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August 9, 2023

Minutes of the 

Monson School Committee

Regular Business Meeting

August 9, 2023


Members of the public were able to participate virtually in this meeting at https://us06web.zoom.us/j/89883684297 Meeting ID:898 8368 4297


Present (In-person): Chair Emily Graves-Harrison; Vice Chair Alison Morgan; Secretary Jamie Murphy Committee Member Colleen Flynn; Committee Member Karen Nothe-Valley; Superintendent Dr. Cheryl Clarke; Director of Business and Operations Leah Zippin; Director of Curriculum and Instruction Katherine Watts (via Zoom) Monson High School Principal Arthur Murphy; Granite Valley School/Early Childhood Center Principal Joseph Trivisonno (via Zoom) and Recording Secretary Karen Methe


Note:  This meeting was recorded by M-Pact TV and Zoom.


Ms. Graves-Harrison called the meeting to order at 7:02 p.m.


The Pledge of Allegiance was recited.


Ms. Murphy read the Mission & Vision Statements.

 

Announcements:

The 8th Annual Bus Tour is scheduled for August 22, 2023.  

There will be 3 stops this year as follows:

4:00 p.m. Adam’s IGA Supermarket

4:45 p.m. River Hollow Family Golf

5:30 p.m. Westview Farms Creamery

Dr. Clarke noted that over 40 staff members have signed up to participate in this wonderful event and it is a great opportunity to meet teachers and other staff members. As in past years, supply bags will be distributed to students and families.

August 23, 2023 is Transportation Night from 5:30 p.m.- 6:30 p.m. at Quarry Hill.  Kindergarten students will be able to meet their drivers, learn the rules and take a bus ride.  Families are encouraged to attend.

Granite Valley will host building tours on August 17, 22 and 23, 2023.  Principal Trivisonno sent an email to all families with specific times.  Any questions can be directed to him.  

The New Student Barbeque will be help on August 28, 2023 at the high school.

The first day of school for Grades 1-12 is August 30, 2023.  Pre-K and Kindergarten students will start on September 5, 2023.  


Minutes:

  • Motion by Ms. Flynn to approve the June 12, 2023 Working Meeting Minutes as presented.  (Second by Ms. Morgan)

  • No discussion

  • Motion carries 4-1 (Ms. Nothe-Valley abstained from vote)


  • Motion by Ms. Morgan to approve the July 13, 2023 Regular Business Meeting Minutes as presented.  (Second by Ms. Murphy)

  • No discussion

  • Motion carries 5-0


Superintendent’s Update:

Ms. Brin read to students as part of the Monson Free Library’s Summer Read Aloud Program.  There was a great turn-out and after the children were able to spend time outdoors with Dr. Clarke feeding the chickens.  

Prior to this evening’s meeting Principal Murphy held a Meet and Greet at the high school.  Several families attended.

Dr. Clarke stated that every summer she tries to implement new safety procedures or protocols in the district.  This year one-way window film has been installed on the large windows in the Granite Valley School cafeteria for safety measures. 

All school staff is being trained in the A.L.I.C.E (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate) protocol this year on August 28, 2023 before school starts. Substitutes will be invited to participate as well.  Students will receive training in September.  

Dr. Clarke has requested a meeting with Police Chief Kozloski and Lieutenant Gasparini to review safety measures.

The Summer Acceleration Academy is up and running and Dr. Clarke gave a shout-out to Ms. Watts and Ms. Zippin for writing a grant, through the Department of Education, to provide accelerated remediation to students this summer.  Approval of the grant came in one week before the program was to begin and Dr. Clarke noted that everyone involved worked tirelessly to be sure that the program started on time.  Ms. Watts provided specific details, adding the there are over 100 students participating in the Academy.  Ms. Watts thanked the Transportation and Food Services Departments for getting on board so quickly to arrange student transportation and prepare and serve food to students. She added that the teachers and para-professionals have been awesome.

Maintenance work is on-going.  The buildings inside and outside are being worked on.  Floors in the cafeteria are being replaced and all carpets are now completed at Quarry Hill Community School.  The window film and a new basketball hoop at Granite Valley School have been installed.  Walls have been repainted and many floors have been refinished throughout the district.  A new vendor contract for copiers and printers is in place, thanks to the hard work of Ms. Zippin, saving the district significant money.

