Minutes – March 11, 2021 – approved 4/1/21
BERKSHIRE HILLS REGIONAL SCHOOL DISTRICT
Great Barrington Stockbridge West Stockbridge
SCHOOL COMMITTEE MEETING
Teleconference Meeting via Zoom
March 11, 2021 – 6:00pm – approved 4/1/21
School Committee: J. St. Peter, A. Hutchinson, C. Sprague, R. Dohoney, B. Fields, D. Singer, M. Thomas, S. Stephen, B. Bonn-Buffoni
Administration: P. Dillon, S. Harrison
Staff/Public: T. Lee, K. Farina, B. Doren, S. Soule, (student member)
Absent: S. Bannon
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: 2 hour, 20 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: February 11, 2021 & February 25, 2021 – MOTION TO ACCEPT SCHOOL COMMITTEE MINUTES OF MEETING FROM FEBRUARY 11, 2021 AND FEBRUARY 25, 2021 FIELDS SECONDED: J. ST. PETER ACCEPTED: UNANIMOUS
- Superintendent’s Report:
- Good News Item(s) – P. Dillon – we continue to work hard and I thank the families, staff and students for working so hard. We are a few weeks into the Muddy Brook students being back four days a week and it is going well. Things at the middle school and high school are going well.
- Presentation & Discussion of Recover Plan – P. Dillon – There are two parts to this. We want to focus some on staff recovery, wellness, recognition and celebration of the work people are doing and some summer work, particularly around innovating, self design, book studies, etc. I think part of how we get the whole school community to move forward and recover is we invest some in staff particularly over the summer. On the student level, we are talking about how we re-engage students in school after this year of loss and hardship. Some of that is thinking about making sense of what has happened as we start moving into other things. Our initial thinking is around small supportive classes with a focus on belonging and wellbeing and researching what we need to do now and roll out a unified plan with summer and fall. Some folks in some school districts have gone really heavy into summer school. We think our approach will have some options for summer school but we are more interested in investing in opportunities in the fall of the next year, really broadening our after school or extended day program and targeting particular needs of kids. I think if folks have the option to do camp or social things this summer, that they should take advantage of that. It has been really lacking. We will provide a range of options here. Some will be more academic in nature and some will be more elective. We are thinking a lot about really engaging students in high engagement and in activities that cover disciplines ie music, musicals, dance, arts, athletics, gardening, a whole host of things. We are not going to put everybody in algebra 101. As we look toward the spring and summer, some more extended day stuff, including Project Connection and other after school opportunities. Very specific and directed tutoring for students who will benefit from that is another real way to accelerate learning. Options around underlying credit recovery so fully stand alone classes for someone to take a college biology class, a college level math class, etc. We think a summer program that is likely in the range of five weeks and building that around partnerships. In this document I have listed a number of our current partners that we tend to to stuff with and we will be going back to them but places like Greenagers, Flying Cloud, Mass Audubon, Norman Rockwell Museum, Berkshire Museum, Botanical Gardens, Berkshire South, Jacob’s Pillow, Multicultural Bridge, etc. Maybe two or three hours of academic sessions in the morning, followed by additional hands on engaging stuff in the afternoon. We want to reach out with a big survey for families to get a sense of what they are looking for. We don’t want to build a giant program that we are not going to fill and we don’t want to be caught off-guard by building too small of a program. The last area is really geared toward high school students around college career like a workshop and we might even bring somebody in to run that. Things like SAT or ACT prep, essay writing, perhaps built into English classes, vocational testing, series of lunches connected to different career areas across all grades so people can get excited about that, making strong connections within existing classes and potentially electives. For the last several years, Sean Flynn has worked on internships and he passed the baton to Heather Boyko for expanding internships and paid opportunities. That is a smattering of some of the things we are thinking about. I am happy to open it up to the school committee. St. Peter – I think it looks fantastic. B. Fields – Can you go back and talk about the extended day. Can you elaborate a little on what that would be in the spring? Is that just one day or every day if we are talking about bringing kids back fully. P. Dillon – Say we have kids back five days a week, we could run discreet programs parallel to Project Connection in the afternoons and piggyback on the transportation tied to Project Connection. We have a series of classes that happen on a Monday and Wednesday and another series of classes that happen on a Tuesday and Thursday, each building is a little different, but I am talking from 3pm to 5pm and at the elementary school it is probably 3:30 – 5:pm and we can create high interest in engaging opportunities for people to do all sorts of things. Some of them might be athletic in nature, some artistic in nature, some academic but project based and really dig into that. B. Fields – my look at it right now, I kind of like what the emphasis at the very beginning is investing in the staff. I really think that is important. We are all concerned with students but I think the idea that we approached when Kathy Erikson came forward with the School Center, Inc. proposal earlier in the year and we funded it for teacher stress release; I think that is really important. I like the emphasis that you and the team have done on not just dealing with loss. This whole idea of learning loss, in my opinion, has been way over emphasized. I’ll read something a teacher wrote from Boston “we have an opportunity to think and plan differently in this moment and to build a system that is responsive to the needs of the students it purports to serve. Doing so requires that we begin by listening to those young people and amplifying what they say and need rather than what we as adults think they need.” I do like the student recovery and you really have gotten to the problem about how we re-engage these kids. We know what they have been through and in some cases it has been very positive. Everybody thinks it has just been negative and there has been positive growth in many areas even for those people that might now think so. I like this. I bring it into my head to see if I have some more questions. P. Dillon – we were fine tuning it until the last minute. Clearly the next step on this is to go from a giant laundry list of ideas to translating it into specific programs and days and costs, and all things connected to that, even in some cases anticipated outcomes. We will work on that and continue to bring it back and roll out pieces and will get a good sense of what young people and their parents and families want and will shift things. B. Fields – one last little comment, this could be a template for what I pushed throughout this experience of looking at education in a new way. I really think that this gives us an opportunity to do that especially not the school committee because we deal with policy more, but certainly it gives the administration, teachers and the entire staff, custodians, etc. to look at what we do and could we do it in a different want and get just as good or even better results. C. Sprague – you spoke about internships and I sat in on the CVTE meeting last night and it would certainly be interesting to get shop students input on this. I feel like a lot of what was covered relative to restructuring and creating a framework around clear pathways, one of the things that was coming up was trying to figure out how that would happen in the course of the school day and how we find the time for that, whether it be samplers for freshman and where guest speakers could fit into that. Erica Mielke, Great Barrington – I have been thinking a lot and have been concerned about how we are going to support minority students, people who have possibly been affected more negatively than the rest of the population when we come back, and I understand getting everyone into the school is the first step and I see, Peter, in F, it looks like this is addressing what I am talking about but I was just curious how you are going to…who is the team working on this and what are some of the ideas you have right now for supporting students of color in particular who may have been falling through the cracks or falling behind more academically and socially. P. Dillon – the question is good, the answer will be more fully articulated probably a month from now. We have been working on a framework at each school and at the district level for diversity/equity/inclusion plan and it sort of tackles everything from policies, procedures and structures to district level to hiring through looking at our curriculum and is it representative to what our instructional practices are are they inclusive to what are hiring practices are. I am unintentionally missing things. It is a really complex, multi-part plan. I think Project