School Committee Meeting, 06 January 2016

6 members present, Jackie Doherty absent


As the first meeting of the year, this was a very quick one (about 25 minutes). Most of tonight’s agenda was routinely dealt with so I’ve only noted points in the meeting whflipoutere there was some discussion.

After the roll call, Mr. Gendron received committee persmission to have LHS students from Generation Citizen address the Committee. If you, like I, were a bit confused about the program, here is a link to a December 30 article in the Lowell Sun by Amelia Pak-Harvey.  This project is a pilot meant to introduce students to civic engagement.

The students present at tonight’s school committee meeting explained their process in determining a need for a financial literacy course and asked for the Committee’s support in implementing a financial literacy program at the High School. After the presentation, Mayor Kennedy suggested that the students’ request be put more fomally on a future meeting’s agenda.

And, as a side-note, Ms. Martin noted a 4-day summer program for high school seniors which is sponsored by CTI. The program, Student Finance 101, is offered for free and is designed to assist seniors navigate financial aide and other financial issues as they move on to college and greater financial independence.

Motions

Mr. Gendron presented the two motions on the agenda tonight. The first motion (2015/506) requested planning and a follow-up report for what has annually been a Community Service Day  throughout the school system each Spring. Last year, my fourth grade students participated in this effort by cleaning and beautifying Lincoln Square Park; throughout the City, students do similar service projects embracing the importance of becoming active in their community. 

The second motion, 2015/507, requested a plan for the handling middle school population explosion anticipated to begin next school year. In addition to modulars (portable, leased classroom spaces), the district needs to consider teaching and support staff expenditures needed. Ms. Martin suggested that along with consideration for modular spaces, the district should also look at the anticipated re-zoning of schools (see Item 7 from the prior meeting on November 18, 2015) – which of course will make this a lot more complicated, but should result in an effective solution to significant increases in the middle school population.

I would agree with Ms. Martin’s suggestion here. Looking at the increased needs at the Middle School level along with the complex issue of creating a neighborhood school approach to student assignments will definitely be a daunting challenge. Rather than patch the immediate need for space with a band-aid, a more thorough analysis of student assignment and school zones will provide a longer-term solution and should result in a more permanent policy.

New Business

Under new business, a budget transfer request (2016/9) to increase the NEASC (New England Association of Schools & Colleges) accreditation budget from $15,000 to $24,000 was questioned by Mr. Gignac.  Mr. Antonelli was not able to identify the origin of the budgeted amount ($15,000) as the budget was developed prior to his tenure (possibly based on an historic figure from prior budgeting the last time LHS was accredited?). The increased amount ($24,000) covers the travel expenses for a Visiting Team of educators participating in the accreditation of Lowell High as well as the report presented to the District (due in Feb. 2016).

During the course of the accredition process, the high school hosts a visit, or peer review, by a  visiting team of  colleagues who observe nearly every aspect of a high school operation. As a result of this on-site visit, a report is made noting strengths and areas where improvement might be needed according to the NEASC guidelines. Here’s a link in case you’d like to read more about this. The travel expenses for this 4-day visit are included in the requested increase of $9,000. 

A side-note to routinely approved Convention and Conference requests was made by Ms. Martin.  The Martha McQuade Adventure Fund (story written by Jen Meyers here) offers scholarships to assist students who would like to participate in international travel opportunities, but find the costs limiting.

Meeting adjourned at 6:56 pm. Record time.

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