Minutes – March 26, 2020 – virtual meeting
BERKSHIRE HILLS REGIONAL SCHOOL DISTRICT
Great Barrington Stockbridge West Stockbridge
SCHOOL COMMITTEE MEETING
March 26, 2020 – 6pm
School Committee: A. Hutchinson, J. St. Peter, A. Potter, B. Fields, M. Thomas, D. Weston,
D. Singer, S. Bannon, S. Stephen, M. Thomas, R. Dohoney, B. Fields
Administration: P. Dillon, S. Harrison
Staff/Public: K. Burdsall
List of Documents Distributed:
February 27, 2020; March 18, 2020 Tele-Conference
MOTION TO APPROVE MINUTES OF FEBRUARY 27, 2020 AND MARCH 18, 2020 A. POTTER SECONDED: S. STEPHEN ACCEPTED: UNANIMOUS
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: hour, 30 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.
- COVID-19 Update – P. Dillon – You are seeing a constant flurry of emails from me to the school community and also to the school committee about what is going on with COVID-19. The big thing is the governor extended the closure of schools through May 4th and I imagine we will gets a few more weeks into it and see how the Commonwealth is doing and whether we stick with that and are ready and safe to come back to school or whether that gets extended. To date our guidance from the state has been around providing enrichment to students and that is shifting a little bit and we are pivoting a bit to focus more on education. We are working closely with the administrative team and with the teachers to see what distance learning and rolling that out will look like. Individual teachers in the schools have been reaching out to kids and families about technology needs whether they don’t have a device or an appropriate device or if they have connectivity issues. We are working to address both. The first would be to temporarily loan devices to families that need them and the second would be to work with a wide range of internet service providers to help families get access in the short term. I think it is really thoughtful. We were a little bit ahead of what the state was directing us to do and then they released some guidelines today around noon that line up very closely with the work we are trying to do. I think we will end up doing a lot of work through our Google platform which is one thing we know and like to use and that will include some online work with kids in classes and individually and then some follow up additionally and some directed work. More importantly, in these challenging times, one of the ways is to get them involved in baking, chores, going outside and doing other things. We will continue to seek out other guidance around that. We are developing a very extensive FAQ that will be up on our website and will continue to share information around details there, both around what staff are doing and what expectations for kids and parents are. There are about a million and one questions and we are trying to get to all of them. I am happy to respond and on the highest level, most students have completed most of the work through the third marking period. That work to date will be graded and for the duration of the school year, we are building out a thing where work will be credit or no credit. Obviously, there will be flexibility. Bill, to your delight, MCAS has been waived for the year. They look like they will set things up differently and SATs are temporarily postponed. I think that is the wide range of what is going on. The other thing, everybody has really chipped in around our food program, particularly Kathy Sullivan and her team and Sharon have built up really nice partnerships. All the principals and administrators are also handing out food with the food service people. We had been doing breakfast and lunch every day for kids and we are shifting to a model where we are giving families multiple bags or boxes of food on Fridays. We are doing that for a couple of reasons. It reduces interaction and contact and it lets us rotate staff a little better so the likelihood of us getting ill in doing this is going down dramatically. As the economic conditions get tighter around it, this will probably become more important. We have done multiple calls and emails to families about this in English and Spanish. We are working with community partners to get the word out and we will be doing boxes or bags going forward. In some cases we will start sharing technology with the boxes and bags. We have to do a little more work on that. Dohoney – I think you guys are doing great on the education front and I am not surprised that you are ahead of the rest of the state. I am interested in how the rest of professional staff intends to engage with people like in terms of adjustment counsellors, guidance counsellors and how they are going to provide the roles and services we usually provide rather than just reading, writing and arithmetic. P. Dillon – we are in the middle of that and any of our kids might be on the receiving end of a phone call from a guidance counselor or adjustment counselor or other people. The plan is to take advantage of people’s skills. There are three or four areas we need to focus on. There is the food and security and I think that is largely well in hand. The other is the social/emotional stuff and the psychological stuff. For many kids being home is ok. For some kids it is particularly challenging; for some families it is challenging so we think there are some opportunities to provide