Asian, 7.9% Hispanic, .1% Native American, and 2.5% are multi-race, non-Hispanic.

Some additional stats: 10.4% of students do not have English as their first language, 4.3% are English language learners, 22% are low income, 19.8% are students with disabilities, and 38.3% are high needs.

The School Committee was found to be collaborative, allow opportunities for students to have input in decision-making and to have transparency. Areas for them to work on were an evaluation process for the superintendent’s performance and a system for collective bargaining.

The district’s strengths lie in working collaboratively and including teachers in decision-making processes, specifically in regard to curriculum, using resources and data to improves outcomes for all students, having standards-based instruction, creating career pathways, creating welcoming environments for students, and having a concise budget and a long-term capital plan. For staff specifically there are systems to share information, long-term staffing plans and mentoring programs.

There are some areas with growth opportunities, like greater transparency in the curriculum selection process, ensuring that the curriculum can be delivered in the allotted time, access to higher-level work, more timely use of data, a strategy to diversify staff, teacher input on professional development, teacher leadership opportunities and the number and quality of special education staff.

The next step is to merge the district’s goals, the CDR and feedback to create an updated plan that will include increasing student voices, increasing differentiated instruction and full inclusion, increasing language development, more data-driven instruction and analysis, and a professional development advisory that assists in planning.

The full presentation can be found in the School Committee packet here.

4. Director of literacy Felicia Cenanovic updated the committee on the ELA Curriculum Pilot Project that has been ongoing for the last year. The pilot began because the district was looking for a curriculum to replace Journeys, which the district had used for six years. The district tested two programs, EL Education and Wit & Wisdom.

The final decision was based on three factors: scope, range and quality of the program; resources, staff value and observable student learning; and overall program cost. Ultimately the recommendation was for EL Education

Features that teachers found valuable during the pilot include embedded social-emotional learning, the high-interest text collections and that this program includes hands-on learning and writing instruction.

The committee unanimously voted to fund the new program.

5. The Citizens Forum had only one speaker, Danielle Bresnahan. Bresnahan spoke last month about polices pertaining to the physical and mental well-being of all our students. She is asking for the committee to create a policy to inform parents and for the district to be more proactive versus reactive.

“The fact is when there are not policies in place to support the needs of all of our students, everyone suffers,” said Bresnahan. “It’s not fair to our teachers, our students or the parents to lead them to navigate these challenges and struggles on their own with no meaningful information from the schools.”

6. This week the biliteracy exams are taking place, per Regan’s Report. April 14 is an early release day, and next week is April vacation. The Tewksbury School Committee policy manual is back online, and the 39th Annual District Art Show will be May 5.

7. Assistant Superintendent Lori McDermott thanked teachers for being so flexible on the last professional development day. Cale Burke was back, with Vision of a Learner. There were two consultants from MGH to talk about the science of reading. There was also some professional development from the math coaches.

The Standards-Based Report Card committee is still working on the logistics of rolling out a new reporting system. The district was awarded the Accelerated Learning Literacy Through High Quality Instructional Materials Grant. This will help support teachers through a shift in how schools think about and teach reading.

8. Business Manager Dave Libby had a couple of updates. First was transportation: Due to unprecedented driver shortages, the district had to redo some routes and combine some of the Wynn and TMHS routes. The issue seems to be improving. Libby thanked bus drivers for the extra work they’ve been putting in.

The district has slowly been clearing out the North Street and Trahan schools. Some items have been taken by other in-district schools, and some items will be going to other districts.

The HVAC at the Ryan and Wynn will be upgraded, and the projects are funded.

9. School Committee Member Reports

  • Elementary School Building: Libby said the committee is trying to have May be final request for change orders so the town can give the MSBA the final cost, so it can do its final audit and release the funds.
  • Tewksbury SEPAC: At the last meeting, SRO Riser gave a presentation and discussed the training these officers do yearly. Principal Gerrish also discussed the training that general education and special education teachers receive. PCPA Kyle Benson discussed the difference between the time-out room and a cool-out space. Parents said there could be more communication in transition from school to school.
  • Wellness Advisory Committee: No updates
  • Policy Sub-Committee: No updates

10. Libby and Town Manager Richard Montuori are recommending a School District Budget of $54,982,262, for the 2023-2024 school year. This is a 3.67% increase from the current year. The full budget proposal can be found in the School Committee packet here. The budget recommendation was passed unanimously.

11. The official last day of school is June 16, and it will be an early release day.

12. Tewksbury will continue to not accept school choice students in a unanimous vote.

13. School Committee member matters of interest: Biagioni-Smith noted that the Committee was invited to the junior prom. She and Garabedian attended and both thought it was a great event. Garabedian shared that the School Committee Day on Beacon Hill is upcoming, and she and Biagioni-Smith will be attending.

The deadline to nominate someone for the Ginsberg Family Award and the Krissy Polimeno Outstanding Educator Award is today. Learn how here. And lastly, Nick Parsons is the MIAA School Committee representative for cross country, and Biagioni-Smith the representative for special education.

Future Meeting Dates:

  • Regular School Committee Meeting: May 10
  • Regular School Committee Meeting: May 17
  • 2023 School Committee Training/Workshop: May 31
  • Regular School Committee Meeting: June 14
  • Elementary School Building Committee: April 27
  • TSEPAC Business Meeting: April 27
  • Wellness Advisory Committee Meeting: May 23
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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