TEWKSBURY — 2021 presented many challenges for the Tewksbury School Board. Here are some of the highlights of the past year.
In January, the committee held its first budget workshop of the year with Commercial Director Dave Libby. Libby explained that the FY22 budget would be heavily influenced by changing pandemic conditions, as many coronavirus-related one-year furloughs and hires were set to expire at the end of FY21. Libby added that FY22 will be the last year for the current budget model, as the new Pleasant Street Primary School will come online during FY23.
February brought more talk of students returning to class full-time, as well as gratitude for staff members working throughout the pandemic.
Tewksbury Public School Nurses have been recognized for their work, including Head Nurse Kelly Constantino, Mackenzie Coneeny, Amy Connell, Kathy Korslund, Deb Kraytenberg, Sandra Miller, Angela Reaney, Jill Robinson, Karen Rossi and Nurse school retired Elaine Walsh.
Malone discussed full-time in-person learning opportunities, noting challenges with transportation and lunch, but emphasizing the need to “change the narrative from why we can’t to how we can.”
Discussions continued in March as Malone highlighted current concerns and needs of parents and family, including child care and social-emotional development. Administrators gathered information and data from the District Reopening Task Force, parent and student surveys, TTA negotiations, neighboring district collaborations, and DESE and state guidance regarding more occasionally in person.
In April, Scott Wilson, who served an unexpired term left by Dennis Francis, and longtime member Jamey Cutelis left the committee as newly elected members Bridget Garabedian and Nick Parsons took their seats.
The district saw its first positive case of COVID-19 thanks to newly implemented pool testing. The district was able to retest students in the pool and allow students with negative results to return to class.
In May, Malone reported that the school reopening task force had voted to disband, as the district sought to adopt a school-by-school approach going forward.
Libby said the district received a total of about $2.4 million in COVID-19 grants.
June marked the end of the school year and a celebration of several retirees, including Carolyn Dooley, June Fagan, Jayne Farnham, Sue Spollen, Marguerite Weidknecht, Lynne Hardarce, Patricia Whitehouse and Luigi Gisetto.
In the residents’ section, parents complained about mask policies in schools, with several raising their voices to committee members. Chairman Keith Sullivan warned attendees to conduct themselves in a civil manner.
In July, the committee heard a proposal for a school-based therapy dog led by school resource officer Eric Hanley. High rates of student anxiety and depression existed before the pandemic and evidence has shown positive impacts by incorporating a dog into schools’ socio-emotional support. Hanley is now training Waffles the labradoodle; the name was proposed by sophomore Jack Johnson.
The committee conducted the annual appraisal of Superintendent Malone. Malone was deemed competent in instructional leadership to navigate public health guidelines and state mandates; exemplary in management and operations, earning accolades for fiscal responsibility throughout the new Pleasant Street Elementary School project; proficient in engaging family and community to make themselves available through “constant communication”; and mastering the professional culture.
In August, the committee faced difficulties in an in-person meeting due to a power outage at TMHS caused by a car hitting a utility pole on Pleasant Street. After the meeting kicked off, Assistant Superintendent Brenda Theriault-Regan shared details of TMHS’ new Chromebook 1:1 program allowing students to take laptops to school with them.
Thériault-Regan also shared developments regarding a district mentorship program for new teachers.
The committee referred two open meeting law violation complaints to the district attorney, which required the committee and support staff to participate in additional training on open meeting law.
In the citizen forum section, parents and community members spoke out for and against masking policies in schools. Several parents alleged that wearing the mask constituted child abuse and raised concerns that children could not see facial expressions. Parents with medical and scientific qualifications spoke out in favor of universal masking, citing the prevalence of the delta variant. Amid the heckling of the crowd, the committee took a nine-minute recess; Sullivan asked the Tewksbury police to remove the hecklers from the auditorium.
Members expressed frustration that the decision on masking was left to individual school committees by the state, but voted 4 to 1 to enforce a universal masking mandate with a 60-day review period. A week later, the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education announced universal statewide masking requirements for all public school staff and students over age 5.
Sports Director Ron Drouin gave a presentation on the sports complex at the new Pleasant Street Elementary School. Drouin highlighted the exterior of the facility, which used rock salvaged from the former Doucette Field sports complex. The new building includes an indoor weight room and a grass area, which can be used as a reception area.
In the meeting’s public comment section, Tewksbury Teachers Association president and TMHS English teacher Conner Bourgoin, along with numerous staff wearing ‘education red’, implored the committee to consider recent proposals from the TTA to reach a quick contract agreement for teachers. and helpers.
In October, the committee met at Tewksbury Town Hall. In the residents’ comments section of the meeting, several parents returned to share their concerns about the mask requirements. A woman expressed concern that Christian values are not taught in public schools.
Malone has announced that Framingham headmistress Purnima DeMorais has signed a contract to take over as acting headmistress of North Street School following the departure of headmistress Karen Cronin.
The committee voted to name the new Pleasant Street Elementary School “The Center Elementary School”. The committee also named Nick Parson to the city’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Advisory Committee.
In November, the committee passed recognition resolutions for TMHS women’s basketball coach Mark Bradley and men’s basketball coach Tom Bradley, whom Drouin called “great leaders of our athletes.”
Malone reminded parents to remain vigilant in the face of a significant increase in positive COVID cases. The district tracker peaked at 45 cases, which Malone said would “probably match our highest weekly tracker number during the entire pandemic” [a/n: as of this printing, the current active cases in Tewksbury Public Schools is at 149 according to the district COVID dashboard].
As part of National School Psychology Week, Malone highlighted the work of school psychologists, adjustment counselors and social workers to meet the socio-emotional needs of students, particularly with respect to issues related to pandemic. The district is always looking to hire substitute teachers, classroom assistants and individual support assistants.
Malone also announced his intention to retire in February 2022.
At the committee’s last meeting in December, the committee announced that it had asked a state mediator to help settle a contract with the Tewksbury Teachers Association.
Dorothy Presser of the Massachusetts Association of School Committees discussed the superintendent search process.
Malone said the district was carefully reviewing school safety protocols after the Nov. 30 mass shooting in Oxford, Michigan; four students were killed.
Administrators review ALICE active shooter training protocols and continue to discuss the social-emotional aspects of student support.
Theriault-Regan shared that the district is implementing new social-emotional self-reports and filters for K-12 students. Theriault-Regan said the assessments will help students identify their strengths and develop the skills they need to improve, giving them immediate strategies for setting goals to improve their skills; the examiner assesses five categories of socio-emotional parameters: self-awareness, self-management, responsible decision-making, relationship skills, and social awareness. Exam results will provide strategies, lessons, and activities tailored to the needs of each student and class.
The next meeting is scheduled for January 12, 2022. The meeting can be viewed on Comcast Channel 22 and Verizon Channel 3