WILMINGTON — The end of the 2018-2019 school year was an eventful one for the School Committee, as it discussed and took action on a variety of longstanding issues.
Brand Completes First Year
As Superintendent of Schools Glenn Brand completed his first year on the job, the School Committee reviewed his performance, as per policy. Categories for review included instructional leadership, management and operations, family and community engagement, and professional culture.
The committee gave Brand a score of “Proficient,” the second highest category, in all categories, at evaluations read into the record at a meeting on April 24.
The committee also evaluated Brand’s progress toward his three performance goals, which included implementation of an entry plan, coordinated program review, and strategic plan development. They assessed that Brand had met the former two goals, and made significant toward the latter.
Debate over Gymnastics
As the 2019-2020 school year inched closer, interested students and parents began to put pressure on the School Committee and Superintendent to consider adding a varsity gymnastics program at Wilmington High School.
At a meeting on June 12, students and parents both spoke up to offer their support for a gymnastics program, even one offered in conjunction with another school district or coached on a volunteer basis.
“It’s heartbreaking when they get to high school and they have to choose between the school they love, and the town they love, and representing them with their talent, and the sport they love,” said parent Natalie Haydach.
Brand had stated that current absence of such a program was a budgetary issue, and that such a program had not been planned for in the FY 2020 budget. He did promise to work closely with the athletic department to explore whether funding such a program would be possible in FY 2021.
The Vaping Committee, which includes community members, students, and teachers, presented its findings and suggestions at a meeting on May 8.
The committee’s primary goal was to update language in the student handbook to more accurately address the issue of students vaping, particularly on school premises. The committee’s formation came on the heels of a variety of vaping-related issues at the high school, including student concerns over limited bathroom access as staff tried to limit vaping opportunities.
Brand noted that the policy changes, which include increasing awareness of vaping, implementing diversionary programming, and using more robust detection policies, had been run by the district’s attorney and that no issues or contradictions precluding its approval had been found.
“It’s just another way that we’re kind of able to collaborate with the schools and on the community level to… make sure everyone’s on the same page and getting wrapped around supports,” said Wilmington Health and Recovery Coordinator Samantha Reif.
Many open staffing positions were filled. These included a new Woburn Street School principal (Suzanne Sullivan) and a new Wilmington Middle School principal (Alexander Phillips).
It was also announced that, though the search process had been launched, the district would hold off on selecting an assistant principal at the Woburn Street School. Brand also stated that Sullivan would play a role in finding the right candidate for the position.
Following extensive debate about how best to structure the first week of the school year, and which holidays had the poorest school attendance, the School Committee approved changes for the 2019-2020 school calendar.
Brand stated that “some degree of early release time” at the beginning of the school year would be instrumental in helping teachers and staff prepare for the weeks ahead. Some stakeholders had voiced concerns that too much early release time at the beginning of the year would make the transitional period difficult for students, and challenge parents who need to find childcare on non-school or early release days.
The new school year will have one early release day and two full school days during the first week. According to Brand, CARES will be up and running.
Notably, the Wednesday before Thanksgiving will now also be a non-school day, due to cited poor attendance in the past and preference expressed by parents in surveys.