Minutes – December 3, 2020 – approved 1/14/2021
BERKSHIRE HILLS REGIONAL SCHOOL DISTRICT
Great Barrington Stockbridge West Stockbridge
SCHOOL COMMITTEE MEETING
Teleconference Meeting via Zoom
December 3, 2020 – 6:00pm – approved 1/142021
School Committee: S. Bannon, J. St. Peter, A. Hutchinson, C. Sprague, R. Dohoney, B. Fields, M. Thomas, D. Singer, S. Stephen
Administration: P. Dillon, S. Harrison
Staff/Public: T. Lee, K. Farina, B. Doren, S. Soule
Absent: B. Bonn-Buffoni
RECORDER NOTE: Meeting attended by recorder and minutes transcribed during the meeting and after the fact from live recording provided by CTSB. Length of meeting: 1 hour, 40 minutes.
CALL TO ORDER
Chairman Steve Bannon called the meeting to order immediately at 6pm.
PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE
The listing of agenda items are those reasonably anticipated by the chair, which may be discussed at the meeting. Not all items listed may in fact be discussed, and other items not listed may be brought up for discussion to the extent permitted by law. This meeting is being recorded by CTSB, Committee Recorder, members of the public with prior Chair permission and will be broadcast at a later date. Minutes will be transcribed and made public, as well as added to our website, www.bhrsd.org once approved.
- Minutes: November 12, 2020 – MOTION TO APPROVE MINUTES OF NOVEMBER 12, 2020 DOHONEY SECONDED: J. ST. PETER ACCEPTED: UNANIMOUS
- Superintendent’s Report: Dillon – Sharon Harrison, our business administrator, was elected chair of the Berkshire Health Group. The BHG works with school districts and towns and several communities to help manage our health care and particularly our health care costs. Congratulations to Sharon on that. Connected to our emerging and recent work on diversity, the Mass. Association of School Superintendents has formed a standing committee on equity, diversity and inclusion. I was appointed to that standing committee representing Berkshire County. That should give us another vehicle to support some of the work we are doing.
- Good News Item(s)
- Student Awards/Recognitions: Dillon – I hope everybody and join me in congratulating these students.
- Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents (MASS) Award – Academic Excellence: Irini Mahida
- National School Development Council (NSDC) Awards – Growth and Student Leadership in Learning: Talia Caine, Alec Bachman
- Music Recognitions:
- Senior District Festival: Abigail Zeik (violin, orchestra, 2nd chair); Sahn Yook (violin, orchestra, 3rd chair); Megan Zeik (cello, orchestra); Talia Caine (soprano, chorus); Abigale Fredsall (alto, chorus); Nicholas Barbieri (bass, chorus); Andras Koval (jazz band, tenor saxophone); Tyler Sprague (jazz band, trumpet, 1st chair); Benjamin Gross (jazz band, drums)
- All State Recommendations: Abigail Zeik (violin, orchestra, 2nd chair); Sahn Yook (violin, orchestra, 3rd chair); Abigale Fredsall (alto, chorus); Nicholas Barbieri (bass, chorus); Tyler Sprague (jazz band, trumpet, 1st chair)
- Winter Sports Proposal – MMRHS – P. Dillon – Just to give a little context, everything connected to sports and athletics is complex in the time of COVID, and what we have now is a proposal which is our initial thinking informed by the athletic directors countywide and the principals meeting about this countywide. This is not written in stone and it could change. Probably most importantly and it says this at the end, any move to remote learning during the season would be an extension of the season until we are at least back in hybrid learning. In the fall the school committee voted that even if we were in hybrid learning, we would leave open the door to participate in athletics. Obviously it is complicated. Zigmund – we already lost some of our winter sports. We are not going to be doing ice hockey; Mt. Everett is not able to host us this year. There will not be ice hockey in the county. Wrestling is not going to happen this winter and swimming because of lack of schools in the county able to go swimming and big problems with us over at Simon’s Rock getting into the pool, we are just looking at basketball and alpine skiing. I know you have seen the proposal so I am not going to read through the entire proposal but I would like to continue to try to offer boys and girls basketball. We would like to delay the start until January 4th. There are all kinds of rules and modifications. We are also looking at alpine skiing and possibly starting mid-December. I know there is a lot of talk with alpine skiing as well with some of the schools in the county not offering alpine skiing. I have heard that the coaches might want to go the route we did with soccer where they run their own alpine skiing competition and maybe we host practices through our MM athletics. We are just talking about those two and we are looking for your approval with continuing to try to pursue the start of boys and girls basketball with a delayed start and also boys and girls alpine skiing. S. Bannon – we have voted to participate in sports and left it up to the administration to make recommendations so we don’t need to vote on this. We can discuss it but we already took our vote in September to offer sports for the season when it is safe and available. I don’t see any reason to vote on this. I will entertain discussion. R. Dohoney – so the rule changes for basketball, those mirror what came from the MIAA? K. Zigmund – yes. We are going to follow their rules and modifications. S. Stephen – so if the skiing does not take place at all, just like soccer did, I would hope that the school committee would