During their meeting last Wednesday night, the School Committee received updates on the fiscal year 2020 budget and structured learning time before they discussed new and updated policies and protocols.
For the 2020 end of year budget report, Assistant Superintendent Paul Ruggerio detailed that the committee could see all the revenue costs coming in and out of the school department.
Jay Samaha asked what the $13,000 expenditure for the School Committee was, and some of the things Ruggerio named were advertising new positions, membership fees, and travel. School Committee Chair Jenn Bryson said that advertising would account for most of that expense.
At their previous meeting, Superintendent Dr. Glenn Brand introduced changes to the remote learning schedule due to a new established threshold for synchronous learning time requirements. He shared that since then, three working groups started planning for the schedule revisions necessary at the elementary school, middle school, and high school levels.
Assistant Superintendent Christine Elliott said the subcommittees looking at the needs for each school would allow the groups to carefully consider financial issues and impacts on schedules and families. She clarified that the district fell short because asynchronous time previously counted toward structured learning time, but now structured time only includes instruction where the teacher is actively available either virtually or in-person.
The new guideline is for all students in every district to have an average of 35 hours of synchronous instruction every 10 days. This may include breakout group time, she said, so long as the teacher is accessible. Students also have to complete a live check-in and some amount of synchronous time each day.
Some suggestions the Department of Education gave to increase synchronous time were to teach simultaneously to remote and in-person students, to repurpose asynchronous time or teacher planning time, to extend class times, to hire more staff, or to increase remote group sizes.
Despite the short timeframe before the new schedule is due, Jan. 25, the superintendent, assistant superintendent, and committee members are hopeful.
Samaha said, “The work that I’ve seen this committee do has been fantastic… I’m proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish in the short period of time we were given.”
David Ragsdale added that there are a lot of considerations to be made and differences at each school in terms of staffing, scheduling, patterns, and specialists.
Elliott also shared that staff and families had already been notified about the changes coming, although the plan isn’t yet complete. She said they’re not taking time that students wouldn’t normally be expected to be doing work.
Brand maintained that the learning model and remote/in-person days schedule aren’t changing.
The committee was made aware of the fact that most of the write-in public comments were about this topic.
“Families are worried about losing in-person time for remote learning,” Jo Newhouse said.
Brand assured them that the finalized plans would be brought before the committee at their next meeting, especially since it required reopening the Memorandum of Agreement established with the Wilmington Teacher’s Association.
The committee then discussed various School Committee policies and protocols. One of the policies they talked about was the WPS Home School Application, where they established that the approval of the principal and superintendent were both required, but only the principal would sign off on the curriculum plan.
They also looked at a civil rights grievance procedure, a title IX sexual harassment grievance procedure, and the School Committee protocols. They agreed to look at the latter again alongside the School Committee handbook to make sure the language lines up.
M. J. Byrnes thanked the Policy Subcommittee for their efforts in revising, strengthening, and updating these documents.
The final item of the night was subcommittee reports. Newhouse shared that the SEPAC had found four parents to be board members and their next meeting would be Jan. 28 at 6:30 p.m. Jesse Fennelly said that WEF had met the day before and that curriculum grants would be coming out that Friday.
Besides their next regular session on Jan. 20, the School Committee established that the town manager’s budget presentation is upcoming on Jan. 25.