School Committee Meeting: Wednesday, December 2, 2015
Five members present, Mr. Gendron was absent.
This meeting again featured a public portion and an Executive Session. Most of the agenda items were dealt with quickly with little discussion.
There were two new motions, both made by Mayor Elliott. Agenda Item 5 (2015/453) addressed some concerns that LHS students appeared uninformed about a Voice of Democracy scholarship opportunity. Concerns were expressed to both Mayor Elliott and Councilor Mercier, and a request for a report on what transpired leading to the lack of LHS participation was requested.
Agenda Item 7 (2015/454) sparked some discussion/questions. This motion requested a vote to release the Executive Session minutes relative to updates to the UTL collective bargaining negotiations and grievance/litigation updates. While Ms. Martin expressed that releasing the Executive Session minutes (which are not public) was premature, Mr. Elliott contended that the release of this information is needed to keep taxpayers and teachers/paraprofessionals up-to-date. The motion to release the minutes passed with Mr. Elliott, Ms. Scott, Ms. Ross-Sitcawich and Mr. Conway voting in favor (Ms. Martin and Mr. Leary voted no, Mr. Gendron was absent).
I’m going to refrain from commenting here as a former UTL member. However, I would comment that releasing Executive Minutes could possibly be a limiting factor in reaching agreement during contract negotiations. It seems to me that discussion of issues and proposed solutions might be less forthright and/or there might be less willingness to compromise or seek creative resolution when the parties know that whatever is said will go through the filter of public opinion.
Subcommittee Meeting Notes
Three subcommittee meetings were on the agenda. Ms. Martin reported on the Curriculum Subcommittee Meeting of Nov. 17 which highlighted current and future collaborative efforts between the University of Lowell Graduate College of Education and several Lowell Schools. See Meeting Packet for details. As the Personnel Subcommittee Meeting reflected a discussion regarding the CFO position, that discussion was combined with Item 15, later in the meeting.
Ms. Scott reported on the Policy Subcommittee meeting during which refinements to the Weather Cancellation Policy (school cancellations and the 2-hour delay proposal) were discussed.
Reports of the Superintendent
- Item 10 (2015/440) – LRTA schedule. Mr. Antonelli (Interim Superintendent for Finance) reported that conversations with LRTA resulted in increased service; however, Ms. Ross-Sitcawich reports parents contacted her regarding overcrowded buses in the afternoon. Mr. Antonelli will investigate further.
- Item 11 (2015/441) – LHS had recently committed to a violence prevention program (Mentor Violence Prevention or MVP). LHS has identified students who, along with faculty advisors, will receive this free training via Northeastern University. The SWEAR program, referenced in Mr. Conway’s motion on 9/16, will be included in a program assessment at the end of the school year.
- Item 12 (2015/442) Ms. Durkin explained the yearly process LPS engages in regarding review of bullying prevention and intervention. Although this is mandated every 2 years, LPS does this every year and updates manuals as needed.
- Item 13 (2015/445) Mr. Curley (LPS Maintenance) met with city-side counterparts to ensure reponsibilities for efficient removal of snow. A concern is that the snow accumulated at bus stops makes waiting for buses unsafe. Ms. Ross-Sitcawich requests that school committee and LPS administrators monitor the bus stop safety issue throughout the upcoming winter.
A new CFO (Chief Finance Officer) contract was developed through the Superintendent’s office. The most significant changes include the removal of the sick-leave buyback provision and the addition of earned vacation time (25 vacation days, 12 sick days, 2 personal days). The vacation time earning process is similar to that of private sector companies where a portion of the maximum vacation time is earned every pay period.
The District went through a series of interviews and have selected the successor to Jay Lang for a the newly-renamed CFO position. Of the 18 applicants, Kevin McHugh, former Lowell School Committee Member and currently Lynn Public School Business Manager was the successful candidiate.
The vote for the contract was 5 yeas (Martin, Leary, Conway, Scott, Ross-Sitcawich), 1 nay (Mayor Elliott) and 1 absent (Mr. Gendron) Here the discussion got a little muddy as to whether the Committee was approving just the contract wording or a revision that would include Mr. McHugh’s name as CFO. However, Amelia Pak-Harvey (Lowell Sun) is reporting that Mr. McHugh was the successful candidate and has received a contracted salary of $145,000 beginning on January 1, 2016. Link here to the Lowell Sun article.
The revisions to the 2-hour delay policy (Agenda Item 17 2015/450) were presented. Those revisions include
- using ConnectEd to telephone families,
- the addition of local cable access TV show as an official means of communication,
- outlining which employees would report as usual upon a school delay (cafeteria and custodial staff), and
- cancellation of before school programs in the event of a cancellation or delay.
This item passed (6 yeas, 1 absent) and Dr. Khelfaoui will update the current written policy (dated 2004) and disseminate.
The discussion regarding establishing an Accountability Office was deferred until next meeting.
Prior to Executive Session and Adjournment, Ms. Martin requested that the incoming School Committee members are invited to the next meeting (December 16). Dr. Khelfaoui reported that his office had already reached out to the future school committee members through a introductory coffee meeting.
Following the open meeting, the Committee went into Executive Session to discuss updates to the UTL contract negotiations, litigation and grievances.
The link to the meeting packet can be found here.