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10+ Takeaways from the May 31 School Committee Meeting

Congratulations to all the volunteers who were recognized, especially Julie Naughton

The Tewksbury School Committee met last night with all members present. 

After exiting executive session, the committee recognized PAC volunteers from each school and announced this year’s recipients of the Ginsburg Family Award and the Krissy Polimeno Outstanding Educator Award.

Principals from all Tewksbury Schools spoke of the dedication of their volunteers; a full list of those recognized is in the packet, beginning on Page 7. 

Wynn principal John Weir summed up the sentiments of his fellow administrators.

“They do an outstanding job for our culture and our school, from food truck nights to doing our planters and the flowers, watering them, keeping them watered in this hot weather, to supporting our summer reading, school dances,” said Weir. “These amazing people are bringing boxtops into the digital age and really pushing that with our parents. So big hats off to all of them.”

School Committee member Rich Russo handed out tokens of appreciation. See all our photos here.

The Ginsburg Family Award went to Holt & Bugbee. The Tewksbury-based company was nominated by Patricia Whitehouse, scholarship coordinator for Tewksbury Memorial High School.

“We’re honored to partner with this family of outstanding community members,” said Chair Bridget Garabedian of Mark and Leisa Ginsberg. “They have demonstrated commitment to the children of Tewksbury public schools for more than 25 years. Mark and Leisa have been involved since 1989, beginning when their children entered Tewksbury public schools.”

Garabedian thanked them and their children, Matt and Molly Ginsberg, for countless hours of volunteer time as well as significant financial assistance.

“And now, with their grandchildren attending the Tewksbury public schools, their legacy continues,” she said.

Holt & Bugbee was recognized for donating close to $200,000 in scholarships to Tewksbury students.

“They have generously and annually donated over $10,000 per year for scholarships for Tewksbury Memorial High School seniors who exhibit academic excellence, financial need and community spirit,” said Superintendent Brenda Regan. 

Benjamin Pierce and Michelle Gasson accepted on behalf of Holt & Bugbee, which also supports the Tewksbury Titans Robotics Team.

The Krissy Polimeno Outstanding Educator Award winners were Jay Harding and Rob Rogers, the principal and assistant principal at the new Center Elementary School. The two were nominated by many of the staff members who work with them in recognition of the very successful opening of the new school, in a tight timeframe.

Many of those educators were at the meeting to express their appreciation with a standing ovation.

The Polimeno Outstanding Educator Award was established in 2019 to recognize an educator who has had significant impact on the Tewksbury public schools in the area of active involvement, volunteering and giving a generous amount of time and energy as an advocate for students in the Tewksbury public schools.

“Krissy has been an active, dedicated and committed member of the Tewksbury public school community for over two decades,” said Garabedian, including nine years on the School Committee, seven of them as chair.

“And let me tell you, that is a long time,” she said.

The School Committee issued formal resolutions commending both Harding and Rogers on their commitment to building a family at the Center Elementary School — and for actually completing the move from the Trahan and North Street schools the day before Christmas Eve.

Student Council rep Rania Elouahi was not able to make the meeting.

The TMHS Travel Committee received approval for trips to Puerto Rico and Quebec in February and April 2025, respectively. The price for Puerto Rico is expected to be between $3,433 and $3,083, while the Quebec trip will be $1,297 to $1,474. Students may go on one or both trips, and fundraising will be done to offset costs.

Regan clarified that getting a jump early on booking these trips is financially advantageous.

Russo asked the Travel Committee to market the trips to current middle school students, who may be considering options other than TMHS. 

“It might help them make decisions, where they’re thinking about high school, other technical schools,” said Russo. 

At its last meeting, the committee approved the Travel Committee request to switch the February recess 2024 destination from California to Bryce Canyon, the Grand Canyon and Zion National Parks.

The committee then discussed 2023-2024 student handbooks for the Ryan, Wynn and high school, given the presence of all TPS administrators. Updates are listed in the packet beginning on Page 88.

“I’ve included a link to our website notification on parents’ FERPA rights, so that’s a major change, as well as added a new law language on suspension,” said Regan. “And then some added dress code and cleaning up of our attendance code so that they’re consistent.” 

Russo asked administrators to look closely at the parking fees at the high school.

The committee approved all updates unanimously.

Business Manager Dave Libby reported that the Tewksbury Public Schools recently solicited proposals for regular yellow bus and in-district special education transportation services. The current contract is expiring at the end of this school year. 

Libby invited seven companies to submit proposals. Only Tewksbury Transit submitted a final bid, as shown on Page 97 of the packet. The three-year total for in-district service will be $8,509,380. 

Out-of-district transportation is based on a contract shared with Billerica and Chelmsford; that also expires at the end of this school year. Rates are based on the type of vehicle and whether any EMTs/nurses or monitors are needed. That table is on Page 103.

Libby said there is language in the contract that protects the district in case of, for example, fewer buses than contracted for or consistent late arrivals. He added that Tewksbury Transit is expected to attend a committee meeting in the near future.

The contracts were approved unanimously.

