WILMINGTON — At their meeting last Wednesday night, the Wilmington School Committee received an update from the Fine and Performing Arts department, the superintendent’s report, and the revised school calendar for 2021-2022.
Anita DiLullo delivered the Fine and Performing Arts update to the committee. She named a number of remote learning tools that they found to keep students on track, including things like a collection of teaching videos, a peer remote observation tool, and MICCA workshops for teachers. She was happy to report that the department has maintained all of their course offerings despite going remote and then hybrid.
In addition to sending home music bags with elementary kids, the Fine and Performing Arts teachers have gotten creative with virtual events like Instrumental Music Night, having class outdoors, and creating larger room spaces for social distancing. Now that DESE guidelines have been updated, DiLullo shared that they’re hoping to hold the spring play, high school marching band half time shows at the two home football games, and spring concerts and ensembles.
The board thanked DiLullo for her presentation.
For the Superintendent’s Report, Superintendent Dr. Glenn Brand discussed the WMS program review steering committee, the YRBS, the MSBA, and the executive assistant to the superintendent. He mentioned that the steering committee had split into three groups focusing on a review of program offerings, school practices, and organization respectively.
David Ragsdale asked the superintendent how the committees would start to answer the questions proposed. Brand suggested the three groups would carefully consider how to collect the data and feedback to form the answers that they’re looking for. Jay Samaha said that he’s excited to see the outcomes of this review and see the middle school turn around.
The next item of the report was the Youth Risk Behavior Survey, or YRBS, being conducted as planned. Brand said that his intention is to share the results of the survey once the data is compiled and sent to the district. Jenn Bryson mentioned the deadline to opt out of the survey was that same day when M. J. Byrnes wondered if there were a lot who opted out.
Brand went on to share a joint memo from Town Manager Jeff Hull and himself on the direction provided as part of the Massachusetts School Building Authority application process. The memo said that they communicated their interest in consolidating schools, which was also a suggestion of the Facilities Master Plan.
The options they told the MSBA that the town isn’t interested in were one large pre-k-5 school for the entire community, one large pre-k-3 school for the entire community, just a pre-k school, and one pre-k-4 school. He said that the MSBA will be making decisions on the week of April 14. Should the town be invited in, he added that there will be plenty of opportunity for community feedback.
His last item was to announce that Tristen Dixey is leaving her position as Executive Assistant to the Superintendent. Brand said her replacement would be starting April 1 and be able to cross-train with Dixey before she leaves. M. J. Byrnes told Dixey that she’s sad to see her go.
After the report, the committee got to the second reading of the fiscal year 2022 school calendar. The main update Brand mentioned was that the number of early release professional development days was reduced, per their request. Even with the number reduced, Samaha said he’d have preferred even fewer of these days.
Byrnes asked if there were any discussions happening about recovering educational learning losses. Brand answered that it was under the committee’s purview to add days onto the calendar, but there wasn’t any discussion about using extra school days for learning loss. He also said that, generally speaking, it’s not a good idea to pursue student retention.
Bryson reassured the committee that this sort of work is being done throughout the year in regular assessments. Assistant Superintendent Christine Elliott chimed in to say that pre-assessments will be taken at the beginning of each unit to target learning losses.
Ragsdale shared concern for the first week of school being only a day and a half and suggested that the first day of school for students be a full day that Wednesday. Brand explained that this week was shortened because they had moved the usual November professional development day to the beginning of school, having two professional development days to start the year.
Other possibilities he brought up were starting school after Labor Day, on Sept. 7, instead of the week before, or moving the half day to that week. There was support for having a full day on the Wednesday before Labor Day.
Fennelly asked if the start of school was moved back would accordingly push back the first day for pre-k and kindergarten, who were already set to start on the 7th. Brand answered that the start for pre-k and kindergarten wouldn’t need to change.
The committee did not take a vote to accept the calendar as it was but asked for further revisions. Their next meeting will be on Wednesday, April 7 at 7 p.m.