Connection has historically done a nice job or supporting lower income families so we have had some success there. I think another group that we have to reach out to is the English Language Learner community. I think this pandemic has been particularly hard on them from a connecting prospective but also an economic perspective. I think there is work to do there. I don’t think it makes sense for me to go into too much more detail because that is a whole other thing that I want to roll out and I want to do it with notes in front of me and capture all of it. I look forward to sharing a skeletal framework and then inviting a lot of people to join us in addressing blindsports and making it richer. It is on the horizon; we are working a lot behind the scenes on it and at the same time there is really deep work happening at each of the schools. We will be sharing it in about a month’s time. E. Mielke – thank you; I just wanted it to be on record that it is important. I am glad to hear you are working on it. R. Dohoney – I would be interested where we are in terms of attendance in the two models we have seen this year, hybrid and fully remote and how that breaks down among the groups that Erica was referencing. I noticed statewide, attendance is a problem every place and it is particularly a problem in the minority community. What I am understanding is that could be an indicator for things we need to address with reopening. P. Dillon – I don’t have those numbers in front of me. The three principals are on the call and if they are open to it and anidocially to it and have a sense of this, I would ask them each starting with Tim to share what is going on connected to attendance. It is a little different in each building. Then we could come back with a more formal report. Tim, can you share anything about attendance and how it might be different as it is disaggregated? T. Lee – are you talking about attendance measured between hybrid and remote v. in person? P. Dillon – yes and I imagine not that you are back four days a week, relatively full time, there is also a bump in attendance because of that. T. Lee – yes, that is correct. Anidotically, we record much better attendance when we are in person than when we are hybrid or remote. B. Doren – I would definitely say that attendance for hybrid is better than attendance in remote. I will say that attendance in hybrid right now is increasing as we are doing it. It is a hallmark where we do student reviews during team time and then crew leaders reach out to families and students to get them in and then we also bump up concern cases to the clinical team who work with local pediatricians and collaborative care. There is a lot of work getting kids in. I would say that the remote was good attendance; hybrid is much better. We have had good attendance through the school year. K. Farina – Rich, to you specific point about how attendance breaks down by a subgroup, I think that would be something that we would really need to dig into. As far as between the different models, it is interesting at the high school level because we have more students who are fully remote than probably the other two schools, even in the hybrid schedule. It depends a lot on the student and family and why they have chosen to be remote. We are also tracking attendance and those that have the lowest attendance rate we address through our student support team and outreach through advisors and it rises right up to Peter Falkowski’s office and we even do home visits if it is needed. I don’t know if I can categorize with a specific subgroup of students who might have better attendance. I could guess but it would just be completely a guess. I would rather dig into it and get back to you with some real data.
- Request to Approve New Job Description (District): School Nurse Support/Float – P. Dillon – the intent of this is the nurses jobs this year are extraordinarily complicated. They are doing all things that school nurses typically do but add to that being part of a global pandemic. On any given day somebody in a building might test positive and then there is a call to the public health nurse and a dozen calls to parents, and all these other pieces trying to figure out the contact tracing. To give our nurses a little support and to share the work particularly as we are about to embark on the pool testing, I am proposing a new position and this would be to have another licenced nurse, a LPN would be ok, to support the nurses. At the moment, I have structured it as a per diem grant funded position and at some point if we pilot and it is successful, I might come back with something else. From a funding perspective, we had expected to receive really significant resources from the federal government from the state so there is no budget impact right now. We are pulling it out of a different pot. I think it is very straight forward. It is written like many of our other job descriptions but it is specific to these times. Fields – since I am on the finance committee, I brought this up in August that we would probably need some sort of support. It has been my experience through working at the high school and seeing what school nurses do in normal times, I always thought they needed some sort of float position. I would hope that this turned into a permanent position. That’s why I am very enthusiastic and going to support this now but I would like to hopefully see it as part of the budget. It is incomprehensible to me that only three nurses are in three buildings when we have over 1,000 students. What they go through in a typical year is incredible. A friend of mine who has a daughter as a nurse at Taconic talked about how many kids per day in a normal year, non-pandemic, she sees and it is an incredible number, over 200 per day and that is one person. A. Hutchinson – do you think it is going to be hard or easy to find someone? P. Dillon – I think it is going to be really hard to find somebody. We might steal someone who has been working in a hospital context who is exhausted and by comparison a school looks pretty wonderful. I think it is going to be hard. I think countywide there is a shortage of nurses and mental health professionals and I think it is going to be hard. Lots of people like the school hours and the opportunity to work with young people so hopefully we get lucky. If you know anybody, point them in our direction. A. Hutchinson – wouldn’t it be easier to not be per diem which means we want you two days a week but not three. P. Dillon – I want to start with per diem to see and then it may very well turn into five days a week. S. Stephen – this is grant funded, correct? P. Dillon – correct. S. Stephen – so we have little to say on this if we pay them per diem or a salary. Correct? P. Dillon – The role of the school committee typically is to approve positions. You could direct me to make it full time as opposed to per diem but what Bill is saying is compelling but it is a big jump to make a full time position so this is a way to get our toes wet and see if it is impactful. S. Stephen – so would the grant fund pay a full time person or a per diem? P. Dillon – we are sitting on a big pot of money from the feds and we anticipate getting more money. The challenge is I just showed you a list of about 100 things we want to do and even though there is a lot of money, we have to be deliberate about how we spend or invest that money so we could fund a full time nurse support float but it might be at the expense of something we haven’t fully articulated yet. I would like to start with it being per diem, see the full range of possibilities and before we commit to being full time. B. Donovan, MBE school nurse – with Peter wanting to do the pool testing, that is one thing, at this present moment, school nurses do not have a substitute nurse so if we need a day off, we have to be covered by a nurse from another building which then leaves that building uncovered if we are running around to other buildings. Even today for example, if you have an issue going on in your school, I pretty much was unable to deal with anything else but that issue, there are some many times that having another person that we can ask for help would really make a lot of difference. Even in a regular school year, besides doing the day to day, 50 to 60 a day at Muddy Brook, we have to do vision and hearing on all 350 students in the building. There are just things like that that are state mandated that we really could use help with. It is hard to everything else and deal with COVID issues such as today. Thank you. We would appreciate this position. MOTION TO APPROVE NEW JOB DESCRIPTION FOR SCHOOL NURSE SUPPORT/FLOAT POSITION B. FIELDS SECONDED: C. SPRAGUE ACCEPTED: UNANIMOUS
