The following is Part Four of the June 9, 2014 Westford School Committee meeting. For an index to the full meeting, click here.
9:23 p.m. – The agenda then went to issue of a citizens’ study committee of full day kindergarten.
In the past, there had been committees to study the issue, and Olsen said there was growing interest in the community.
He wanted to recommend starting a citizens’ study committee on the issue on whether to implement full day kindergarten or stick with half day kindergarten.
Murray asked that the next committee be composed of varying opinions on the issue and that there may be concerns from citizens participating in these study committees feeling ignored if their recommendations are not taken, but that significant thought is taken before any decision regarding a recommendation is made.
Harkness confirmed that the charge of the committee was not to investigate the cost of full-day kindergarten, but whether or not it had an educational value, with the School Committee and Selectmen determining the funding mechanisms.
Kohl then added that this is not a new topic and there have been committee members who have had concerns over this topic, but it had not been addressed for several years.
At that time, a report was given on data related to the outcomes for students that have access to full-day kindergarten, but this data was not presented.
Kohl was concerned with creating another committee when existing data had not been discussed and said that the committee does not want full-day kindergarten for the sake of full-day kindergarten, but to possibly improve educational outcomes.
She then said if there is a committee, it should not interview other towns, but why Westford would want full-day kindergarten and she feels uncomfortable currently moving forward.
Olsen disagreed, saying that information from other districts is important and this is a significant issue.
Kohl replied she would not support a blank check regarding to this issue.
Clay disagreed, saying this would be more of a solution than a problem, and that the committee could support Olsen’s judgment regarding presenting data.
Kohl said she could Olsen coming back with a draft
Kristine Bates, a parent in the audience, then talked about her son’s experience in half-day kindergarten and that half-day kindergarten compresses the kindergarten experience for children.
She said that it is important for the public to obtain the data to come to a decision and that information must also be obtained from current kindergarten teachers.
Keele then said that the kindergarten teachers were about to make a presentation, but that the presentation was delayed due to the fact that implementation was not going to be made immediately and that points may be forgotten over the summer.
He said that should be one of the first major topics next year.
Clay offered a motion for Olsen to create a committee and a timeline, Kohl said that was not what was discussed, Murray said a proposal should be provided ahead of time.
Harkness then said that this issue had been discussed for a long time and it was discussed three times, which Kohl disagreed with.
Harkness said that having Olsen put a mission statement together would be a waste of time, and that it is important to move forward and that the citizens’ committee would just bring information back.
Kohl asked to amend the motion to get information on what the purpose of the committee would be as well as timelines. Keele seconded the amendment and asked if there were any possibility that committee come back with a recommendation of bringing full-day kindergarten.
Murray replied. The amendment was passed 5-2, with Clay and Harkness opposing.
Avery Adam then came to the microphone to ask if the committee should make the timeline and mission rather than Olsen.
Keele said he is not hearing any opposed to creating a committee.
Adam asked that the committee begin so it can get started.
Olsen said he would draft an outline.
The original motion as amended was approved unanimously.
9:44 p.m. – The agenda then went to the second reading of the fingerprinting policy.
Kohl went over changes to the proposed policy, with some of it coming from a comparable policy in Plymouth, Massachusetts.
The policy was unanimously approved.
9:45 p.m. – The board appointed Olsen as the representative to the Valley Collaborative, the new name for the Merrimack Education Collaborative, a group that helps local districts with special education.
A member of the collaborative is expected to attend a future meeting.
Murray then asked questions regarding the issue.
Executive Session minutes were approved, with Murray abstaining.