The Reading School Committee (SC) of Reading Public Schools (RPS) is meeting on June 22, 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.
The updated packet is posted below, which includes the annual superintendent performance evaluation, that takes up approximately 60 pages (p. 66-124) of the packet.
Main things to know for tonight’s meeting:
— The agenda again looks pretty packed, with three different year end update presentations, and what appears to be 16 different votes (9 of which are on policy changes), in addition to the areas listed above under “major topics”. The annual summative evaluation of the superintendent is only listed as being about 15 minutes, at the end of the evening, right before reorganization. More information below.
— END OF YEAR AUDIT: p. 15-29 of the packet – the results of an end of year financial outside audit are listed, along with a 3-year financial end of year report from the outside auditor, and the only finding appears to be related to something called “the amount of revenue of the AARP vote reported by the town,” which error apparently was fixed in March 2023.
— NEW FINANCE DIRECTOR – The SC will vote on the appointment of a new finance director, Dr. Derek Pinto, who comes to RPS from his current role as Vice President of Finance and Administration at Lasell University, where he manages the university’s $90M budget and operational departments, including facilities, information technology, and food services.
— LEARNING AND TEACHING UPDATE – there will be a learning and teaching update covering “the areas of professional development, curriculum review, and curriculum implementation”. As of this writing, the packet has no slides for that presentation.
— DISTRICT STRATEGIC PLAN – p. 36-39 of packet – there will be an overview of the district strategic plan, including goals and priorities. – note that if you go to the packet and click on a given goal, it is a hyperlink that brings up a table with more details on how the goal/priority is to be satisfied . In a quick skim of it, many aspects seem generic and common to other strategic plans RPS has had over the years (e.g., ensure high quality curriculum and instruction), but a few of these new goals stand out as aspects not usually seen in the past, and seem to specifically target extra supports for certain subgroups, e.g., certain high needs students like multi-lingual learners, and certain racial/ethnic subgroups. Because these historically have been the lowest performing subgroups on MCAS, it is understandable why there may be extra supports listed in the strategic plan:
* Strengthen equitable family engagement supports and connections for Multilingual Learners, Black and Brown, and Economically Disadvantaged Students and Families
* Create a “children’s cabinet” to bring together key leaders that serve children and youth
* Build coherence within METCO program
* Build coherence within MLL (multi lingual learner)
* Build a shared understanding about sense of belonging and identify common indicators to measure progress.
— FAMILY AND COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT DISTRICT PLAN – p. 40-45 of packet – there is not much to this presentation other than a slide listing the benefits of family engagement, like increased student achievement, fewer behavior problems, increased trust between teachers and parents, etc., which quite honestly are things I believe many parents and teachers already know. There is no actual plan listed on how to improve family engagement.
— KILLAM ELEMENTARY PRINCIPAL SEARCH (p. 46-47) lists the process to search for a new Killam principal, including forming a screening committee. The job was posted as of 6/13/2023 and is not posted as an interim position.
— Q3 END OF YEAR REPORT AND FINANCIAL STATUS (p. 48-57 of packet) – this is a repeat of a topic that was listed for the last SC meeting on June 8, but they did not get to it. I am repeating the information from my last SC meeting preview, which appears still to be applicable:
— There is a huge amount of detail in this report, but the bottom line for FY23 appears to be that (once again) the special education cost center is ending the year with a huge surplus ($740k)k even accounting for pre-payment of out of district tuitions, and the SC is being asked to vote to transfer this towards other FY23 RPS expenses:
* $35K of this to district wide technology to ”support the expansion of cybersecurity software required by MIAA before July 1 in collaboration with the Town. “
* $645k to regular day to “renew technology devices to maintain five-year life cycle “ and to “maintain balance in Full-Day Kindergarten revolving fund, which results in reducing the allocated of the FDK Offset”. To clarify per my best understanding, this means that some of this $645k is being used to cover FY23 expenses for full day K, so less money needs to be taken out of the full day K revolving account to cover FY23 expenses, this enables RPS to “maintain balance” in the full day K revolving fund.
– This report also indicated the size of balances in the various revolving accounts, student accounts, the spending of grants, and all cost center balances, and I refer you to those pages in the packet for those details.
— STUDENT SERVICES (SPECIAL EDUCATION) LEGAL COUNSEL RECOMMENDATION – p. 58-59 list the process for their recommendation, and the names of the 6 firms considered in addition to our current counsel, but the actual recommendation is not listed. Per my best understanding, our current student services legal counsel (Nuttal, MacAvoy & Joyce, P.C.) also was one of the final 4 they interviewed.
