The Reading School Committee (SC) is meeting on Thursday February 9, 2023. The meeting is being held at 7pm at the Reading Memorial High School (RMHS) library and will be broadcast by RCTV and also be accessible via zoom. Links to watch are listed below, along with selected images from the packet and agenda.
The packet, including agenda, is posted at the bottom of this article. At the time of this writing (11:30am on 2/9/2023), the packet as posted did not include the presentations for two important agenda items, the K-8 literacy update and the RMHS Guidance update. The packet does contain this information on agenda items:
- Intro to Multi-Year strategic plan (p. 19-23 of packet).
- Information relating to the SC vote on creating a special education reserve fund (p. 24-25) – note that town meeting ultimately will have to approve of this. Further info below.
- Information relating to the formative review of the Supt. including feedback and comments by each SC member. I have additional analysis on this below (p. 26-41 of packet).
The school committee is scheduled to take three votes tonight:
- Discuss and vote to request Town Meeting warrant article to create Special Education OOD Stabilization Fund (A)
- Review and approve Superintendent Formative Assessment (A)
- Discuss and vote on recommending bylaw change regarding employee physicals to Select Board and Town Meeting (A)
SPECIAL ED Out of District (OOD) STABILIZATION FUND
In typical school years in the past, if RPS has any cost centers with budget surplus at the end of the year, they do one of three things:
(1) Ask the SC to approve switching some or all of it between cost centers to cover shortages
(2) Use some or all of it to pre- pay the amount allowed by law (3 mos.) of special education tuition for upcoming year (and this sometimes also requires switching between cost centers); and/or
(3) Return excess to the town, where it goes into cash reserves (known conventionally as “free cash”)
The SC is scheduled to take a vote tonight to put a warrant article before town meeting to create a new special education reserve fund.
As the memo in the SC packet states, “By establishing the fund, the district will no longer be required to maintain a contingency of unassigned tuition fees within its operating budget, which often remains unallocated each year. By establishing a reserve fund, unexpected special education costs will be addressed while allowing operating funds to be invested effectively to yield the greatest outcome for all students.”
Note, however, the actual text of the warrant article is significantly broader than the above memo, and states that the fund can be spent not just on out of district but special ed generally and also recovery high school costs. The warrant article, as proposed, asks town meeting to approve creation of, “a Special Education Reserve Fund to be utilized in the upcoming fiscal years, for the general purposes of funding, without further appropriation, unanticipated or unbudgeted costs of special education and recovery high school programs, out-of-district tuition or transportation, all as provided for by law”.
My best understanding is that the effect of this is that, rather than doing any of 1-3 above with excess budget money at end of year, excess RPS budget could be put into this “reserve” fund, to be kept there for the needs as listed in the warrant. However, to expend money out of this or any other reserve fund, approval by both School Committee and Select Board is needed. The fund would be allowed to grow in size to up to 2% of the overall RPS budget (currently this would result in a fund of nearly about $1 million dollars). Details from the proposal are included below.
