School Committee Meeting, 16 March 2016

School Committee Meeting: Wednesday, March 16, 2016

2016-Mar-01_0051 All members present.

Item 19, a motion by Ms. Martin meant to highlight innovative curricula in the Lowell Schools, was taken out of order.  The featured school, The Pyne Arts (link here), is a Grades PK-8 magnet school. It is unique because of the grade span that the school includes (most Lowell schools are PK-4 or 5-8) and its focus on integration of the arts into their curriculum.

What makes these types of presentations particularly powerful is when the school articulates what makes them unique. During last evening’s presentation viewers were treated to a great performance by a choral group and a video of the students engaged in drama and other arts programs. The Pyne Arts is known for their parent engagement as well. They have an excellent Math Resource page (view link herewith a rich collection of explanations and information helpful to parents supporting their children, as well as up-to-date and well-written parent information (click on Parent and Student link in the banner).  

My only suggestion for scheduling featured school presentations in the future is to give a timeframe (15, 20, 30 minutes?). Devoting almost an hour to a spotlight presentation made last night’s meeting quite lengthy. Providing a time limit might be useful in distilling presentations to the uniqueness of each school.

Motions

There were 5 motions on the agenda. The motions included:

  1. 2016/118: A request that the Transportation Subcommittee address bus contract and safety concerns (Mr. Gignac).
  2. 2016/119: A request for a joint meeting of the Facilities Subcommittee (School Committee)and Municipal Facilities Subcommittee (City Council). Parent Tim Blake spoke about a recent issue at the Sullivan School illuminating concerns about the building. (Mr. Gignac and Mr. Gendron)
  3. 2016/120: A request for an update from the superintendent on standard-based report cards (Ms. Doherty) 
  4. 2016/127: Request Subcommittee meeting to consider making a museum of educational history at the former Elliott School (Mayor Kennedy)
  5. 2016/128: Request for review of the safety policy by Subcommittee on Safety & Discipline, Alternative School Program, and Student Support Services & Special Education.  Parent Laura Ortiz spoke about the need to review and update the current policy (this policy mainly refers to food allergens) to provide safety measures and access to needed medication (inhalers, epi-pens) for all students who may be anaphylaxic regardless of the allergen.

Subcommittees

Mr. Hoey reported on the Policy Subcommittee meeting (15 March 2016) during which the policy for placing children of staff who live out of district in Lowell Schools was discussed.  Currently, there are 32 students (I also heard the number 35 mentioned at one point in this discussion) who live out-of-district but are educated in the Lowell Schools because a parent is a Lowell Public School staff member. This policy has been regarded as a means of retaining staff. A problem happens when a out-of-district child of a staff member is placed in a school for which there is high interest and a waiting list. There have been some instances where a resident requesting the same school as a “first pick” is put on a waiting list. Additionally, there are concerns with regard to availability of space as the district experiences growth a particular levels (Middle School in particular) which may impact space available and class size.

Mr. Hoey’s subcommittee discussed three options during their meeting Tuesday night and brought forward one in which the committee would adhere to the state law regarding school choice. This option includes giving Lowell residents first choice in school seat openings (children of staff placed as space allows), engaging the funding options of School Choice, and making the Wait Lists transparent.

After much discussion, the motion was amended to include a timeline for reviewing the policy with school department, school committee, and law department input by the beginning of the 2016-2017 school year.  Questions were raised about how to phase in any change in policy fairly, and the importance of reaching out to affected staff so they can plan accordingly.

Reports of the Superintendent

School Year 2016-2017 calendars as well as the budget deliberation calendar/schedule were approved. Lowell Career Academy reported on their efforts to provide education and support for disengaged students.

New Business

  • Budget transfer
    • $800,000 (from School Committee Suspense Account to Salary Account for recent settlement of grievances), and
    • $82,217 (from School Food Revolving Account to General Fund as a result of a DESE (Department of Elementary and Secondary Schools) audit)
  • Acceptance of Grant ($2,5000) from Kronos for IDEA camp
  • Permission to post Interim Grant Manager Position

Following approval of Convention Requests and Civil Service Requests, the School Committee went into Executive Session to review Collective Bargaining proposals and positions. Meeting adjourned from Executive Session.

The meeting packet can be found here.