offer some sort of funding to the ski team for kids to join. It is going to be $150 per kid to have a private club just as it was for soccer. Not everybody was able to access the sports just because there was a cost going on. S. Bannon – cost should prohibit anyone from participating because we waived those fees for anyone that can’t afford to pay. S. Stephen – what I am talking about is paying Bosquet. K. Zigmund – that is usually something in a typical ski season, all the Berkshire County schools would cover that cost so it is a fair point that if you are going to go privately like the ski coaches want to do, there would be a cost for our students to participate that we would have to brainstorm a way to cover their costs. S. Stephen – I don’t want to see anybody that wants to participate in high school sports to be blocked from participating because they don’t have the money. P. Dillon – I agree with you on that. Karl, correct me on this if I am wrong, it was my understanding that we waived user fees already this year in all sports. Is that correct? K. Zigmund – we did, but I think the question is, we could register our kids to ski through MM and we could do all the physicals and they concussion protocol but if they are going to go privately and work with the Berkshire County coaches to have competitions are Bosquet, there is going to be a cost. If there was a Berkshire County league that was going to run the competitions then the schools would cover that cost. They are trying to go a similar way like soccer where we held practices at MM but all the soccer competitions we held privately and there were probably costs involved for soccer but not as big as I expect if you are trying to ski at Bosquest and be part of the competitions privately with the other ski clubs. P. Dillon – part of what I might have to do is a little research on this. There might be significant liability issues connected to this and the notion of everybody being able to participate regardless, we may have to package it in a way that manages our liability. S. Bannon – we may say they are going to Bosquet as not part of our team but if they are part of our team, there is going to be a liability there. S. Stephen – we this comes into play, I don’t think the liability issue is there; my biggest concern is will you be able to take the funds and pay it to a private entity instead of giving it to the school district. S. Bannon – your point is well taken. We will do some research on that. We won’t solve it tonight. You are absolutely right. K. Zigmund – just so everybody is clear, I presented it to our ski coaches that we very much want to host a season like we usually do but when you look at the schools that are going to be offering skiing, there aren’t many. I think they are trying to find another way to have some ski competition. We could completely fund our skiers but there might not be another school to ski against that is going through the Berkshire County ski program. S. Stephen – what other schools are going to be participating? K. Zigmund – I don’t have any other right now that is committed to skiing. Lenox was always a big ski competitor but they are not offering anything right away. The Pittsfield schools are very much up in the air as well. S. Stephen – we need to contemplate this quite a bit to figure out how you pay for private entities to do a public school job. S. Bannon – right and there might not be a solution. C. Sprague – many families have had to pay out of pocket for their children to participate in the Berkshire Hills league which divided games and refs, etc. K. Zigmund – that didn’t come up to be in the fall. It just seemed to go well there. We helped register the kids and we ran practices, etc. and they played a fair amount of games. R. Dohoney – what is your insight on how soccer went in the fall? R. Dohoney – I think it went exceptionally well. This cost issue did exist there. The cost for Berkshire Hills is much less. It was less than what the user fee is though if we were charging the user fee. I understand Sean’s point but in a normal year, you would be paying $100+ user fee for participation anyway so it all washes out. P. Dillon – let me do a little work on this. Thankfully we have another meeting on the 17th that is way before the proposed start of any season. I think I can come to you with some recommendation on the funding and the implications of it and we will be able to move forward. R. Dohoney – there is no reason we can’t have a practice team. P. Dillon – that may be the way to frame it and if they have some competitions on top of it, that is their business. J. St. Peter – to play devil’s advocate, specifically basketball because it is considered a high-risk sport, indoors, we are mixing cohorts, grades and potentially other schools. When people say we can’t even go to school full time and we are taking these risks, in your opinion, these benefits which are immense from varsity sports to those kids outweigh any potential risks to the schools? P. Dillon – I can’t say that definitely; this all may be mute potentially because of where we are headed with the numbers. This is a structure that lets us do it if we decide we want to do it. C. Sprague – Is there anyway to mitigate the risks in terms of utilizing the testing that we would have access to or having kids that are participating in basketball go remote to contain spread? P. Dillon – somebody at some point proposed that all our athletes go remote and they just come in for athletics and that seems backwards to me. The most thoughtful talk about people being student athletes and not athlete