- MCAS Testing – P. Dillon – you remember we sent our letter to the governor, commissioner and the new secretary of education but we have not received a response from those folks yet. I imagine they are busy. The other thing that has happened is the elementary and middle schools MCAS testing window has been moved. It was to be earlier and now it is postponed until the middle of May to the middle of June. That is the latest update and there is no new guidance on high school MCAS testing but we are expecting that at some point. What I brought up in a different context, they are not proposing to use the testing for accountability purposes this year so there is no connection to that. They are talking about having…say there are 100 kids in the class, having different groups of a class take different parts of the assessment. It might be very hard and when they talk about assessment they often talk about validity and reliability and it may be hard to ensure that only some students in every grade are taking different parts of different tests so the impact of it may render the test meaningless or less meaningful than they typically are. That is a debate that is going on. There is some real tension there. A thing we did as a district, and Jon Bruno many want to speak to this is some internal benchmark testing and some families were taken aback by that but we see that as usable, actionable information to give us feedback in a thoughtful way across multiple grades and I think we largely finished rolling that out. Bruno – what we did was Star 360 testing which measures students’ progress in reading and math. It is not a MCAS type test, it is not a high-stakes test. It is a benchmark test. It is a progress test. It is part of what I would consider good practice to check where your students are at various times during the year. This was a way for us to gauge where our students are at so we can plan for next year. We didn’t know if MCAS was going to happen and like Peter said the MCAS data is really not going to be that great this year anyway so we wanted to get some of our own in-house data. It is only an average of 15-20 minutes to take so it is not this full day long test. It happened during advisory and in classrooms. K – 6 do this regularly, multiple times a year anyway; we just expanded it this year to 11th grade. P. Dillon – I talked to my son who is in 8th grade about this, it is like a smart assessment so as you start doing it based on how it is going, it directs you to the appropriate path. J. Bruno – correct. The first couple of questions are sort of practice questions and it gauges where you are then each question as you move through it will become increasingly harder or if you don’t answer two questions correctly, it will go down. It is trying to figure out where you and what you know and not what you don’t know. It is about what you are proficient in and not about what you don’t know where the MCAS is different. P. Dillon – we will share updates on that. There is another movement that is going on and I wanted to share it. A school committee group, the superintendent’s group and several other education groups are supporting a bill that is making its way through the state house around this. C. Sprague – it sounds like the superintendents seem to feel similar to the letter that we supported saying that they would like to ask the state legislatures and national representatives to cancel the MCAS for 2020-2021. It is another touch point and another chance to be heard. This is something worthwhile to do and detrimental to our school population. P. Dillon – you all did your formal letter. I don’t know if you also want to vote to endorse that bill or direct me to write a letter during that. I leave that up to you. Whatever the committee thinks. R. Dohoney – I haven’t read the bill so I can’t support it. B. Fields – I trust what Peter and Corey said. C. Sprague – HD4048 – Act to Cancel the Administration of the MCAS for the 2020-2021 school year. This bill is still being circulated at the State House and has broad bi-cameral and growing bi-partican support. The MASC Board of Directors also voted unanimously to endorse the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents (MASS) position paper on cancelling the MCAS. Typically it is just saying so the teachers can focus on providing our students with academic and social and emotional support they need as we begin to emerge from the grips of the pandemic and so our administrators can spend their time and resources safely opening the schools back up for in-person instruction as conditions allow. R. Dohoney – that’s not the bill. P. Dillon – I have the bill open now. It is signed by 15 or 20 reps including locally Paul Mark, Farley Bouvier, John Barrett. R. Dohoney – did Senator Hinds or Representative Pignatelli sign the house version? P. Dillon – I don’t see Pignetelli on it. R. Dohoney – did we copy them on the letter we sent? P. Dillon – I don’t think we did and that might have been a mistake. R. Dohoney – you can always send it to them. P. Dillon – (reads Bill; see Attached) MOTION TO SUPPORT THE BILL B. FIELDS SECONDED: M. THOMAS ACCEPTED: UNANIMOUS
- COVID-19 – P. Dillon – The good news is we have looked at the two data sets, COVID Act Now and the state one that comes out on Wednesdays. The numbers are very low though we do occasionally have cases in the schools. We had a case today at Muddy Brook and in the last couple of weeks, we had three cases total. The positivity rate, we are all out of the red, green and yellow. In Great Barrington it is .87; in Stockbridge it is 1% and West Stockbridge is 0. The numbers are good and I think that is something we can be happy and proud about. I think there is still work to do and these cases will continue to pop up. We will talk to the public health nurse and the nurses will do their work. With the school nurse support focus we will move forward.
- Since we last met, educators can register now. It remains a little frustrating that there is not enough vaccine available. If you can get to a clinic, the clinics are doing great work. We are starting to see more and more school staff be vaccinated. The governor announced some batch vaccinations for teachers but the closest place is at Eastfield Mall in Springfield. It is our understanding the regional planning group is working on that but they have not received permission yet. The other state run sites, I think there are seven of them, designated four days, Saturdays and Sundays, over the next few weeks. Hopefully I will come back with good news for everybody on that and we get dedicated days in Berkshire County. Some people have been successful getting vaccinated through local pharmacies or pharmacies within grocery stores. Bonn-Buffoni – is there anything we can do as a school committee to move this forward? P. Dillon – I don’t know. Advocacy is always good. Normally you go to the people who are local and you ask them to do it but their hands are tied due to the lack of capacity of vaccines so I think the feds are controlling the vaccines. Maybe we can track down who is doing it there and add to the list asking to help. I don’t think there is a clear answer. I know some of the Johnson & Johnson vaccines are coming and people are really excited about it because it is one and done. We will keep trying to work and we really appreciate how the clinic is going at DuBois. Heather Barbieri and her group of people are doing excellent work. Our own Becki Donovan is there volunteering all the time, Wednesdays and Saturdays; Steve Soule is there volunteering there too along with many other people.
- The other news is the commissioner and governor’s announcement about school and being back in school and what that is going to look like. There are a million and one considerations but the expectation is that elementary school students K-5 are back in school by April 5th and middle school students grades 6-8 are meant to be back in by April 28th. We have some work to do on this. If you read the biggest shift is they are now recommending very strongly that we no longer adhere to the six foot social distancing when people are masked and in class but the three feet is what they are recommending. The six foot standard only holds when people are unmasked and eating lunch. From an operational standpoint there are all sorts of implications around what that looks like and where can we do it. The good news is, the way Tim and his team have structured things, the elementary school is able to meet the six foot distance within its existing space. They are there four days a week so the transition there is our easiest lift. The lift at the middle school is a little harder and we are waiting on guidance around what’s to happen at the high school. We are also meeting with the various unions around this and all sorts of guidelines have changed. Many people have not been riding the buses and we can only get so many kids on the buses because of the previous guidance so there was one kid to a seat and with the new guidance, there can again be two kids to a seat. We are going to have to look at the implications for buses, bus runs, redoing bus runs and just about everything else. The other very nice thing as school staff start to get vaccinated, some people who have been working remotely with medical documentation are now starting to come back to school which is great. We will work aggressively to meet those deadlines and there is a lot of planning. I may come back at some point to the school committee around a recommendation for Wednesday afternoons and having a slightly shorter school day on Wednesdays because in building the schedules this year we were using Wednesdays for faculty to meet and talk about kids and curriculum and assessments and as we go back to school full time on Wednesdays, we don’t have any time in our schedules to do that because of how we grouped kids so I may recommend a slightly early dismissal on the order an hour or hour and a half on Wednesdays. I want to finalize a recommendation before I bring that to you all. St. Peter – at the beginning of your statement some antisocial incidents of COVID in the schools and you said those are contact tracing….is that correct. P. Dillon – sadly we