Regional School Committee shorts, May 14
Members of the 2019-20 Regional School Committee (RSC) convened for the first time on May 14. Both Carlisle representatives, David Model and Eva Mostoufi, are new to the committee. Wallace Johnston was elected as Chair of the RSC, Model is the Vice-Chair. Other members include Concord representatives Heather Bout, Court Booth and newly elected members Yuval Erlich and Cynthia Rainey. The RSC thanked outgoing members Mary Storrs, Christine Lear, Johanna Boynton and Bob Grom.
Superintendent Laurie Hunter reported that she has been working with the School Safety Committee including the police and fire departments to complete a draft of a new emergency plan. They will be implementing a new application call CrisisGo which will, according to Hunter, “provide immediate communication between the school staff and Concord Police both to report an emergency and to communicate during the emergency.” She noted that the software will run on a variety of devices including laptops, tablets and mobile phones.
There are new students at the high school who require individual English Language Learner (ELL) services. In order to meet the increased need at CCHS, Hunter is planning to hire one more ELL teacher who will split time across CCHS and the K-8 schools in Concord. Hunter said, “The need driving the staffing issue is due to the limited English of a few students. Service is determined by the child’s English proficiency.”
Hunter highlighted efforts to improve cultural proficiency and make all students feel included. She mentioned that during the month of Ramadan, the staff was better aware of who was fasting. She also mentioned that a documentary about METCO is currently under production and will be screened at CCHS in the fall.
During a public hearing, the RSC voted to not participate in School Choice for the 2019/20 school year. School Choice is a state program that would allow non-resident students to attend CCHS. Each year, the district must vote before June 1 to “withdraw from the obligation of enrolling non-resident students.” The RSC has not participated in School Choice in the past. Hunter recommended opting out again this year because the school population is near capacity and there is not a transportation system in place to equitably enable out-of-district students to attend the district.
As the RSC gears up for the superintendent evaluation process, the committee discussed the terminology for the state-mandated evaluation process to ensure that they use the ratings in a consistent way. There are four performance standards the school committee members use to assess a superintendent: Unsatisfactory, Needs Improvement, Proficient and Exemplary. Bout explained her interpretation of three of the terms: Exemplary means above and beyond expectations, Proficient is what is expected and means “we are satisfied;” Needs Improvement is below the requirement of the standard. Bout said her interpretation is, “We are not happy with something.”
Former RSC member Boynton, who will be participating in the evaluation, explained that last year they were saying the same thing but had disparate ratings because they read the instructions differently.
Model was asked how the Carlisle School Committee implements the evaluation process. He explained that they spend a lot of time setting goals in the summer. Those goals drive the superintendent’s goals and flow down to the schools. The School Committee then has a check-in midyear. He added that they take a broader view of performance and do not get into “mind-numbing details.” Carlisle does not survey the staff, which the RSC did for the first time last year. Bout pointed out that the Superintendent’s Report, which Hunter presents at each School Committee meeting, follows her goals, so the RSC receives regular updates on her performance.
After confessing to being a hard grader, Model said that he believes that proficient is an “A” and needs improvement is a “B.” Exemplary is a very special category and should be used sparingly. He advised the other members to not be afraid to use Needs Improvement to highlight areas that could use improvement. When asked her interpretation, Hunter said, “The goal is proficient. Needs Improvement is going to catch my attention in a really big way because I want to be sure I am addressing whatever it is.” She added that the public aspect of evaluations can be difficult because a rating can be taken out of context. She also noted that if something needs improvement she hopes to know about it before the actual evaluation process.
RSC joint meetings
The committee looked at meeting dates for the upcoming school year. Johnstone presented a list of potential meeting dates for both the region and Concord and asked the two Carlisle members to pencil in all the dates, just in case regional business needed to be discussed during a scheduled Concord meeting. Model pushed back and asked that the meetings be designated joint or for Concord Schools. He said, it would be “incredibly burdensome” to make three meetings a month. He also asked to keep regional business separate from Concord’s K-8 business when they do have joint meetings, so the Carlisle representatives can attend for just their portion. Four representatives with at least one from Carlisle constitute a quorum. Johnstone agreed to work with Bout and Model to determine which meetings will be scheduled as Regional meetings.
Bus Depot cost assessment
Hunter once again raised a dilemma facing the RSC about the bus depot which the town of Concord built in 2017. Before Concord built the bus depot, the Carlisle Board of Selectmen wrote a letter communicating that Carlisle would not pay for the capital cost of the bus depot but would expect to pay for the operating expense of the building.The transportation costs including driver salaries, gas and general bus maintenance costs are included in the regional budget and Carlisle pays its share of the assessment.
According to Hunter, currently the town of Concord is paying both the capital and the operating costs; the costs are not being allocated to the region. She explained that adding the operating expense to the region is not as straightforward as it may seem but they are working on the best way to resolve the issue and she will report back. She added that the Concord Finance Committee made it clear that this should be a priority for the RSC.
Teachers’ children to attend CCHS
The RSC voted unanimously to allow Carlisle teacher Sandy Graham’s son and CCHS teacher Michael Lonergan’s son to attend CCHS as ninth grade students in the fall.
Closed door session
The RSC entered into Executive Session to discuss strategy with respect to collective bargaining and to discuss strategy or contract negotiations with nonunion personnel. ∆