support there. Some of this we are getting guidance from the fed and the state around what it looks like and will it be daily check ins with several families and kids through teleconference or the Google application we are using or something else. There are a few very specific discrete holes where we still need to come up with a plan for what it looks like. How does a physical therapist provide support without being able to put their hands on somebody. That may be around sharing activities or exercises so that families can participate. There are a handful or areas that we are working on. I know Kate is working on these things and we will try to move forward on those. K. Burdsall – I met with the clinical team today on Google Hangout, K-12, including Vicki Shufton, our school psychologist. I really special shoutout to Dom Sacco. Dom is at the middle school and has managed to call every single middle school family to touch base with them. I think he has had contact with about 95% of them. There are a couple that he just hasn’t been about to get to. They haven’t called back but I think that is pretty amazing. Between the elementary school and the high school, the school adjustment counselors have reached out to at least 50-60 families that had some regular stuff going on with them already, which is pretty great. One of the things we are working on is a hotline that Vicki will actually man. It will be a support hotline for families and students and even staff who aren’t necessarily connected to our school adjustment counselors or guidance counselors at this moment but they need some sort of support. We are going to have a questionnaire and Vicki is basically going to triage and then get people connected to people if they need that and also reach out to the Brien Center, CHP, Macony and outside therapists if need be. We are working on that right now. I think in terms of services, folks are really on the ball and trying to figure out how to take videos of physical things they need to do with kids and occupational therapy skills. We are really trying to get out ahead of the curve and be creative in how we can provide those services starting in the next couple of weeks. There are lots of moving parts but I feel like we are coming together as a team nicely and people are really reaching out to families and trying to be creative with planning for what is coming. P. Dillon – we are going to work closely with the unions and the various associations on this. There are some state-level guidance around district learning but there are some local differences. Someone wrote about it, something about changing the wheels on the airplane as it is taking off. This was a tough one but we will continue to meet with the unions and associations and negotiate some of this going forward. It is very challenging work. We are all struggling with the sense of uncertainty in our own individual personal lives as well. I couldn’t be happier about the broad teams we will be working with from the food service people to the principals and everybody in between. I think we are well positioned to have a high level of success
- MSBA-SOI Feedback – I sent around a draft copy of the SOI and some people had a chance to read it and some might not have. If you want to reach out to me and share specific feedback, some members already did, I will try to incorporate that relatively quickly. We can make changes to the document, send it around again and schedule a meeting maybe on Wednesday or Thursday next week for 20 minutes and presumably you will vote to approve it as edited. Then we can go ahead and submit that to the MSBA if you want us to do that. Dohoney – I like that plan. I am one of the people who gave Peter comments like 20 minutes ago, so having one more round to review it and have a quick vote is a good way to handle it. B. Fields – I agree with that. R. Dohoney – I know you don’t like to be a stickler but could you give us a hard deadline to get our comments to you? Like Friday or Monday? P. Dillon – what is people get comments to me on Monday by noon and then that gives Steve and I a day or two to incorporate them. We will schedule a meeting for a week from today at 6pm. We will get you a clean revised copy of it a day before or maybe two days before depending how many comments you give us and then we could have a meeting and do a relatively quick discussion and do a vote. If you want us to make more changes even at that late date we would do it but maybe the vote will be to submit it as amended. P. Dillon – for transparency with the public, our first two meetings were teleconferences. My recommendation for the next one if people are open to it and if folks have the technical capability is that we do the next one as a video conference. This is going to be broadcast on CTSB and will just be a picture of the schools and us talking. I think it is more acceptable to the public if we actually do a video conference and if people are open to that, and probably you are doing it already, and I will share directions way in advance and people can practice with us in advance of that meeting. Is that ok? CTSB has a Zoom account and they are recommending we do that and they will lend us the account to do that. If people are comfortable with Zoom, I am happy doing that. You probably need a laptop or a computer that is not more than eight years old.
