Jenny's Recap of the May 18th, 2020 School Committee Meeting
Updated: Jun 10, 2020
The seventeenth School Committee meeting of the academic year was held on May 18th, 2020.
Superintendent Edouard-Vincent's Updates
Dr. Edouard-Vincent noted that several Medford families have been affected by house fires in the last month and shared information on funds established to help them rebuild.
The Superintendent also shared a beautiful tribute in celebration of Haitian Flag Day. You can see her tribute here. Her comments about the important day begin at 50:40
The Subcommittee on Behavioral Health, Special Education, and Pupil Services shared their upcoming schedule of meetings. Be sure to check the MPS website for official meeting posts, but the schedule, as of 5/18/2020, is here for reference.
Charlene Douglas, the President of the Medford Teachers Association, spoke during Community Participation. She highlighted the union's commitment to collaboration in service to our children and staff. Union-district relationships can be incredibly strenuous, and we are lucky here in Medford that we agree on so much. Among her comments, she asked that we all work together as we face tough financial times ahead. She asked that we work together to ensure that our students don't become the sacrificial lambs of budget cuts and that we innovate together. Her comments about innovation included how we educate our kids, how we work together, and how we negotiate. Very exciting!
I couldn't agree more with Charlene. Our students deserve the very best and will need more before they need less. This pandemic is not only straining our budgets, but it is straining our children and their families. Education is the greatest equalizing tool we have as a nation, a state, and a community. It is this thing that changes the future, lifts students out of poverty, and provides them the tools for the future. In addition to all of that, school is a safe haven for so many students. We, as residents, need to make sure that school can continue to play these critical roles.
COVID-19 Related Updates
Students needing tech support from the district can reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org. A member of the district technology team will respond and assist.
We discussed the upcoming Roundtable series dedicated to Fall back-to-school scenarios. Sessions will be held on 5/27, 6/3, and 6/10 from 4-5:30 via virtual meeting. (Note: our first meeting was well attended with over 300 participants!). I made a motion to defer a roundtable dedicated to the spending of funds identified for Medford by the Student Opportunity Act. Our reporting requirement has been delayed by the state AND a significant likelihood that the planned $138,000 additional dollars will not materialize due to the COVID-19 crisis.
Joan Bowen, our Director of Pupil Services, gave an update on the Individual Remote Learning Plans developed for students on IEPs in our district. The department has completed more than 800 individual plans in a few short weeks. These plans guide how we will provide services required under a student's IEP during school closure.
Dr. Edouard-Vincent provided an update on student engagement through school closure. We have been successful in our efforts to reach 99.95% of students. As a district, we are concerned about the limited engagement of some of our students, and efforts are ongoing to understand how to address those specific circumstances.
Our Medford High leaders shared plans to celebrate the Class of 2020, including plans for graduation in August, a parade (June 3rd!), and Prom in November. Kyle, a member of the senior class, spoke and let us know that the class overwhelmingly wants our leaders to prioritize communication with them as we navigate these uncharted waters. He was indeed the highlight of the meeting.
Meeting Agenda Items
The School Committee adopted a policy that will govern the review cycle of all policies written on a go-forward basis.
I requested a report that summarizes the data collected about world language preference for our incoming 6th-grade class. Currently, we offer Spanish and Italian. For the first time, we asked about preferences if French were an option. This is one data point of many; we should look at when we consider our world language portfolio. This updated survey and requested report are the product of our budget meetings with the World Language department. There, Dr. Ricciardelli noted that the French enrollment at the High School level is low due to the lack of offering at the middle school level.
The School Committee will not break for summer this year, as is the normal schedule. We will meet on a regular schedule to be determined to ensure a smooth opening in September.
I requested that the After School leadership team conduct a review of our current program, opportunities to improve the offering, a comparison of our offering as compared to other programs in the community. The report will also include revenue and spending review and recommendations about rates for the upcoming school year. The plan will also begin to explore operational contingency plans for Fall 2020. My goals for this request are to bring transparency and clarity to this program. Financially, the program is managed through a revolving account, meaning we received revenue and pay expenses from the same place. I see an opportunity to thoroughly review ALL revolving accounts to ensure we are clear about how these accounts operate, the fees we charge, and that we are providing the best possible services to Medford. This motion passed unanimously.
We discussed plans for the Newcomers program that supports elementary English Learners. The program is currently located at the Brooks (Grades 1&2) and Roberts (Grades 3-5). Families in the program overwhelmingly live in the McGlynn and Columbus districts. Currently, we have operational challenges with transporting our students over long distances to the program each day and have families split across buildings. Our EL Director, Paul Teixeira, looked at a variety of programmatic and spacing factors across our buildings and presented several options. The committee unanimously supports his recommendation that Grades 1-4 be located at the Columbus school and Grade 5 at the McGlynn Elementary school beginning in the next school year. During the discussion, the committee acknowledged that perhaps a more broad review of all our programs and districting is required, though no specific action was taken.
Your call to action: Reach out to me (email@example.com) 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.
If you are able, please consider a donation to this worthy Citywide Elementary Alliance effort. Our families across Medford are in need. Multiple school supply drives distributing thousands of dollars in supplies have been wiped out in MINUTES. The group is now working on supply kits for the most unusual summer in history. I will be honest and say that our schools are not providing this support and as we stare down a multi-million dollar budget cut for next year, I hope that our city can find better answers. But in the meantime, summer is coming and Medford is amazing so let's do this!
Jenny Graham is a member of the Medford School Committee. This blog represents her thoughts on issues of interest and does not reflect any official position of the City of Medford or the Medford School Committee. Meeting minutes, which are the public record of all meetings can be found here. Full recordings of meetings of the School Committee can be found here.