— APPLICATION FOR PARC GRANT (p. 60 -61 of packet) – the town wants to apply for a so-called Parkland Acquisition and Renovation for Communities (PARC) grant, for up to $500k, to “renovate the area behind RMHS which includes the “Tot Lot” playground as well as the adjacent tennis and basketball courts, as part of the next phase of the Birch Meadow Master Plan. It will include the installation of an accessible playground, renovation of the basketball courts and additional parking to support the complex”. Although this is what the packet lists, I have heard that this renovation may also include the addition of one or more pickleball courts. Also, per the memo in the packet, there may need to be a land donation from RMHS to the town, as part of this.
–– END OF YEAR PERSONNEL UPDATE – per a memo in the packet at p. 63, the HR director will give an update presentation, but no slides are in the packet on this.
–– SUMMATIVE EVALUATION OF SUPERINTENDENT (p 64-124 of packet) – the SC will go over its annual superintendent performance evaluation. The details of this evaluation are too extensive to review here, but are uniformly very positive, with no ratings of needs improvement or lower in any category or subcategory. Overall, the summative average of all assessments rates the superintendent as “proficient” in instructional leadership and “exemplary” (which is higher than proficient) in management and operations, family and community engagement, and professional culture. SC members all had very high praise for the superintendent’s performance, with only a very few issues noted, such as wanting to see more progress on addressing scheduling challenges and issues at RMHS and the middle schools, slower progress in middle school literacy and math pathways, and more progress on leadership pathways for teachers and administrators.
–– POLICY VOTES (p. 126- –155 of packet) the SC will take votes to approve a number of policy changes, which I went over extensively in my last SC update from the June 8, 2023 meeting, but they did not get to them in the previous meeting. Here is a re-listing of the policies and proposed changes: The general areas of policy changes relate to these policies, and the memo at p. 126 also summarizes the changes:
The SC will consider 8 policy updates and consider revoking one policy that the Mass Association of School Committees (MASC) removed from its model policy in 2017. I will only mention at a high level the policy changes; you can refer to the packet for further details. Note that in many policies, the pronouns she/he are replaced by “their,” as part of the policy changes.
- GCJ Professional Teacher status – two significant changes:
* further specifies that professional teacher status (PTS) is based on three consecutive “qualifying” years, where qualifying years is further clarified to be years where teacher is both licensed by DESE or another appropriate licensure” and where no leave greater than 30 days was taken
* continuous employment is no longer guaranteed (per old policy) but is “subject to satisfactory evaluations and good conduct in accordance with M.G.L. 71:42”
- * Further detail on SC subcommittee deliberation on this change can be found in the packet at pages 92-93 and 98, which refer back to the meeting minutes of the policy subcommittee where this was discussed.
- DGA -Authorized Signatures – this policy is significantly expanded to spell out who can be considered an authorized signature based on the type of contract, whereas the old policy listed it to be chair of the SC, vice chair if chair is unavailable, Supt for payrolls, and town treasurer to sign all checks. The policy update changes this to specify that SC chair (or vice chair if time critical) has authority to sign Supt contract and union contracts, but for bills, payrolls and warrants, it should instead be a quorum of the SC to approve, and for contracts covered by FERPA or employee privacy laws, it should be the Supt to approve. Town treasurer still signs all checks drawn against school dept funds. The change also allows SC chair/vice chair if needed, to sign certain docs related to state or other processes (e.g.,. MIAA, MSBA).
- DH Bonded employees and officers – policy only seems to have a grammatical change; no change in substance, but it cross references other policies that were not previously cross referenced.
- DI -Fiscal Accounting and reporting – further expands Supt responsibilities, clarifies the specific state requirements with which the accounting system will comply, and adds additional cross reference policies.
- DIE – Audits – significant revisions, including time frame by which an annual audit must be completed, specifies that SC should consider audit results (old policy did not indicate SC had to do anything in response to audit), and provides for additional financial reports and audits to which RPS is subject; additional cross references added.
- DJ – Purchasing: – entire policy is rewritten and changed significantly, including adding requirement that the Supt designate a district purchasing agent, with SC having rights to direct purchasing agent and approve or not approve purchases.
- DJA – Purchasing Authority – old policy listed Supt has having purchasing authority without requiring SC approval. New policy extends this to a designee of Supt and clarifies that SC approval is not needed for purchases within the cost center appropriation, which is more limiting than the old policy
- DK – Payment procedures – significant updates from old policy; now includes requirement for warrants to be forwarded to town treasurer for payment by town treasurer, after review by director of Finance and Operations and a designated SC member.
- DJG – Vendor relations (propose to revoke)
–– SCHOOL COMMITTEE REORGANIZATION – as usual for the last SC meeting of the fiscal year, the SC will take votes to appoint new chair and vice chair.
HOW TO WATCH THIS MEETING
The RCTV YouTube live stream link to watch the meeting is not yet up but will appear here: https://www.youtube.com/@RCTVStudios/streams
You can also watch via Xfinity channel 99 or Verizon channel 32.
In addition, you can join the meeting (or watch) via the Zoom link here:
Meeting ID: 836 5702 1146
One tap mobile +16469313860,,83657021146# US