Approximately 10 new teachers have been hired and several support staff positions have been filled.  Dr. Clarke added that she has been meeting with all new hires and is very excited for the students.  New teachers will receive 2 days of New Teacher Orientation training this year.  

All staff will participate in 3 days of staff meetings and numerous Professional Development opportunities for all staff.

  

Public Session:

Ms. Graves-Harrison opened Public Session at 7:13 p.m. 

The following town residents came forward to address the Committee:

Bob Lamb chastised Dr. Clarke, Committee member Ms. Flynn and Committee Chair Ms. Graves-Harrison for their behavior during Public Session at the last meeting with reference to facial expressions, cell phone usage and overall disregard for those speaking.  He read a very lengthy personal statement about the disgusting health curriculum being proposed.

Dominick Picardi referenced the line, One Nation Under God, from the Pledge of Allegiance adding that God is the leader.  He then read a scripture from the Bible, adding that it has been taken out of schools and it is the first book prisoners are given when they enter incarceration. 

No one else came forward to address the Committee.

Ms. Graves-Harrison closed Public Session at 7:29 p.m.


Subcommittee and Liaison Reports:


Human Resources/Negotiations Subcommittee:

A recent meeting was held with members from the Monson Public Schools Transportation Department.  Negotiations were discussed as the district transitions to contracted van services with J.P McCarthy and Sons.  Ms. Zippin noted that the negotiations went well and she is looking forward to working with the new company.  


Policy Subcommittee:

Policy Subcommittee members met to continue reviewing changes to numerous Policies.


  • Motion by Ms. Nothe-Valley to accept the second read of Policies BA, BB, BBA BBAA, BBBC, BBBE, BDA, BDD-BG, BEDG, BGC, BGD and BID and move to a third and final read. (Second by Ms. Morgan)                       

  • No discussion

  • Roll Call Vote:

Ms. Nothe-Valley Yes

Ms. Flynn Yes

Ms. Murphy Yes

Ms. Morgan Yes

Ms. Graves-Harrison Yes

  • Motion carries 5-0


Ms. Graves-Harrison noted that other Policies have been reviewed and will be put on the next Agenda for a first read vote.  She added that the changes were mainly grammatical.  


Curriculum Subcommittee:

Ms. Morgan reported that Subcommittee members met on August 3, 2023 to review the new Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) Health and Physical Education Curriculum. They reviewed the breakdown of grade level Health Frameworks age by age which is how it is split up in the Curriculum.  She stated that there are aspects of the new curriculum that will positively impact students.  Ms. Morgan said in reviewing line by line, the PK-2 proposed language was appropriate with a discussion on interpretation and using medically appropriate terms for genitalia, as an example if a student was commenting on their body the teacher would use the medically appropriate term and not provide a lesson on it.  Ms. Morgan said that at this time the district can pick and choose what it wants to use in the curriculum.  In grades 3-5, there were many topics the Subcommittee members felt were not age appropriate for the Monson community, and better suited for a community such as Boston. Regarding grades 6-8, Ms. Morgan stated that the district currently provides sex education beginning in grade 8 and the 6-8 grade range proposed DESE curriculum should be geared to the later end of those grade levels.   At the high school level, it provided a lot of specifics but not much different than what is being taught now in sex education.  Ms. Morgan is looking to the entire School Committee for a collaborative statement to DESE regarding their thoughts on the proposed frameworks.   Ms. Nothe-Valley offered a reminder that this  is a very preliminary draft and as a point of clarification about tailoring the curriculum to the Monson community, she does not want to lose sight that this is Massachusetts universal education that is going to be broadly applied across the state and she doesn’t want to disadvantage our students by not helping them be better prepared as they move forward in their lives.  Ms. Graves-Harrison asked Ms. Morgan how the district would proceed.  Ms. Morgan replied that this is currently a draft but as a Committee do we want to make a statement to DESE with Committee feedback to which Ms. Graves-Harrison agreed this is the time to provide feedback. Ms. Graves-Harrison stated there are new framework topics that will have a positive impact on students that should not be overlooked.  Ms. Flynn asked if other members have completed the feedback process which is a way to provide individual feedback adding that the pop-up window on the website is a great resource and the consensus of the Committee was to keep it there until the August 28, 2023 deadline from DESE. Ms. Murphy stated that she didn’t feel it would hurt for the Committee to create a collaboratively written letter to DESE but added that the individual voices of Committee members are important as well.  Ms. Nothe -Valley expressed the need to know what the collaborative letter to DESE would contain.  As an entire Committee she feels that the collaborative information presented to DESE should pose questions such as will this be an unfunded mandate, will the state be providing resources and how much local control the Committee will truly have.  She added that with the entire framework the emphasis has been but on the “hot” button pieces of the Health curriculum but there hasn’t been any discussion on the Physical Education proposed framework yet adding that those “hot” button” pieces and age appropriateness of the sexual education portion of the Health Frameworks curriculum is a small portion of the entire proposal.  Ms. Morgan stated that information that is not age appropriate to the specific grade level of Frameworks, is something the state is looking for feedback on now.  Ms. Flynn spoke briefly about the time-consuming process it was to complete and submit individual feedback to the state adding that though she felt it was a very thorough survey and it was subjective from the standpoint of a parent.