students. I totally get the value of athletics; I was the captain of my high school wrestling team and wrestled in college; it is valuable and transformative and changes people’s lives but we are also living through a global pandemic. This is a structure that lets us do it if we decide we want to. You asked me a very pointed question, “do the risks outweigh the benefits”. It is hard for me to answer that today and it might be harder for me to answer it in two weeks. Let’s continue to watch the numbers and see where we are. C. Sprague – so students who have opted to be fully remote and not able to participate in sports right now? P. Dillon – correct. R. Dohoney – what I appreciate about the administration’s approach on this is that everything is uncertain and we are preparing for every possible scenario. There were decisions made in July and August about things that should happen in September and October which were wrong. Tremendous academic opportunities were missed because we weren’t prepared for all scenarios. We weren’t prepared for the good scenario. The bad scenario unfortunately is easy to prepare for. You shut down and you go remote and we are really good at that. We are really good at cancelling sports and those can be done on a dime. What the administration is doing here is actually preparing for if and when things get better so we are not caught flat footed like we were in September and October. The rest of the state except Berkshire County had soccer and it went off with zero transmissions across the state. There were county championships all down in the east end so I think we proceed as if it might be good because we know we are ready for the bad. S. Bannon – as much as we are talking about this, the changes of this actually coming to fruition maybe 50/50 but at least we have a plan. D. Singer – I am wondering if things come down to having more cases in the county, would it still be okay for the kids at each school to practice and train but not have inter school competitions as a way to decrease transmission? P. Dillon – that is something Karl, Kristi and I have talked about. I think that makes sense so the potentially best thing would be to run as close to normal a season as you could and compete with other schools. The next best thing might be to run a training and conditioning program where you scrimmage with your own players and people still love the game and get to play, they just have to go against their friends rather than people from Wahconah. I think that is a possibility too that works better in the context of cohorts and transmission. I think that is all predicated on the numbers and where we land and there might be a situation where even that isn’t possible. There is a middle ground between typical competition and nothing. K. Zigmund – with soccer at least they had the club games on the weekends that they were practicing for. I don’t know how productive that would be. I am not against offering it but when you add up all the numbers, on a M/T practice and a Th/F practice, you might be surprised on how many of the players don’t go. R. Dohoney – all the soccer players practiced all together. K. Zigmund – if you are talking about mixing cohorts, that is totally different because we are inside now and if things change and we don’t want to mix the cohorts at all. R. Dohoney – we have no prohibition either with school activities or outside activities. My workplace is divided by cohorts and I am not allowed to see any other cohort outside of work. That is not what our cohorts are about. Our cohorts are about keeping the number of people in the building at anyone time low enough for social distancing. We are not trying to isolate them and parents have never been told to do that. That is not what is going on in the community and hasn’t from day one. K. Zigmund – if that is what you want to do, then I agree with Diane. You could do something productive with the basketball. R. Dohoney – they all practiced five days a week all together. Outdoors. S. Bannon – I think the alternative is not having it at all so I think having the cohorts together at practice if they are going to play; I think it is fine. I think kids love sports and they will do it. I don’t think separating the cohorts at the school of our size would ever work. If you are in remote, you are in remote for a reason. S. Stephen – the soccer program this fall was cancelled and it all went through private clubs which people had to pay for out of their own pockets. It was not associated with the school district whatsoever. I think you have to take that into consideration that some of these things are too expensive for some people to pay for. S. Bannon – we are going to look into that and figure out if there is a way to do this. P. Dillon – there may be issues, legal issues, for the district paying for private activities but we do have the Joe Spartan fund that helps students do things and that is a perfectly good vehicle to do that through. S. Stephen – we need to look at this and see what we can do. P. Dillon – two weeks from today, I will have a really thoughtful proposal. J. St. Peter – I see that Mt. Greylock approved basketball. Do we know if there are any other schools in the Commonwealth that approved basketball yet? K. Zigmund – Mt. Everett is looking like they are going to approve. We meet tomorrow again to finalize; things change all the time. Greylock has already been approved through their school committee and Wahconah in a similar situation where they would not be allowed to go if remote but once they go hybrid, I think they feel pretty good about joining the basketball