School Committee Meeting, 19 October 2016

IMG_0794School Committee Meeting, 19 October 2016

All present

Spotlight on Excellence

The focus on this meeting’s Spotlight was on the Summer Math Program. Students complete math “packets,” calendars of activities that focus on thinking mathematically throughout the summer. Each school was represented by 3 students at tonights meeting. For a list of recognized students by school, see page 9 in the Meeting Packet.

Just as with the Reading Spotlight on Excellence, the Math Spotlight is a great school event which brings proud families to the School Committee meeting.  What a memorable time for each student to receive recognition for effort over the summer months and be applauded for that effort!  Once again, special thanks to the school administrators and staff who also attended last night’s ceremony.

Permissions to Enter

Mr. Gignac requested clarification of the amount for North Reading Transportation. The amount of $336,440 appears to be a change in the contracted amount.


Three motions were presented; one by Mr. Hoey and two by Ms. Martin.

  • 2016/413 (R. Hoey): During a visit to Lowell High School, Mr. Hoey spoke with a junior who asked whether there could be a consideration made to allow food trucks on occasion at the High School along with a stage for students to showcase talents during lunch hours.  While several school committee members agreed this was an interesting suggestion worth exploring, there were some concerns expressed by school committee members:
    • the short lunch period would make this impractical
    • the need to keep students contained on campus
    • those students receiving free/reduced lunches would be excluded

Mayor Kennedy pointed out that when allowing food trucks in the vicinity of the high school was discussed at a recent City Council meeting, Councilor Samaras (former Head of LHS) did not think this would be a good idea.

  • 2016/417 (C. Martin): Presentation by Curriculum Department on an initiative that is successful. If I remember correctly, these presentations formerly were made only in front of the Curriculum Subcommittee. There was decision several meetings ago to include the School Committee in entirety in these presentations.
  • 2016/418 (C. Martin):  A request to provide the full committee with more detailed accounting, including salaries and FTE information for each grant.  There was a good bit of discussion regarding a partial list of grants provided to the Committee right before the meeting. Mr. Frisch has suggested he include the requested information as part of the monthly budget report.

Subcommittee Report

As a result of the October 5 Finance Subcommittee report, Mr. Gignac made two motions resulting from Agenda Item 1, Purchasing Policy (see pages 39-40 of the Meeting Packet). The first motion revised the language within the purchasing policy and the second motion detailed bid requirements. The Finance Subcommittee was unable to discuss Item 2 on the subcommittee agenda, and postponed discussion of same to a future meeting.

As a point of personal privilege, Mr. Gendron spoke about a Subcommittee Meeting scheduled for Tuesday, November 1 at 7 pm in the Little Theater of Lowell High School. This meeting will discuss the middle school population “bubble” and plans to address the same. In addition, there will be a report on the Lowell High School project by the project management and architects.  The public is invited to attend and there will be an opportunity for questions/discussion.

Reports of the Superintendent

There were five items under Reports of the Superintendent:

  • 2016/406, Quarterly Report on Motions. Starts on p 42 of the Meeting Packet.
  • 2016/414: Massachusetts DESE 2015-16 Chronic Attendance. Noted that in prior years some absences were coded incorrectly (for example, students who were hospitalized yet receiving in-hospital tutoring), correlations between a high rate of absenteeism and struggling schools, and the higher rates of absenteeism at alternative schools (with a note that this needs to be looked at as possibly a need to address wrap-around services).  Positive comments noted improvements made to attendance rates in most schools.
  • 2016/415: Monthly Budget Report. Discussion over handling of the encumbered $1.9 million from FY 2016 as a “carry-over”. The auditor closes City books earlier than the state-allowed closing of expenditures in school budgets. The $1.9 million in the category was encumbered from previous year’s budget. Invoices now received and the money spent – the net effect will be that the approved FY 2017 budget is not changed, although the addition of this line makes it look as though it has. The handling of the line item was agreed upon by the City auditor.
  • 2016/419 and 2016/420 Personnel Reports and Lists of Eligible Teachers.

Convention and Conference Requests (2) were all approved.

Meeting Packet can be found here.