  • Motion by Ms. Morgan to ask that the Committee write a letter to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education stating the concerns of age appropriateness of some of the Health frameworks.   (Second by Ms. Murphy)                       

  • Lengthy discussion followed 

  • Ms. Graves-Harrison said that she would like the letter to include what is positive not just the negative.

  • Ms. Flynn spoke briefly about the time-consuming process it was to complete and submit individual feedback to the state.  Though she felt it was a very thorough survey it was also subjective from her standpoint as a parent.  She added that for a draft policy, something that is not even mandatory, implemented or final the process contains a lot of bureaucracy and she in unclear of what the end goal is.

  • Ms. Graves-Harrison encouraged everyone at home to take the survey by August 28, 2023, adding that the community is more powerful in numbers and feels like the Committee needs to take a stance for the community though she sees both sides in this discussion.  

  • Ms. Flynn stated that there is no mandate yet.

  • Ms. Graves-Harrison replied “not yet”.

  • Ms. Flynn would like to ask, as a Committee, what the reach of this is, where does the cut-off happen and what is the nature of the vision in regard to implementation.

  • Ms. Graves-Harrison stated that she liked Dr. Clarke’s guidance of being able to pick and choose the curriculum information at this time, at this level, though at any time that could change.

  • Dr. Clarke noted that it appears that we do have the latitude at this time to do that.  She noted the state is famous for their unfunded mandates and this will require a certified teacher, or 2, if this goes forward.

  • Ms. Graves-Harrison noted that items that could be contained in a letter to DESE would include, unfunded mandates, age appropriate information regarding current proposal and leaving it voluntary, guidelines, not a curriculum.  That way each district, including Monson can pick and choose what is appropriate and what is not, when it is taught, when it is introduced versus having rigid must do at this time.  

  • Ms. Morgan stated that if the letter could be written suggesting that the proposed Health curriculum be more of a guidance, not a mandate which would give the Committee the ability to decide what is or is not appropriate for students.

  • Ms. Graves-Harrison thanked Ms. Morgan and Ms. Nothe-Valley for all their hard work on this, adding that she understands that it is not easy.

  • Ms. Nothe-Valley said that there has only been 1 hour long meeting so far where Subcommittee members had to do an exercise where everyone read the proposed frameworks line by line and gathered their thoughts together but the primary amount of time was spent on the couple of “hot” button items and shifting the age appropriateness.  She added that she is not comfortable with having only one meeting and would like to schedule another Curriculum Subcommittee meeting where the whole picture is looked at.

  • Ms. Graves-Harrison stated that the letter to DESE could solely address the Health curriculum and the other pieces could be addressed at another time after conversations have taken place on other topics.  

  • Ms. Morgan wanted to make it known that the meeting wasn’t just about going through information line by line but also about the concerns the Subcommittee had about what they were reviewing.  Ms. Morgan stated that several times she commented that she had no concerns about the information that was being read and felt that Ms. Nothe-Valley was making a reference that only negative aspects of the frameworks were being discussed. 

  • Ms. Nothe-Valley thanked Ms. Morgan for the clarification.  She added that she is very uncomfortable going to the state with a letter only referencing the sex education piece as it is only a small piece of the framework, and not including all the good information that is contained  in other portions of the Health and Physical Education Curriculum.  

  • Ms. Graves-Harrison noted that she had stated earlier that the DESE letter should contain the good points, not only negative concerns.  She wants to make it known what the Committee disagrees with and what they do agree with.  

