Francis and Olsen

School Committee Says Goodbye to Assistant Superintendent

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

7:30 p.m. – The meeting began with the Pledge of Allegiance, led by local Boy Scout Nehal Nevali. He provided an update on his plans to install a new outdoor pull up bar at Westford Academy, part of his project to earn an Eagle Scout badge.

The School Committee praised his efforts; with School Committee member Arthur Benoit saying that the installation could help several communities.

Nevali also received questions on fundraising efforts and foot traffic in the area of the proposed pull up bar.

7:40 p.m. – Superintendent Bill Olsen began his update by congratulating the staff of Westford Academy for last week’s graduation, followed by an update on the Day and Robinson School window construction project.

Assistant Superintendent Christine Francis then gave an update on something called the Access test, a test geared toward English Language Learning (ELL) students.

She indicated that scores were positive and also provided updates on other ELL efforts as well as hope this impacted MCAS scores for ELL students.

School Committee member Margaret Murray praised the efforts mentioned by Francis, also asking when the final numbers arrive if it would be possible to analyze the statistics on the payoff on the investment from the ELL efforts.

Olsen then said that this would be Francis’ last meeting, praising her for her efforts during her tenure in Westford, saying that she has inspired everyone around here and saying that everything she has touched has become very successful.

He said that it is unlikely that there will be another employee that will have such an impact again as Francis did.

Francis and Olsen

Francis and Olsen

Murray then asked Francis about her time in Westford, with Francis saying she has not regretted one moment as an educator and that she felt she has helped new generations and it has had many challenges, but she has gotten energy from her students.

Francis said that the most important thing is for educators to enjoy what they are doing and for communities to support educators.

School Committee chairman David Keele asked what Francis will do in retirement, with Francis said that she is still determining that, although she hopes to stay involved professionally to some extent and that she may travel to Finland and study the educational system there.

School Committee member Tom Clay then asked Francis on what she thought the top things the School Committee should look at moving forward.

Francis emphasized last week’s discussion on the use of technology in education, as well as focusing on what teachers need and other issues.

Keele thanked Francis for her efforts, and Francis said she enjoyed working with the Committee as well as Westford’s teachers.

7:58 p.m. – During the School Committee update, Erika Kohl began with a question on the upcoming Superintendent’s Evaluation date, which Keele said would begin on July 23.

Olsen clarified, saying usually it occurs during one meeting, which Keele said was correct, saying it will be on July 23.

Murray asked if all the ratings could be compiled efficiently and sent directly to Kohl, who is spearheading the evaluation project, with Murray saying that some years in the past it hasn’t been done online.

Keele then said he would not participate in the evaluation, saying he did not feel it was appropriate for the state to tell him how to evaluate Olsen, with Murray only asking that Keele follow the process of submitting evaluations online if he does participate.

Kohl then asked Olsen about the issue with David Lussier at the Blanchard School and community engagement. Olsen said that Blanchard School principal Robin Whitney had done a good job with community engagement, but that he would aim for a new policy to improve community engagement.

Clay then asked for a follow up on last meeting’s technology plan, with Olsen saying that more information would be coming within the next week.

School Committee member Arthur Benoit gave an update on this year’s Last Night celebration, an event held for high school graduates within Westford Academy to prevent potential bad decisions made by outgoing students.

He praised staff members participating in the event as well as students, with 94 percent of all graduates heading to the event this year according to the event’s head count.

Olsen then recited a letter from a School Choice student that recently graduated thanking Olsen for his time at Westford Academy.

School Committee member Angela Harkness added to Benoit’s praise of Last Night.

Keele then gave an update on the Westford Crew team’s result in Saratoga, New York, saying they were fifth in the country and the best Massachusetts team.