The following is Part One of the June 23, 2014 School Committee meeting. For a link to the rest of the meeting, click here.
Video of the meeting will be available at westfordcat.org
7:30 p.m. – The School Committee reconvened after entering an Executive Session at 7 p.m.
Following the Pledge of Allegiance, the meeting moved onto public forum, with no members of the public offering comments, and updates from School Committee members and Superintendent Bill Olsen.
Chairman David Keele also welcomed Kerry Clery, the new assistant superintendent hired from the Groton-Dunstable School District.
7:39 p.m. – The next item on the agenda was discussion of the Citizens’ Advisory Committee for All Day Kindergarten, with several parents in attendance citing their interest in the topic earlier.
Olsen said that he had received interest from several parents on the topic of a committee, and applauded Avery Adams and Kristi Bates for their initiative on spearheading the committee.
He then said there would be approximately seven items that would be the main scope of the committee’s work, and School Committee member Erika Kohl offered amendments to the scope, which Olsen said was acceptable.
Olsen said that candidates for the committee would be presented in August.
School Committee member Margaret Murray asked in regard to the potential balance of the committee between varying viewpoints among members. She asked if the potential members’ reasons for joining as well as their backgrounds can be taken into account upon acceptance of their nominations.
She also asked about surveys done by the town asking if residents would be interested in additional services for specific amounts of money and said that such a question would be a good idea in the plan, noting that Olsen has said in the past that full-day kindergarten should not be based on parental funding.
Olsen said that peoples’ names will not be taken out of a hat, and that there would be a good cross representation of the town.
Keele asked a question of Murray’s request for a survey.
School Committee member Angela Harkness asked Kohl about the requirement to have meetings in the evenings so people with day jobs could participate in the meetings.
Harkness said that this would hurt some parents who can’t do evening meetings and some people prefer meetings before work, saying that the committee should decide its own meeting times.
Kohl noted that her intent was that the timing of the meeting would occur whenever people could attend, which Harkness thought was an excellent idea.
The committee agreed.
Harkness then said she agreed with diversity and said that the search should not ask people who are for or against full-day kindergarten, but instead looking for a broad array of people from different parts of the community.
She said that asking for people with opinions would not allow for people who have not already made up their mind, saying that she would prefer people without pre-set opinions.
Kohl said she was concerned about bias on the committee if it’s not known where the candidates stand.
Keele said that the challenge of Harkness’ view is the reality of opinions already there.
School Committee member Tom Clay said that the goal is to make the committee open and diverse and that the committee would know when Olsen provides candidates and a litmus test would not be helpful.
There was more discussion and then Harkness said that asking for some members with understanding of scientific reports was overreaching and that most parents can understand scientific reports.
Kohl disagreed, saying that many of the reports are difficult to understand, saying that not all members would be required to understand scientific reports.
Murray asked if “scientific” could be replaced with “qualitative and quantitative.”
Keele and Harkness said it did not, and Harkness reiterated her point.
Kohl reiterated her point.
Olsen said it was not necessary to get into complicated statistical analysis in this case, saying that the research from any study was viable if the organization doing the study was credible.
Kohl talked about a study by the University of Chicago saying that every child should have full-day kindergarten, but noted that the statistics in the study were very nuanced and could have potentially been misconstrued to support half-day kindergarten.
Keele asked about the date of the selection and said he is leaning toward Kohl’s viewpoint, saying it would not be exclusionary.
Olsen then mentioned a member of the Sudbury School Committee that could help in the statistical efforts.
Murray then asked about School Committee members being ex-officio members of the proposed kindergarten committee.
The board then discussed the issues they discussed as an amendment to the proposed scope of the committee, approving the amendment, and then approved the rest of the scope of the committee.
There was some more discussion to end the agenda item.