are getting good at this but when we learn about a positive case, our nurses work closely with the principal and with the public health nurse. First we identify who the positive person is and who the close contacts are connected to the positive person and the standard around that is 15 minutes of direct contact or 15 within a 24 hour period but it is really a 12 hour period because we are not hanging out together at night. They go through that. What would typically happen is there are some number of people who are deemed close contacts so we call their parents and they go home to quarantine and eventually to be tested. When they test, they are clear to come back or they complete the quarantine. We are getting good at it but it is really challenging. You find out someone tests positive, everybody’s stomachs drop a little bit, then a whole bunch of phone calls in a very short period of time, you then let the impacted families know, you let the staff know then when both of those groups know, the whole school community is notified. Today, Tim and Becki and many folks at Muddy Brook worked on it. R. Dohoney – since we went into the hybrid in January and February, how many incidents of transmission have been in the schools? P. Dillon – There is a possibility of one but likely none. We have had a handful or positive cases but likely no transmissions that we can identify. That is fairly similar to the statewide data. R. Dohoney – so it is a fact that COVID doesn’t transmit in schools. P. Dillons – playgrounds and other places but not in schools. R. Dohoney – I think you explained it well but what the state has laid out, what is our district’s plans for changing models? P. Dillon – we are working on it now. Again the elementary school will be comparably easy because we are just really gaining a day. The middle school is more complex but we have a little more time at least in the upper grades to implement it and the high school is harder partly because of spacing and we need to reanalyze the distance between kids in particular rooms. We did it once at six feet then again at three feet. There are some high school classes where it would be even at three feet it would be hard to bring everybody back. Not all of them but some of them. We have some more work to do. J. St. Peter – with the high school classes, are there any other spaces that we can use like the gym or auditorium to set up chairs three feet apart. Is there any wiggle room in the library? P. Dillon – there is a little bit. The gym is hard because we just started using it for fall II, football and soccer and volleyball. Today you could play soccer outside but we are planning on using the gym for those activities. Could we move chairs in for classes then move them to the side or something we probably could. J. St. Peter – what about the auditorium; is that being used at all? K. Farina – our auditorium is available. We have been having our drama, band and chorus work in there so students can be far enough apart because up to this point it was ten foot distancing for singing and playing instruments in the school. The stage right now is completely full with all of the stuff that we have in storage what was ini the gym that had to get moved out of the gym. One end of our cafeteria is completely full with the other half of the stuff that was in the gym and had to get moved out. At least for fall 2 season we are going to use our gym for those classes and it would be one thing if it was an every single day occurrence but to set up even 30 or 40 desks in there and think about moving them to the side every single day for practices to happen, I don’t know how feasible that is. We do have right now 35 chairs set up in the cafeteria. The other larger space we have is the wrestling room which is being used for PE. I would imagine once better weather happens we can get our PE classes out more. That’s also a positive but on rainy days I don’t know where the kids would go if they can’t be outdoors and were using the other spaces. The library is already being used two periods because of the Cohort A increases. We already exceeded capacities in a couple of classrooms. Our biology classroom is another big classroom that is actually at six foot distancing seat 24 and we have all of the desks in there and right now have some of our larger classes assigned to that space. There is one other classroom that is larger and we are using that for a learning lab space because we need so many adults in the room when the students are in the room that we quickly exceed capacity. The three foot distancing will help but because of the schedule being only six periods this year and not eight, we are running a schedule with many classes that are substantially larger then we do in a normal school year. I was actually talking to Steve Soule about this today and the next step I have to do is a printout of all of the classes we are running by classroom and I am going to highlight all of the classes that have total enrollment of 25 or higher to just see where that leaves us. I know in the commissioner’s guidance there were suggestions of splitting classes and reassigning teachers, we could do that. I have a hard time imagining that it is going to be a fabulous educational experience for a student to have had a teacher all year then in the middle of May get reassigned to a new teacher for the last four weeks. We will look at all of the options. B. Bonn-Buffoni – would it be possible that some students and families that would want to stay hybrid for the rest of the year. R. Dohoney – you can’t stay hybrid. You can stay remote. That’s how I read it. P. Dillon – that’s how I read it too. R. Dohoney – it looks like we need to look for a new model change at the high school. P. Dillon – the guidance on the high school is incomplete. The parameters are concrete but the implementation date and some of the details are up in the air. R. Dohoney – I was never convinced in the fall with even the six foot distance that we were maximizing our school at the high school and I continue to believe that but a reduction in that could create a lot of space. B. Fields – it has come up in regards to the reopening and now that the teachers have gotten specific dates that they can get vaccinated, this is a question I have had in my mind for awhile is can the district require all teachers to be vaccinated? P. Dillon – I don’t believe we can. B. Fields – I ask it because it seems to be everything I have been reading and I heard nationally as well as statewide and locally is that if you get everybody vaccinated that is a huge step to reopening. My concern is we are getting a push to reopen. I know at the high school, I can’t imagine it is ever going to be five days but that’s to be decided. The idea that you have a vaccinated staff makes it a lot easier for both parents, students as well as teachers to adjust to what is now occurring. I don’t know what the legality of that is. I know in some areas and fields of employment you can’t do that. I don’t see what, unless for a medical reason, we couldn’t require our staff to be vaccinated unless they could come up with a medical reason why. P. Dillon – I will look into it. I actually like the idea of executive sessions around this. I see Julian Beadell, one of our student representatives has a hand up. J. Beadell – I have a question about any thought that has been put into alternative classroom space and I would hope the due diligence has been done and maybe it is more of a question of updating us. At the high school it seems that the issue and the sole reason we are not in school longer than we are in a four-day model is space. Looking at mobile classrooms like you would use if we were under a renovation or even tents, if any time has been put into that thought. Hearing all this stuff taking up valuable space in our school, how about storage units or getting U-Hauls. It seems like such simple fixes to what seems to be a growing issue. P. Dillon – we have looked at tents and that is a possibility until recently we really felt it was too cold to use them on a regular basis. We did purchase tents in the end of the summer and then we had those really windy days and they didn’t fare so well. That is something we can revisit as the weather is getting better, we could do okay there. The mobile classrooms, I think even with the grant money are prohibitively expensive. We looked at them in the context next to the building process and to purchase one, I think was a million dollars and then after a few years, there is an aftermarket you can resell it at half of its depreciated value. I don’t think building a trailer city makes a lot of sense because the money could be spent better somewhere else. What the folks at Greenagers at April Hill Farm did with tents is really quite remarkable and they have an exhaust and heating system around their tent city and there may be some lessons we can learn from that. The idea of moving all this stuff to put it in storage is not a bad one but to my knowledge and Kristi or Steve you can correct me on this, we are using some space on the stage and some space because the bleachers are pushed in on half of the gym but we we rent some big storage units and put all that stuff in it, it might not really get us much. K. Farina – I agree Peter. I would add just in the context of this question, we are actually designing and should be breaking ground in early spring to building two outdoor classrooms. That is actually in the works.
