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July 13, 2023

Minutes of the 

Monson School Committee

Regular Business Meeting

July 13, 2023


Members of the public were able to participate virtually in this meeting at https://us06web.zoom.us/j/85818291500 Meeting ID:858 1829 1500


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 Special Education Colette Bidus; Director of Curriculum and Instruction Katherine Watts; Director of Facilities Paul DeMaio; Monson High School Principal Arthur Murphy; Granite Valley School/Early Childhood Center Principal Joseph Trivisonno; 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 7:01 p.m.


The Pledge of Allegiance was recited.


Ms. Morgan read the Mission & Vision Statements.

 

Announcements:

Dr. Clarke introduced and welcomed newly hired high school principal Arthur Murphy. Mr. Murphy thanked Dr. Clarke.  He addressed the Committee providing information about himself, adding that his days have been quite busy already with learning about the district and school policies and is looking forward to a great year ahead.  Members of the Committee welcomed him to the district.


Minutes:

  • Motion by Ms. Flynn to approve the June 14, 2023 Reorganization/Regular Business Meeting as presented.  (Second by Ms. Morgan)

  • No discussion

  • Motion carries 5-0


Superintendent’s Update:

The Administrative Summer Retreat is planned for July 17 and 18, 2023.  Topics for discussion on the first day will be educator evaluation, professional development planning and getting ready for the first few days with staff.  Day 2 will be dedicated to Artificial Intelligence, exploring various applications and discussing how the district might incorporate it into the lives of staff and students.

Dr. Clarke noted that she participated, with the heads of the Town Departments, in the Summerfest 4th of July parade.

Major changes to the handbook this year will involve incorporating new homework expectations and reviewing attendance requirements.

The Extended School Year Program has begun and is running smoothly.  Dr. Clarke thanked Ms. Bidus for all of her work in coordinating and implementing a successful program.


Many things are happening to prepare for the fall.  

In the Technology Department, new copiers have been purchased saving the district $50,000 over the five years of the contract.  Switches were purchased at a 70% E-rate reduction, which will update the servers, to be completed within the next few weeks.  

The Central Business Office staff will now be putting in for days off electronically as part of absence and time management.  They will be able to see a live update of their days.  Dr. Clarke thanked Ms. Zippin for her efforts in creating the procedure.

Mr. Murphy and Ms. Czarniecki are working on getting the high school schedule finalized and out to students, planning the upcoming barbeque, and conducting many interviews. 

Mr. Trivisonno, Ms. Hudak and Ms. Brin are also working on scheduling.  New this year, each teacher will make an introductory video for the website. 

Dr. Clarke thanked everyone for working so hard to get these tasks completed.

Dr. Clarke reported that lots of progress is being made in the hiring for open positions.  She added that she has been meeting with some of the new hires and is impressed and excited for the students.  

The Facilities Department has been busy with building repairs, working on the grounds, waxing and buffing floors and regular maintenance.  Painting will begin soon.

Dr. Clarke provided information on the Health and Physical Education Frameworks noting that beginning in June 2018, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) engaged with stakeholders to review the 1999 framework and discuss how to update it.  The Department convened a review panel that included nearly 50 individuals with significant knowledge and expertise in the many areas of comprehensive health and physical education who broadly represent various geographic regions, types of schools and districts, professional roles and professional and community-based organizations.  They sought additional feedback on the draft from content experts in the field, including professionals with expertise in child development, colleagues from other state agencies that focus on public health and mental health, and experts in the field of racial equity and diversity.  DESE also sought feedback from students.  Dr. Clarke read an excerpt from Governor Healy’s press release: School districts will decide at the local level which curriculum and materials educators will use to teach the skills included in the voluntary health framework.  Additional resources will offer guidance and support as districts select, design and implement curriculum, instruction and assessment.  NOTE: Under Massachusetts General Law Chapter 71 Section 32A, parents have the right to opt their children out from lessons related to sex education. 

The deadline for public comment is August 28, 2023.  After the public comment period, DESE will consider the feedback and bring the draft back to the Board to consider adoption.

Dr. Clarke added that a link to the Comprehensive Health and Physical Education Grades Pre-Kindergarten to 12, Massachusetts Curriculum Framework 2023 DRAFT will be put on the website.  

Discussion followed.  Recommended next steps include scheduling a Curriculum Subcommittee Meeting on August 3, 2023 at 4:30 p.m.  The Subcommittee will bring their concerns, highlights. Etc., to the full Committee at the August 9, 2023 Regular Business Meeting.  Members of the School Committee will then determine if and how their feedback will be communicated.  Once finalized, Ms. Watts, Director of Curriculum, will investigate resources for implementation.  The Curriculum Subcommittee will review the final framework along with possible resources.  A survey will be sent to parents for their feedback on the final draft.  A report will then be presented to the School Committee.  

Dr. Clarke will send an email, phone call and social media reminder to families to remind them to check the website for the Health and Physical Education Frameworks draft.