Watch the full meeting on Tewksbury TV

Richard Pelletier and Karen Baker O’Brien briefed the committee on tiered focused monitoring, a review process conducted by DESE every three years to determine the extent to which a district is in compliance with state and federal guidelines on topics including IEP development, programming and support services, and equal opportunities for all students. 

“There were no findings for special ed, which means we fall in the low-risk category,” said Pelletier. “For our civil rights, we did have one partially implemented area, which was for equal access.”

He said that refers to “access to special ed students in the inclusion setting, as opposed to substantially separate.” There is a root-cause analysis by a cross-functional, districtwide team required, with a report to DESE due by June 30..

There is also a question on how well the district translates materials, also inline with civil rights and equitable access. Baker O’Brien said work is underway by building administrators to cover all the languages coming into their schools. Pelletier added that the entire DESE report will be digitized and posted, likely by July or August. 

Baker O’Brien also called out two new initiatives related to student mental health.

“Superintendent Regan and assistant superintendent McDermott have prioritized the mental health of our students,” she said. “One in six students sitting in a classroom suffers from an underlying mental health concern, and so envisioning that [the district has] hired six additional support adjustment counselors and placed them throughout the district. So every building now has a support staff member.”

Still, more is needed. In response, the district has engaged Care Solace, a company that helps parents navigate the mental health care system to find available providers matched to the child’s specific needs. Nine children are currently in treatment, and other schools in the area are using the service.

She also talked about a partnership with Dr. Alex Hirschberg, of Hirshberg Behavioral Health Services, who advised teachers on how to help a child who’s suffering from dysregulation using calming spaces and calming rooms and within a classroom. 

“This is a districtwide initiative,” said Baker O’Brien. “Special Ed is involved. My department is involved. We have our entire support staff, adjustment counselors, guidance counselors, school psychologists and behavioral specialists who have been meeting with Dr. Hirschberg.” 

Pelletier also touched on DLC (development learning center) program expansion. 

Vice-chair Kayla Biagioni-Smith asked how students and families can find out more about Care Solace. 

“Families can self-refer in the town,” said Baker O’Brien. “They have to have kids because this contract does cost the district money, so they do need to have kids in the schools in order to get this service.”

Regan clarified that there will be notices going out through the district newsletter and parents can call O’Brien’s office to get more information.

There will also be a Special Education Extended School Year for pre-K through 12+ at TMHS and the Heath Brook. See page 20 in the packet or contact Pelletier for more information.

There were no speakers in the citizen’s forum.

In her report, Superintendent Brenda Regan congratulated all TMHS drama students for 19 TAMY nominations and eight wins, including Best Overall Production in their division.

Tonight, June 1, is the senior awards and scholarship night. 

“Approximately 115 of our 192 seniors will be receiving awards and scholarships totaling about $170,000 from over 60 generous donations,” said Regan.

Next week is Senior Week, culminating in graduation and the All Night Long celebration.

There are a lot of jobs available for students between the ages of 14 and 17. Students can come to the high school, once they have an offer of a job, to get a work permit. Visit the Business Office during the summer.

Assistant Superintendent Lori McDermott thanked current college students who are helping out as substitute teachers and the PACs for providing books for the 2023 Summer Reading Program.

Students in Grades K-4 will be asked to read three books, one of them nonfiction. The Ryan “one book, one school” featured text is The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate. Wynn students will read Drums, Girls and Dangerous Pie by Jordan Sonnenblick. The books will be provided to all students through partnerships with the Ryan and Wynn PACs. 

TMHS students will pick a book of their choice, with suggestions provided. All information is here.

Libby said the bus fleet has been reduced to 21 to accommodate a lack of drivers, and the bus company is still looking for additional help.

Member Nick Parsons reported that the SEPAC held annual elections. Cochairs are Dina Mancini and Anne Seichter. The SEPAC is interested in getting more mainstream education students involved in their community programming, whether for volunteer hours or student interest. The SEPAC will discuss this with AlphaBest and Best Buddies. The SEPAC will be at the June meeting.

Russo said the Wellness Committee is looking to expand.

There were no policy changes or updates from member Katie Anderson; the committee is looking at parking, homework and a few other areas. 

The Superintendent evaluation timeline update was presented. By July 3, School Committee members will receive superintendent evaluation documents. Regan will distribute and review progress of goals and self-assessment with School Committee members.

Around July 12, members will submit their individual evaluations to Garabedian, who will summarize them for the final report. Later that month, she will deliver both an oral and a written summary of the Superintendent Evaluation Report in a public session.

In School Committee matters of interest, Biagioni-Smith said she looks forward to the senior projects and the special ed vendor event next Wednesday.

Russo called out scholarship night and pre-K graduation and wished all TMHS students luck on their final exams.

Parsons congratulated the Class of 2023. Anderson reminded the community of the upcoming Pride Lights celebration and thanked teachers and aides.

Garabedian invited members to the MASC Summer Institute on July 14 and 15. 

The next School Committee meeting will be on June 14. The Wellness Committee meets June 7, the TSEPAC business meeting is on June 15 and the Elementary School Building Committee gathers on June 22.

Lorna is a U.S. Army veteran and 25-year resident of Tewksbury who has written for organizations ranging from the DIA to InformationWeek to a free weekly in New London that sent her to interview the pastry chef at Foxwoods.

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