WILMINGTON — During last Wednesday’s School Committee meeting, the committee received the Superintendent’s Report followed by updates on the MASC conference, elementary grade screenings, the middle school program review, and more.
Wilmington Middle School 8th grade student Allie Hall reported to the committee about clubs off to a great start this year, including the new Gay/Straight Alliance Club, Math Team, Robotics Club, and Drama Club. She also mentioned she looked forward to participating in the community service program Project 351.
The only public comment came from resident Jeffrey Cohen, who used his time to claim that children are the target of radicalization through their teachers, as “education provides the opportunity for generational change that can never be reversed.” He said that social-emotional learning and diversity, equity, and inclusion are concepts that teachers use to replace the value systems taught by parents and ways to introduce racism into classrooms.
Superintendent Dr. Glenn Brand provided updates on vaccination, School Councils, the NEASC visit, and the Equity Audit in his report. He included current vaccination rates at 40 percent students and 80 percent staff in the middle school, and 77 percent of students and 77 percent of staff at the high school. He also gave dates for an upcoming COVID vaccination clinic for students age 5-11.
His next item was related to the progress being made by the School Councils. While the middle school council awaits staff representatives, the rest had met to get started.
“Where is the priority and responsibility to our students and their education?” asked M. J. Byrnes regarding the lack of staff volunteers for the middle school.
Chair Dr. Jenn Bryson also asked for information to be shared about the conversations happening to develop the middle school council.
With the NEASC visit concluded, he promised that principal Linda Peters would give more information at a future meeting. He also declared his intention to resume work considering changing Wilmington’s school start times.
He went on to provide an update for the Equity Audit, in that they would soon be selecting a firm out of the chosen finalists.
Byrnes shared her notes from the MASC conference, during which she represented the committee, and the result of the resolutions that the committee had voted upon. She mentioned her election to vice chair of the MASC and named the resolutions that passed along with small wording edits that were made.
After that, Assistant Superintendent Christine Elliott discussed the work done for universal screenings in school for grades 1-5, now that all of the screenings were complete. Each grade took the appropriate Benchmark reading assessment and universal screeners for reading and math. Some also took a foundations unit test.
She later clarified that Envision, one of the testing tools they used, corresponds to the math curriculum and tests students on the concepts they learned the previous year.
She shared that the resulting conversations, where teachers met in teams with reading and math specialists to identify individual students who would benefit from support, were met with collaboration and professionalism. This allowed them to decide upon students for targeted support and to see how certain students had improved.
Elliott also said that she was impressed by the insight that teachers had into their students’ behaviors and deficits.
Brand confirmed the fact that there was rich dialogue and collaboration among teachers that day. Elliott said in an answer to a question from Bryson that they were just about to start on the universal screenings at the middle school.
Elliott then discussed the topics that teachers have been focusing on during two CIT Professional Development days this fall. These were everything from training on tools to curriculum mapping, program review, and interventions for students.
Regarding the middle school program review, Brand discussed with the committee that the results might lead to changes in team structure and class sizes. While he recognizes how interested the community is in in enrollment and adjusting staff, he said this is a problem that will take time and thoughtfulness.
The committee had concerns around enacting changes to staff levels before the review is complete.
“The idea of changing things without having a sound understanding of what’s a good middle school structure makes me nervous,” said Bryson.
Later on, David Ragsdale said, “It’s worth acknowledging that this is personal to people on the other side of these decisions.”
Finally, Brand brought up proposed changes to the Superintendent Goals. He proposed that his goals be the program review at the high school, the middle school program configuration, and the change in school start times. The latter, he said, isn’t a new area of focus, just newly one of the official goals.
Ragsdale proposed that the previous goal of the MSBA process for the new Wildwood school remain.
“It will be a major part of what you’re doing this coming school year.”
The committee agreed to add this goal back in, although they didn’t vote on anything in this regard.
In subcommittee reports, Melissa Plowman mentioned on behalf of the Wilmington Educational Foundation that the bay state textiles box could, in fact, take blankets, sheets, curtains, clothing, and shoes. Byrnes shared that the School Wellness Advisory Committee had met earlier that day and reviewed the wellness policy.
The committee’s next meeting will be Wednesday Dec. 1 at 7 p.m.