league. It may very well be much like cross country if it was to go. We have that 3-4 school league and I think people would be thrilled to have that. That would be a win. S. Bannon – there is no guarantee that we are going to get past the first week of the season if two of the teams in north county go remote because the positivity rates are high. K. Zigmund – that is why we would have senior night at the first game so we could get that in. B. Fields – my only input right now is I have a problem with a public school paying a private entity. It is like a public school paying a charter school to have kids go there. I don’t like that idea. I don’t know what was in the thought process was. What is the private entity that was being paid by the district for soccer? There wasn’t any, was there? P. Dillon – no. S. Bannon – we will come back with a thoughtful plan at the next meeting. R. Dohoney – I trust Kristi and Peter that there are no kids that are barred from an activity, inside or outside of school, for lack of funding. If someone hears of a kid that is being shut out for money, they should call Peter and I am sure the situation will get remedied. C. Sprague – is any attention or time being spent Karl to look at other activities within the school to see if there are other reasonable resources are being dedicated for other alternative activities for kids like virtual productions in lieu of the musical, etc. K. Zigmund – I know there is some work being done. Shakespeare production is actually really close and they might have already started virtually with some of the directors there. Ryan Kelly is doing some work with Project Connection so as these decisions are made, I would love to see something come together, maybe some strength training or something for the wrestling program to try to keep the teams together is important. I think they take a big hit if we just didn’t have anything. I think one of the great things about the fall is we had practices for every one of our sports. I am going to keep working hard to make sure that something is happening for the winter teams as well.
- COVID-19 – P. Dillon – Obviously my comments are couched in extraordinarily challenging times, in times where data changes daily, where there is occasionally limited access to that data. Teachers and staff are working extraordinarily hard and I appreciate them for that. There is tremendous pressure on parents in the context of what is going on and I also appreciate them for that. There are a lot of students on the call and I appreciate you too. Right now, Muddy Brook is in session. PK to 2nd grade four days a week and grades three and four are in a hybrid schedule where some students come in two days a week and the other set of students come in two days a week. Importantly, there is also a group of students in each of the schools who we call Cohort A and they are some of our higher needs students and they are coming in four days a week. The middle school right now is full remote and one of the complaints that we got was in the hybrid schedule, the remote days, kids were not getting enough access to direct synchronise or live instruction. It appears that in the remote model that we are using now, classes are together, it is a different schedule. Kids and parents are pretty satisfied with the amount of direct synchronous learning even though it is remote. The middle school has a group of Cohort A students as well who are there but most of the students are remote. The high school is also remote. They had an interesting approach where there were kids in class and then kids at home who were also participating with the kids in class. They made a big investment in bluetooth speakers and some other technology to support that and they are doing a nice job there. What I am trying to do as we look forward is to both gather staff feedback and to look at the data. I have articulated this several times but it is always worth saying again, I’m really looking at four major data points. I like to look at the county-wide data, particularly the positivity rate; I look at the data specific to our three towns. A Lot of that data comes out from a state perspective on Thursdays at 5pm and then the community by community data usually becomes available on Fridays. There is the COVID-19 Act Now data that is a website with a nice graphic. I look at that too and I talk with local departments of health people and get a sense of some of the raw data that eventually goes into the bigger data set and that can be a little bit of a leading indicator. I try to get a sense of if there are particular clusters or possibilities of clusters within grades or buildings. The most clear example of that happened a couple of weeks ago at the middle school leading us to send the 5th graders and all but one teacher home. There were a couple of cases, some having been in school and some who hadn’t been in school. The thinking was by sending folks home, we were proactively keeping things from spreading and that appears to actually have worked. In some ways, the middle and high schools are more complicated because students mix in different kinds of groups more often and staff do based on their specialized schedule where people aren’t third grade teachers but they are math teachers and a math teacher teaches kids across at least three or four grades and multiple cohorts. The cluster thing is another one. The third that I look at quite a bit and this was actually the driving force in sending 5th graders home, is our capacity staff at the building. We have too many staff who are out and we have a number of staff already