School Committee Adopts Mask Policy; Brandt Remains Vice Chair

Committee Re-org Defeated

Reading, MA — By a vote of 2-4, the School Committee rejected the motion made by member Carla Nazzaro to rescind the June 21 vote appointing Shawn Brandt as vice-chair of the committee. Nazzaro offered her motion due to Brandt’s alleged lack of notification to the school district that he had been sent emails containing unredacted private student information. Nazzaro stated that she was no longer confident in the June 21 vote and offered the motion to rescind to “discourage any further action in our community.”

Former chair Chuck Robinson noted that he had originally nominated Brandt for the position. “I stand by that,” Robinson declared. “He made a mistake; we all make mistakes,” Robinson continued. Member Erin Gaffen, shared that she felt blindsided by Nazzaro when Nazzaro informed the committee about her motion at the end of the August 16 meeting. Member Sarah McLaughlin agreed, “I find it, the timing of [the motion to rescind] frustrating.” 

Gaffin spoke in Brandt’s favor, reminding members of the committee’s determination that “Shawn did not violate policies.” She also commented that there is “misinformation and discussion on social media” about the issue. 

“I would like to move forward,” McLaughlin concluded.

Chair Thomas Wise praised Brandt’s overall contribution to the committee and referred to the motion as a “ridiculously hard discussion.” He agreed with Gaffen that “the stuff out there is not correct” but did continue stating that “[Brandt’s] inaction is what bothers me.” He further clarified, “When I said I came here for students and to protect them, I meant it, and this didn’t do that.”

Brandt spoke on his own behalf, giving insight on his side of the story, specifically stating that he had the emails for two weeks before he came across the one with unredacted information. He also clarified that he contacted the school district’s attorney hours before a complaint was made to Robinson about the unredacted emails. He continued stating that “It does not benefit the kids impacted by the town’s mistake to keep relitigating this over and over.”

Nazzaro and Wise cast the two votes to rescind the prior vote.

Masks Policy Adopted

The School Committee also voted 6-0 to approve the second reading of the face covering policy, requiring students, staff, and visitors to be masked while in school buildings this fall. Adjustments were made regarding the metrics which will be used to adjust the policy, if needed, to include student days missed due to quarantine. The committee also added language regarding staff and spectators at athletic events. Superintendent of Schools Thomas Milaschewski will seek to provide further guidance to athletes and coaches as their seasons approach. Nazzaro commented, “[Wearing masks] is the price we have to pay to have students in schools.”

Milaschewski presented the committee with an overview of the COVID protocols that will be used to begin the school year. These include encouraging vaccinations and continued testing. He introduced a new form of testing that he referred to as “test and stay.” This will be for students and staff who may have had close contact with someone infected with the virus but has no symptoms. Persons in this category will be given rapid on-site tests for five days, and if they continue to test negative, they will not have to leave school. Milaschewski stated that he hopes this protocol will allow for fewer missed days due to quarantine. Pool testing will continue but will be expedited by each person in the pool providing two samples. Distancing will still be required at lunchtime, though the use of outdoor lunch will be encouraged. Class time outdoors will also be utilized. “We think these are the steps that will keep us in school,” Milaschewski shared. A complete description of protocols is expected to be sent to parents on Friday.

Milaschewski also shared that there will be several forums next week, both on the district and school levels, for those with continued questions.

Three new central office team members, Dr. Sarah Hardy, Assistant Superintendent for Teaching and Learning, Kurtis Martin, METCO Director, and Michelle Roach, Human Resources Director, all shared their plans and goals for entry into the district. All three mentioned getting to know Reading as a priority. Gaffen commented, “I appreciate how visible you all have made yourselves in the community. The School Committee also created a policy subcommittee to help streamline the time it takes for policies to be adopted. Gaffen will chair the subcommittee.

The School Committee adjourned to executive session at 10:14 pm.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email