David Keele on Aug. 25, 2014

Keele Says Incoming Kindergarten Committee Will Recommend Full-Day Kindergarten

The following is a portion of the Aug. 25, 2014 Westford School Committee meeting. For other parts of the meeting, click here.

8:09 p.m. – Olsen then went over the timeline for the Citzens’ Advisory Committee to study Full-Day Kindergarten.

Any requests would not hit the 2015-16 budget. Time is also needed to determine whether the School Committee wants to support full-day kindergarten as well as its implementation if it’s recommended.

Kohl then asked if an updated charter for the new citizens’ committee could be provided.

Keele asked why the citizens’ committee was needed and why the School Committee couldn’t do this.

Olsen said that it was determined that there are many educated and involved people in town who can provide an independent perspective, saying he was on one several decades ago.

Keele believed the citizens’ committee will recommend full-day kindergarten due to its makeup. He said that’s not a bad thing, but that it’s dishonest to say it will research the matter.

Clay asked Keele if this was his opinion.

Keele said he would bet a dollar in his pocket.

Clay said the School Committee would not take a position on that.

Murray said that Keele had an excellent point, that previous citizens’ committees were investigative without advocacy. However, many of the members of the citizens’ committees felt strongly about a topic, otherwise they would not join the citizens’ committees.

Kohl said it may be worth advising the citizens’ committees to be skeptical of their own presumptions to help prove their beliefs to the School Committee and the public.

Olsen said that the matter of objectivity was an issue on the name of the citizens’ committee and that he will advise them on Wednesday that their role is to provide empirical data as well as analysis in other areas.

Harkness said not to sell the citizens’ committee members short, noting work the School Committee members had done in their own subcommittees where they learned something new after studying a certain topic.

Clay said the citizens’ committee would be very valuable and that the members should be respected.

Harkness also noted that the citizens’ committee wouldn’t undercut the School Committee’s decision making authority. They are just gathering evidence.

Murray said it was worth a reminder to the citizens’ committee and it should be seen if benefits from full-day kindergarten can be obtained through other means.

Harkness said that there should be a check-in midway through the process on whether February is a realistic end date.

8:29 p.m. – Murray then asked if the School Committee had taken a position on a policies for closing schools, with Harkness working on that in previous years.

Harkness said there had been several options and that subcommittee needed to look at those options.

Clay requested that the School Committee look at that during the next meeting.

8:31 p.m. – The School Committee approved expense warrants and approved minutes of previous meetings.

8:32 p.m. – Olsen shared an overview of recent new hires, mainly filling in on a short term basis. He said that often staff members wait until the last minute on whether to come back to Westford.

Keele was pleased that one of his children will finally have a teacher he had when he was a student in Westford and Olsen praised Robinson principal Denise Arvidson and the school itself.

Other committee members also praised Arvidson.

Clay asked if the amount of faculty members leaving was normal. One nurse left for $10,000 more in salary, one faculty member left to be closer to their home, but there was no sustained trend. However, in recent years, many faculty members left for higher paying jobs in other districts.

Murray then discussed the attrition rate and reiterated her desire to see more data.

8:38 p.m. – The meeting adjourned.