The following is a transcript from the Dec. 15, 2014 Westford School Committee meeting. For other parts of the meeting, click here.
7:30 p.m. – The meeting was begun with the Pledge of Allegiance, led by members of the Westford Academy cheerleading squad.
Members of the cheerleading squad also came before the board to talk about an overnight field trip request later in the meeting for the team requesting a trip to a national competition in Orlando.
The cheerleaders said that this was the best season in Westford Academy history.
School Committee member Margaret Murray said that this was $12,000 for the trip and asked if any efforts had been taken to defray these costs. The cheerleaders gave some information on cost-saving measures already done toward that effort.
The motion to approve the request was approved unanimously.
Before public forum was closed, School Committee member David Keele “threw a softball” to Superintendent Bill Olsen and Assistant Superintendent Kerry Clery regarding their opinions about Nashoba Valley Technical High School.
Olsen said that Nashoba Tech has done an excellent job for students looking for a different high school experience and that it’s his policy to allow parents to make the best decision for their child while other towns at times worry about Chapter 70 money.
He said there is a need for traditional high schools and vocational high schools need to work together more and their students are Westford’s students and vice versa.
Clery said she needed to learn more on the partnership and said that it doesn’t appear that there’s any competition between the two schools here.
Keele said that many vocational schools are underutilized and some studies have shown that traditional high school students may be better served by vocational experiences.
School Committee member Margaret Murray says that things have changed over the years when vocational schools were seen as a “dumping ground,” as they are now very selective and most students from vocational schools now go straight to college or jobs with high pay after graduation.
7:42 p.m. – Olsen praised several people who reestablished an enrollment subcommittee, which will be reporting to the board on Jan. 12
He also gave a report on a visit by Massachusetts Secretary of Education Matt Malone.
School Committee chairman Tom Clay also elaborated on the visit.
Specifically, the two talked about upcoming efforts throughout the state to develop STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) facilities.
School Committee member Erika Kohl asked why he came by, Olsen said that he tries to get out to school systems across the state. He informed he was coming 18 hours before the visit – that he’d be in the area and would like to stop by.
7:48 p.m. – Olsen also praised a holiday concert at Westford Academy. He gave an update on potentially combining maintenance staff with the town as a whole.
Then, he mentioned that niche.com, a website that rates services, said that Westford was the #3 school district in the Boston metro area, just behind Lexington and Westwood.
School Committee member Terance Ryan gave thanks to a substitute teacher at the Abbot School.
School Committee member Arthur Benoit also praised the holiday concert. He also praised the inclusiveness of the choir.
7:55 p.m. – Kohl asked about George Murray’s enrollment estimates, asking if the cohort ratios were somewhat high.
She explained that cohort ratios are the number of kids in a certain grade in a certain year multiplied by the number of students expected in the next year.
Olsen said that the schools pay close attention to enrollment and Olsen modifies Murray’s numbers.
Kohl also asked for an MCAS analysis, which normally came to School Committees in recent years.
Olsen said that the analysis was coming to an agenda in January due to agenda overcrowding during recent weeks.
Kohl also gave an update on the potential maintenance coordination with the town, saying it had been looked at last year with a field trip to Hanover, where it had been implemented.
Most places that have undertaken the merger have been pleased, although it wasn’t a way to save money as much as it was to ensure expertise that was already in place was used.
However, some savings could be fulfilled.
Kohl also talked about report cards and Common Core, asking if the data collected with new report card standards was worth the effort.
Olsen said that question was still being discussed and it was something discussed with the Secretary of Education during his trip.
A few years ago, there was a list of all the assessments used by Westford schools and that needed to be updated.
Kohl then gave an update on fingerprinting policies, noting it had to be done this month for chaperones of field trips. She asked if anyone in the future was caught in the future regarding fingerprints if an update would be provided.
Olsen said he would need to ask Westford Police Chief Tom McEnaney on the matter.
8:03 p.m. – The Full-Day Kindergarten Citizens Advisory Committee has concluded the bulk of their work and will present their findings in February.
Clay then gave an update on the Day School’s 50th birthday Christmas tree as well as other items, including upcoming agenda items.
8:05 p.m. – Westford Academy Student Representative Will O’Neal gave his update.
School Committee member Angela Harkness said she went to the Holiday Baazar for the first time in 15 years and it had evolved into a great place to do Christmas shopping.