7:30 to 7:37 p.m.
The meeting began with the pledge of allegiance followed by public forum.
The first speaker was Chaitanya Hiremath, who spoke on the World Flag alongside Bill Harman. Hiremath said that there will be a petition at Town Meeting this spring relating to the flag.
Hiremath said that his flag began while he was helping his children with a project regarding flags, where he discovered that children from 57 countries speaking over two dozen languages attended Westford Public Schools.
Another person began to come up to the microphone to talk about the school calendar, but then School Committee chairman David Keele said that there is a specific agenda item related to the calendar and that they would be welcome to speak then.
7:37 to 7:42 p.m.
Superintendent Bill Olsen provided updates on…
- The Westford Academy Robotics team, who finished sixth and eighth at a recent competition. The team did get a separate award however.
- Sandra Divoney, the wellness teacher at the Abbot School, developed a miniature golf course with the help of maintenance personnel.
School Committee member Angela Harkness talked about clubs at Westford Academy, asking if more clubs could come to School Committee meetings, the student representative said she would attempt to reach out to her fellow students.
7:42 to 8:01 p.m.
School Committee member Erica Kohl elaborated on her discussion about the proposed technology plan from the previous week, saying that any new technology should be identified both in how it is better than less expensive items as well as what it would provide.
Olsen said that the school department’s needs assessment is going on right now, and that technology is part of that assessment, where the superintendent’s office is talking to teachers over what technology they use.
He said that he’s also interested in working with gathering applications for teachers that would help with certain classes and subjects that they may not be aware of.
Kohl also reported back to the Committee on the Public Works Initiative Committee meeting regarding their work on the wastewater treatment facility. Everything is functioning now, but there is more to come that would supplement the funding for the facilities.
School Committee member Margaret Murray asked a question over the difference between town and school use of the treatment facility, Kohl said she wasn’t sure, but Harkness said that the initial funding would not go through the School Committee budget.
School Committee member Arthur Benoit thought the schools were on track to get that sometime this year, but Harkness said that it might be six months or a year, but Benoit said it’s been a year already.
School Committee member Terence Ryan gave thanks to the Stony Brook School for helping with his son’s broken leg and said his son is now skyping into classes and that teachers communicate with him through an iPad.
Ryan also talked about the status of teachers’ assistants at the Abbot School and hoped that the School Committee meeting room can be used as a half classroom.
Olsen said of the four assistants that left, that one assistant took a higher paying job and another had attendance issues. However, Abbot School principal Vito Umbro was interviewing new candidates.
He also said that he was talking with Umbro and that Umbro was talking with teachers over an aide to possibly help with behavioral issues.
Olsen said that despite 23 and 24 student classrooms, most third grade teachers were hanging in there despite the shortage.
Olsen also said he would prefer not to split a class and bring them over to the School Committee’s meeting room at the Millennium School due to it being in the middle of the year, but he said he would provide a plan.
Benoit asked if there were any recently retired teachers that could help, as new teachers would take time getting up to speed.
Olsen said those were the first individuals contacted.
Kohl said she was about to ask Benoit’s question and then asked about the makeup of students served by the assistants, whether they were special education or general education and whether the new hires should be special education or general education teachers.
Olsen said that there was a mix, and that additional information would be available on hires later this week.
Kohl also wanted to look at benchmarks to compare the Abbot School to other upper elementary schools in town.
Keele said that the real benchmark is whether there is reform two or three years down the road, that it is difficult to gauge halfway through the year.
Kohl said that it’s important to know if there are issues halfway through the year that we should know about.
School Committee member Tom Clay said he would be interested in testing results.