- Grouping Plan – P. Dillon – I am going to introduce Kristi and Jonathan to talk us through this. On the agenda we labeled it the Grouping Plan and the document they are going to talk through which will be available on our website tomorrow; we are calling it equity access and high expectations for all. I can present the document if Kristi and Jon you think that is helpful for people to see it as you talk through it. Farina – that is fine; I am actually going to start with a little bit of a rewind. I just want to give everyone the context of how we got to where we are in this document we developed. Peter, if you want to share your screen with the document. It was shared with school committee members already and I will get to what is in the document in a minute but I do actually think it is important to give context to where this plan came from. For the past several years, you have heard myself and the other principals and Peter speak about the work that has been happening on both in programmatic review and particularly in redesign at the high school. You have heard me share information about grants that we received; the Mass Ideas Grant, the Innovative Pathways Grant, we did the Safe and Supportive Schools Grant, the Kwine (?) Grant, and all of those grants are connected to the work that has gotten us to the point in this proposal. You heard us talk about school visits that we were doing prior to the pandemic. We had teams of teachers going out to schools all over New England. We visited schools in Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Connecticut. We visited schools in Southern California and all of this work was to look at what other schools were doing in new instructional approaches to 21st Century learning. We were engaged in a whole bunch of PD that we shared with you. We have talked to you multiple times about all our work with Great Schools Partnership and about our work with the teacher development group and the math teachers K-12, we talked about the work NGSX and science and SRSD with our social studies and ELA teachers. All of this was built around developing teacher leadership and shifting our instructional practices. I share all of that as the frame because last year prior to the pandemic, we had made some shifts and were in the process of doing a substantial amount of other work connected to this. Last year we started our year with eliminating all of our standard level courses in the core academic areas so in math, english, social studies and science we no longer offer standard level courses. To provide additional support, we were building support systems for that and we had introduced co-teaching into the school. You had heard us describe the work that was going on in connection with co-teaching. Corey actually alluded to this when she shared that she attended our general advisory committee last night for the CVTE programming. You are well aware because Sean Flynn came multiple times and talked about all of the work we were doing in reviewing, reorganizing and improving all of the CVTE programs. That work was all under way last year. We introduced Advisory last year. It was only happening about three days a month so it was just us dipping our toes into the water of what Advisory could be. We were in the process of starting the conversation around the Portrait of a Graduate. Actually Ben and I did a presentation to the school committee last January around that and we are beginning our conversations to get back to that. We were also in the process of planning a shift to what we were calling last year Academies. That is all of the work leading up to almost a year ago to the day. March 13th of last year was our Professional Development day where we did not have students in the school and school closed because of the pandemic. It is pretty much exactly a year later. I just want to remind everyone that all of that work that I just outlined was being driven by our conversations around equity and how our school was performing in the context. We were looking at outcomes particularly post-secondary outcomes and what we were seeing is that the gap that we were looking to close was not changing. It was not changing over a period of more than 10 years. The gap was remaining so we are really forced to look in the mirror and ask “how can we do things differently to get better outcomes for students.” Now here we are having lived through the pandemic and in a very similar way to what Tim described when he presented to you at the last school committee meeting he was thinking around smaller class sizes and the advantages they have seen at the elementary school, we have had to do some similar reflecting at the high school. Bill, I really appreciate your comments earlier in the meeting where we were talking about a new way of looking at education. We have to think about things differently and we have an opportunity to do that. This year some of the work that was actually accelerated because of the pandemic were things like this movement we were trying to make toward Academies and the fact that this year, because of how we had to schedule students, we did in fact create grade level teams. Grade level teams really had provided quite a substantial benefit to both the teachers in terms of how they work together and how we can better support our students. It is probably not the final step in this shift that we are making but it is in the direction of Academies. We definitely have increased Advisory and for this year, the primary focus of Advisory has been on relationship between students and students, students and teachers and academic support because of the pandemic we are in, but we are in the process of continuing to develop that curriculum into next year. The other big one that connects to this proposal is that because of the pandemic we created heterogeneous groupings of students. We did that because we needed to create cohorts and have students not move. What we realize is the experience for students supported by research that was shared in this document, that this practice is a practice that we need to move towards so we can try to shift the work that we are doing with students and get at that equity and outcomes that I referred to earlier. In this proposal that you received, I already talked a little bit about where we were so the next steps, you will see in the proposal here that Peter has on the screen, our proposal for next year is that our experience for juniors and seniors next year will actually return to what it had been. We are proposing no change to their experience. They would register for courses the way our courses have always been offered. The program of studies indicates that we offer CP and Honors courses in things like English 11 or in Pre-Calculus for example and the courses will be scheduled that way so students in junior and senior year next year continue in that old format. The sophomores who are current freshmen have entered high school and have experienced the heterogeneous groupings this year so the plan is we will not change their program of studies. They will still sign up for CP or Honors courses and their experience will be pretty much what it was this year. The weighting will remain the same so it won’t change anything for their transcripts but they will be grouped heterogeneously again next year as sophomores. The incoming 9th graders will be the ones that will come in under what I am proposing as our new program of studies where we will offer those that do not have labels. Students would sign up for algebra or geometry, biology; it won’t actually be social studies. We will have US History 1 because of the change in the frameworks in social studies and English 9 and any of their electives that they always had. Instead of the predesignation, what will happen is students will have the opportunity in the fall to learn about what Honors distinction is and how they would go about doing work throughout the year to demonstrate that they have achieved the distinction that they would then receive at the end of the year on their final report that would go onto their transcript. On the next page of this document, there is a description about the Honors distinction. Honors distinction is work that would demonstrate that the student has done something that is more rigorous; the student will explore the material in more depth; demonstrate that they have achieved exemplary in their understanding of the content and obviously this will have to be developed by departments and for specific courses. They departments will develop rubrics pertaining to this. This should not be a situation where students are simply doing more work but actually diving deeper in or expanding their knowledge or connecting it to other curricular areas. This is the work the teachers are going to be focused on doing and really actually this year have been focused on doing it because of the pandemic. I already talked about the transcript. Schools around the country are doing this and we have already reached out to college representatives. Sean Flynn spoke to someone from Williams and we are actually going to set up a forum with college reps to talk to them about how they will actually view transcripts when we make this shift because the shifts on transcripts won’t occur until the class of 2025 which is our current 8th grade. We feel confident that we have plenty of time to prepare. We are planning our PD for this spring. We have on March 24th a PD planned in the work in proficiencies that teachers will need in order to pull this off in a way that is successful for all students. We will be doing that in the grade level teams, particularly in grade 9, between now and the end of the year. I think I will let Jon speak to the last part of this and how it aligns to the broader district work and some next steps, then I think we will take questions. J. Bruno – thanks Kristi – this connects us with the broader work. You mentioned PD already but I want to reiterate this is not a new thing we are doing. We are re-engaging due to the stall with the pandemic. We have been working on this many years before I got here as Kristi told us. The broader district idea … we are still working on the 2019-2022 district improvement plan and we have already been moving toward proficiency based learning that I spoke about earlier with Star 360; professional leadership and professional learning as well. Muddy Brook has already adjusted some of their practice to meet these proficiencies to meet their new progress reports; DuBois has been doing parallel work so this is not just a high school thing. We are working on this at every level in the district and that is really important to emphasize. The teams will be continuing to develop these understandings, language and rubrics. It is a process that takes time. It is really important for the work and for the whole staff to be involved in that work. Leadership will continue to provide PD and learning