Jenny's Recap of the April 6th School Committee Meeting
Updated: Apr 20, 2020
The fourteenth School Committee meeting of the academic year was held on April 6, 2020. Perhaps the most notable item of this meeting was our decision to continue paying hourly workers including Kids Corner staff, after school staff, and cafeteria workers through May 4, 2020. All districts are faced with really hard decisions right now regarding how to move through this totally unknown time. There ARE financial impacts to these school closures, and there will be next year as well. Knowing precisely what the consequences are is next to impossible right now. With our hourly workers in general, they all work in programs that are notoriously hard to staff and if we were to make a decision to lay them off or furlough them, we would be faced with the prospect that they will not be there for us when school resumes. This is a huge consideration that I take quite seriously. We had a lot of discussion about this in Executive session and agreed to continue paying staff as usual through May 4. We will have to revisit all of this, perhaps multiple times, as any information about closure extensions and our overall financials becomes available. No Medford Public Schools employee should be filing for or attempting to collect unemployment at this time.
The School Committee adopted the Ad Hoc Report Request procedure that was presented by the Rules, Policy, and Equity subcommittee. This procedure will help us be clear in our report requests to the administration. It will allow our administrative team to work as efficiently as possible because requests will be explicit in purpose and requirements. The administration will also provide feedback to the School Committee regarding the time required to pull a requested report together. Often, the most straightforward reports are quite complex behind the scenes. This will allow us all to have a more productive dialog moving forward.
We voted to cancel the 7th Grade McGlynn Alton Jones Environmental Overnight Field trip. Families will be reimbursed in full. Reimbursements will take time as checks need to be physically cut, and our finance team is working around safety protocols for working in our buildings.
The administration updated us on the non-reimbursable expenses associated with the cancelled trip to France for 38 Medford High Students. Before the school closures, we voted to cancel the trip. We learned that despite having Cancel for Any Reason insurance in place, families would have lost $2,100. We asked our attorney to work on our behalf to arrange better terms with the tour operators. Thanks to that work, families will now lose only a $500 non-refundable deposit. Here also, reimbursement will take some time, but the finance team is working on it as it is safe to do so.
We revised the date of the recommendations of the Playground Advisory Committee to May 3, 2020, to give Dr. Cushing additional time to work through the process in light of the school closure.
We voted to table the Medford High Vision Committee until Fall 2020. We agreed that the committee would be reformed in the fall using the rules in place to form advisory committees to the School Committee. During the discussion, I commented that seating the committee sort of skipped several critical steps that should have happened first. We should, before we seek any committee volunteers for anything, be clear about WHAT the committee is, what the parameters are, what the timeline is, what the commitment is, and who is needed to make all of the work happen. In the fall, we WILL do this first. At that time, I'll be advocating to ensure that our committee is well rounded on many fronts, including that it represents the diversity of our City and our students. I will also be pushing to make the committee bigger than 15 because this effort is enormous. The Mayor asked that in the fall, we invite the previously selected members to join the committee if they are still interested. The reality is that we will all be in very different places come fall, and some may elect not to re-join as well. Between now and then, the City will be working on the issues of recruiting a more diverse population of volunteers to our various boards and commissions, so I'm hopeful that we will be able to benefit from that work when we are ready.
We voted to expand our middle school health curriculum to include the following topics: Anatomy and Physiology, Puberty & Adolescent Developments, Pregnancy & Reproduction, STIs and HIV. We discussed the changes at a Curriculum subcommittee meeting in February. Details from that meeting can be found here. Now, Rachel Perry will begin work to create the sequence of material across the middle school grades. She has requested an additional health teacher so that this curriculum expansion can occur. Like all budget asks, they are pending until the full budget is approved, which usually happens in June.
Kirsteen Patterson, our Assistant Superintendent of Finance, has tendered her resignation effective June 30, 2020. This makes two key leadership positions that will be vacant on June 30 (Diane Caldwell is also retiring). Ms. Patterson has accepted a position MUCH closer to home with more competitive compensation. She will be missed, but if you have a chance, wish her well in her new position.
Superintendent Edouard-Vincent reiterated her chief concern during the school closure: the social, emotional health of all our students. If students and families are struggling with anxiety, please reach out to your building principal or Stacey Shulman. Our staff is here to help.
The district is working to provide professional development to staff around dealing with trauma amongst our students.
At the meeting, we were awaiting word regarding MCAS that has since been clarified by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. There will be no MCAS this year. Further information will be forthcoming regarding impacts, particularly at the high school level.
All K-2 students now have district emails. If you have not received your child's information, please reach out to your building principal.
Our CCSR students continue to find creative ways to make a difference. Their calendar of fun at-home activities has been a welcome distraction in my house. They also organized Porchfest, where residents joined together from their porches to sing Imagine.
We authorized our Assistant Superintendent of Finance, Kirsteen Patterson, to negotiate with Eastern Bus on a payment to cover this school closure time frame. While Mass General Law generally prohibits districts from paying for services that are not received, all districts are working in this new reality. With buses, in particular, drivers hold Commercial Driver's Licences and are in high demand. Were we not to pay Eastern Bus, they would be faced with laying off their workforce. With CDL licenses, the drivers would likely be able to secure other employment. This would pose an issue for us when we are ready to re-start school. Districts across the state are in the same boat and are all negotiating similarly.
Your call to action: Stay home, and wash your hands! Reach out to me (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you have questions or an issue you'd like to discuss. Please also share this blog with friends and neighbors who want to be informed about our schools. Subscribing to the newsletter will ensure you receive these updates as I post them.