- Vote on Borrowing – I have a motion around the vote on borrowing. More than a month ago, we had a vote and on the district end, we needed to act on that within seven days and we missed that seventh day deadline so it would be perfectly appropriate in moving that forward. I have a motion that I shared with Rich that I would like to share and have you vote on to give us seven more days to reach out to the towns. MOTION THAT THE DISTRICT APPROPRIATE THE AMOUNT OF $80,000 FOR CHILLER REPAIRS AND $50,000 FOR WASTE WATER TREATMENT FILTER REPLACEMENT INCLUDING THE PAYMENT OF ALL COSTS INCIDENTAL OR RELATED THERETO SAID SUM TO BE EXPENDED UNDER THE DIRECTION OF THE SCHOOL COMMITTEE. TO MEET THIS APPROPRIATION, THE DISTRICT TREASURER WITH THE APPROVAL OF THE CHAIR OF THE SCHOOL COMMITTEE IS AUTHORIZED TO BORROW SAID AMOUNT UNDER MGL CHAPTER 71, SECTION 16B OF THE GENERAL LAWS AND THE DISTRICT AGREEMENT AS AMENDED OR PURSUANT TO ANY OTHER UNABLING AUTHORITIES. ANY PREMIUM RECEIVED UPON THE SALE OF ANY BONDS OR NOTES WHICH MAY BE APPLIED TO THE PAYMENT OR COST APPROVED BY THIS VOTE IN ACCORDANCE WITH CHAPTER 44, SECTION 20 OF THE GENERAL LAWS THEREBY REDUCING THE AMOUNT AUTHORIZED TO PAY SUCH COSTS BY LIKE AMOUNT DOHONEY SECONDED: B. FIELDS ACCEPTED: UNANIMOUS BY ROLL CALL VOTE
- Cancellation of all Field Trips – P. Dillon – I have two more and I want to run them by you. I can be a formal vote or it could be the will of the committee. The first is in the context of the return to school being moved through May 4th, I would like to recommend and potentially get your support for cancelling all field trips and field study for the rest of the year. There are some small ones, there is a proposed trip to Washington DC and then more broadly, there is a trip to Peru. If you want to separate out the Peru one and wait a little bit to see what is going on, I am okay with that but I would like to cancel the trip to DC. I don’t think that makes sense in the foreseeable future. MOTION TO CANCEL ALL UPCOMING FIELD TRIPS DOHONEY SECONDED: B. FIELDS ACCEPTED: PASSED 9 TO 1. A. Hutchinson – I would rather wait on Peru until May. J. St. Peter – when is the Peru trip? A. Hutchinson – June 12th. B. Fields – I am not sure. They are talking in the other part of the state about school not even starting until September and the way this thing is going, if we have kids that are travelling, we don’t know what their status is or anything. I think we should just say there are no more trips. A. Potter – I agree. I think we should just clear the boards. D. Weston – Having done this trip twice, 12,000 feet is the last place you want to chance anybody getting sick with this. My son is signed up, my other son was going to be a chaperone and whether we vote yes or no, they will not be going. P. Dillon – If things dramatically change, we might come back to you but I don’t think that they will.
- Employee Compensation – P. Dillon – in the context of schools being closed through May 4th at the previous meeting you voted to put staff on paid administrative leave and compensate them through April 6th. My request and recommendation is you extend that through May 4th. D. Weston – if we are asking teachers and other staff to actually teach, why would they be on administrative leave and not just paid on the regular books? Dillon – we can do that. At one point, I was given advice that paid administrative leave gives people flexibility to work outside of the weekend. I think we will be meeting with the unions and associations to come up with something ideally in the next couple of weeks. MOTION TO COMPENSATE DISTRICT EMPLOYEES THROUGH MAY 4TH D. WESTON SECONDED: B. FIELDS ACCEPTED: UNANIMOUS BY ROLL CALL VOTE A. Hutchinson – what about the separate payments people receive for running school shows and coaching, etc.? S. Bannon – we will talk about that next Anne.
- Payment of Stipends – P. Dillon – I think this is really something that we should formally negotiate and the administrative team is doing some work on that. We are trying to take a look at all the different types of stipends and what work is stopped because of the circumstance we are in, what work will continue and in some cases what work hasn’t started. We will spend a little more time reviewing that. Sharon, the principals and I started looking at it. We will formally address that with the unions and associations in the context of negotiation. Does that work for people? Dohoney – I think that is a good plan. P. Dillon – the administrative team does a little homework, we will reach out to the negotiating team and then we will reach out to the various groups that get stipends and try to figure out something that is good for everybody.
- Food Distribution – S. Harrison – right now we have over 125 families that are going to be picking up or having food delivered for tomorrow and we expect, when I left, in one hour we got 12 additional families so our outreach is really working for our families. Hutchinson – I want to say that Sharon and that crew have done an incredible job pulling together all the food for all those kids at multiple sites. It is amazing. D. Weston – I just wanted to comment that the communication from the school district, from a district level and from the teachers and principal level has been extraordinary. A lot of people put a lot of time and a lot of thought into the communication. It is very effective. S. Bannon – what is really amazing is there is no script to go by. It has worked out really well.
- Policy Sub Committee
- Building and Grounds Sub Committee
- Superintendent’s Evaluation Sub Committee
- Technology Sub Committee
- Finance Sub Committee
- District Consolidation & Sharing Sub Committee
- Long-Term Substitute Appointment(s)
- Leave of Absence(s)
- Retirement(s) Extra-curricular Appointment(s)
- Public Comment
- Written Communication
MOTION TO ADJOURN – A. POTTER SECONDED: B. FIELDS ACCEPTED: UNANIMOUS BY ROLL CALL
Meeting Adjourned at 6:35pm
Christine M. Kelly, Recorder
Christine M. Kelly, Recorder
School Committee Secretary