Town Crier

WILMINGTON —Looking back through 2021, the Wilmington School Committee dealt with important issues including but not limited to curriculum, policies, engagement, and staffing issues.

The committee started the year focusing very closely on the MSBA ap­plication process for a new Wildwood School. While the process itself began the previous year, there were several key deadlines and meetings this year that al­lowed Wilmington to be selected into the program.

Since the announcement, Superintendent Dr. Glenn Brand kept the committee updated and made the project one of his goals for the coming year. He also provided detailed documents and collaborated with the Board of Sel­ectmen to schedule the upcoming special Town Meeting to arrange necessary funds for the first stage of the project.

Another important is­sue that the committee tackled in the beginning of the year was preparation for the return to in-person learning in April. In addition to en­suring mitigations were in place, the committee renegotiated the Memo­randum of Agreement with the Wilmington Teacher’s Association. They also considered the homework policy and asked teachers to be considerate of students’ capacity. They rec­ommended reading over busywork.

With the annual town election in May, Melissa Plowman was newly elected. Committee mem­­bers M. J. Byrnes and David Ragsdale were also re-elected.

As the school year went on, they saw the impacts of COVID-19 on students, staff, and families. One concern for the committee was the lunch situation at the middle school. They re­ceived the results of a survey for the middle school students eating lunch on the floor in the gymnasium.

Staff numbers were a concern from the spring and into the new school year. The committee held Brand accountable and asked with each update if Wilmington’s offerings would bring in the right candidates. They did the same with regard to updates on the middle school program review failing to garner support from staff members.

The district started preparing for the next school year over the summer. There was con­centrated effort led by Assistant Superin­tendent Christine Elli­ott to offer summer school for all of the students who applied. This time was not spent getting ahead but reinforcing the concepts with which students may have struggled during the previous year.

A major concern in the community for Sep­tember was the possibility of school mask mandates. While the committee made no chan­ges to the internal policy on masks, a mask mandate was set by the Commissioner of Edu­cation requiring all students and staff to wear masks in schools re­gardless of vaccination status. This remained in effect throughout the school year so far.

The committee receiv­ed seasonal updates from Athletic Director Mia Muzzio and other athletics staff on the Virtual Special Olym­pics and achievements by sport. Muzzio also came to the committee for permission to start a hockey co-op team and ideas of a gymnastics club.

Regular updates were delivered by district staff on student assessments. First there was the data from the new assessment tool Pano­rama, followed by the results of universal dys­lexia screen­ings. In the fall, they saw the MCAS results and another elementary universal screening in addition to the Youth Risk Be­havior Survey.

December brought concerns about student well-being with reports on mental health issues at schools from the Direc­tor of Student Support Services.

Some diversity efforts that the committee ap­proved included an equity audit and the hiring of a joint Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion coordinator with five other schools. They supported hiring two Social-Emotional Lear­n­ing and Family En­gage­ment Specialists who got to work quickly providing student mental health resources to families.

The committee saw the introduction of School Councils in November. They heard about efforts at the high school updating the vision of a graduate and the curriculum team leaders’ findings so far from the high school program review in December. It was also this month that WHS Principal Linda Peters announced her intent to retire at the end of this school year.

In the new year, they should receive the superintendent’s final budget presentation and recommendations from the high school program re­view. While staffing concerns haven’t dwindled, Brand recently restated his intent to try to creatively reuse the district’s current resources before making staffing changes.

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