Tom Clay on Sept. 8, 2014

Addressing Blanchard Rumors, Data Disagreements, Capital Planning

The following is part of a recap from the Sept. 8, 2014 Westford School Committee meeting. For other portions of the recap, click here.

 

8:03 p.m. – Olsen said that spirits are high now that school has begun and shared a letter praising Day School principal Kevin Regan.

He also gave updates from the Permanent Town Building Committee on several projects, and said that members of the Permanent Town Building Committee would be at a future meeting.

Olsen also said that Assistant Town Manager John Mangiaratti recouped approximately 2/3rds of the cost for the recent Robinson School floor replacements through insurance costs.

The talk then went to the issue of the music program at the Blanchard School, specifically a rumor that the new music teacher at the school is related to Blanchard School Principal Robin Whitney.

Tom Clay on Sept. 8, 2014

Tom Clay on Sept. 8, 2014

He said that the new teacher’s maiden name was Whitney, but there was no relation and there are several people in the department who are named Olsen but are not related to him.

Olsen then said that only two or three parents are continuing the rumors and those rumors are harming the students, saying that Olsen and Whitney spent an hour quashing the rumors, which could be spent in a better way.

He asked the parents who are doing this to think before they share rumors on social media due to the consequences and hoped that everyone could move forward.

8:14 p.m. – School Committee member Erika Kohl apologized for coming in late and said that a car had its lights on.

Keele gave praise regarding a recent Westford Academy trip to Spain and was amazed at the English learning skills in Spain, and the geographical requirements for learning more languages in Europe.

Kohl then asked about educator evaluations, with Olsen saying that the Department of Education has come out with surveys for Grades 3 to 12 which can be used. Westford can also provide their own surveys, and it has been recommended that the surveys be given near the end of the year for the sake of educator goal setting.

He also said the surveys were subject to collective bargaining agreements with the teachers and that the educator evaluation committee would be a key part of the process, with students assessing teachers and teachers assessing administrators.

Murray then asked about student feedback to student growth rates, and said that would be a fascinating study.

Kohl then said that students often use ratemyteacher.com and said it was very fair, although Murray said that ratemyteacher.com is only a sample and that the survey would be everyone in the schools.

8:23 p.m. – Clay said that the technology plan would be discussed at the next meeting as well as teacher pay benchmarks. There also may be additional comment on Oct. 6

He then said the citizens’ committee on Kindergarten would be asked for an update on Oct. 6, and he shared a letter from the citizens’ committee asking members of the School Committee to come to one of their meetings.

Kohl asked a question a report that had not yet been given, with Olsen saying it was mainly just an executive summary.

Clay said that the citizens’ committee’s work will likely conclude in February.

Harkness asked where the meeting when and where it was, it will be on Sept. 17 and likely be in the same room that the School Committee meets in.

Kohl then asked if information would be given before the all-boards meeting on Thursday, with it being said that Thursday would just be an overview and a starting point.

Murray then said that agendas and materials are required to be posted 48 hours ahead of any meeting, including Thursday.

Murray also asked about feedback on the TELL survey and also asked about the best method on comparing school districts.

Olsen asked if a portion of the discussion could be shared in executive session, Murray said that all of her information was public information and she wants to seek consistency and was not bringing it up as a school committee member.

Harkness replied to the teacher pay benchmark study issue relating to what Murray was talking about, saying that the method sought by Murray to establish market baskets.

She then said that it would be confusing and not time efficient to do a separate analysis, Murray agreed that it was separate, with Harkness saying a separate analysis should be done outside of School Committee time to avoid confusion due to earlier efforts on the topic.

Murray said it’s more professional than personal and wanted to educate over options regarding benchmarks.

Olsen then said that he recommended the conversation occur in executive session due to bargaining issues.

Murray said she would address the issue on her own.

8:37 p.m. – Benoit asked about capital spending items looking to be addressed by the Capital Planning Committee.

Olsen said that the tour of the school buildings had not yet happened due in part to this and the Thursday All-Boards meeting and hoped to gather consensus from the board members after that meeting.

Benoit said he’d like to see capital proposals for at least the two schools currently getting windows replaced.

There was more discussion on this, with Murray asking if this was related to cost overruns. Benoit explained by mentioning the two amounts posed at Town Meeting for the regarding the project.

Olsen then said the projects have not been bid yet, but there had been diligence working with the project manager at Town Meeting.

Kohl asked when the Request for Proposals would come out, Olsen said it was a Request for Bids rather than Proposals, as Request for Proposals analyze qualitative properties in addition to cost, whereas the likely projects coming would be straight forward, and thus cost would be the only factor.

School Department Finance Director Kathy Auth said the bids would go out in November.

Clay then talked about things that need to be updated on the School Department website.