opportunities during the school year, over the summer, whenever teachers can get it in. We are going to support them in that. This brings us back to the Portrait of a Graduate work. We are re-engaging that very soon. We are hoping to start some forums in April and we want everyone to join us in building that Portrait of a Graduate which is what we decided years ago that we would move towards. We hope to have a Portrait of a Graduate by the end of 2021 so we can start from there designing in our new district improvement plan for 2022 and beyond. This is an element of a bigger plan and that we will continue to share with you as we move along. We felt this was a really important move forward. Thank you. R. Dohoney – this is just the first discussion of this so it is a good time to raise issues and ask questions. P. Dillon – sometimes I ask for votes on things and I am not intending to do that tonight. We wanted to get this out as the concept paper as there are discussions going on in the various buildings. Those provoke some discussions at home so we wanted to get something out so there is a stake in the ground then I imagine us talking about this over the next several months. B. Fields – I have a couple of questions for Kristi. My first question is the statement that the focus is being shifted away from identifying and segregating students with a move toward the quality of learning with opportunities and challenges for all. I notice in it that AP is segregated. It seems to me that everything is going to change except AP. I guess my question is does this move also mean that AP is going to drop request requisites in order to get in. At one point the English Department made essays required. You had to write an essay to get into AP English. If it wasn’t accepted, you didn’t get in. It seems to me that in my experience at Monument in the 40 years that I was there and I taught AP for about 6 years, I made no prerequisite. All you had to do was pass US History with a 70. My philosophy and our department’s philosophy at that time if you wanted to take a challenging course, you certainly should and you had a right to and you also had a right to fail which is the way it goes. Kids were told. I did have a number of kids in AP who got about maybe 73-75 in AP US. I just want to know about AP. It seems to me that AP is a way to segregate students. K. Farina – I appreciate your question tremendously. We at the high school in the past couple of years have been moving away from the gatekeeping in our AP courses so we eliminated the essay writing that students had to do to sign up in English courses. Obviously and of course AP Chemistry where you have to have chemistry first because it is a requirement before they go in, so we have those kinds of requirements. I agree with you 100%. If students want to take on that challenge and we want to support them in taking that challenge and that opportunity should be open to any student who wants it. We do not want gatekeeping. P. Dillon – this is consistent with what you are both saying, there is some really great research that taking an AP class whether you get a 5 on the exam or a 2 on the exam is in and of itself significantly important and valuable and really schools have a tendency, not just ours but all over the county, to limit the number of people that go into AP classes to jack up the average test score. In reality there is all this great research that says it is better to not have 15 in an AP class but to have 100 people in it and the average test score might be going from a 4.2 to a 3.2 but at the end of the day more people are taking the rigorous class, growing from it tremendously and even though the average score will likely go down across the whole cohort, more people are scoring at higher levels then would have if there was a small subset of people taking it. The trend nationally is to open up AP to really everybody. That the course in and of itself is rigorous and there are real opportunities for growth there. K. Farina – This is also a very important point but that is AP certainly is an amazing distinction and many students strive to have that on their transcripts. What we also know is that there are more and more colleges that are not actually awarding credit regardless of the exams that students are getting on AP. Part of the work we have actually been doing and it is also highlighted at our CVTE general advisory council meeting last night, is we are really pursuing our articulation agreements and other opportunities for students to earn college credit in other ways while they are in high school. For example, our financial algebra course and our statistics course we now have articulation agreements with BCC so students can opt to earn college credits through BCC for those courses. We have an articulation agreement for our exploring childhood course. We are working on some articulation agreements with Hudson Valley Community College for articulation agreements in various programs. We are considering and actually just heard from BCC today because they had a rep at the table last night for the CVTE meeting and they are interested in helping us have a concurrent course for each of our pathways and that includes our STEM and our humanities pathways. We have been having conversations about offering an English Comp 101. We have our Project Lead the Way courses where students can actually complete them and earn college credit. What we know is not only do students perform better in college if they have done AP but students are more likely to be successful even at a community college if they leave high school with 3-6 college credits because they see themselves as college learners. We want more of our students to see themselves in that way. Z. Holmes – when you say that we have moved toward heterogeneous groupings this year, I am curious have we seen the benefits academically and socially that you’re describing in the research. Has that been consistent with the data? K. Farina – Zoey I really appreciate your question. I think it depends, is my answer. I think teachers were kind of thrown into this in the middle of a pandemic so in some places I think that there have been some real success stories and in other places I think there have been real struggles and we have to look seriously at how we can continue to improve our practice to best meet everyone’s needs. I think the other thing because heterogeneous grouping was driving by cohorting, the world language selections and the math selections drove the groupings more than I would hope to see as we move forward. What I mean by that is this year in 9th grade, students who were in an algebra class and students who were in a geometry class had to actually be in separate cohorts from one another and that math assignment actually creates a leveling even if we are not calling it leveling. It just does. If we can arrange our schedule next year for 9th grade for algebra and a geometry course for 9th graders are actually offered at the same time then it is more likely that the groups as they are mixed are going to have a better balance then we are able to create this year. I think from what I have heard from teachers, courses that have that better balance, tend to have a better experience for students. That will be what we strive for. J. Beadell – I was going to echo Zoey’s questions and I think Ms. Farina answered it well. I think from my own personal perspective and many in my cohort had a really really bad experience. I would say that is in part partially because teachers were thrown into this because of the pandemic and I would hope the PD and the preparation is put into this. I would say that the plan to integrate the 8th grade seems a little quick. I don’t think that the timeline is sufficient to transform the way that we approach and how we approach education. I would add, Mr. Bruno, you sort of made the comparison to DuBois and Muddy Brook and I think that is a very different thing. When we talk about deleveling in the high school and deleveling in an elementary school and a middle school. You are the professional obviously so I don’t really have much room to speak there. The experience really wasn’t great and the timeline of trying to have this ready for the incoming freshmen in the fall doesn’t seem possible but that is from by perspective and there needs to be a lot of summer work that goes into this. I think the timeline is a little quick and there needs to be a lot of preparation put into this if we are going to do this right and make sure that every student is getting out what they need because definitely this year wasn’t a positive look on it. B. Fields – I would like to ask Krisit another question. You talk about a gap that you mentioned between students. What does that gap refer to? K. Farina – specifically the post-secondary data. The state provides us with all of the data; they track our students after they graduate in terms of the percentage of students who attend any post-secondary institution on the data we were specifically digging into was the data of students who attended any post-secondary institution within 16 months of graduation, we can track their attendance, like the percentage of students who attend, we can look at the persistence, if they stay for a 2nd year in a post secondary institution and also we can look at their completion. On average there is about a 25% gap between out students that are identified as non-high needs as opposed to students who are high needs and that gap has been persistent over time. It hasn’t changed. B. Fields – it might be related to income. Is that one of the variables? K. Farina – that is one of the categories that would classify into the high-needs subgroup, yes. I’m trying to get some reports made. The data I literally had to go through about 11 different spreadsheets, clicking back and forth. We are trying to organize that into some graphics that we can actually share. I would be happy to come back with some of that information to share. B. Fields – A comment I would like to make about the general tone of this is I love proficiency-based learning. As you know, having worked with me, that this is steering us right to where I think we should be and we talked about it earlier with standardized testing. This is exactly what I have been asked for and have been looking at that education needs to move to. Jon, if I could ask you one question; not totally related to what Kristi has said is this type of learning that the school and the district is embarking on it both exciting, it is being an alternative to the traditional way we have done things which I like; is it possible that this plan, districtwide could be sent to DESE asked and offered as an alternative to requiring MCAS. There is one group that does this in Massachusetts and you are probably aware of it Jon, from I believe it is Jack Donohue out of the college of Holy Cross. It is a collaborative of school districts in