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9 Takeaways from the October 11 School Committee Meeting

The Wellness Committee is working with the district to get the track open

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

1. Special Education Director Rick Pelletier gave a presentation on the new standards-based IEPs, which will be fully implemented in 2024. DESE has updated the IEP format, available here, to make it more inclusive. The change is going to require additional training for staff, and a series of workshops begin this Friday. The goal is to have families’ voices heard more in meetings and for administrators to be more involved and have full access to the IEP process.

One new aspect will be to better address student and parent concerns and to focus on the student and team vision, including the child’s specific interests, even after high school. Staff will be able to check off multiple boxes for academic performance in the new forms and will be required to share a narrative about students. For example, “What are their interest areas? What are their preferences, and then also, how does the disability impact the student’s academic and social accomplishments in school?”

There are now a series of questions. If a student is autistic, for example, staff can use the questions to guide the conversation.

What was formerly called “justification participation” is now “participation in a general ed setting.”

“This is also very significant as we move to more of an inclusive setting,” said Pelletier. “The research shows that inclusive instruction and access to that does develop the child’s language awareness.”

IEPs will now have two service grids, one for the IEP itself and a service delivery grid that identifies the extended school year services, which will make the plan much clearer for families. The form is now longer, and there is an anticipation that IEP meetings will now be longer also.

“The accommodations and the modifications are pretty clear in terms of focusing on inclusion, but also on the specific needs of students,” said Pelletier.

Interested parents can watch an in-depth DESE presentation on the new format here.

2. Superintendent Brenda Regan’s report touched on all the work the PACs are doing for the schools. On page 13 of the packet, you can see how PAC funds were spent last school year.

The district has subscribed to Care Solace, an organization that offers support to students, families and staff. They have referred 60 cases for the district, half of them for children ages 3-11, and all the cases were for mental health concerns.

The Corning Foundation again granted the district $10,000 to help support STEM. TPS was also awarded a $50,000 grant for Career Pathways from the state.

3. Assistant Superintendent Lori McDermott’s report noted that next Wednesday is the first half day of the year, and it’s a busy workshop day for staff. There will be an information session on the new standards-based report cards on Thursday, Oct. 26 at 6:30 p.m. at the Center Elementary School. Families of students K-4 are encouraged to attend.

4. Business Manager Dave Libby had a few transportation updates. The decision was made to consolidate a couple of routes to reduce the fleet to 23 buses from 24. Unfortunately, half of the van workforce was out, so there was a delay in getting those students to school, and many parents opted to drive their children to help ease the situation. In positive news, a new driver started this week.

Last night was the first extracurricular use of the Center Elementary School gym. There had been issues with the floor, and the district didn’t feel it was ready for use outside of school until recently.

Unrelated to the recent rain, another pipe broke at the Heath Brook School. An alternative heat source is being looked into for five classrooms heated with pipes that are rotting underground and causing unpredictable leaks.

5. School Committee member reports:

  • Elementary School Building Committee: No updates as the committee is dissolved.
  • Tewksbury SEPAC: SRO James Ryser was at the meeting to answer questions. There were discussions about vans and holding additional informational sessions. During school events, groups are asked to consider doing a half hour of sensory time.
  • Wellness Advisory Committee: The group met last week. Resident David Chou, who spoke at the last School Committee meeting about increasing the amount of protein in breakfasts and minimizing processed food, presented to the committee. Chou shared more info and said he’s spent time with Food & Nutrition Service Director Deb Mugford outside of the committee. The committee is trying to get the track open to the public again, and the district is working on making that happen. The committee is also exploring how to manage kids’ screen time.

6. All policy subcommittee updates can be found on page 33 of the packet:

  • Informal reading, polices reviewed and recommended to revise:
    • FB – Facilities Planning 
    • HB – Negotiations Legal Status
    • HF – School Committee Negotiating Agents
    • KA – School/Community Relations Goals
    • KBA –  School/Parent Relations Goals
    • LBC – Relations with Home School 
  • First Reading, polices reviewed and recommended to revise:
    • FA – Facilities Development Goals
    • HA – Negotiation Goals
  • Second & Final Reading, policy reviewed and recommended to revise (unanimously approved):
    • ECE – Tewksbury Memorial High School Student Parking
  • First & Final Reading, polices reviewed and recommended to approve with no changes (unanimously approved):
    • KBBA – Non-custodial Parents’ Rights
    • LDA – Student Teaching and Internships
  • First & Final Reading, policy reviewed and recommended to rescind (unanimously approved):
    • KBBA-E – Notice to the Custodial Parent that the Non-Custodial Parent has Requested Student Records

7. MCAS test dates can be located on page 57 of the packet.

8. Work on the 2024-2025 budget will be starting in the upcoming months. By the end of the year, Libby will have met with the Town Manager to get a baseline for the budget, met with principals and department heads to discuss any additional budget needs, and principals will have submitted their top two needs for the next school year.

In early 2024, Libby will submit a preliminary budget to Town Manager Richard Montuori, with a copy sent to the School Committee and the Finance Committee chair. There will be a budget workshop on January 24 at TMHS.

In February and March, the focus is on assessing district needs and budgeting appropriately, with public hearings at the February and March School Committee meetings and a meeting of the Finance Committee, Regan and Libby in March.

In April, the committee will vote to approve the budget and in May, it will be on the warrant for approval at Town Meeting.

The current budget needed some adjusting; the final number will not change, but money will be moved to different budget lines. To see all the adjustments, see the packet, page 61.

9. Upcoming Meeting Dates:

  • 10/19 – TSEPAC Business Meeting
  • 10/20 – Policy Sub-Committee (they are going to discuss homework policy)
  • 11/15 – School Committee Meeting
  • 12/6  – School Committee Meeting
  • 1/10 – Budget Presentation
  • 1/24 – School Committee Meeting


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