WILMINGTON — The School Committee meeting last Wednesday night was scheduled to open with public comments before they discussed transportation negotiations and the superintendent’s budget presentation. Before that, they recognized the passing of Annemarie Norman, who served as a special education and light skills teacher in Wilmington for many years.
The two public comments came from residents Mark and Laurie Gallucci speaking on behalf of allowing spectators at winter sports games.
Mark Gallucci said, “For these seniors… they really want their mom and dad to be there with them. They want their friends to be there, too, but they understand that that’s not going to happen.”
He added that “following the science” would point to social distancing and wearing masks, and that he’d like to discuss other solutions with the superintendent and the athletic director.
Agreeing with the previous statement, Laurie Gallucci shared about her family’s memories of attending her sports games from growing up in Wilmington.
“I can’t imagine my parents not being there,” she said.
She pleaded for the district to not take her last opportunity to see her twin senior sons play hockey and reiterated that the district’s ruling is stricter than state guidance.
After the Superintendent’s Report, the committee asked for volunteers to serve on the Wilmington Teachers’ Association Contract Negotiation Subcommittee. M. J. Byrnes and David Ragsdale were confirmed as the School Committee members for that subcommittee.
Assistant Superintendent Christine Elliott shared an update on MCAS and ACCESS testing for the classes of 2021 and 2022 per Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Jeffrey Riley. The highlights that she gave included the class of 2022’s English language arts and mathematics testing postponed to the spring; the class of 2021’s testing window between Jan. 14 and Feb. 12; and the June 2021 biology testing to be a legacy test merging standards of 2006 and 2016.
She also mentioned that ACCESS testing for English learners would be available from Jan. 7 to May 20.
The next few items pertained to negotiations with North Reading Transportation for Wilmington’s school bus service. Assistant Superintendent Paul Ruggerio explained that NRT’s negotiations with both SEEM Collaborative and Wilmington Public Schools is charging 50 percent for the first 10 days of school which were fully remote, 78 percent for the remote days in the hybrid model, and 100 percent for in-person days. The negotiation with WPS lasts until the end of school year, and that of SEEM Collaborative lasts until the end of 2021.
The committee moved on to the preliminary fiscal year 2022 budget presentation from Superintendent Dr. Glenn Brand. He explained that the priorities of the district are to ensure that programs and services cover what’s needed, to support initiatives under the strategic plan, and to uphold commitments for attending to the emotional and social needs of students. The overall goal, he said, is to maintain what they offer going forward as opposed to trying to do more next year.
Some other things that were considered by administration in creating this budget were bussing, grants, guidelines for staff, and collective bargaining. While Brand said there are always areas to improve service through adding extra personnel, he doesn’t think that now is the time to do so.
With expected enrollment over 3,000 students next year, part of the thinking in terms of budget expectations he offered is that a lot of students who may have un-enrolled from the district in favor of home school or private school will return. Ruggerio pointed out that this assumption is agreed upon by DESE. Brand also projects a slow but steady decline of enrollment, especially at the secondary level.
This budget will be brought to the Recommended Budget Meeting on Jan. 20 and part of the Town Manager’s budget presentation on Jan. 25. There will also be a budget hearing on Feb. 10 and another Finance Committee meeting on the town budget in March before the Town Meeting pending final approval.
Some of the committee members were concerned about whether the superintendent had planned for any unexpected costs or cutting from the town.
“We think we can work with the town and get something that’s workable and doable,” Ruggerio said. “The town has always been great to the schools from a support standpoint.”
They also asked for more information on how the professional development and strategic plan costs may be spent for the next review.
Under subcommittee reports, Jay Samaha talked about the guiding work and mission statement for the Equity Committee, on which he and Jenn Bryson serve. Byrnes suggested that they work with Wilmington’s Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion group and the MASC’s Minority Caucus for extra guidance on how to promote an inclusive, collaborative school and community culture.
Bryson received congratulations on earning her doctorate under announcements before she reminded everyone of their next meeting on Jan. 13 to conclude the evening.