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Parents Cite Concerns With Blanchard School Advisory Council

The following is Part Two of the June 9, 2014 Westford School Committee meeting. For an index to the full meeting, click here.

8:11 p.m. – The public forum began with a statement from Wendy Brown.

Brown wrote a letter to the School Committee two weeks ago and did not receive a response.

Brown’s letter was regarding the Blanchard Advisory Council, and the letter was discussed earlier by the Committee, with Brown saying that the Committee claimed her opinions were unfounded. She said she would appreciate a response.

Gina Schladenhauffen then came to the microphone to also talked about the Blanchard Advisory Council, which she was a member of.

She began on the Council in 2012 and continued until 2013 and said that the meetings were not well attended by staff members.

Schaldenhauffen asked Whitney if work could be done to fix this, saying that nothing was done and that the final meeting was cancelled due to a lack of a quorum and Whitney asked if the members would serve again.

She said that was the last she heard from Whitney, and that she did not hear anything from Whitney over the last year.

Following the recent events with Lussier, she looked at the Council’s website, saying very limited data updates were put into place.

Schladenhauffen asked the School Committee to take the Advisory Council seriously, and said that her name was inaccurately put on meeting minutes, which were often not approved.

She was particularly perplexed by the minutes on May 31, 2013. She did not attend this meeting, but it was noted that she attended the meeting, to her confusion.

She told the Committee that the administration should address this issue since accuracy is an expectation of students and that the Student Advisory Councils need more transparency, particularly in the summer.

Olsen thanked Schladenhauffen for coming to the meeting, praising her for attending several meetings he had held over the past eight years and said he would talk with several administrators in regard to student advisory councils to make sure that the law was being followed.

An institute is occurring on August 13 and 14 regarding the issue.

Schladenhauffen said the Council if done properly can help build the school community.

Murray then talked about School Committee responsiveness and helping Committee chairs if they are overwhelmed.

Clay asked about responsiveness to Council meetings, with Olsen saying he would talk to Whitney again and add additional emphasis compared to other schools.

Kohl then said that there were issues that need to be resolved with the Blanchard School Advisory Council and there are other issues that need to be resolved, such as refunds for parents whose children cannot go on field trips and a parent that had a security concern and did not get a response.

Olsen said that he deals with rumors every day, but that Whitney has his full confidence.

School Committee member Terence Ryan said that his opinion may vary from other committee members, but he felt comfortable answering parent e-mails and hoped that next year there is no issue with School Advisory Council meeting minutes.

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Ryan also asked that principals ask for additional help if needed, with Olsen saying those strategies would be discussed.

8:26 p.m. – The topic then went to an overview of the School Health Nursing Department by Joan Mitchell.

Mitchell is one of the nurses at Westford Academy.

She began with what the nursing department does within Westford’s school as well as the requirements to be a school nurse as well as statistics over the past year.

Mitchell thanked the board for its support of Project Interface, with a total of 77 cases over the last school year and that it had helped nurses with specific incidents. There were 7 cases at the lower Elementary Schools.

Other projects going on within the school included Frisbee programs, hand washing and cough etiquette, a presentation on Lyme disease and job shadowing for Westford Academy students interested in nursing.

Murray then asked Mitchell about statistics regarding anxiety, with Mitchell saying that all statistics came from collaboration with parents.

Murray then asked if any efforts had been done by health departments in schools to combat anxiety and depression and urged for more proactive measures to combat these problems.

Mitchell said that much of what is being done now is providing students with coping skills.

Francis then added that there were several combined meetings with varied staff members to look at various programs and integrating specific services.

Murray then asked about disclosure of student Body Mass Index information (BMI). It was done for two years, and then it was optional. However, the state does still use the information for general wellness and nutrition standards.

Murray hoped in the future she could learn additional information on how BMI information is used.

Kohl then praised Mitchell on her efforts and noted that there were 15 visits per day per nurse, with Mitchell saying that on an average day , Westford School nurses will see 160 students.

Kohl also asked a question regarding concussions, with Mitchell saying there is a spreadsheet with all of the concussions suffered by students and it is not available to the public.

Murray asked why this information is not integrated into iPass, with Olsen saying this would likely occur next year.

Ryan also praised Sue Hanly, the Stony Brook School nurse.

Benoit echoed Ryan’s praise.

Harkness asked about overarching coordination between nurses regarding policies, with Mitchell saying that there were differing needs at differing levels on things such as allergies.

Keele also praised Hanly and was pleased instances of diabetes in Westford’s schools are going down.