Ms. Graves-Harrison wanted to clarify to everyone that the Health Framework is voluntary.

Ms. Nothe-Valley stated that this is designed to replace the 1999 Framework and encouraged families to read the draft and get their comments to the state level adding that there is local control to address age appropriate concerns and other aspects and noting to keep in mind that right now this is just a draft. Ms. Nothe-Valley further stated that we have an opportunity here, noting there’s a lot within the framework to provide excellent education.

Ms. Flynn reiterated that the Framework is currently in draft form only at this time.

Ms. Morgan would like to know where the evidence regarding best practice for students is and further clarification as to whether or not this is actually voluntary.  She also requested that Dr. Clarke email the link to the Frameworks and survey to families, to which Dr. Clarke agreed.

Ms. Graves-Harrison encouraged parents to reach out to the state and make their voices heard.

  

Public Session:

Ms. Graves-Harrison opened Public Session at 7:28 p.m. 

The following town residents addressed the Committee:

Gennie Bailey voiced her concerns and questions regarding refunds, for excused absences with a doctor’s note, that were promised to families last fall at the Early Childhood Center.  She stated that per a voice mail from the Director of Business the school has decided that no refunds will be made.  Ms. Bailey stated that families have been impacted.

Jessica Allen spoke briefly about the Health and Physical Education Framework draft adding that she realizes it is currently a high-level draft but she will be keeping watch as it will involve Health teachers who are not physicians and stated that it is really a conversation for parents, their child and doctor.

Bob Lamb stated that he finds the information disgusting and hoped that everyone had read the Health Frameworks draft thoroughly, encouraging everyone to really read it and send comments to the state level.  He read a personal statement.

Carolyn Whittemore told the Committee that she is happy that the 1999 curriculum is being looked at by a diverse group of people.

Tracey Kida said that she understands the fear that the new Framework draft has caused.  She read a personal statement and added that she is impressed with the authenticity and age appropriate information. As part of her statement, Ms. Kida stated that the issues today are not about the world we grew up in, it’s about the world our children are growing up in. Our children are walking through this new world without fear and need us to walk beside them as they grow and learn who they are and what the world is about. 

Lisa Picardi stated that she had students that went through the district noting that she was speaking on other family’s behalf.  She voiced her dissatisfaction that the Committee doesn’t make their views known and is upset that she and others cannot be put on the Agenda, as a specific item, to get their questions answered

Jared Ballou stated that he understands changes are necessary to update a 1999 Health Framework adding that the changes happening in society are not new, that there is no insidious cult coming to indoctrinate kids.  People have had to hide their authentic selves for ages and he would like his children to be able to live authentic lives, accepting all people for who they are.  There is no plan for teachers to force your child to be gay or transgender and getting the factual information to students at the age appropriate level may alleviate all the misguided fear and hatred.

Joe Kominski spoke about bullying issues that his daughter has experienced.  He stated that bullying needs to be better addressed in the schools.  He said that the whole transgender issue is terrifying; citing incidents, in other states, involving sexual assaults by transgender humans adding that the concerns expressed this evening are not unfounded and introduces dangers that have never been seen before and to ignore that is risking a lot. He expressed that gender identity does not belong in curriculum whatsoever.

Dominick Picardi whose both children went through the Monson school system.  He spoke about a 9th grade health teacher that showed the movie Philadelphia, about 2 gay men, one that contracts the AIDS virus, to students in her class and asked what that has to do with Health class.  He offered information on his background coming here from Italy in the 1960’s not speaking any English.  He then read from a curriculum, that was created to meet the framework standards, but it was not a mandated curriculum to use, containing female and male gender body part names and definitions.  He stated that there is no way that children need this information, adding that parents, not teachers should, be giving this information to their children.

Nicole Morrell expressed her concern about a graduating class this year of 36 adding that something is not working and parents are pulling their children from Monson Public Schools.  She has a son that is ready to go to school but will not put him in Monson Public Schools if the Health Frameworks draft is included in the curriculum, adding that 5-year old children do not need to know sex education.  Teachers should be teaching math, English, science, and social studies, things that are necessary to move on to college or a trade school. She asked that the Committee members take the Health Frameworks draft into serious consideration otherwise more parents will be pulling their students from the district.  

Dolores Scott stated that she did take the time to read the Health Frameworks draft in its entirety and was pleased with it adding that it is much more than how it is being presented by others at tonight’s meeting and when it gets to our students it will be revised to be age appropriate.  She noted that the draft was created by highly educated and qualified people from all aspects of life.  Referencing an earlier comment regarding sexual assaults by transgenders, she said that 1 in 4 females will experience a sexual assault and not by a transgender person. She went on to say that the Frameworks draft is written to educate young females what sexual assault is and how to say no and teach young males that it is not acceptable.  She reiterated that parents have a choice to opt out of the Health Curriculum and suggested that everyone cool off and wait for the final draft to be presented and begin conversation then about a final product.

