WILMINGTON — The Superintendent’s Report for the School Committee last Wednesday night covered MCAS testing, virtual caregivers’ sessions, COVID-19 monitoring, and the OPM for the new town hall and school administration building.
Superintendent Dr. Glenn Brand mentioned the district held three virtual caregivers’ session so far.
“We’ll publicize these events and welcome members of the community to participate if they’re so able,” he said.
He also said that the session for behavior planning at home on Jan. 21 was cancelled, but they have more sessions ahead. The committee established that all the resources available — presentations or recorded sessions — would be posted on the school website.
Regarding COVID-19 surveillance, Brand said that the positive and quarantine numbers in town are being watched and communicated amongst the Board of Health, Health Services, and himself. In order to keep students in-person as long as they can, he recommended getting tested and staying home with the presence of symptoms, and wearing masks and socially distancing.
“No one singular data point would lead to changing the learning model,” he continued.
Assistant Superintendent Paul Ruggerio reported on the Owner’s Project Manager chosen by the Committee to hire an OPM for the new town hall and school administration building. After finalists were identified, the committee collectively preferred P3 Incorporated. He reported that Town Manager Jeff Hull would reach out to them with a contract.
Committee member Jay Samaha asked how the district would handle COVID-19 spreading among sports teams. Brand answered that this would involve isolating the positive students and conducting contract tracing on both teams and schools depending on if they were infectious in school. However, this would not count as “school spread,” because that has to be an infectious person in school spreading to another person.
The other element of the Superintendent’s Report was the 2021 assessment and accountability update including a statement from Massachusetts Education Commissioner Jeff Riley on MCAS. Assistant Superintendent Christine Elliott said that MCAS is seen by the education department as a crucial test and will be held this year, although they’re being flexible with when and how the results will be used.
Elliott shared the commissioner’s statement which said that competency determinations would be modified and testing times would be shortened. The education department would also be extending the ACCESS testing window for English learners.
M. J. Byrnes took up an issue with the commissioner’s statement in an email to Brand and in the committee’s meeting packet.
“Knowing what we know about significant impacts from remote learning… and equity issues perplexes why the commissioner has decided to use MCAS as a tool to measure what students have lost,” she said.
She went on to say that MCAS is obsolete.
Brand shared quickly that he didn’t know of any efforts being made in other districts to respond to the commissioner’s decision. He added that he sees the need for more information to be provided before they can fully understand how MCAS will be carried out and data will be collected.
Expanding upon what actions she’d like the committee to take, Byrnes said that she would ask DESE to make a new tool that measures not only what students have lost but also their mental, social, and emotional health. She’d like to see this tool use accurate and fair data collection.
She asked if there were other ways that teachers measure student performance, and some of the things Elliott said teachers might use included observations, anecdotes, and other assignments and projects.
The committee agreed that they would consider Byrnes’ messaging to the superintendent for their next meeting. One suggestion for action was to bring the discussion to state legislators who could dialogue with the commissioner on long-term solutions.
They did not come to any action, but only said they’d continue the discussion at their next meeting, which is Jan. 20 at 7 p.m.