TEWKSBURY — The Tewksbury School Committee met last Wednesday, June 10, for a virtual meeting via Webex teleconference.
The meeting began with the committee honoring 11 retirees after “significant years of service, and significant benefits to all our students in town,” said Superintendent Chris Malone.
The Tewksbury Teachers Association recognized five of their retiring members.
“Thank you for all the years you’ve given to Tewksbury students,” said TTA vice president Julie Taggart.
The retirees are: Patricia Meuse, business office; Robin Adams, Anna Gaudette, and Roberta Waldrip, food and nutrition services; Nancy Torname, special education and student services; Kathleen MacLeod, Patricia Martel, and Sandra Ryan, Dewing Elementary School; Patricia Gale, Heath Brook Elementary School; Cheryl Porcaro, Ryan Elementary School; and Joseph Frank, Wynn Middle School.
The retirees have a combined 229 years in Tewksbury Public Schools between them.
The committee also read a resolution of recognition for outgoing TMHS principal Kristen Vogel. Vogel came to TMHS in 2014, and is leaving for the superintendent position in Lynnfield.
“We really appreciate her efforts,” said Malone.
“You’re always looking for ways to help children succeed,” remarked Dewing School principal Terry Gerrish.
Vogel also announced that she will be taking current TMHS executive secretary Annmarie McCormick after 19 years to be her new executive assistant in Lynnfield.
“I think we had to go out and get a former superintendent to fill your shoes,” said committee chair Keith Sullivan.
A search committee recently selected retired North Reading superintendent and former principal Jon Bernard to fill Vogel’s position for one year as interim principal. Bernard was one of four candidates interviewed by the search committee via teleconference, and is slated to start July 1.
In his superintendent and staff report, Malone extended his congratulations to the Class of 2020 and thanked everyone who made the graduation events happen. Malone also addressed current protests on police brutality and system racism:
“Certainly we have some strong concerns about what’s happening around the country... around racism, and how we can approach those issues,” he said.
Malone noted that a lack of direct interaction with students has made it difficult for the district to implement support systems for students, but said that the district will continue to work on improving access for students to feel educated and supported on race issues.
On the coronavirus pandemic, Malone said the district is still awaiting specific guidance from the state on what schools will look like in the fall. He mentioned the possibility of a hybrid model of in-school and remote instruction.
“We have a lot more questions than we have answers,” he said, noting that the district will still be looking to ramp up planning for summer programming and fall reopening, along with after school and extended day care. School staff have picked up their belongings and organized classrooms for fall. Student belongings have been retrieved and bagged for families to pick up.
Assistant superintendent Brenda Regan added that community members may view the district’s virtual art show now on the district website. She thanked students for submitting pieces and thanked art teachers at all schools for their hard work in coordinating and assembling the art show.
She also acknowledged the Wynn Middle School Drama Club for their recent performance of a one-act virtual play called “Happy Birthday, Heather Higby — I Am Plotting Your Doom.” The performance was submitted to the Massachusetts Educational Theater Guild’s virtual festival. Regan thanked drama teacher Jon DiPrima for organizing and executing the performance, and commended the cast and crew for their hard work.
Regan noted that school will be ending on Monday, June 15, after 10 weeks of remote learning and three weeks of enrichment learning. Remote learning resources will continue to be updated on the district website for parents to access throughout the summer.
The committee thanked resident Mike Saccone of Dargoonian Farms in Andover for his donation of 450 hanging flowering plants, which were given to TMHS seniors at the drive-thru graduation. Extra plants were given to teachers and staff who helped with graduation, and some went to residents in elderly housing units.
The committee noted that the new elementary school project is on track, with architectural plans, permits, and construction contracts done.
In the MCAS update, Regan announced that for the classes of 2021 through 2023, proficiency in science, technology, and engineering will be determined by classroom performance rather than the MCAS test. The class of 2024 will resume the STE MCAS. This year’s sophomore class will be taking the 10th grade ELA MCAS in their junior year, rescheduled from this spring. MCAS achievement is a part of the state’s graduation requirements.
The committee rescinded their previous vote on the FY21 school budget as a procedural matter, as they had previously voted on the wrong number (there have been no changes to the budget). The committee then voted to approve the FY21 budget in the correct amount.
With changes to the beginning date of the school year, the committee also voted to set the dates for graduation and the end of the 2020-2021 school year, as well as the school registration period.
The committee gave Malone his annual superintendent evaluation. Malone is evaluated in four areas — instructional leadership, management and operations, family and community engagement, and professional culture — by 20 indicators; the evaluation ranges from unsatisfactory to exemplary.
Committee chair Keith Sullivan said that the committee evaluated Malone as proficient, meaning he has “met, and in some cases exceeded, the School Committee’s expectations,” said Sullivan.
“This evaluation will provide you the opportunity to look back at your accomplishments, and look forward as you prioritize our district goals for the future.”
Sullivan praised Malone’s fiscal responsibility and work on the new elementary school, as well as providing families with a sense of comfort during the pandemic.
Regan gave the committee an overview of summer reading for grades K-12. The district has a list of suggested reading titles for each grade. K-4 parents will be provided with questions to engage in dialogue with their children for oral fluency and reading comprehension. Ryan School students will be directed to read three books — one fiction, one nonfiction, and one book of choice. They will complete story mapping and other activities to return to their teachers when school resumes.
Ryan students are asked to read for at least 20 minutes every day. Both middle and high school students will read one book and will complete an assignment for English class on that book in the fall. The district is encouraging students to pick a new book if they don’t like the one they’re reading.
The Tewksbury Public Library is working with schools to provide level-appropriate titles to students. The library has many resources for online reading, and recently opened for call-ahead curbside pickup.
The committee reviewed the district’s Student Opportunity Act plan, designed to close achievement gaps within student groups, such as minorities and those with disabilities. The district will be seeking to strengthen teacher coordination with students and families, as well as teacher efficacy, through the SOA funds, and will seek to engage stakeholders, students, families, and community members in the process. The committee voted to approve the SOA plan.
Sullivan ended the meeting by thanking all the teachers of the district for their hard work during the pandemic and throughout the school year.
The next meeting is scheduled for July 22, 2020. Residents wishing to comment may find the call-in number on their screen and on the meeting agenda on the town website. The meeting may be viewed on Comcast channel 22 and Verizon channel 34.