TEWKSBURY — The Tewksbury School Committee met on Nov. 17, 2021 at town hall. Member John Stadtman was not in attendance. The committee held a closed executive session for one hour before convening the regular meeting.
The committee read resolutions of recognition for retiring TMHS girls basketball coach Mark Bradley and TMHS boys basketball coach Tom Bradley, whom TMHS athletic director Ron Drouin called “great leaders of our athletes.”
Drouin also praised the TMHS girls volleyball team, which made it to the D3 state semi-finals before losing to the Old Rochester Bulldogs.
In the citizens forum section of the meeting, Tewksbury Special Education Parent Advisory Council (TSEPAC) representatives Dina Mancini and Maureen Castiglione wore yellow in support of TSEPAC Awareness Month, as recently designated by Governor Charlie Baker.
Mancini and Castiglione shared metrics behind the council’s three goals — community engagement, professional and transparent communication, and parent support and advocacy — and planned to present a full report to the school committee in December.
In his superintendent and staff report, Superintendent Chris Malone reminded parents to remain vigilant amid a significant rise in positive COVID cases, especially at the Wynn Middle School. The district tracker peaked last week at 45 cases, which Malone said would “probably match our top weekly tracker number in the whole of the pandemic.”
He shared that staff took proactive moves at the Wynn to adjust student spacing and implement enhanced cleaning practices. He thanked school nurses for working on contact tracing and pool testing initiatives, especially on nights and weekends. Malone added that two new hires were brought on to help.
Malone reported that the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education extended its statewide mask requirement for school districts under an 80 percent vaccination threshold through Jan. 15, 2022.
As part of National School Psychology Week earlier in November, Malone highlighted the work of school psychologists, adjustment counselors, and social workers to support the social-emotional needs of students, especially with issues related to the pandemic. The district is still looking to hire substitute teachers, classroom aides, and one-on-one support aides; interested parties are invited to apply on the district website.
However, the district was recently able to hire two additional occupational therapists and two school adjustment counselors. Malone thanked committee members for participating in a recent open meeting law training. He also thanked TMHS Parent Advisory Council co-presidents Lori Carrierre and Carolyn Gaglione for their work and success in running the annual Applefest craft fair.
Malone reported that the TMHS five-year progress report was recently accepted by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, an accreditation body.
Finally, Malone announced that he submitted his retirement paperwork to the state and expects to leave the district in February of 2022. The committee wished him well and planned to work towards a smooth transition with a future superintendent.
Assistant Superintendent Brenda Theriault-Regan highlighted a vaccination and flu shot clinic at the Tewksbury Senior Center available to families. She also shared that the district recently received funding through a quality service learning and social emotional project grant, which will see $10,000 distributed for programs at the Wynn in 2021-2022; $25,000 for afterschool and out-of-school programs at TMHS, the Wynn, and the Heath Brook; and $45,000 for summer programs.
Theriault-Regan also reminded the community that the district is accepting submissions to name a new comfort dog coming to the district through Nov. 30. She shared that to celebrate National Education Week, the district invited families to record story readings, which were shared in class with students; the PAC also sponsored a teacher appreciation dinner.
Finally, Theriault-Regan reported that the district has 37 planned sessions for professional development days that align with district goals.
Theriault-Regan reported several fluctuations in enrollment in 2021. The district saw a decrease in freshmen enrollment at TMHS, of special education students ages 3-5, and of Title I students, which resulted in a decrease in Title I funding. The district saw an increase in bilingual students, English language learners in kindergarten, and English immersion learners; the district was able to hire a new English as a second language teacher for one year through grant funding.
Business Manager Dave Libby shared that the district is looking at potential opportunities for solar projects in partnership with Solex Energy, a company vetted by the state. The new TMHS building was designed to accommodate solar panels and solar energy, Libby said, adding that his team is also looking at options to use the newly completed Ryan School roof for solar.
In her MCAS update, Theriault-Regan shared that the district’s MCAS schedule is now available for families to view at tewksbury.k12.ma.
us. Families can familiarize students with the test format and review sample questions on the district website.
The committee voted to accept a donation to the TMHS robotics team, the Tewksbury Titans. The team received a donation of a vertical drill press valued at over $600, funded by Grainger Industrial Supply. Team members will gain hands-on experience using the press under the supervision of team mentor Scott Morris.
The next meeting is scheduled for Dec. 8, 2021. The meeting may be viewed on Comcast channel 22 and Verizon channel 34.