School Committee Meeting, 05 October 2016

2016-sep-22_btubooks2School Committee Meeting, 05 October 2016

All present

Spotlight on Excellence

The focus on this meeting’s Spotlight was on the Summer Reading Program. A record 27,453 books were read and recorded by students across the Lowell Public Schools, representing an increase of 9,400 books over the previous year.  Congratulations to all students and their parents participating in this vital program over the summer. For a list of recognized students by school, see page 10 in the Meeting Packet.

This is one of my favorite events to observe as the excitement of the students and their families is so contagious. Special thanks to the school administrators and staff who also attended last night’s ceremony.

Permissions to Enter

Several contract approvals totalling $849,542. See detail on p 30-31 of the Meeting Packet.

Unfinished Business

2016/391: Business Office Reorganization. Net reduction of staff was 1. Cost savings about $12.2K. Proposal by Mr. Frisch to apply a majority portion of this cost savings to the Facilities Director’s salary as this person is being asked to assume the duties of one of the eliminated positions (Energy Management) and has significant added responsibilities as the High School Building Project gets underway.  Questions regarding the reporting structure, particularly why the Assistant Superintendent for Business was not a direct-report to Mr. Frisch. Suggestion to send the salary portion of this report to Personnel Subcommittee (with request from Ms. Martin for formalized job description noting the increased duties for the Facilities Director), while accepting the reorganization. 7 yeas.

2016/403 Approval of Reclassification of Position. Central Administration completed the requested revision of this person’s job description to reflect reality of the responsibilities. 7 yeas.


  • 2016/397 District-wide Technology Plan (Mr. Gignac). This is a requirement from DESE. The currently posted plan (2015-2018 update found on the LPSD website’s technology page is based on survey and analysis of district needs and the state of each building’s technology inventory.  With the state requirement for electronic test administration (starting Spring 2017), ensuring that technology needs are reflected in the plan are important as well as the analysis that will drive technology updates/upgrades at the High School during the High School Building Project.  For more information about state-required technology reporting and requirements, see DESE’s Office of Digital Learning website.

The next 3 motions were postponed from the previous meeting. During the discussion of the Superintendent’s Evaluation, the Mayor’s microphone cut out.

  • 2016/398 Community Service Learning Program (Mr. Gendron)
  • 2016/400 Superintendent’s Evaluation Process (Mr. Gendron)
  • 2016/399 Report to Facilities Subcommittee on plans to address the middle school population bubble. (Mr. Gendron)

Reports of the Superintendent

2016/390 2016 Student Assessment and Accountability Lowell’s testing results recently released by DESE show 7 Level 1 schools (highest category), 7 Level 2 schools, and 7 Level 3 schools. This is outstanding news, particularly since, despite expectation that switching from MCAS to PARCC last year would cause an expected drop in test scores (hence the state’s offer to hold schools & districts “harmless” from test ramifications).  Lowell seems to have defied all the odds by actually doing better on a brand new test instrument. Superintendent Khelfaoui attributes some of this to the schools’ focus on teaching to standards, not teaching to the test.

School Committee suggests that this news is celebrated in both the schools and perhaps a future school committee meeting. The Committee also requests a deeper evaluation to ensure that any achievement gaps are continuing to close. The report begins on p 51 of the Meeting Packet.

2016/393 Homeless Liaison.  Appointment of Jane Mosher-Canty to replace Fred McOsker who is serving as an Assistant Principal of the Morey School.

Three additional reports, 2016/394 Personnel Report details resignations, retirements, and hiring, 2016/395 List of Eligible Teachers, and 2016/402 Home Education were presented.

New Business

There were three items under New Business:

  • 2016/387 MCAS 2.0 Computer Base Testing. Recommendation from the Superintendent that all testing for all grade levels participating in state-wide assessment be done online (MA DESE requirement is only for Grades 4 and 8 this year, with rolling inclusion of additional grades each year).  When asked if the District was ready, Superintendent Khelfaoui replied yes.
  • 2016/389 Acceptance of $75.00 donation to BRIDGE program
  • 2016/392 Budget transfer to support Community Based Organizations at elementary and middle schools (see p 83 of Meeting Packet).

Convention and Conference Requests (3) were all approved.

Meeting Packet can be found here.