School Committee Meeting, 15 June 2016
5 present, Mr. Gendron absent
This meeting agenda was packed as the School Committee goes on summer meeting schedules (once each month, 3rd Wednesday) for July and August. After 3 1/2 hours, the Committee also went in to Executive Session for purposes of administrative salary/contract updates (principals, assistant superintendent, superintendent) and salary increases for unaffiliated employees (otherwise not part of a negotiating group).
Special Order of Business
Presentation and public hearing regarding the transformation of LHS Career Academy into an Innovation School. Passes (6 yea, 1 absent) with supportive statements for staff and from UTL.
The designation “innovation school”, like a “Horace Mann” school is for schools that are chartered, but still under local control in funding and governance. This is a huge distinction from Commonwealth Charter Schools such as LCCPS and Lowell Collegiate. Both of these schools receive public funding on a per pupil basis but are not governed or answerable to municipal school boards. The innovation school fills a need to continue to reach out to some of our most needy and disenfranchised students with a unique and creative program that will remain under governance of the Lowell Public Schools.
2016/246 transfers of money – sounded as if it mainly was to expend Circuit Breaker funds so that this funding source was trimmed to the allowable limit. Through 3 transfers, the district will be enabled to purchase additional laptop carts (1 cart per grade level per school) and to fund furnishing for the additional Grade 5 classrooms needed to accommodate the bubble at the Middle School.
2016/247 Cost of Education for Children Out of District. The amount presented $129,610 is estimated for 2015-16 (final year-end numbers available after financials close in July).
Dr. Khelfaoui states that while this number is not for 2016-17, he anticipates the expense for educating 36 OOD students will be “flat” – marginally changed up or down as the number of students will remain the same, just the grade level changing. When questioned as to meeting legalities according to state law regarding students who may also be out-of-state, Dr. Khelfaoui notes that the district can choose to accept such students but that there is no reimbursement from Commonwealth and that the OOD students who also live out-of-state cannot be included in student headcount for purposes of budgeting/funding.
Jonathan Richmond, of TAKEOFF Space, an entity formed to encourage talented low-income students to apply to prestigious colleges reads statement relative to the rejection of his proposal for Lowell High students.
Laura Ortiz, parent, advocating for more precise and inclusive language in Student Handbook which would include anaphalaxis prevention and procedures/safeguards for all students, not just those specifically hypersensitive to food allergies.
Laura Ortiz, parent, advocating that when addressing rezoning, or return to neighborhood schools, that the Committee carefully consider the impact of any attempts to lift the desegragation order. Mr. Gignac clarified his position as looking at rezoning within the context of the desgregation order yet exploring whether some adjustments might be made to address transportation issues/costs and middle school population explosion.
2016/251 (Mr, Gignac) report on class sizes for 2016-17. (Note, during discussion of Online Waitlist, Mr. John Descoteaux reports that 56 students are committed to STEM Grade 5 for next year and 11 will be on a waitlist. This effectively ensures that the large Grade 5 class sizes warned about during budget hearings will no longer be a concern).
2016/252 (Mr. Gignac) Request superintendent investigate the feasibility of rezoning (see note under Public Participation).
2016/254 (Mr. Gignac) report on facility repairs and improvement projects scheduled for this summer.
2016/262 (Mr. Hoey) creation of an Early Candidate pool (amended to referral to Personnel Subcommittee).
Reports of the Superintendent
There were 14 reports from the Superintendent ranging from status update on the Massachusetts Teacher Evaluation System to a thorough vetting of updates to School Handbooks.
2016/236 Massachusetts Teacher Evaluation update. Follows DESE protocols for evaluations; most are completed including the evaluations of school-wide and district staff. Report to follow (aggregated) in July.
2016/260 Washington School. Principal Cheryl Cunningham and her team present what makes this school unique, special and successful. Great presentation on the importance of character education to students.
2016/264 Cultural Competency. Along with Head of School Brian Martin, very impressive presentation by Lowell High students explaining the efforts of this group to examine LHS culture in the aftermath of last fall’s racial incident.
2016/265 Parent Handbooks LHS changes explained by Dr. Howe; similar changes presented by Ms. Durkin. In light of Parent Laura Ortiz’s suggestions, Ms. Durkin to meet with Health Department.
2016/241 Online Waitlist. Parents will be able to look up waitlist status as long as they know their child’s LASID number. Most students know this from memory already as it is used for lunch check-in. Lookups by LASIDs should be quite easy to do and the waitlist will be more transparent to all. More important, the District has a well thought-out plan to check periodically with families to see if they wish to remain on the wait list for a school. Sometimes a child may be placed in a school that was not among the family’s listed choices, yet it became a good fit — and in that case, the wait list entry is moot.
2016/268 Lowell Career Academy Innovation Plan
2016/263 Task force planned to address student growth. To convene in early Fall 2016.
2016/243 Legal consult (re OOD children). Attorney Hall is working with prior documentation of how/when OOD students were placed in Lowell Schools in preparation for offering legal opinion.
2016/259 Report of what civics curriculum materials and programs used in schools.
2016/261 STEM efforts at the High School
2016/262 All principals have been contacted about school materials ordered for 2016-17
2016/267 Nondiscrimination on basis of gender identity
2016/238 and 2016/239 List of eligible teachers and personnel report
Items accepted and voted favorably include purchases of new food service equipment, financial statements, and 2 donations from the District Attorney’s Office and the Lowell Police Department ($1,000 each).
2016/244 Charter School Resolution was formally voted upon. Lowell will join other school districts and the Lowell City Council in support of keeping the current cap on Charter School seats. Mayor Kennedy reports the City Council unanimously voted on a similar motion during last Tuesday’s meeting.
In my opinion, there are many reasons for insisting on this. The state legislature habitually underfunds the charter school reimbursement account for municipalities. In Lowell, there is a shortfall of over $1.5 million dollars caused by this underfunding – which means that some municipal program is cut or short-funded so that the money assessed the City for charter school students is paid in full. There are many other issues of governance and accountability that divide public schools from Commonwealth Charter Schools. I would urge every voter and taxpayer in Lowell to become familiar with those issues as there will be a ballot initiative question in November.
Prior to going to Executive Session, Claire Abrams, Assistant Superintendent, was recognized for her 41 years of service to the Lowell Schools. Claire has been a driving force, particularly in Mathematics, which is where I first met her. With a soft-spoken, calm manner, she has lead many curriculum efforts in Lowell., not the least being toward a mathematics curriculum that is cutting edge. Claire, it was a rare privilege to work with and for you. Your thoughtful leadership will be missed. But you are going to LOVE retirement!
Meeting adjourned from Executive Session. Meeting Packet can be found here.