The following is a portion of the March 9, 2015 Westford School Committee meeting. For other parts of the meeting, click here.
7:30 p.m. – The meeting began with the Pledge of Allegiance, led by Ken Meiers.
Public forum began with Emily Blumburg of Plum Road. She was concerned about not enough spots in the extended day program at the Nabnasset School.
She would like full-day kindergarten for her daughter and extended day was the closest option.
She’s lived in Westford since 2005 and had moved here due to the schools.
Extended day is a more affordable option for homes with two parents working. Bussing is also superior with extended day programs.
Superintendent Bill Olsen said he is working on this issue and it has been a long time issue.
7:38 p.m. – Rick and Lori Arena of Long Road came before the board and noted that kindergarten homework at the Miller School has nine pages, homework at the Nabnasset School has one page, and there is no homework at the Robinson School.
Lori thought it was a dramatic difference.
Rick said had some children go through the kindergarten program and wondered why there was such a disparity.
Olsen said he would report back on the issue.
Lori was confused regarding the variety of homework amounts given the switch to Common Core. Olsen said there wasn’t a direct correlation to homework with Common Core.
She was also confused why a full-day curriculum is used in a half-day program.
Assistant Superintendent Kerry Clery said that it’s a scaled back full-day curriculum. However, Lori said recess has been a casualty of an overfilled curriculum and it’s difficult for five-year-olds to focus with too much energy.
Olsen agreed, and said it would be noted in an upcoming meeting with elementary school principals.
School Committee Member Margaret Murray asked for a reminder on appropriate homework levels for separate grade levels.
7:43 p.m. – Tatiana Carter on Aspen Road came to the microphone saying that she understood people had various opinions on the matter, but it was hard to expect a kindergartener to sit still for six hours.
She also said that it was hard for teachers to fit full-day curricula into half-day schedules.
Carter asked if Westford was going full-day, if it can afford it, whether parents would have a choice between half-day and full-day since there is a variety of needs for children at that age.
Clay said that the study committee would be introduced later and people could submit their comments then.
He also said that the School Committee will be understanding options on this evening and no votes would be taken.
7:47 p.m. – Next was the Superintendent’s Update. There were honors for students regarding National History Day. The Abbot School held their March community meeting, the Abbot School has collected 1,100 books, most of which will be going to children in the Bahamas.
Olsen also talked about the Abbot STEM Fair earlier in the evening. There was also a discussion at the Abbot School regarding how people with disabilities overcome adversities.
He offered congratulations to Meggie Norton for her two gold medals in skiing at the Special Olympics.
On Feb. 24, the first ever Chinese New Year’s celebration was held in Westford’s schools.
He also gave the winners of the National Geographic Geography Bee.
7:53 p.m. – David Keele wished good luck to the Westford Academy boys’ basketball team tomorrow at the state semi-finals in Springfield.
Angela Harkness was excited that there was a fan bus for the kids.
Terence Ryan elaborated on the Abbot community meeting. There were some concerns, and Ryan asked Olsen for input on how to improve the school, particularly regarding coming up with a plan for improvement.
Olsen said he listened intently. Some things were easier fixes than others. A lot of it depended on communication from teachers and various learning styles.
Margaret Murray asked if there were other issues outside of MCAS scores, and learning styles.
Ryan said much of it was communication from the school.
Murray then asked if there was any activity at the school council level.
Olsen said these issues were discussed at that level alongside Abbot School Principal Vito Umbro.
Erika Kohl said this could be revisited during discussion about the School Improvement Plan.
Harkness also noted that the Westford Academy cheerleaders are the state champions and there is a fundraiser called the WA Shamrock Shake at the Nabnasset Country Club this Saturday. Tickets can be obtained via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
She also noted that preparations are still underway for the Last Night event, which provides things to do on graduation night for Westford Academy seniors.
Arthur Benoit noted that the Westford Academy Theater Arts program is in the finals of the Massachusetts Educational Theater Arts Guild competition for their play, “The Normal Heart.” There’s a tuneup on Thursday night at 8 p.m.
This year a student will be director, filling in for Mike Towers.
Olsen has offered the job of Robinson School Principal to Kevin Cost, a Westford native. He is currently a principal in the Nashoba Regional district. The job is currently under negotiation.