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7 Takeaways from the July 19 School Committee Meeting

School Committee conducts superintendent evaluation, reviews bus plan

The Tewksbury School Committee met tonight with all members present. 

The committee held a moment of silence to remember Tewksbury district staff who passed away recently, including teacher and librarian Maureen Kelley, teacher’s aide Pamela Lussier, and former assistant to the superintendent Jan LaRocque.

The TMHS Girls Softball Team was recognized for their recent performance at the MIAA D2 State Championship, coached by Brittney Souza. “They are great representatives of the school and great representatives of the community,” said athletic director Ron Drouin.

Business Manager Dave Libby presented school start and end time recommendations to address bus transportation challenges. Historically, the district has used a three-tiered system to move 24 school buses to serve seven schools. With a driver shortage and challenges with integrating the Center Elementary School into the model, the district is considering slightly shifting start and end times to avoid late arrivals to and from school.

Libby previewed a potential new hybrid model that would share some routes between the CES and the Dewing and Heath Brook schools. The plan would reduce mixing of students and make efficient use of resources, but may result in long routes for less densely populated areas of town for K-1 schools. Another potential model would use separate buses for each school.

To address time issues, Libby proposed eliminating two bus routes for the Ryan School, starting the school day at the Ryan ten minutes earlier, and starting the school day at the Wynn five minutes earlier to allow Wynn buses to make it to the Ryan at the end of the day on time. To mitigate longer drive times, Libby also proposed using single pick-up and drop-off locations for separate, dedicated routes, and increasing driver and parent education about students safely crossing the street to board buses.

Libby shared that the bus company recently had a candidate pass the road test, with several other candidates in training. Superintendent Brenda Theriault-Regan noted that families don’t pay for bus services, unlike in other communities, and the district has a seat for every student, but may begin requiring registration in order to optimize bus routes. The board voted to allow Libby and Theriault-Regan to adjust times as presented, with more information to come at the August meeting.

Theriault-Regan highlighted an increase in students at TMHS taking Advanced Placement tests, with nearly 70% of exams scoring a 3 out of 5 or higher. She also shared that the district received a $94,000 grant from the state to support summer extra help and tutoring programs.

Theriault-Regan discussed the results of the district’s tiered focused monitoring report and continuous improvement and monitoring plan, conducted by the state. The report focuses on special education and civil rights, and found that while the district meets all standards for special education, it falls short in one area of civil rights: “All students do not have equal access to the full range of general education programs,” in a least restrictive environment, she said. 48.6% of eligible special education students are served in a full inclusion setting, a rate lower than the state (67.2%); 29.4% of eligible students are served in a partial inclusion setting, a rate higher than the state. “We are overservicing outside of that general ed setting,” Theriault-Regan said. The district is convening a team to conduct root cause analysis and develop a plan to address overservicing.

School maintenance projects are scheduled to be ongoing throughout the summer, Libby said, including work to the CES gym floor; after suffering shrinkage during the winter, the floor has improved with the humidity, and more treatments are scheduled. Site work will also be conducted on the Dewing preschool playground.

The committee took up several policy readings, discussing changes to student discipline, including a focus on restorative justice, online and digital communications, and the district’s submission to the annual town report. The committee voted to adopt language changes to the policy governing TMHS student parking passes and privileges to direct readers to the student handbook for more detailed information.

At the end of her first year as superintendent, the committee evaluated Theriault-Regan. Members praised Theriault-Regan for her fiscal prudence and communication style, as well as strong leadership and commitment to collecting feedback from stakeholders. In the second year of her contract, members requested that Theriault-Regan work on improving her public relations approach and focus on mental health and wellbeing education for staff to help support students. Theriault-Regan thanked the school community and the committee for their support: “This job is truly a labor of love.”

The next School Committee meeting will be on August 16 at 6PM.

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