working remotely due to a documented medical reason. If we hit a threshold and there are not enough people in the building to actually support the kids we have then we might simply have to go remote because we can’t meet our obligations. This one is a challenging one because people are working really hard and you get into this nasty cycle where you are teaching your whole load plus you are covering for a colleague who is out so you are extra stressed in an already stressful situation and you might do that for three days and in the fourth day you are the one that is out and that stresses more. That is something I think a lot about. The last one is more ambiguous but I think it is really important, which is anxiety and stress. In the whole goal of this is to try to ensure that the kids and families and staff are safe and supported. If you watch the national news, three days in a row you are going to lose your mind right now. It is a really stressful time to be around. Some people manage that stress adequately and some people are entirely overwhelmed and there are all sorts of mitigating circumstances. If you have pre-existing health conditions or dispositions that set you up to be more vulnerable, if you or a family member has gotten sick, if there are older people around, that can be really overwhelming. I get that this is extraordinarily challenging. Almost no matter what decision I make, some people will be satisfied and some people will be very upset. It’s imperfect. The guidance we are getting at the federal level is highly problematic; even the guidance on the state level is tough. Where we are as a county or within a county is really interesting. Lenox has numbers that are through the roof and that is largely driven by one long-term care facility. That is tough. Pittsfield has similar numbers. The numbers in our three towns and the five towns south of us, Richmond, Otis and Sandisfield are really quite good. Someone alluded to this before, at the beginning of the year, we missed an opportunity to get people face-to-face in school. I think there is still a window that we can continue to take advantage of. People get upset when I talk about this, but I think the impact of that is greatest felt on our youngest students and maybe secondarily on our highest needs students. My approach to this is to try to keep our youngest students in school as long as possible. I need to look and I had hoped to come tonight with a formal announcement and decision. My inclination as we go to next week is keep the middle and high school remote with a focus on the cohort A kids and potentially send in Cohort A so those kids get support and to keep the elementary school doing what we are doing and potentially expand starting Monday, with the third and fourth grade so those students are in four days a week. I know there are some really strong feelings about that. I know some people at the elementary school feel they are being asked to do more than the other schools and they are more vulnerable because of that. I think those kids need our support the most. Again, I am leaning that way. I will make the formal announcement about that tomorrow when I gather more information. There may be some misconceptions. Bringing in all of third and fourth graders four days a week and 14 third graders and 18 fourth graders, Tim and Nan came up with a plan to create an additional section in each grade level so that students will be spread out in groups of 12. Follow me on this because he logis is a little complicated but previously we had kids in Cohort A that were there for four days a week and then we had kids that were in Cohort B there M/Tu and Cohort C on Th/F so the kids that were in Cohort A were both with Cohort B and C which isn’t perfectly elegant or wonderful. In this new approach that Tim and Nan have come up with, we combined Cohort A, B and C and they are all in groups of about 12 and those groups are self-contained unto themselves. Even though the approach of bringing them all in slightly increases our total numbers, the likelihood of transmission across those groups is significantly reduced. That is a complex thing to get your head around and it is sort of counter-intuitive that more students could be safer but that is one of the things I have been thinking a lot about. Where I am, to reiterate, as we go into next week, we will stay remote at the middle and the high school and lean toward bringing the third and fourth graders in and refiguring the cohorts. I think it is a good plan. I will look again at the numbers tonight. I’m torn because there are the parents and families that need to know early so they can make adjustments and plans and then there are the teachers and staff that need to know what model we will bring in so they can work on that. If I make a decision too early, it is absent relevant data so I may not be a great decision. If I make a decision too late, it limits everybody’s capacity to plan and adapt and adjust. We are in the middle of the most uncertain times in our lives and while we work together to take a deep breath and try to be flexible on this. I will share some sort of update tomorrow about what is going forward with Muddy Brook. After this next week, what I would like to propose is that after the winter recess whatever model we are in, we will just do that. That way every Thursday I don’t make an announcement and everyone has to scramble to figure out what they are going to do Monday. We will finalize what is going to happen next week and then for the next seven days, I will share that all at once then hopefully we will have a good winter