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Kindergarten Citizens’ Committee Talks Common Core


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The following is a portion of a transcript from the Nov. 3 Westford School Committee meeting. For other parts of the meeting, click here.

7:30 p.m. – The meeting began with the Pledge of Allegiance followed thanks from Christian Bertholdt from the Agricultural Commission over the recent Great Westford Lunch Crunch.

7:35 p.m. – Joy Onasch and Robert Michael, co-chairs of the Kindergarten Citizens’ Committee, came to the microphone.

Terence Ryan on Nov. 3
Terence Ryan on Nov. 3

Michael said that they understand the Citizens’ Committee’s role in terms of providing date to help the School Committee to make a decision.

Onasch then said that after the last School Committee meeting, several changes had been made to a survey.

She said there is a tight timeframe and that the survey will begin to be administered over the next few days.

School Committee member David Keele said that the survey was great. He asked who the survey was going to. Onasch said just to parents of six and under.

Keele asked if there were any discussion of sending out the survey to the entire town, Onasch said it would be more appropriate for the School Committee to do that.

It was unclear what how many parents in town have children aged six and under.

School Committee member Terence Ryan asked if there was a way to determine if people were answering the survey twice, Onasch said it was unclear if there was a way to do this.

School Committee member Margaret Murray said there could be a way to collect IP addresses to make sure people took the survey just once.

Onasch said that the survey would be conducted through Survey Monkey, which would do this.

Although School Committee member Erika Kohl said that people could game the system and said it could give some idea of what parents are thinking but it should not be seen as a “vote.”

School Committee member Angela Harkness mentioned that the Town Clerk’s office has a list of all the births over the past year in town.

Kohl then asked about a part of the survey mentioning the Common Cure curriculum, stating that the people made the Common Core went out of their way to not have a specific curriculum, particularly for full-day versus half-day.

She went on to say that under Common Core, all kids do generally the same regardless of full-day or half-day.

Onasch said that the knowledge that needs to be passed along to children in kindergarten has been developed based on a full-day program and that this information is just condensed to two-and-a-half hours in the half-day program.

Assistant Kerry Clery then elaborated on the Common Core, saying it’s a standard rather than a curriculum and the rigor of the Common Core is better for a full-day since everything is not covered in a half-day.

School Committee chairman Tom Clay asked if striking the word “curriculum” would help.

There was more discussion and Kohl then said she believed she had heard school principals to have full-day kindergarten, although Common Core was not a part of that.

Kohl said that by raising the specter of Common Core, it may lead people taking the survey to assume that is what is driving the push for full-day kindergarten.

Onasch said that was not the case, and said that the issue she had found among kindergarten teachers wasn’t Common Core, but a lack of time.

Clay asked for the citizens’ committee to work with Clery and Superintendent Bill Olsen on clarity in the survey.

School Committee member Arthur Benoit asked if it would be possible to add teacher names and school names to avoid “packing the ballots” on the surveys, however it was explained that the survey was for parents who do not already have children in schools.

Clay said he was impressed with the citizens’ committee’s efforts.

7:52 p.m. – Olsen then talked about the Boston Business Journal’s ranking of the Westford school system recently, how he and Clery have been talking to teachers for planning purposes

At the Miller School, students are sending patriotic drawings to soldiers overseas.

Money had been raised for the Westford Food Pantry, Westford Academy students performed at the state house, and there was a mention of the Great Westford Lunch Crunch.

Crisafulli students are sending unused Halloween candies to troops serving overseas.

More updates included efforts to volunteer in local soup kitchens and lighting up the night with milk jugs at the Town Common among others.

7:57 p.m. – Kohl said she would be going to the MASC Conference and asked to be nominated as a delegate, she was unanimously approved.

She looked through School Improvement Plans for last week and asked about plans for purchasing tablets and other devices and then talked about plans and criteria for purchasing technology versus less expensive means.

Since this appeared in the plans, she said she assumed there was an assessment on whether these things would be needed soon.

Olsen said that he had discussed with staff how the technology will be used and maintained and said that purchases are carefully thought through since there is a cost in terms of replacing the technology in six years.

Kohl asked about the processing power of the devices and said that there must be some balance in terms of mobile devices versus larger computing devices.

Olsen said that there will be additional presentations and that any devices purchased will have some universal applicability.

There has been a lack of a technology person for the past few years until recently.

Clay then said the mobile versus other platforms would be another thing that would be discussed in the future.

Harkness said she assumed this is why the new technology director is being paid and then she mentioned that the Westford Academy soccer team had an upset victory.

Murray asked if this was the first time if the Westford Academy soccer team was doing so well and she thanked Kohl for going to the conference. Murray asked Kohl to bring back any information she learns at the conference during a meeting.

Clay had a few comments, including a letter to the editor in the Lowell Sun from Rob Creegan.

He read part of the letter, which was regarding raising teacher salaries, and disputed claims in the letter and elaborated, inviting Creegan to talk to him about the process regarding the salary examination.

8:07 p.m. – Student Representative Julie Becker gave an update as did Student Representative Will O’Neal. Charlie Baker won the Westford Academy mock election.

There was no other new business.

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