Superintendent of Schools, John Doherty began his presentation of the District Improvement Plan and the superintendent’s goals by reminding the School Committee of the great team that has been assembled. He highlighted the backgrounds and accomplishments of his core team, while speaking about his personal reflections during the self-evaluation part of the process. “What I do, what I say, and what I model has a tremendous impact on the team,” Doherty commented.
The committee discussed the improvement plan first. This plan is focused on four primary areas of growth, Closing the Achievement Gap, Literacy, Mathematics, and Social and Emotional Learning. Each primary area is then broken down into lists of specific goals, actions, and specific success measurements. School Committee member Nick Boivin mentioned several areas where he believes that, given the resources available, several action items might not be achievable and asked what action would be taken if a specific point was not completed. Boivin was also concerned about items that were listed for the 2016-2017 school year that were still in process, and how the committee would hold administration accountable for completion of the items. Doherty explained that the plan is a three-year plan and a living document. Some items are ongoing, or are updated as circumstances change, but that a plan was needed to help provide a path to follow. The entire District Improvement Plan can be viewed here.
Doherty also presented his goals for the year. They focused on two primary areas: the first being the student learning goal which pointed directly to the implementation of the District Improvement Plan. The second was referred to as a “stretch” goal. Doherty intends to spend less time on management and to “restructure his time to increase visibility and improve communication/message with staff, parents, and the community.” Doherty believes that this restructure will allow more time for the development of a professional culture in the district. This should lead to better support for the staff in achieving their goals. Doherty will also have an indirect, but important, impact on student outcomes as his increased presence will allow him to be a model for the staff to follow. The superintendent’s goals document can be viewed here.
Boivin expressed concern that some of what the superintendent presented was ambiguous and difficult to measure. School Committee members Elaine Webb and Jeanne Borawski both replied that too much specificity in the document would be micro-managing the superintendent’s activities. Boivin continued with concerns regarding what measures he was to use to determine success or failure when evaluation time came next spring. Webb referenced the specificity of the District Improvement Plan as a guide. The committee voted 4-1 to accept both the District Improvement Plan and the superintendent’s goals, Boivin being the single nay vote.
Joe Huggins, Reading’s Director of Facilities, gave a brief update about some of the maintenance work in school buildings around town. Huggins highlighted $84,000 that is being spent on carpeting and flooring replacements in four schools. Killam Elementary and Parker Middle School had these updates completed over the summer, while Barrows Elementary and the High School will have some flooring replaced over the winter break.
Huggins also clarified what needed to be done with the skylights at Wood End Elementary School. Town Meeting will be asked to amend the town’s capital plan by $480,000 to replace the skylights at the school. This is needed after standard inspection of the roof revealed cracking in the polycarbonate units as well as some moisture leakage. The skylights are structural in nature and the town has been advised to replace them sooner rather than later. Town facilities staff have also been advised to remove any snow accumulation from the skylights until the replacement can be made. The skylights will be replaced with a new system that is modular and will allow greater serviceability in the future. Boivin asked about the lifetime of the new skylights; Huggins responded that the new system has a twenty year warranty. The work is expected to be done over the summer of 2018, if Town Meeting approves the expenditure.
New Joshua Eaton Principal, Lisa-Marie Ippolito, presented an update about continued improvements at the school. Ippolito started the year with an open house for parents and students that allowed them to get to know the new administration. Ippolito addressed the Bridge program by stating that it was a “New year and a new start and we are on a new path.” She also stated that she is reviewing the program and examining the needs of each individual student in the program. Ippolito also addressed what is being done to improve the school’s absentee rate, which is the highest in the district.
Ippolito continued by presenting the first results of last year’s MCAS tests at Joshua Eaton. As she did so, she cautioned that this was the first time with the new MCAS 2.0 test and that it is considered a foundation for future assessments. There are new parameters and standards assessed on the test and it will take time to adjust to them. In grades three, four, and five in the “all students” category scaled scores in both Math and English Language Arts (ELA) fell just into the “meeting expectations” range. Both fourth and fifth grade also had greater than average growth in these areas. Third grade is the first year the test is taken and thus there is no growth score.
In third grade, one hundred percent of the “students with disabilities” category scored in the “partially meets expectations” or the “not meeting expectations” ranges in both math and ELA. In grade four, ninety-three percent of the “students with disabilities” category fell in the same ranges for both math and ELA. In grade five, eighty-two percent of the “students with disabilities” scored in the lowest two ranges in ELA and in math eighty-eight percent of the same students scored in these two lowest ranges. Ippolito stated that these scores were cause for the greatest concern and will be a focus moving forward.
A complete presentation of MCAS scores for the district will be made at the November 6 meeting.
The School Committee adjourned at 10:45pm