As I have reviewed the School Committee policies throughout the last few months, there are a few general themes I would suggest and work towards as a member of the School Committee. Those themes include:
Examples of each of the themes will be provided below.
Goal: The consolidation of two policies and the appropriate implementation procedures and practices into a single Policy aligned with a single Procedure document to improve Transparency, Means of Escalation and Community Confidence in the efficacy of the Policies.
Policy Updates / Changes:
Justification: Through multiple discussions with impacted individuals I have heard feedback that reporting a claim can be an arduous, difficult to follow process. Further, on multiple occasions I have told that the family won't report the claim due to concerns about retaliation, the lack of ability of the school to protect the child and/or perceived lack of follow through on previous claims. These changes are meant to streamline the reporting process while providing transparency to the greater community as a whole and confidence to the reporter that the claim will be processed appropriately.
Reading Policies and Plans
Goal: Establish an exceptionally strong Dyslexia Program within the Town of Reading Public Schools to improve child and family experience with the schools while also reducing the negative financial ramifications of children going out of district late in academic careers due to insufficient growth in district.
Policy: WHEREAS, the Legislature of the State of Massachusetts passed An Act Relative to Students with Dyslexia, also known as the Decoding Dyslexia Act, in October of 2018, and...
WHEREAS, we the School Committee of the Town of Reading believe in scientifically studied means of teaching and therefore believes in the importance of a Phonics based instruction method and...
WHEREAS, we the School Committee of the Town of Reading believe that learning to Read is the core means of accessing all other Curriculum and Learning to Read by the 3rd Grade is a key indicator of future success in school and..
WHEREAS, we the School Committee of the Town of Reading understand that struggling in reading can lead to low self esteem, anxiety and other social emotional challenges for children and...
WHEREAS, we the School Committee of the Town of Reading believe that an effective and efficient program is one that proactively and positively engages all constituents (Teachers, Parents, Administrators and Children) in the program, we do hereby determine:
Some potential KPIs related to resolution #8 include, but are not limited to:
The above Key Performance Indicators are merely examples and should not be considered a final list. It is expected that the KPIs will need to be addressed on a regular basis until a sufficient cadency of delivery and observation is achieved.
The use of Social Media as an avenue to engage with the Reading community has been eschewed by the School Committee for quite some time. Generally, this is due to concerns about potentially violating Open Meeting Law. If we look at the polices that are at the center of this discussion, then examine the potential positives of changing the mode of operation, we may be able to arrive at a suitable policy to govern how the School Committee leverages Social Media as a proactive means of communication with the community.
Back in 2006, the School Committee approved Policy AB (The People and their School District) in which it committed to the following:
'Maintain two-way communications with citizens of the community. The public will be kept informed of the progress and problems of the school system, and citizens will be urged to bring their aspirations and feelings about their public schools to the attention of this body, which they have chosen to represent them in the management of public education.'
Further, per Policy BBA (School Committee Powers and Duties), the School Committee recognizes a duty in Public Relations:
'Public relations. The Committee is responsible for providing adequate and direct means for keeping the local citizenry informed about the schools and for keeping itself and the school staff informed about the needs and wishes of the public.'
Finally, per Policy BHE (Use of Electronic Messaging by School Committee Members) the School Committee is rightfully concerned about the use of Social Media platforms as an accidental means of deliberation that may violate Open Meeting Law. They key portions of that Policy are:
'As elected public officials, School Committee members shall exercise caution when communicating between and among themselves via electronic messaging services including, but not limited to, electronic mail (e-mail), text messages, social media postings, internet web forums, and internet chat rooms.
Under the Open Meeting Law, deliberation by a quorum of members constitutes a meeting. Deliberation is defined as movement toward a decision including, but not limited to, the sharing of an opinion regarding business over which the Committee has supervision, control, or jurisdiction. A quorum may be arrived at sequentially using electronic messaging without knowledge and intent by the author.'
With that background, I tread lightly into a proposed Use of Social Media Policy recommendation. I see many benefits in such a policy, including but not limited to:
I am under no delusion that such a change would be easy. However, I have experienced frequently that what is easy isn't always what is best. As such, I would propose the following as a starting point for this policy:
The intent of the proposal is to improve transparency between the School Committee, the Superintendent and their Constituent base. I acknowledge the above will take some ironing out, but I believe the 'juice is worth the squeeze' to improve relationships, perceptions and the flow of information.
While I acknowledge that curriculum execution and alignment to State Standards is fully in the court of the Superintendent, I also know that the Budget is fully in the court of the School Committee. As such, I believe this Policy needs to be changed to establish a process of expectations around Curriculum Implementation options to demonstrate adherence to Research Based principles and Fiscally Responsible and Sustainable Curriculum choices.
This policy needs two significant changes.
First, it needs to specifically allow electronic material. In this day and age, we don’t always use physical books and books can be more expensive to maintain.
Second, it must establish some guidelines for purchasing said materials to manage the impact on the budget that the School Committee is ultimately responsible for.
I would like to see this policy updated to reflect / make available another avenue for removal of withdrawn library resources. While I don't expect it to be a large money maker in any way, adding the ability to sell withdrawn resources seems like a simple way to add money to the library resource replenishment funds. Such a simple policy change may enable more regular refreshing of materials and/or enable a model of partial self sufficiency.
This policy lacks expectations for approval of changes. Recently, we were faced with a large change to the Start Time of RMHS. While the School Committee approved that, it is my belief that a complete impact assessment, on other schools, the greater community, etc. was not executed sufficiently. As such, I would like to see verbiage added to demonstrate the requirement for a complete impact assessment and community involvement of changes more than 15 minutes either way.
There is a very minor change I would suggest to this policy, but it aligns to the Parental Rights (and expectations) category. Specifically, this policy implies that it is the responsibility of Reading Public Schools to equip students with good attitudes. It is my firm belief that attitudes are set at home and attitudes detemine altitude. I do agree that the School system can and should encourage good attitudes, but the equipping is a Parental responsibility.
This policy needs to be updated to reflect current trends and practices in Education. As an example, this policy does not allow for online learning if a child is homebound for some reason. Such an option should be available to the family and child and is a very straight forward addition to the policy. The budget impact of online resources is also minimal vs. additional local staff.
Another minor change necessary in this policy is the title change from Director of Pupil Services to Director of Student Services.