break to catch our breath and we see where we land. Another thing I want to mention, for better or worse, this decision is on my shoulders and obviously I am not sleeping well at night but I talk to as many people as I can. I do have an advisory group that is composed of teachers, a nurse and a school committee member. They give me advice; we don’t negotiate. I listen to them and that helps inform my decision. Sometimes we are on the same page; sometimes we are on very different pages. I think we share a common set of values which is around protecting kids and staff. St. Peter – the CDC just came out with decreasing the quarantine from 14 to 7-10 days. Does that affect our policies at all? P. Dillon – it could. Usually what happens is the CDC issues something and then the Mass. Dept. of Public Health and DESE take a few days or a week to digest it and they issue some new revised directive. That is such late breaking news so that directive hasn’t been issued yet. I would expect that by early next week, the commissioner will have run it through the DPH people, medical advisors, etc. I get the intention of the CDC which is why have people quarantine longer if you don’t have to. In the short term I would rather err on the more conservative side and definitively stop the spread. As we get our rapid testing up, the combination of rapid testing and a slightly shorter quarantine may make sense. A couple of months ago I was talking about how much I learned about HVAC systems now I feel like I am getting a side gig in this. This is extraordinarily complex and I don’t have a good answer for you right now but let’s see where we land in a few days. J. St. Peter – a parent approached me about a situation that is one off where person A had symptoms (fever, cough, runny nose), person B works with person A. They both got tested. The tests haven’t come back yet. It takes 5-7 days to come back. Person C is a sibling of person B. Person B was just around someone who is symptomatic, person A is asymptomatic, should the siblings stay home or go to school? Our unofficial policy as concervative and if concerned, stay home. P. Dillon – the quick answer is, you aren’t a close contact until you are a close contact. If person A or B have not tested positive then yes the sibling can come to school. That being said, some people are playing it very conservative particularly if person C is a family member. So if you and your wife get it, then the likelihood that all of your kids are going to get it is pretty high. In that context air on the conservatie side. R. Dohoney – our formal policy that we voted on is one person removed. P. Dillon – everyone would like this to be crystal clear or black and white, anyone more than me. Unfortunately, it’s not. My favorite thing in the world would be for this to be some final grade in my final history class; 20% is homework, 20% is participation, etc. It is just hard. B. Fields – where are we in regard to testing? Is there going to be any further testing? The state is offering districts….where are we in that regard especially as we look at the staff. P. Dillon – we are very close to getting all the tests. I don’t remember if you were with us at another meeting where I explained this. We applied for and were selected for the rapid test and we are going to have endless supplies of those. It takes about 15 minutes to do that. You swab each of your nostrils for five go arounds and then it goes in a sleeve and some reactive thing is dropped on it and then you either get a pink or a black line. The test isn’t perfect but if you get a positive it is a big deal and if you get a negative you still might want to get tested additionally. It should help us circumvent the 5-7 days of the longer testing. That timeline could get worse as the positivity rates tick up. J. St. Peter – the problem with the rapid test is false negatives. I read that they were just about 50% false negatives which means they have it but are testing negative. If you test negative but still have symptoms you still have to be in quarantine. We could test everyone and they could be negative but there is transmission just going to the grocery store. You could have ten people positive the next day. Just because someone is negative with a rapid test doesn’t mean that three or four days later they could be positive. P. Dillon – there is a great graphic about this where people are using a negative test like a get out of jail card. If the timing is perfect…testing isn’t a one time thing. J. St. Peter – unless you are getting tested regularly, the information is … P. Dillon – the small colleges that pulled it off were testing two or three times a week and they kept the cases down to a dozen. P. Dillon – so again, the high school and middle will continue remote. I want to look at some more data and check in again at Muddy Brook around what we are going to do and I will share something tomorrow. Logan, Student at MM – I was curious as to what the specific policies regarding positive tests at MM and sharing that data. If there are faculty members or students who have tested positive, what policies there are about sharing that data. P. Dillon – it is a really good question and a super complicated one. I think the first question I would ask back to you is sharing that with who. If a student left school because they were feeling under the weather and they wanted to come back, we might ask for them to quarantine or share a negative test as a condition of them coming back but that would be shared with the nurse and nobody else besides the nurse. If a staff person was out sick for a few days, we