  • Ms. Flynn stated that she feels there is a large presumption on what Committee members agree or disagree with and added that she thinks this is premature in order to comment on a draft that might preclude the Committee from implementing change later and all of the energy should be in waiting for the actual document.  She noted that she feels uncomfortable with the whole discussion.  She has no problem giving her individual input but would have a hard time signing a letter to DESE, on behalf of the Committee, as one voice and worries that it will set a precedent of how the real document will be encountered when it comes. She went on to say that she feels there will be a lot of minds made up and perhaps that would lead to discounting things that may come with change to the document.

  • Ms. Graves-Harrison stated that the Committee could be a part of the change to the document and her intent, this time, is not to discard all the good that can come from the frameworks but also be the voice for the community with some things that the Committee does want to see changed.

  • Ms. Flynn stated that getting clarification from the state as to what the actual scope of the frameworks is more beneficial in terms of a document that hasn’t been updated in 30 years, though it is one of the things that required updating and even when it is finally published nothing about it should be mandatory.  She would like clarification from the state on the fully optional choice for parents to opt out.

  • Ms. Graves-Harrison noted that the option to opt out was discussed at the last meeting and at this time are waiting for that to be clarified from the state, something to be put into the letter to DESE, in addition to, clarification on when and what individuals can opt out of.

  • Ms. Flynn reiterated she is looking for clarification of the expectations of the frameworks once it is published.

  • Ms. Graves-Harrison added that the letter could include clarification on funding and a mandate requirement.  She added that she liked the survey Dr. Clarke will send to parents asking for their input.

  • Ms. Flynn stated that she would like the data to be accurate, when parent survey is sent, in that the document is in final draft form to avoid any confusion.  At that time the survey could be sent to gather parental thoughts and/or concerns before the final Health frameworks is provided.  She added that people are giving input on data that hasn’t even been solidified yet and this is the time for individual voices.  She stated that the Committee’s role will be, once the final document is presented, to decide how best to implement it and do the actual work.  She noted that she doesn’t feel a letter will accomplish anything and has concerns about working with the actual information, when presented, as opposed to the theoretical information we have at this time.

  • Ms. Morgan stated that her thought was to send a letter to DESE to question an unfunded mandate, financial implementations, especially to a smaller district, and requesting that this not be made a mandate as the Committee would like to have full autonomy to make decisions that work best for our students.  

  • Ms. Nothe-Valley requested that the letter confirm the frameworks would be voluntary.

  • Discussion continued on how the letter will be written and all of the topics that will be included.

  • Ms. Flynn requested an amended motion to write a letter to DESE, to be signed by the Chair of the Committee Ms. Graves-Harrison, after a review of individual Committee members input.

  • Amended motion by Ms. Morgan to write a letter to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education regarding Committee concerns with whether or not this will remain voluntary due to the financial impact, and the Committee’s need to meet the needs of the students by choosing what is used at what ages, clarification on the opt out option.  Motion was not seconded at this time.  Ms. Graves-Harrison offered her guidance on how/what she would like the motion to read.

  • Ms. Nothe-Valley reviewed the 4 topics that Ms. Graves-Harrison stated will be included in the letter.

  • The motion was then seconded by Ms. Flynn.

  • Further discussion

  • Amended motion was amended again as follows:

  • The committee will draft a letter to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education regarding the draft comprehensive health and physical education curriculum. The letter will incorporate the following: asking if this curriculum will remain a guidance, ask if there will be state funding to support the implementation, will the districts have the autonomy to choose the standards that best meet the needs of students in our community, and does the current general law (part 1, title 7, cpt 71, section 32A) cover the new proposed framework? The draft letter will be sent to the entire committee by August 17, 2023 for review at the August 23, 2023 School Committee meeting. 

  • Roll Call Vote:

Ms. Nothe-Valley Yes

Ms. Flynn No

Ms. Murphy Yes

Ms. Morgan Yes

Ms. Graves-Harrison Yes

  • Motion carries 4-1


New Business:

Ms. Blanchard, Director of Food Services gave the following report:

Massachusetts became the 8th state to offer Permanent Universal Free meals –

breakfast and lunch will be free for all students.

Even though the state has extended universal free meals, it remains very important for families to

complete the annual household application for free & reduced priced meals.

