Bill Olsen on Aug. 25, 2014

Total School Enrollment Is Slightly Below Projections, But May Change

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

7:30 p.m. – The meeting began with the pledge of allegiance, an update from Superintendent Bill Olsen and several recognitions from members of the School Committee.

No members of the public were in the audience.

7:38 p.m. – A new floor has been installed at the Miller School cafeteria. It cost $14,000 and was installed by a local company.

Other bids were $2,000 to 4,000 more.

A new drainage circle will be ready in front of the Millennium Building by Monday.

Olsen then provided the staggered first days of school for differing grades, with sixth and ninth graders getting to school earlier to help them get acclimated. All students will report before Sept. 2

The schedule is available on the school department website, westfordk12.us

The Citizens’ Advisory Committee will hold their first meeting inside the Millennium School conference room on Wednesday.

7:43 p.m. – Erika Kohl asked about a legislative update that was provided, with asking about new radios that are now required, with a reply from Olsen.

Kohl also asked about mental health issues for faculty members and how that tied into the department’s larger strategic plan. Olsen said that the plan is being worked on and will be in place before plans are required next July.

Kohl then asked about expelled students and how they would be given an education. Olsen said he was meeting with Westford Academy Principal Jim Antonelli for plans, and that work is being done with the Merrimack Valley Special Education Collaborative for more severe cases.

School Committee member David Keele asked about “designated go-to” faculty members in each building who take charge when the schools’ principals and vice-principals are outside of the building.

7:49 p.m. – School Committee chairman Tom then talked about the likely topics for the Fall 2014 Strategic Discussion would be…

  • A review of teacher pay equity benchmarks
  • The technology plan
  • Full-day kindergarten
  • Security plan and timeline
  • And two large goals for the Superintendent’s annual review.

These would be discussed near Thanksgiving.

School Committee member Margaret Murray then asked about the TELL Mass survey. Olsen said that the survey has been very useful in the past for discovering the culture of a school and acted as an indicator of the school’s core values.

Kohl then asked about improvements being planned on the department’s bullying policy. Olsen said it would be discussed on Nov. 11.

Kohl then talked about the large goals and asked about methodology regarding data and how it would apply in the professional practice and student learning aspects of the goals.

Olsen asked Kohl to send him an e-mail being as specific as possible regarding her views on the goals.

Clay said that the committee would be responsible to the state laws requiring goals while also focusing in to obtain achievable goals.

School Committee member Terence Ryan asked if the committee would be talking about full-day kindergarten in the fall, with Clay saying discussion would begin in February once the citizens’ committee was finished with its work.

7:58 p.m. – The Valley Collaborative is having a ribbon cutting at its facility on Sept. 18

Clay also talked about an article regarding sleep for middle school students and that later start times are better for students.

Keele disagreed with the article’s findings due to bus routes.

Murray discussed the topic and how it would impact after-school activities, with Kohl asking if work would be done with the MASC if a later date was requested.

Olsen said that for every positive regarding sleep habits, there are structural and safety concerns.

Keele replied that the world is not perfect and Clay said that he just wanted to introduce it.

School Committee member Angela Harkness said that the time should be changed, but that Westford couldn’t be the only town that changes.

8:03 p.m. Olsen said Westford officially now has 5,186 students enrolled. That is 11 fewer students than projected. Some students may enter and some may leave Westford schools.

Kindergarten enrollment is down in the Robinson School and higher in the northern elementary schools. Enrollment overall is beginning to decline slightly.

Olsen also said the new Princeton Properties apartment complex may change things.

Bill Olsen on Aug. 25, 2014

Bill Olsen on Aug. 25, 2014

Keele praised Olsen regarding an enrollment aberration a few years ago at the Abbot School where there was a fear of a crisis before.

Harkness then asked if Olsen could explain what new parents have to do to enroll their children into school.

Olsen said a purchase and sale for new property owners was required. And that homes not built yet were okay as long as they would be completed within a month.

Three other forms of residency were also required.

Parents can call the superintendent’s office for more information or go to the “enrollment” page on the department website.

Olsen said that occasionally there are people whose children are illegally enrolled.

Harkness said that she had heard from several parents urgent to get their purchase and sales agreements done.