The Reading School Committee (SC) is meeting on May 8, 2023. The meeting is being held at 7pm at the Reading Memorial High School (RMHS) library and will be broadcast by RCTV and also will be accessible via zoom. Links to watch are listed below, along with selected images from the packet and agenda.
The packet, including agenda, are posted here as well as at the end of this article.
Main things to know for tonight’s meeting:
The agenda includes at least 4 planned votes: Superintendent successor contract (text of contract not in packet), which will be discussed as part of the executive session slated for 8-8:45 pm during the meeting); reviewing/approving updated school calendar (see below); reviewing available school choice seats and potential vote to opt out (see below) and review and vote to support letter in favor of earmarks.
STUDENT SERVICES UPDATE
The first major item on agenda before the above-listed executive session is a student services update (see info and slides pages. 18-57 of packet). This update not only includes updates on special education enrollment, program reviews, etc., but also results from a district wide “sense of belonging” survey. Selected slides are shown below. The survey questions asked (4 questions elementary, 5 gr. 6-12) are shown on slides 24-25. At one point a “focus group” of 17 students in gr. 6-12 were asked some more detailed questions. Some key facts/data from the slides, both relating to survey and special education:
SENSE OF BELONGING (slides 19-42)
- Overall elementary survey shows 79% of RPS students feel a “sense of belonging,” which is in the 90th percentile compared to similar profile schools.
- Parker has 57% of belonging, which is in 80th percentile compared to similar profile middle schools; Coolidge has 65% sense of belonging, which is in 99th percentile.
- RMHS has 48% sense of belonging, which is in 70th percentile compared to similar profile high schools
“Sense of belonging” apparently is correlated at least to attendance record (slide 30) and possibly with crisis data (slide 34) , but it is not clear, based on information provided in the slides, if it correlates to academic performance (the slides convey that students “thrive” based on sense of belonging, but not explained in slides what is meant by use of the word “thrive”).
Next steps may include professional development and selecting socio-emotional learning (SEL) curriculum to help “Build a shared understanding about sense of belonging and identify common indicators to measure progress”
SPECIAL EDUCATION PROGRAMS (slides 43-57)
The presentation includes results of the so-called “Tiered focus monitoring), which takes place on a 6-year cycle and includes aspects such as reviewing several dozen criteria as part of self-assessment documentation, onsite school visits, interviews and meetings with staff and administration, and providing additional documents (slide 44).
The goals of the program review (slide 48) include :
- Develop and calibrate the strengths and weaknesses of our programming from an outside perspective;
- Ensure evidence-based practices and action steps to inform us of strategies, systems and staffing to improve student outcomes;
- Consistency within and across systems and practices to impact student outcomes;
- Create clear, measurable, transparent outcomes; and
- Provide clear reports on progress and next steps
Slides 50-51 detail past history of recommendations from past reviews and focus areas for vertical alignment of programs.
Slide 54 lists special education student inclusion placement data for FY20 in Reading as compared to the state. This data shows that of the 671 students with IEPs during FY20, 111 were in partial inclusion programs, which is a higher rate (16.5% of all special ed students) than the state average (13.7%). In that same year, 49 students were out of district, which also is a higher rate (7.3%) than the state average(6.4%).
EXECUTIVE SESSION AND SUPERINTENDENT CONTRACT
The SC meeting includes an executive session from approximately 7:45-8:45 pm (slated to take place after the student services review), relating to preparations for negotiations/contract negotiations with either nonunion personnel or collective bargaining (the exec session purpose says it could be either), and also for collective bargaining “or” litigation (exec session purpose says it could be either) (no info in packet). The SC will discuss and vote, in open session, on a successor contract for the superintendent.
FY23 was the first school year that RPS has ever participated in school choice, which (per the memo at p. 58), “is a state-wide program designed to fill available seats in school districts and allow caregivers choice and access to desirable school districts… With each School Choice student who enrolls in grades 1 to 12, the district receives $5,000, and for each student who enrolls in kindergarten, the district receives $2,500. School Choice funds are deposited into a revolving fund under the School Committee’s purview, which requires no further appropriation for use. School Choice funds can be allocated to address a wide range of district needs.”
The chart on p. 59 shows the total number of available seats for FY24 in RPS (75 total seats) and the possible revenue that RPS would receive if all 75 seats were filled ($362.5K). The packet does not indicate how many students now participate in school choice, but my recollection is that it is fewer than a dozen students.
Pages 60-61 of the packet indicate how many seats are available for each school and grade for FY24:
- Barrows (2 in gr. 2, 2 in gr. 3, 2 in gr. 4, 2 in gr. 5)
- BM (4 in gr. 2, 4 in gr. 3, 4 in gr. 4, 4 in gr. 5)
- JE (2 in FDK, requires tuition)
- Killam (1 in FDK, requires tuition; 3 in gr. 2, 1 in gr. 3, 3 in gr. 4)
- WE (3 in gr. 1, 4 in gr. 3)
- Coolidge ( 5 in gr. 6)
- Parker (5 in gr. 7, 2 in gr 8)
- RMHS (5 in gr. 9, 5 in gr. 10, 5 in gr. 11, 5 in gr. 12)
Applications are due by June 6, 2023, and the application is at p. 63 of packet.
P. 64-66 list a letter the SC intends to vote to approve to send to our state reps requesting certain earmarks, including $50k for RMHS science dept relating to real world applications of physics and environmental science; $50k to RMHS arts department to support equipment for digital music production; $40k for literacy training for middle school teachers; and $50k for RMHS math department for equipment to improve computer science offerings.
It is not clear if our state representatives already have gotten a portion of one of these earmarks (the $50k for digital music production equipment). Per an article in the Reading Post (see http://thereadingpost.com/2023/05/01/jones-haggerty-secure-85000-in-funding-for-reading-projects-in-fy24-house-budget/) , the representative secured $25k to purchase Nord Stage keyboards for RMHS performing arts department. It is not clear if this is part of the same request.
The packet includes a “final” version of the district calendar for 2023-24, including some changes (swapping dates for elementary and high school “back to school” nights and moving date of spring elementary open house) (packet p. 13-16 and images below).
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.
Meeting ID: 836 5702 1146
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