which they got a $55,000 grant to come up with alternatives and one of the things they have come up with is proficiency based learning. I know Anne Hutchinson on our school committee, two years ago when she went to Hyannis, she was at a workshop in which Jack Donahue presented this plan. I am wondering if it is possible in your position to offer this to the state and say look at what we are doing. We are doing something that is not only exciting but also proficiency based and moving off the standards based. We are allowing students more democracy, a voice, to pursue what they want to pursue but along with the framework of standards. I just wanted to hear your input. J. Bruno – I will say what we are doing isn’t new, what we are doing isn’t exciting to me, it what I have been doing for decades. There is decades of research behind this. I remember this discussion when I was a freshman in high school in 1985. I like your enthusiasm for it and I appreciate that but as far as connecting this to MCAS, I am not sure how we can do that. I would hope eventually if we do have some statewide testing that is more aligned to proficiencies but that is a lot of work and there is a whole multi-billion industry involved. B. Fields – we have options and there is the parent option-out movement which I support but also the whole idea that school districts instead of having it shoved down their throat that they have to do MCAS, we could offer to DESE, ok if you don’t do our testing what do you propose to do. R. Dohoney – Bill, this is the most significant educational change since I have been on the committee and you are singing about MCAS and not letting other school committee members talk. We already had a 20 minute conversation about MCAS. J. St. Peter – We just went this yesterday so I didn’t have a great deal of time to look into it. It is definitely exciting and I am looking forward to how it will progress. From the limited data I have seen from different schools, it seems that the key to success in these is manageable class size. A lot of the private schools have 8-10 or 12 kids in a class. Obviously that isn’t realistic considering finances and space but I think the low to mid teen numbers is really the sweet spot and when you start going into the higher numbers it becomes difficult. The more one-on-one connection teachers have with each of their students is a lot more necessary in this type of model. I am looking forward to seeing how you are going to develop that. A critical step in this is smaller, more manageable class size and we have seen that through the pandemic that the smaller the class size the better learning examples and experiences. How do the teachers feel about this? K. Farina – most teachers believe in moving in this direction and it is all about the pace in which we go and the supports that we provide and the detail in how we are going to get from where we are now to where we are going to go. I appreciate your comments about class size. I agree with you. I think class size is something that really has to be considered when we are moving in this direction. In addition to the size of the class, I also want to go back to what I mentioned about co-teaching and team teaching and how groups of teachers work together. I do think that is another component. In terms of thinking about student support because that is a critical piece of making this work is the right support and scaffolding for students who need that so those are all components that tie together to make this work and to be successful. J. St. Peter – The co-teaching and team teaching, they experienced that at the elementary school and I think by doubling the teachers you don’t double double the size of the class; you keep them the same. My children were team taught and it did not go well when there were a few extra kids in the class than the normal class even though there were two teachers. I think the class size independent of how many teachers there are is critical going forward. I really appreciate Zoey and Julian’s input. C. Sprague – I just wanted to ask Kristi, you talked about successes as well as struggles. Julian mentioned a bit about where it didn’t go well. Do you know where and why it fell down and if there is a way to remove stressors of the pandemic to get a more accurate look at what happened. K. Farinia – I appreciate that question also. Again, I will speak to some examples and I don’t want these examples to necessarily be representative because I don’t know in terms of data. I don’t have every single course and experience and I have spoken to every single teacher to try to correct things. What I can tell you that I have heard is there were some teachers who I know did far more work last summer in preparation knowing how we were grouping students and the level to which they prepared for the heterogeneous groupings. I think those are the places where we actually see on the ground that it is working better. Because the work over the summer…certainly there is a professional responsibility to prepare and prep for classes but some teachers really went whole hog in and were involved in PD over the summer that we offered, etc. Those places I would say the students are probably having a better experience. I would also say some of the advantages that we see are students who might have been “sign up” for C but have actually been able to excel beyond what anyone who was doing under the recommendation that put them there anticipated. Students who were struggling that were signed up for Honors are getting more support because the supports are available in the class they are in. Those are some of the successes. Certainly that has not been across the board. I haven’t had a conversation with Julian about what his specific experience has been but I am not going to say that everything has been perfect. Everyone was collectively thrown into it this year. One of the things we know is the amount of work we have to do to support everyone and being as prepared as we work this out going forward. Z. Holmes – I just want to comment on what you just said in that I think it is so important that we find a way to include student and teacher feedback from this year in this decision making process and how we move forward because I know that moving into heterogeneous classes does put a lot more work on the individual teachers and students to differentiate their needs and as a student this does feel like this is coming a bit out of the blue so I want to make sure we are seeking student and teacher input in our developing this plan. K & B Grossman – I really appreciate that everybody on this call is looking for ways to improve on the educational system. I want to make sure there is an opportunity throughout this process for parent voices to be heard; all voices to be heard on this. I know Jon Bruno mentioned that this isn’t new. In fact, I know also that these discussions have been going on for generations. The names have changed, tracking, leveling, ability grouping, etc. There is a lot of research here. I looked through this document that has been circulating and I want to make sure all the data comes out. I know there is 100 years of research on this that show the benefits of leveling and tracking. The more that classes are tailored to students, the greater the performance of the students in those classes and that the benefits are substantial especially for higher performing students. This isn’t to shut down the debate, I want to make sure that this debate actually happens. I do have a couple specific questions based on what Kristi said. The first is I want to understand what the goal of what we are doing is. I know Kristi mentioned closing the gap; is closing the gap the goal or is the goal to improve the performance of kids at every single level? Those are two different goals. Both of them can be goals but I want to make sure that we are able to define those goals. The second thing is our look ahead of what the impacts are of this potentially. Are parents going to send to private schools or choice out because of this? If a parent wants their kid to take advanced classes and they are not offered at Monument, will they go to Lenox or Hotchkiss, etc. Are those outcomes of this? How can we create, and I ask this of you Peter, the way for us to get all points of view, the research out there and have a chance for parents both anonymously and through surveys, etc. and publicly to voice their opinions on this? And teachers and students. We had some of this discussion last summer and we had quite a number of teachers reach out to us with great concern. I don’t think that all the teachers’ perspectives are being fully heard. Lastly, I want to say giving the tumulus of this year of the students and the fact, and I can understand the argument against standardized testing right now of course but there is going to be a data gap, so how are we actually going to be able to understand what has happened to kids this year and then to say we are going to build on this further experimentation on these kids, when do we start letting the kids have some stability in their education and possibly catch up from what has happened this last year rather than continue to experiment in social engineer in ways that we (inaudible) thank you for listening to us and we appreciate being a part of the discussion. P. Dillon – I think what you are raising are important questions. We have to build thoughtful feedback and get input from students, parents and faculty and staff. We have a lot of work to do and we can tinker in a 1950’s approach to education or a 1920’s approach to education or we can evolve. People use different models and paradigms and do that to varying degrees of success. As we look at this, we need to continue to have high expectations and implement whatever we do well. There are very traditional schools and districts that are wonderful and some that are terrible. There are progressive ones that are wonderful and terrible. Having some deep conversations about it, setting goals, looking at different things. The college board which runs the AP exams used to give an award for students who took many AP exams and got 4 and 5 on all of them. The organization that supports and writes the exams stopped giving the award because they realized they were creating expectations that were unrealistic and really damaging for students so two years ago they stopped giving that award. I think in all of this we sort of have to look at how we support all students, support rigor, different and how to set up students, families and parents to be active contributors. K. Farina – the only thing I would add is to Brian’s first question, in the context of the goal. Certainly we always want to improve all outcomes for all students. I would actually say when I look at the data in post-secondary outcomes from the mid-2000’s to the mid-2010’s, we actually did see improvement across the board and I would like to see