FORMATIVE REVIEW OF SUPERINTENDENT
The SC is scheduled to vote tonight to review and approve the formative assessment of the superintendent. I have included images of the cover memo on this assessment. The packet does include full reviews from each SC member, at the above-noted pages. The feedback is overwhelmingly positive, with notes such as
— [from formative cover memo] Members noted that coaching goal; “was the most visibly progressed and successful to date, recognizing that it had been an area of strategic and planning focus last year and had hit its stride from an execution standpoint in SY22-23”
- [from formative cover memo] Regarding “Innovations” goal, “Members uniformly praised the work and the pace happening in the RMHS Innovation Pathways effort, recognizing the critical leadership of Jessica Callanan, but also acknowledging Dr. Milaschewski’s creativity in creating a role that would allow her to have such a significant impact. Multiple members highlighted that his leadership style has allowed people like her to flourish, to own significant bodies of work, and to move the ball forward rapidly and with great results”
Some comments from SC members demonstrating reasons for the multiple positive formative reviews:
— [from SC member Robinson] “Dr. Milaschewski’ s has an excellent two-way communication style that has served him well in preparing the District Strategic Plan. He listens, he evaluates feedback, and he is timely and succinct in written and verbal reports to all stakeholders”
— [from SC member Gaffen] “There are more systems and routines in place that bring district leaders together, that empower district leaders, and that empower educational leaders. The sense of team is pervasive, and the degree of collaboration is extremely high. Hopefully, the RPS principals feel that this is a district that believes in encouraging them to be the very best versions of themselves, and that sentiment comes from the very top”
— [from SC member Wise]: “What we continue to see from Dr. Milaschewski is his ability to put people in places to succeed, support them in the process and let them own the result. He demonstrates that he doesn’t have to be the smartest person in the room and in doing so, continues to engender a great deal of confidence in his leadership in those that work for him.”
The following seemed to be the primary areas of concern and these were raised by multiple SC members:
— [from the formative memo, regarding progress on “innovations” goal]: “Several members expressed more cautious notes about the progress on scheduling, acknowledging that while it is absolutely something that should be prioritized as a critical blocker for things like math pathways (and successful implementation of the Innovation Pathways), we haven’t seen as much evidence of progress before the School Committee, and some expressed concerns that it didn’t seem likely there would be many significant opportunities for progress to be reflected in the next school year’s schedules”
Several SC members had very specific comments on scheduling and math:
— [from SC member Gaffen]: “There is no mention from the middle school principals regarding expanding math time on learning, for example. And while creating more flexibility around the PE and health requirements at RMHS will help a bit, it is not the level of schedule adjustments I was also hoping to see, and that I believe will be necessary to truly allow more students access to more classes that interest and challenge them. I would like a better grasp of what the RMHS scheduling team is working towards.”
— [from SC member McLaughlin] “I would encourage Dr. Milaschewski and team to think about the scheduling in a strategic, holistic way, taking into consideration additional key prioritization areas that impact scheduling, particularly – secondary math pathways, middle school literacy, special education program reviews, and full-day Kindergarten.”
— [from SC member Nazzaro]: “I would like the administration to look into Math Pathways. I feel like this goes hand-in-hand with the School Schedule and Innovation Pathways priorities. Many in our district, including many school committee members, have been advocating for change in this area for years. I’m glad it is on the radar and hopeful that it will be addressed sooner.”
— [from SC member Wise]: “While the administration chose school schedules as the second innovation to focus on, we have seen less evidence of this to date. We have heard about small tweaks at RMHS concerning Gym and Health class semester alignment to open up space for further electives but haven’t heard or seen much more at High School or Middle School level… we have yet to see the parent involvement that will be necessary for larger structural changes at the High School in particular… I would urge Dr. Milaschewski and his staff to focus more urgently on the secondary math pathways. While I understand they are and continue to be a challenge, I also know it has been a 10-year problem which will only be exacerbated by the fact that we are creating Innovation Pathways (Engineering and Computer Science) that would benefit from having more students take and succeed in more challenging math in Middle School. For these reasons, I urge a greater focus on this area as we move into the second half of the academic year”
EMPLOYEE PHYSICALS BYLAW CHANGE
Finally, the SC agenda does list “Discuss and vote on recommending bylaw change regarding employee physicals to Select Board and Town Meeting”. However, there does not appear to be any information on this topic in the packet. My understanding and recollection is that they want to eliminate the need for such physicals for a cost savings, but because it is written into town bylaws, those would need to be changed to exempt school employees from this requirement.
HOW TO WATCH THIS MEETING
The RCTV YouTube live stream link to watch the meeting is here.
You can also watch via Xfinity channel 99 or Verizon channel 32.
You can join the meeting (or watch) via the Zoom link here:
Join Zoom Meeting
Meeting ID: 836 5702 1146
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