Reading, MA — By a vote of 6-0, the School Committee approved the high school principal search process on March 4. Current principal, Kate Boynton, has announced that she will be leaving at the end of the school year to become the Nashoba Regional High School principal in Bolton.
Notifications for the position have been published in various locations, with applications due by March 15. Superintendent of Schools John Doherty mentioned that nineteen applications have already been received. The next part of the process will begin with a screening committee, led by Human Resources Director Kerry Meisinger, that will review applications, conduct initial interviews, and provide a list of semi-finalists. A team of staff and administrators will interview the semi-finalists and select two to three finalists. These will meet with interested groups, conduct site visits, and have open microphone nights with the public. Doherty stated that he expects a final decision to be made by April 5. Doherty also shared that incoming Superintendent Tom Milaschewski would be a part of the decision-making process.
Doherty reported that 291 students currently enrolled for kindergarten for the 2021-22 school year, which is similar to the number of students at this point in 2019. He anticipates an additional 20 to 30 enrollments before the school year begins in September. There will be two satellite half-day classes, one at Joshua Eaton Elementary School, for students in the Joshua Eaton and Barrows districts, and one at Killam Elementary School, for students in the Killam, Birch Meadow, and Wood End districts. Four of the five elementary schools will host three full-day kindergarten classes, with Wood End Elementary School hosting two.
Doherty also said that the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education could decide as early as Thursday to change the way school days are counted, choosing only to count in-person days as official days of school. If this occurs, Doherty expects that elementary students in Reading will return to full-time in-person learning by April 5, with a date for middle and high school students to return to be determined, possibly after April vacation. Parents will have the option of having their students continue as full-time remote students for the remainder of the school year. Hybrid models would no longer be offered.
Doherty listed several challenges that will need to be addressed to adapt to this change, including scheduling issues and re-installing furniture into classrooms. He assured the committee that principals and other staff were hard at work addressing the problems and expected them to be fully prepared for students to return. “This seems like a massive logistical challenge.” School Committee member Erin Gaffen observed. “The state is taking this out of our control,” she continued.
School Committee member Thomas Wise mentioned that several members of the public inquired about the consequence if Reading should choose not to adhere to the change. Doherty answered that 1/180 of the district’s Chapter 70 funding would be withheld for each day Reading was not in compliance. He continued by reminding the committee that the change if made, would be a regulation change and “not optional.” Committee member Shawn Brandt was quick to calculate that this penalty would be almost $60,000 a day. “Basically, a staff person a day.” Brandt pointed out.
The School Committee also voted 6-0 to approve to place a bench near the turf two field to honor the memory of Michael Del Pozzo. His daughter Melissa referred to him in a letter to the committee as a “Reading Rockets Superfan.” Del Pozzo passed away suddenly this past December. The family will raise funds for this endeavor.
By a vote of 6-0, the School Committee approved a change in title for Dr. Jennifer Stys to Assistant Superintendent for Student Services. Chair Chuck Robinson commented that Stys “continues to raise the bar on how to do things the right way.” Committee member Brandt commented that this elevation confirms the commitment the district has to special education. The change does not include a salary increase beyond the already-negotiated cost-of-living increase. Along with this change, the committee also voted 6-0 to approve a change in title for Alison Wright from Assistant Special Education Administrator to Director of Special Education.
After an hour-long executive session, the committee returned to open session and voted 6-0 to approve a contract with incoming Superintendent Tom Milaschewski, to begin on July 1, 2021, with compensation of $190,000.
The School Committee adjourned just before 10:00 pm.