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When Is Social Media Appropriate For Westford School Employees?


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The following is Part Two of an overview from the May 28, 2014 School Committee meeting. For Part One, click here.

Video of the meeting will be available on the Westford CAT website.


8:22 p.m. – The agenda then went to social media policies. Wells discussed a policy drafted at the town level laying down the rules on “official town content” on social media platforms, particularly regarding public record law and other laws regarding defamation and copyrights.

At this point Ryan entered the room.

Wells said that this was just beginning to be implemented on the town side to ensure that parts of town government are in compliance with this policy and laws are not being violated.

Keele asked about school policies regarding this, and said that on rare occasions, students and staff will put up inappropriate content on social media and there are general conversations made to try and prevent that content from being shared.

Harkness was concerned that this policy may create a restriction on staff from building blogs and other forms of communication.

Wells said that despite the policy, the town frequently uses social media to help disseminate information and that his goal isn’t to stifle information but to help the town follow laws.

Harkness understood and still worried that people would be scared from social media use due to record keeping, with Wells understanding that concern and adding that the main issue is preventing unwarranted views being presented as official town positions or as facts when they are not verified.

School Committee member Tom Clay asked about access and helping teachers regarding publicizing things that might be useful, such as curricula, and Harkness asked about the possible burden of keeping so much information.

Olsen said that the district aims to keep as much information as public when possible and Wells said that information that has to be kept under public records law cannot be deleted immediately.

Benoit then asked a question regarding “maintaining” data and its role during work time, saying “maintaining” is open to too much interpretation.

Wells said that maintenance of “unofficial” data during work time was unacceptable, but that maintenance on non-town sites with official responses was acceptable.

Kohl asked a question regarding the role of teachers moderating comments coming from parents and what their role is.

Wells said that teachers can moderate comments, but Kohl asked again, seeing that moderation was “required” under the policy, specifically regarding the speed in which the teacher would have to respond.

Wells elaborated that comments would be held before appearing publically.

Olsen said that discussions would need to be made with staff regarding their professional responsibilities with social media and figuring out how employees can do what needs to be done.

Kohl asked if a “sister policy” was needed compared to the town side regarding to the policy, and Olsen said there would be due to the different role of schools versus other town departments.

Olsen added that they did not want to get to the point of paralyzing town staff, however.

Keele then said he would advise teachers not to use social media due to possible misinterpretations, although noted that websites are excellent methods of communication, saying that it was a double-edged sword.

The topic would be addressed again in August.

Westford technology director Mike Wells
Westford technology director Mike Wells

8:39 p.m. – The Education Collaborative (T.E.C) was discussed next by Director of School Finance Kathy Auth regarding new school food contract bids.

Auth then noted several companies that have been awarded contracts for items ranging from milk to vending machines.

Keele asked if locality of vendors played into the contracts played a role, Auth said that it did as local vendors have often given good bids.

Murray asked about percentage increases over recent years, and that Auth would return with more detailed information.

Benoit asked if this precluded the district from going to vendors with lower prices. Auth said that it did not, although those bids would need to be approved and going through the collaborative has helped reduce prices.

The bids were unanimously approved.

8:43 p.m. –Keele discussed officers on the board in the upcoming year. He said he did not want to serve as chair again. Clay and Ryan said they would run for chair, Benoit agreed to run for vice chair and Murray agreed to run for secretary.

The vote will take place during the last meeting of the year.

8:44 p.m. – The board discussed who would serve from the board on the Master Plan Committee.

Harkness said that a presence was needed and that the schools were not well presented in past town Master Plans.

The committee generally meets on the last Monday of the month.

Keele said he could not commit due to time conflicts.

Harkness asked if they could have their meetings on alternate Mondays, and there was additional discussion.

No action was taken.

8:47 p.m. – Executive session minutes were approved and the board adjourned into Executive Session.

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