might also ask them to share that and that would be shared with me and nobody else. Logan – but what about policies about sharing positive cases? P. Dillon – what I have done and I think I will continue to do is as individual cases surface, I will share those in aggregate in a way that doesn’t call out an individual. I might say somebody tested positive in the 12th grade. The bigger concern is if you or anybody was in close contact with that person, so if somebody does test positive then the whole contact tracing starts where the public health people reach out to the people that are close contacts. That is when you get a phone call at home that sort of freaks you out because you have been flagged as a close contact then you quarantine and in the right window, get a test. Logan – as of now, how many positive cases have there been at the high school including bus drivers, cafeteria staff, etc. P. Dillon – I don’t have the sheet right in front of me. There is a funny distinction; positive cases who are either in Cohort D who haven’t been in school….Logan – right, so how many hybrid cases; people who have been in contact with people in the school building? P. Dillon – to my knowledge, and I could look up the numbers, less than 5 in the high school. We had high school students who tested positive but in the window when they tested positive they were not in school at all. They developed symptoms and self-quarantined so they were not in school. At the middle school, I think we had two students who tested positive. In aggregate I think we have had one staff person who tested positive and one second grader who was positive. Logan – in the middle school it was sent out in an email about the procedure that happened with sending the 5th graders home so I am curious as to why it hasn’t been publicized that there are other cases within the school district even if it was outside of school when they tested positive or started showing symptoms if they were in hybrid learning. P. Dillon – the high school students weren’t in school so the people at the high school weren’t at risk from those students. I am happy to talk to you more about it. There are a couple of things. We need to balance people’s individual privacy rights and we have to protect the common good and the public health. The information I share is purely to be transparent and the information that is around the public health is tied to the contact tracers and if you were within somebody’s 15 minute window.
- Sub Committee Reports:
- Policy Sub Committee:
- Revised Policies: Second Readings: Policy BDFA-E-3: Submission and Approval of the School Improvement Plan; Policy JKAA-Physical Restraint and Behavior Support of Students; Policy JKAA ADDENDUM-Physical Restraint and Behavior Support during COVID-19
- New Policy: Second Reading: Diversity Recruitment Policy (for numbering purposes-see note on Policy) Singer – will there be any way to recruit teachers from certain programs that might not otherwise know about our school system? P. Dillon – I think what the policy is trying to lay out is a framework or a set of principles and then it is leaving open the practices or the procedures to me and the administrative team. Part of what I think the next level of this is to look specifically at what our recruiting practices might be that might include advertising more broadly then the places we typically advertise; the Berkshire Eagle and sometimes the Times Union. That might include reaching out to a wider range of graduate programs and the historically black colleges and universities that might include diversity recruiting fairs, etc. I think what we need to do is after this is approved, I should work with people in each of the buildings and community members to articulate a really coherent plan of what this looks like kind of on the scale of a district or school improvement plan with measurable outcomes and benchmarks and requests for funding in some areas and designations around who is going to do what and in what context and we start doing it and we realized it doesn’t happen overnight and it is a long-term commitment over years and decades. C. Sprague – does that also include making sure we have policies for culture in place if and when we were successful in recruiting so we would have a culture where that individual could succeed and feels heard, etc. It is a wonderful start but we need to make sure we have a bigger plan for it. P. Dillon – we live in a community that isn’t particularly diverse and our staff is even less diverse. Compared to many other communities, we compensate people nicely but we are not competitive with urban areas. I think one of the things we need to do is every year an auditor comes in and looks at things. We need to do a real equity/diversity audit and look at practices and policies around hiring and recruiting but also ones around retention and promotion and then for good measure let’s look at curriculum and instruction, etc. We could work on this for the next 50 years and still not finish it but this is a starting point to get going and hopefully some short term success will beget more success. A. Pink – I sent out an email to the school committee; it is the third email I have sent on this same topic and I have heard back from one school committee member. I was under the impression this was open for discussion on the wording. Maybe I was too late in sending that. I wasn’t sure of the timeline. I was also asking for there to be discussion about the recruitment policy, the timeline, and benchmarking. Putting something like this out there as a policy for the entire district without