No one else came forward to address the Committee.

Ms. Graves-Harrison closed Public Session at 8:10 p.m.


Subcommittee and Liaison Reports:

Policy Subcommittee:

Policy Subcommittee members met to review changes to numerous Policies.

There were minor and more significant changes requested and all revisions were recommended by the Massachusetts Association of School Committees.  


  • Motion by Ms. Graves-Harrison to accept the first read of Policies BA, BBAA, BBBC, BBBE, BDA, BDD-BG, BGC and BID and move to second read. (Second by Ms. Flynn)

  • No discussion

  • Roll Call Vote:

  • No discussion

Ms. Nothe-Valley Yes

Ms. Flynn Yes

Ms. Murphy Yes

Ms. Morgan Yes

Ms. Graves-Harrison Yes

  • Motion carries 5-0


  • Motion by Ms. Flynn to accept the first read of Policies BB, BBA, BEDG, and BGD and move to second read. (Second by Ms. Nothe-Valley)

  • 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


  • Motion by Ms. Graves-Harrison to remove Policy BK from the Policy Manual.  (Second by Ms. Flynn)

  • No discussion

  • Roll Call Vote:

  • No discussion

Ms. Nothe-Valley Yes

Ms. Flynn Yes

Ms. Murphy Yes

Ms. Morgan Yes

Ms. Graves-Harrison Yes

  • Motion carries 5-0


Finance Subcommittee:

Finance Subcommittee members met on July 6, 2023 to review utility costs and the net metering agreement.  Town Account Jamie Farnum attended the meeting.  

Finance Subcommittee members also met on July 12, 2023 and discussed the Van Division bids that were received.  Ms. Zippin will provide a full report later in this meeting.


New Business:

Ms. Graves-Harrison said that she would like the Committee to focus on legislation this year.  She’d like all Committee members to be aware of any pertinent legislation and encouraged them to get familiarized with Rural Schools Advocacy in Massachusetts, H.3567/S.2388: An Act to provide a sustainable future for rural schools.  A sample letter, in support of this Act, was distributed, reviewed and discussed.


  • Motion by Ms. Ms. Flynn to send a letter or support for rural aid advocacy.  (Second by Ms. Flynn)

  • Brief discussion

  • Motion modified to ask Chair to explore and complete the letter and bring it to the full Committee for a vote.

  • Roll Call Vote:

  • No further discussion

Ms. Nothe-Valley Yes

Ms. Flynn Yes

Ms. Murphy Yes

Ms. Morgan Yes

Ms. Graves-Harrison Yes

  • Motion carries 5-0


Old Business: 

Ms. Zippin told Committee members that all the van transportation bids were received on time with the exception of one that was late and could not be accepted.  She distributed a packet of specific information, including all bids, for Committee review.  She noted that though King Gray Coach Lines bid price was comparable to J.P McCarthy and Sons. LLC, there is a 50% reduction with McCarthy if the district ride shares with Palmer. 


  • Motion by Ms. Nothe-Valley to award J.P. McCarthy and Sons, LLC the van transportation contract as presented and enter into negotiations with appropriate parties.  (Second by Ms. Flynn)

  • No discussion

  • Roll Call Vote:

  • No discussion

Ms. Nothe-Valley Yes

Ms. Flynn Yes

Ms. Murphy Yes

Ms. Morgan Yes

Ms. Graves-Harrison Yes

  • Motion carries 5-0


J.P McCarthy and Sons, LLC will give the current Monson Public Schools van drivers first dibs on employment with their company.  Ms. Zippin explained that the Town is allowing one van to be kept for the district.  The others will be sold.  Ms. Flynn thanked Ms. Zippin for her exceptional work on the entire bid process.


Action Items: 

Schedule a Human Resources and Negotiations Subcommittee meeting for July 20, 2023.  Time to be determined after Ms. Methe reaches out to appropriate people for availability.

Schedule a Policy Subcommittee meeting for August 9, 2023 at 6:00 p.m.

Ms. Graves-Harrison will work on a draft letter for rural aid for full Committee review and subsequent vote.


  • Motion by Ms. Morgan to adjourn Open Session.  (Second by Ms. Nothe-Valley)            

  • No discussion                                                                                                                                             

  • Motion carries 5-0


Open Session closed at 8:39 p.m.  


Documentation for this meeting:

July 14, 2023-Regular Business Meeting Agenda

May 24, 2023- Reorganization/Regular Business Meeting Minutes-DRAFT


Distributed/Presented at meeting:

Policies with Minor, More Significant and Recommended for Removal Revisions

Rural School Advocacy in Massachusetts Information Packet with Sample Support Letter

Bid Proposal Certification Information Packet


Approved by Committee:


_________________________________________________

Jamie Murphy, Secretary


SC-July 13, 2023 Reg Bus Mtg-FINAL
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