Schools

Keele Recommends Using Reserve Funds To Address Westford Academy Power Lines

The following is a portion of the Aug. 18, 2014 Westford School Committee meeting. For links to other parts of the meeting, click here.

7:30 p.m. – The meeting began with the pledge of allegiance, there were no public comments.

Superintendent Bill Olsen began his updates by reporting that teachers will return next Monday and Aug. 26 and 27 will be the first days of school.

Outside of the Millennium School there is a drainage construction project currently ongoing that will also help provide access for handicapped vehicles.

He also gave updates on the School Department’s janitors, new teacher orientations, the new teacher contract and a chemist coming to a Middle School cafeteria to fix broken tiles. They will be replaced this week.

He then gave other updates and welcomed Chris Chu as the new principal of the Stony Brook School and Christopher Sardella as the new assistant principal for the Day School and Miller School.

He then introduced Kerry Clery, the new assistant superintendent, who was introduced and provided and update on what she has learned about Westford during her first few months on the job during the summer break as well as work she has done, such as applying for new Title I grants.

7:41 p.m. – School Committee member Margaret Murray asked about the Title I grants, which were lost three years ago.

Clery said that Westford did not qualify in previous years due to the town’s lack of low-income population.

Olsen said that the School Department has been working with parents to make them feel comfortable to apply for reduced-price lunches for their children where appropriate.

Murray then asked about how that impacted remedial programs, with Olsen saying that the School Department was careful to hire staff on grants.

School Committee member Erika Kohl then asked a question about the flooring, with Olsen clarifying the issue with the tiles was that the adhesive on the tiles was too dry when it was applied eight years earlier.

The tiles only recently became an issue over the past several months. Olsen said it would cost $25,000 to fix.

Kohl then asked about the DRA report, Olsen said that it would be available over the next few weeks and that it would be important for future capital requests.

Kohl then asked about the tile funding and whether it was in the current budget, with Olsen saying it was not.

School Committee member Angela Harkness then asked if some money could be recouped from the construction company or whether it was too far after the construction.

Olsen said that he was discussing that possibility with Tom Ellis of the Town Permanent Building Committee, but would go through with paying for the repairs for now.

School Committee member Terrance Ryan then asked another question on the tiles.

7:48 p.m. – Kohl asked about a gash in power lines near the Westford Academy. Olsen said the cost for repairs was approximately $30,000 and that National Grid said that the wire could have been compromised when it was pulled.

There has been no excavation in the area.

School Committee member David Keele asked if the power lines were something for the reserve fund, Olsen said that it was likely, although it may be worth asking Town Meeting for the money, although it was better not to go to Town Meeting if possible.

Keele recommended not going to Town Meeting for the money.

Kohl then asked about an additional $50 fee for fingerprinting requirements now in place for parents going on field trips.

Olsen said that the fingerprinting is a nationwide issue not having to do with Massachusetts CORI issues and it is better to be safe to have fingerprinting and CORI checks.

He understood that it may be difficult to impose on parents due to the economy, but said that there are costs for field trips.

Kohl then said it would cost the School Department because fewer parents would volunteer, creating more staffing needs for field trips.

She asked if this could be reexamined in a month.

Olsen said that few field trips happen during the first month of the school year, so if the issue should be revisited later.

Kohl then asked about an e-mail from Town Manager Jodi Ross about an e-mail sent regarding the open meeting law and a recent issue relating to a violation.

She said that this is a statewide law, not just something relating to Westford.

Ryan then asked about a new policy that told students and parents which teachers would be assigned to students over the summer.

Olsen said that there will be a discussion on that in the future. Previously, this notice was given before the end of school, but in previous years, new teachers were hired during the summer and new students were enrolled during the summer.

Olsen said that in future years, this notice would likely be given in early August.