us keep going tin that direction. The gap persisted and that is why I was focused on that in this conversation but what we don’t want to do is not provide the opportunity that our students who have left us and have been so successful, we don’t want to hold them back from them. We want to continue to do that. We have had success stories certainly. We want to continue to have those. We just want to have more of them and particularly for those students who haven’t been having the success stories. A. Pink – I am a special education teacher at Monument. I have three children in the district and I want to speak out in support of this proposal. I think there is a dangerous pattern that I am hearing which is a lot of people talking about whether they think something is going to work or not based on their personal experience with it which is not an indicator of success. Heterogeneous grouping is current pedagogical best practice. I urge those who are in doubt to google the opportunity myth. I think that we have a real cultural issue in our school. I have overheard in the hallway that students who had heard about this, because word got out very quickly, they were going to have to be in class with “those” students. This was on the first day after being back. I worry about a lot of people who don’t have much experience in this making decisions about whether they think something is plausible or not. As someone who has worked in urban, rural and international educational communities, I have seen this successful, seen documented research success so it is not a question when it can work. It can. It is just how we do it and it requires a significant dedication to teacher development and practices in classroom instruction. Additionally, I also am really concerned about the discussion and need for parent input. While I think it is absolutely important, I think it is essential that we are very deliberate in how we are soliciting information. Many parents of our students who are in high-risk categories and/or economically disadvantaged, ESL, their parents can’t engage in a conversation about current pedagogical best practices in the same way which is why we don’t hear them or see them at these meetings. I think transparency with how we are recruiting this parent conversation cannot solely include parents of high performing students. There needs to be representation at all levels if we are talking about including families in the discussion. For teachers, I think it is really difficult when we are saying teachers are not in favor, when many of those teachers have been teaching at Monument for 30 years and have never had experienced doing this, have never been trained in doing this and may not be interested in learning a new practice toward the end of their career and that is significant in understanding where teacher pushback may come from. J. Speer-Holmes – I would echo the concerns about the timeline. It was interesting to hear the comments about this approach being successful in cases where classroom sizes were small; interesting to hear Kristi highlight that this steers small-scale experience would show that the teachers that really went above and beyond and prepared well for this, their cohorts had the best experience with it. I feel like this year has been one of the most stressful years for educators that we have had and to launch a new approach that is contingent upon teachers going above and beyond and really changing their approach and learning a whole new thing, they may already be pushed to the point where taking on this new challenge is beyond their capacity and they may need a year of back to normal to recharge and gear up for a big change like this. I would also echo Karen’s comments as far as these kids have lost a lot this year even though we don’t have the data on that yet but can this particular cohort in terms of all these kids, can they afford another year where we might not be as successful as we would otherwise be because we are implementing something new? I understand that there is potential for this to be great in the long run but there may be growing pains and difficulty in the short run so maybe this is the wrong time to impose new challenges on the same group of kids. I worry about the timeline and I hope we can make sure we have it all in place to emulate the district’s school to be successful. K. Farina – I just want to go on record saying, there is no one more concerned for my teachers in the building than I am. I have been at Monument, this is my 31st year there. All of the people that work there, I have worked with, closely, many for years and years. I am not putting this proposal on the table, I wouldn’t put this proposal on the table if I did not believe my teachers had the capacity to do what they need to do to better the educational experience for future students. There are students, if we just continue to do the same old, are not getting the kind of robust experience that the separation of Honors and CP does to students. The labels we use regularly to describe can and who cannot; we need to take it one and we need to do it now. K. Burdall – I want to echo what Kristi just said. She is spot on and I support that wholeheartedly. We have to be very careful with our labels and we have to have really positive intentions and assume that all kids can be successful when they are given opportunities in which to be successful. There are moments when we as adults limit those opportunities. This is a moment where we are trying to afford those opportunities to everyone. This is really significant. A. Hutchinson – I agree with that also and thank you Kristi for stating that. It is really easy to separate out the smartest kids and teach them. It is way too easy. All the kids need to have good teaching and be with other kids who are learning because it helps all of them learn.
- Sub Committee Reports:
- Policy Sub Committee – N/A
- Building and Grounds Sub Committee – N/A
- Superintendent’s Evaluation Sub Committee – N/A
- Technology Sub Committee – N/A
- Finance Sub Committee – N/A
- District Consolidation & Sharing Sub-Committee – N/A
- Personnel Report: Dillon – in the report it is noted that Jack Curletti is moving for the start of next year from his role at Muddy Brook as an elementary school teacher to become the CVTE teacher for early childcare. We congratulate him on that transition. That is effective in August of this year.
- Non-Certified Appointment(s)
- Extra-Curricular Appointment(s)
- Business Operation
- Education News – B. Fields – I was pleased to see the full page ad in the Berkshire Eagle Guide for Education. I think it was on page 19. It was a wonderful full page and I know it is something Rich has talked about and getting our word out there, getting in the game with other schools and putting our best foot forward. Peter, you have my congratulations and the staff that put that wonderful picture and the whole thing together. Dillon – I give Sharon credit for pulling that together. There was one oversight in that and I am apologizing for that. We used some previous copy and it said Monument Valley instead of our newly named WEB DuBois Middle School. That will be fixed going forward.
- Old Business
- New Business
- Public Comment – A. Pink – Is there any further update on the hiring process for the administrators at the elementary school and if you could outline for us what the hiring process will be, who will be part of it and if community members are also going to be included. Dillon – I will be putting out a call for parent volunteers. I have already done that with staff. The principal position, I don’t have it right in front of me, but either closed today or yesterday or tomorrow. Typical what we do is I pull together a search committee of roughly 20 people. That committee is advisory to me. At the end of the day, I make a recommendation. Often I go with the recommendation of the group and we reach consensus. Occasionally the group ends up being deadlocked and I exercise my authority in selecting somebody. I did not look at the total number of applications today. We have some high-quality applications. I think at our previous meeting I shared we advertised locally, we went to a number of local colleges and universities, well-know education schools, we took out a paid ad in the HBCU career service, networking consortia, and we did a couple of other things to attract candidates. I will make a call for parents and family representatives. I will put together a committee. We will discuss the process. This is a little challenging and I am doing a similar thing in Richmond. Typically our process is we break the search committee into three groups and we interview three candidates at a time, each candidate participating with one group for an hour, then at the end of the three hours, the groups talk about the various candidates. Often the interview is on two afternoons or nights, we talk to six people. In the context of COVID and bringing people face to face and that many people face to face, I think it is likely I will meet with the search committee and we will amend the process slightly and do a first round screening interview by Zoom and then do a second set of face-to-face interviews but maybe not with the whole committee. I will talk to the committee about that. A. Pink – did we utilize any of the local resources with Multicultural Bridge, or any cultural proficiency coach through the NAACP to help us with our diversity recruitment process? P. Dillon – we checked in with them. The pipeline as you are probably well aware for certified administrators is a tight one. There are not enough teachers of color to begin with and then often administrators are pulled from the teacher rank so there are fewer so that is why we went directly and intentionally to the HBCUs and that site and to the colleges and universities. We went to all the local ones and UMass Amherst and we also focused on Boston and New York thinking potential candidates from there might be more broadly diverse or representative. As we start working on this diversity and inclusion plan, the prospect of doing a focus on hiring at the principal level from a diversity perspective out of the blue is a tough one and what has become apparent through the research and literature around this, schools who are particularly successful build pipelines over years. They recruited people for summer internships then got them to stay on and teach, or they did some of what Pittsfield has been doing. I did talk to folks there about their pipelines with historically black colleges and universities. Even they are struggling with this because COVID put a bunch of that on the back burner. There is a short-term plan, then there is an emerging long-term plan.
- Written Communication
MOTION TO ADJOURN – R. DOHONEY SECONDED: M. THOMAS ACCEPTED: UNANIMOUS
Meeting Adjourned at 8:20pm
Christine M. Kelly, Recorder
Christine M. Kelly, Recorder
School Committee Secretary