On Wednesday night, the School Committee covered a number of topics besides the end of this past school year with the rest of their time, including but not limited to the superintendent’s report and review.
It being the first meeting after the annual town election, the committee began by voting in Jenn Bryson again as chair, M.J. Byrnes as secretary, and David Ragsdale as vice-chair. They also recognized a $500 donation made to WPS library programs to cover the history of civil rights.
In the superintendent’s report, Dr. Glen Brand referenced the “long overdue” move of student support services from two classrooms at the Wildwood School to the Wilmington Art Center.
“It’s not lost on me that led to a domino of other programs that needed to be relocated,” he said.
The Wilmington Art Center, which previously offered a variety of painting classes and provided space for all kinds of music and rehearsals, has been closed since March. Brand added that the 15 personnel should be moving their offices to the arts center with minor modifications sometime this summer.
Another item in the report was the intention of summer leadership meetings for teachers and other leaders in the school district. Dr. Brand said he will ask the appropriate teachers and staff to set aside July 14-15 and Aug. 4, 5, and 18-20 to focus on strategic planning for reopening schools this fall.
The committee later took time to say goodbye to Assistant Superintendent Dr. Brian Reagan. Brand appreciated Reagan as an invaluable member of district leadership and the central office team.
“I extend my thanks for his work, his commitment, and his time and energy over the past two years to make this team and district better.”
He’s moving into a superintendent position in Waltham. Other committee members added that Reagan would always be welcome back in Wilmington.
Back on the topic of reopening, Brand presented a little of what he presented to the reopening advisory group in their most recent meeting. DESE guidelines for the state were supposed to be released before the meeting but had been delayed and could not be covered.
The priorities of the reopening advisory group, he shared, will be to establish safe learning environments, follow the DESE guidelines, and be flexible to respond to change and what’s not working. The final plan made by the eight advisory groups will be brought before the School Committee on Aug. 12.
After the committee voted in favor of recycling surplus equipment in the school system, WHS Principal Linda Peters talked about changes that have been made to the WHS Student Handbook. Some of the changes were updates to the mission statement and expectations of learning.
Later, in an effort from the MASC, School Committee secretary MJ Byrnes advocated for the committee to take up a resolution on racial justice. In the previous meeting, she did the same for a COVID-19 fund for schools. This new resolution would see racist practices in classrooms eradicated and acknowledge that all lives cannot matter until black lives matter.
An important question considered by Jay Samaha was: “Has the district ever looked at our practices through an anti-racist lens?”
The School Committee voted in favor to send this resolution to the same group of Wilmington’s state and local representatives on their behalf.
The final item of importance from the meeting was the fiscal year 2020 superintendent evaluation. The subcommittee made up of Samaha, Jo Newhouse, and Bryson merged all seven evaluations into a single coherent document for Brand and covered some of the assessments briefly.
Overall, Brand rated proficient from significant progress in the student learning and professional practice goals. He also scored proficient in instructional leadership.
Some of the noteworthy actions that the committee pointed out on Brand’s part were relocating student support services, responding to the findings of the Walker Report, hiring an athletic director and several principals, and implementing the food distribution program.
In a combined evaluator comment section, Bryson read, “His commitment to high expectations to the district is apparent in all of his communications. In addition, he’s shown remarkable leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic and school closure.”
The committee valued the work that Brand has done during these past few months pivoting to remote learning as crucial and significant for student success.
The public portion of the meeting soon ended as the committee went into an executive session. The DESE fall reopening guidance can be viewed in full at https://www.mass.gov/doc/dese-fall-reopening-guidance/download.