a plan of action is in my option the reason why things take decades and years. My opinion is perception is reality and if we think it is going to take decades, that is saying there isn’t an end point here. It is a journey and a process. I think it is really important that we are completely transparent about our actions to back up these policies that we are putting into practice as opposed to just saying it. We will hold ourselves accountable. I am wondering what we are doing as next steps and how we are going to know we are meeting the benchmarks that we set because I do agree that we do live in a predominantly white area but it is not 100% white and the faculty at the high school is 100% what at this current time. It is reflecting we are a majority white but for 100% that is a lot. The other part of my email that I sent was about it being a holistic approach. I feel that we need to address representation not just in faculty but also in the administrative positions and on the school committee. I would love for there to be more public discussion and I really support the idea of some kind of task force that works to create these steps and benchmarks. I also had a question about a public anti-racism/anti-bias statement much like the ones hundreds of school districts across the county including Southern Berkshire back in June adopted in another effort to show that we as a district do not tolerate any form of racism or bias. R. Dohoney – I had the same concerns and that is why I put in an amendment to the policy of our school improvement plans. I share your concern about having more community input and on an ongoing basis. That will be something we will see at the administrative level and within overarching policy but there is a strong accountability component to it. S. Bannon – the way this works is the school committee is responsible for the policy, the administration is responsible for enacting the policy so this is the first step, not the last step. A. Pink – I am new to school committee politics so I am trying to understand which comes first and the varying roles of participation and I am very passionate about this and greasing the wheels to get things moving faster because I do believe it can be done faster than we think. R. Dohoney – I agree. P. Dillon – to my recollection, maybe three or four years ago, this school committee unanimously endorsed the pledge The Trust Policy. It isn’t exacting the same but just as a point of clarification to everybody, the policy subcommittee meets on a fairly regular basis, if there is a policy that is missing or lacking or someone in the community wants to create a new one or revise one, the thing to do is share that policy with the group then it goes through that group with a recommendation then it comes to the school committee as a whole, it goes through a couple of readings, it gets approved then it is a new policy. I am sure the policy committee would be willing to take that one. A. Pink – I have some exciting ideas about student loan forgiveness from the district in trying to recruit people who might otherwise not be able to afford to work in the district, because it is cost prohibitive to live here if you are a new teacher. I would love to talk to anyone who would like to talk to be about that. P. Dillon – at the beginning of the meeting I was appointed to the Mass. Superintendents Group on an equity and diversity position. What is going to come out of that’s a lot of best practices around the Commonwealth will be shared. We do a very nice Masters loan program and not a lot of districts do that. I think that could be another piece. Affordable housing is something that should definitely be tackled in south county. We may want to figure that out. We have a long history of student teachers in the district but we might want to have a targeted program with housing. A number of Wall Street firms have people do internships their sophomore and junior year of college with an expectation of a job offer as they graduate. We could explore possibilities there. There are a million and one things we could do and if we make progress in a bunch of different areas. We could make significant shifts pretty quickly.
- MOTION TO ACCEPT THE ABOVE STATED POLICIES – R. DOHONEY SECONDED: SPRAGUE ACCEPTED: UNANIMOUS
- Building and Grounds Sub Committee – J. St. Peter – we met yesterday. We have funds for extraordinary costs to the high school repair. We will present to the committee as a whole at the next meeting.
- Superintendent’s Evaluation Sub Committee – N/A
- Technology Sub Committee – N/A
- Finance Sub Committee – N/A
- District Consolidation & Sharing Sub Committee – We have a meeting next week.
- Personnel Report: Dillon –
- Certified Appointment(s)
- Extra-Curricular Appointment(s)
- Business Operation
- Q1 Transfer Report – S. Harrison – we have a very small transfer report. We just have three items on it. The first one was additional stipends for Canvas software training. Canvas is our new learning management system. The other two are for operational needs. When the budget is set 18 months before you aren’t always sure what you will need money for (COVID) so that is just an amendment to budget transfers to cover regular costs. MOTION TO APPROVE THE FY21 Q1 TRANSFER REPORT FIELDS J. ST. PETER ACCEPTED: UNANIMOUS
- Education News
- Old Business
- New Business
- Public Comment
- Written Communication
- Policy Sub Committee:
MOTION TO ADJOURN – R. DOHONEY SECONDED: M. THOMAS ACCEPTED: UNANIMOUS
Meeting Adjourned at 7:40pm
Submitted by: Christine M. Kelly, Recorder
Christine M. Kelly, Recorder
School Committee Secretary