WILMINGTON — The school committee meeting last Wednesday night covered an update on athletics followed by the superintendent’s report and an update from the Wildwood building committee.
Director of Athletics Mia Muzio reported on highlights from the 2021 Fall athletic season. She went through every sport – soccer, girls’ and boys’ cross country, field hockey, boys’ and girls’ soccer, cheering and volleyball – and named all district and team award winners.
She also shared some milestones like the football team winning the second playoff game in school history, the girls cross country being three league champions and setting a new yardage record, the team cheering placing second at regionals and state, and the volleyball team making it to the state tournament.
There were two public comments that evening. The first came from Jeffrey Cohen, who quoted the FDA director as saying that cloth masks don’t offer much protection against COVID-19. He accused school board members of not wearing masks at a recent conference on Cape Cod.
He also claimed that the committee placed its own political agenda above the safety and physical well-being of students and that diversity, equity and inclusion were unpatriotic.
The second public commentator paid tribute to Becky Brown for helping the Wilmington Travel Basketball program keep students safe. He also thanked Shelly Newhouse, director of the health board, and the health department. He supported the three members of the school committee whose seats are up for re-election this year.
Among the items for approval that night were a DECA field trip to Boston in March and the International Career Development Conference in April, which the committee approved.
Superintendent Dr. Glenn Brand mentioned the search for directors, the MSBA process for the Wildwood, the first reading of next year’s schedule, a budget update and DESE updates in his report.
He explained that two committees began work on finding new principals for the Wildwood and the high school, overseen by human resources director Andrea Stern-Armstrong. He promised to keep the committee informed and make room for the community to weigh in during both selection processes.
School committee member MJ Byrnes asked if there would be a forum for parents to meet applicants via Zoom. Brand responded that he expected committees to consider using Zoom knowing that going virtual brings more engagement.
He then spoke about the progress of the MSBA process for a new school in Wildwood. He said they made the information available in print and online on the district’s website for the community.
“My goal on behalf of this committee over the next few months is to ensure that the community at large is aware of the opportunity leading up to the March 8th special town hall meeting,” he continued.
For the printed copies, he said they would post them at various locations around town; he also suggested they could have another virtual session to help spread the word.
The committee then proceeded to the first reading of the 2022-2023 calendar. Some of the ideas that carried over from this year included two professional development days at the start of the year, the same number of early release days, and planning for 185 days in case of snow days.
Committee members asked if there was any community feedback on having the full Wednesday before Thanksgiving and Christmas rather than half days. For the most part, Brand said he didn’t receive any specific comments, but they seemed to have been well received.
Jay Samaha commented on the number of early release days for parent conferences.
“I feel like I talk about it every year,” he said. “Any time you have early release days, it has a huge impact on families trying to find child care.”
He offered to try to line up some early release days between schools so it’s not such a burden.
Deputy Superintendent Christine Elliott said they imagined it would be difficult for parents to attend more than one school parent conference in one afternoon, which is why they separated them. However, chair Jenn Bryson suggested it might be more practical if parents could eliminate more than one parent conference in a single day.
David Ragsdale added that it seemed better to have full days to make up for the loss of half days before the holidays, which already had low attendance and less educational value.
They also wondered if the short week of the first week of school had gone well, and Brand responded by saying that the adjustment had worked well. Elliott also said the professional development days gave teachers time to collaborate, kick off, plan and prepare for the new school year.
They agreed to vote on the timing of their next reading, which would take place in February.
For the fiscal year 2022 budget update, Administration and Finance Director Paul Ruggiero stepped in to say there was $1.2 million left and some minor reallocations for salary, which the committee approved.
Finally, Brand reiterated that the school district will continue to follow DESE guidelines, not the CDC, and encouraged the community to stay up to date with information from the city.
The next school committee meeting will be at 7:00 p.m. on Wednesday, January 19.