TEWKSBURY — The Tewksbury School Committee met on Dec. 8, 2021 at Tewksbury Memorial High School. Chair Keith Sullivan and member John Stadtman were not present; Sullivan had Vice Chair Shannon Demos read a statement explaining his absence due to his son’s football championship.
Demos also read a statement regarding labor negotiations with teachers in response to information published by the Tewksbury Teachers Association on an “equitable agreement.”
The district requested a mediator from the state to assist in settling the contract.
The board reviewed a presentation from field director Dorothy Presser of the Massachusetts Association of School Committees to discuss the superintendent search process.
Superintendent Chris Malone recently announced his intent to retire in February 2022.
“Hiring a new superintendent is one of the primary responsibilities of the School Committee,” said Presser, adding that the short period before Malone’s retirement will likely necessitate appointing an interim superintendent.
Presser said that after creating a calendar for a full search, the committee would seek to gain input from the community on the skills and competencies stakeholders want to see in a superintendent. Presser said that finding a permanent superintendent by the end of February was an “impossibility,” and the committee will need to keep the permanent search and interim search separate.
The committee reviewed out-of-state trips for TMHS to Costa Rica and the US National Parks, and the Wynn Middle School annual eighth grade trip to Washington, DC.
In his superintendent and staff report, Malone shared that the district’s COVID-19 dashboard hit over 90 cases, a number he called “concerning.” The district continues to do a significant amount of pool testing and Malone said that he sent a letter to families detailing enhanced cleaning protocols; parents are reminded to keep children home if they are sick.
The district continues to collaborate with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s COVID response team. Malone shared that the town is not near DESE’s 80 percent vaccination threshold among students to consider removing mask requirements.
The district is still looking to hire aides, substitute teachers, and substitute nurses. Malone also said that the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association is requiring masks for athletes, coaches, and officials in winter sports but has not published guidance on spectators.
The Tewksbury Police Department’s new comfort dog, Waffles, recently arrived in town, and Malone said that he hopes to invite the dog to visit the committee at a future meeting.
Malone shared that the TMHS band and chorus will be performing a winter concert on Dec. 17.
Malone said that the district is looking deeply at school security protocols following the Nov. 30 mass shooting in Oxford, Michigan; four students were killed. Administrators are reviewing ALICE active shooter training protocols and continue to discuss the social emotional aspects of supporting students.
Assistant Superintendent Brenda Theriault-Regan reminded parents that they can visit www.vaxfinder.mass.gov to find COVID-19 vaccine appointments for students; the district will be updating the COVID-19 dashboard at www.tewksbury.k12.ma.us with more information.
Theriault-Regan also shared that she, Dewing principal Terry Gerrish, Heath Brook principal Felicia Cenanovic, and Ryan principal Judi McInnes recently attended a conference on literacy resources for Title I schools. The district’s current literacy program is ending its contract after six years; the district intended to pilot a new ELA curriculum last year but couldn’t due to COVID-19.
Theriault-Regan said that the district is in the process of convening the district literacy coach, principals, and teachers to discuss future steps. In addition, she shared that the attendees had the opportunity to network with other Title I school districts, and plan to make site visits to observe literacy programs in other communities.
Theriault-Regan also reminded parents that Dec. 23 is an early release day for students, and a professional development day for teachers.
The district will also be implementing a K-8 teacher-run social emotional screener for strengths and needs of individual students, classes, and whole schools. The screener assesses five categories of social emotional metrics: self-awareness, self-management, responsible decision-making, relationship skills, and social awareness. The results of the screener will provide strategies, lessons, and activities tailored to the needs of individual students and classes.
Students in grades 9-12 will complete a social emotional self-report; Theriault-Regan said that the assessment will help students identify their strengths and work on building the skills they need to improve, giving them immediate strategies for setting goals to improve competencies.
Staff members will be trained in assessments on the Dec. 23 workshop day.
Business Manager Dave Libby updated the committee on the Heath Brook School window project. Libby said that 20 classrooms in the school now have tempered glass windows, which are operable and openable with screens. Removable panels will support the installation of air conditioning units and ventilation needs.
In committee reports, Demos shared that the elementary school building project is on track for completion in late October of 2022. Member Nick Parsons reported that the Special Education Parent Advisory Council will be having monthly check-in meetings with a school committee representative.
The next meeting is scheduled for Jan. 12, 2022. The meeting may be viewed on Comcast channel 22 and Verizon channel 34.