This form allows Monson Public Schools to serve families more effectively by establishing

eligibility for other very important programs such as:

  • Federal food assistant benefits

  • Fee waivers for school district programs and services

  • The summer eats free meal program.

As always, there will be a media release with income chart and guidelines reminding families

to please complete the household application. An application will go home with each

student, and applications can be found on the Monson Schools website and in each school’s main office.

The department has been serving breakfast and lunch to the Summer Acceleration Academy

students at Granite Valley School this summer. This program has employed 4 people from the Food Services Department and they have served hundreds of meals.  Dr. Clarke thanked Ms. Blanchard and the staff for swinging into action so quickly.

The high school BBQ is planned for Monday August 28, 2023 and will feature a nacho bar and traditional style BBQ food.

The Food Services Department was awarded two grants recently.  A $6,600.00 grant from Massachesetts Farm to School, to purchase locally grown food.  This grant connects Massachusetts farms with school meal programs and a grant from New England Dairy for a higher capacity smoothie machine kit for the high school.

Ms. Blanchard is in the process of getting quotes and schematic designs from 3 commercial kitchen companies,  Gillette Restaurant equipment, Singer Kittredge Company and Swain Associates for the possible upgrade and modernization of the Granite Valley kitchen’s serving line, a new freezer door and a four-burner countertop range.

The department is planning on having taste testing activities with students this fall which will be an opportunity to see what they would like to have offered on the menus, in regards to newer products, being sold by manufacturers.


Ms. Zippin distributed, and reviewed in detail, the FY24 Budget Summary from Governor Healy that included the Chapter 70 Program, factors that determine Chapter 70 aid, Net School Spending.  She explained that Net School Spending equals Local Contribution plus Chapter 70 Aid and presented Monson’s minimum contribution, Chapter 70 funding and required Net School Spending figures.


Dr. Clarke provided an overview of the major handbook changes to the 2023-2024 Student Handbook.  She noted that the absence language and all dates were revised.  She reviewed all the revisions that were done with the administration team at the Administrative Leadership Team Summer Retreat.  Discussion followed.  Further revisions from Committee members were requested and discussed.  Dr. Clarke will make the revisions and send to the Committee for approval at the August 23, 2023 Regular Business Meeting.


Old Business: 

Ms. Zippin gave an update on van transportation.  She noted that the Monson Public Schools van division will cease on August 18, 2023.  J. P. McCarthy will begin servicing van transportation on August 21, 2023.  She added that 7 older vans were sold by the Town and 9 new vans still need to be posted for sale.  Garage supplies will also be sold.  Monson Public Schools was able to provide the Highway Department some equipment and gave 1 van to the Police and Fire Departments to share.   The district will retain one van for use.  Ms. Zippin told the Committee that it has been a seamless transition.  District van drivers, that requested to continue driving, have been retained by J. P. McCarthy and a severance package was offered to van driver employees and the garage mechanic.  


Action Items:

Post for a Tour of the Buildings for School Committee members on August 23, 2023 at 6:00 p.m. which will begin at Granite Valley School followed by a Regular Business Meeting at 7:00 p.m.

Schedule Policy Subcommittee Meeting on September 13, 2023 at 6:00 p.m. followed by a Regular Business Meeting at 7:00 p.m.

Wait to schedule a Curriculum Subcommittee Meeting until after August 28, 2023.

Finance and Human Resources/Negotiations Subcommittees are not in need of scheduling a meeting at this time.  Dr. Clarke noted that the Human Resources/Negotiations Subcommittee will begin contract negotiations in Spring 2024.


  • Motion by Ms. Morgan to adjourn Open Session.  (Second by Ms. Murphy)            

  • No discussion                                                                                                                                             

  • Motion carries 5-0


Open Session closed at 8:42 p.m.  


Documentation for this meeting:

August 9 2023-Regular Business Meeting Agenda

June 12, 2023-Working Meeting Minutes-DRAFT

July 13, 2023-Regular Business Meeting Minutes-DRAFT


Distributed/Presented at meeting:

Food Services Update Report

Major Handbook Revisions 2023-2024

FY24 Budget Summary from Governor Healy


Approved by Committee:


_________________________________________________

Jamie Murphy, Secretary


SC-August 9, 2023 - Reg Bus Mtg-FINAL
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