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SC Meeting: January 17, 2023

At the January 17 School Committee meeting there was a FY24 Budget discussion regarding Program Improvement for Instruction and Innovation, and an update on the School Facilities Master Plan.

Superintendent's Comments

Dr. Gutekanst shared that planning for the FY24 budget has been challenging. Students’ safety and wellness following the COVID-19 pandemic remains a priority. The state has unilaterally imposed a significant tuition increase for students enrolled in special education private schools.

New and expanded programming includes:

  • Increased ELL, nursing, special education teachers & staff

  • Acapella advisor, Best Buddies Advisors, Gay/Straight Alliance advisors, club stipends

FY24 proposed technology increases include:

  • Digital licenses to support elementary science curriculum

  • Increased Powerschool service and subscription

  • Pilot program of a digital school dismissal management system at Broadmeadow & Eliot

FY24 Budget Discussion

Dr. Carmen Williams, Assistant Superintendent for Instruction & Innovation, was joined by Lisa Messina, Caren Firger, LeeAnn Sutton, and Dr. Elizabeth Zajac to provide a presentation on new budget requests for program improvements in several areas. Detailed slides can be found in the SC packet.

Goals & Updates:

  • Universal screening to identify children at risk for dyslexia.

  • Better alignment with “Science of Reading”.

  • Expanded access to Summer Programming, including need-based transportation.

  • A Social Studies program, “Investigating History”, is being piloted at Newman & Broadmeadow Elementary Schools.

  • Fine and Performing Arts programming has grown and requires continued focus on strengthening structures, resources and access to programming. Staff levels have doubled in the last 20 years while events and enrollment have quadrupled. A feasibility study is currently underway to assess auditorium lighting and sound to determine what improvements are necessary.

  • World Languages focus on the Universal Design for Learning (UDL)* and the culture of risk-taking, mistake making and growth – DESE awarded a grant in Spring 2022 for 11th grade World Language Standards-based Measurement of Proficiency (STAMP) testing and are now seeking funding for support for an 8th grade STAMP test to inform K-8 instruction. Proficiency based grading of the Spanish program was piloted at the high school this past year, based on data retrieved from last years STAMP assessment.

  • Additional initiatives for program improvement include replacement of digital learning devices and improvement of K-5 digital software

*Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a framework for thinking about how to provide access to content for students. When applied, students can have self access to the curriculum and then build on their skills to become better learners. UDL benefits every student and is anticipatory, where teachers can pivot midway and ensure all students are able to advance at their own pace.

School Facilities Master Plan Update

Dr Gutekanst presented an update on the School Facilities Master Plan. Detailed slides can be found in the packet. General goals of the Master Plan are:

  • Remediation for Mitchell & Pollard

  • Alleviate general overcrowding

  • Avoid expensive maintenance and renovations

  • Consideration to try and limit impacting the same students multiple times.

  • Possibility that High Rock could become an elementary and/or early childhood center.

Four options have previously been shared with the community. The focus is now on options C & D. Both options see the 6th grade program returning to the Pollard campus, and give the highest square footage. Option D is the fastest and cheapest option. Funding from the MSBA will be pursued in both options. However, MSBA funding is not guaranteed and the process is very competitive. If accepted, MSBA would only fund 20-30% of the project.

Dr Gutekanst posed questions to the School Committee to consider timing and funding for these projects.

School Committee Comments

  • Concern was shared about pushing off the Master Plan in order to gain MSBA funding.

  • Should consider the cost of waiting/deferring these projects in building maintenance and increasing future construction costs.

  • SC members feel strongly that while these projects will be very expensive, they are necessary and we should start these projects as soon as is feasible.

The next School Committee meeting will be January 24, 2023 at 6:30pm


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