Reading, MA — The final tuition payment will be waived for families who have children enrolled in the full-day kindergarten program according to a 6-0 vote by the School Committee on April 16. The same will be true for families with children enrolled in the RISE preschool. Families who have already made their payment will have their money refunded by the district. The waived payments will result in a combined $147,515 in lost revenue to the school district according to Director of Finance Gail Dowd. “It is the right thing to do,” Dowd commented.
The district will continue to pay teachers through the shut down as they continue to work, providing curriculum and support to their students. Dowd also suggested that revenues for the programs may be affected in Fiscal Year 2021 as well more families may need assistance because of lost wages.
The School Committee also voted 6-0 to allow Dowd and Superintendent John Doherty to negotiate with transportation vendors to maintain continuity of service once schools start again while recognizing that currently no services are being provided. Dowd and Doherty will also be authorized to negotiate with the private schools that provide out of district services to Reading students. Reduced payments to these schools will be based on the level of services still being provided during the school shutdown. Reading will be a part of a negotiating group of districts that use the same vendors in order to obtain optimal outcomes. The School Committee would have approval over any final agreements with vendors.
By a vote of 6-0, the school district calendar was adjusted to remove April 21 and 22 from the April vacation, turning them into regular school days. This will both allow families to take a break from their daily schedules, while hopefully preventing a loss of momentum from the remote learning that is now just a week into implementation. This change also allows for the final day of school to occur on a Friday, June 19, as opposed to the following Tuesday. Doherty also mentioned that the 2021-22 calendar may need minor adjustment as September 14 may be declared as a state holiday to replace Patriots Day.
The committee voted 5-1 to approve changes to the articles of agreement with the NEC Consortium. School Committee member Thomas Wise opposed one of the three changes in the agreement, requiring that the district representative to the consortium be the superintendent. Wise argued that this provision could prevent the district from having a voice in a situation in which there was no superintendent.
After much discussion, the committee voted 6-0 to return to an annual evaluation of the superintendent, a reversal from a decision made by the prior committee in December. Doherty began the discussion sharing, “There has been some confusion in the community that there is no evaluation in year one, that is inaccurate.” He continued to point out that under the plan approved in December, year one has a less formal “formative” evaluation built into the cycle with a more comprehensive “summative” evaluation completed at the end of the second year. Doherty also shared that teachers who have achieved professional status are evaluated on a biennial cycle.
Discussion revolved around the unique nature of this year’s evaluation resulting from the school shut down as well as the fact that the district has a one-year district improvement plan in place which ends in June. Also under consideration is the fact that half the committee is newly elected and would possibly have limited ability to evaluate effectively. Wise then pointed out that the superintendent’s contract calls for an annual review. School Committee member Shawn Brandt also pointed out his belief that a decision on the evaluation cycle has no bearing on a possible extension of the superintendent’s contract. Other members also expressed the opinion that completing a full evaluation by June 2020 would be best for the district and the superintendent, with some suggestion that the decision may be considered again for the subsequent evaluation cycle when a three-year school improvement plan will be in place.
The School Committee adjourned at 9:45 pm.