Reading, MA — The three new principals in the Reading Public Schools reported to the School Committee on the beginnings of their entry plans this past Monday. Birch Meadow Elementary School principal Stephen Burnham and Joshua Eaton Elementary School principal Caitlin Shelburne shared information regarding how they are getting to know their school communities through meetings and one-on-one discussions with parents, staff, and students.
Burnham reported finding a community with “teamwork, flexibility, forgiveness, perspective, and grace.” He also spoke of establishing “restorative circles” to help all students feel connected to their learning. “A connected student is a successful student,” Burnham opined. School Committee chair Thomas Wise suggested that if the concept is successful, it could be implemented in other district schools.
Shelburne reported finding that staff and families share a “connectedness to the school” and is excited about what she has already witnessed in classrooms. “I feel extremely lucky and supported,” Shelburne stated.
Reading Memorial High School principal Kevin Tracy shared that he “cannot be happier to be exactly where I am.” He noted that the staff “came back to school ready to go.” He also noted what he believes are several school strengths, including “a talented and dedicated staff,” the counseling department, extra-curricular, and the students. He added that he is “impressed with students supporting one another.” Tracy will be offering a complete report at a future School Committee meeting.
After highlighting “as smooth an opening as we could hope for,” Superintendent Thomas Milaschewski updated the committee on preliminary observations from his entry process. He also noted strengths of the district, including the staff, families, extra-curricular, and the direction of the special education program. Milaschewski also suggested some growth areas, including culture and morale, high school programming, and universal full-day kindergarten. He continued that he will be making a full report in January, which will include action items.
This led to a discussion regarding the implementation of the district improvement plan. Two primary areas of focus have been identified by staff. The first is creating safe and rigorous learning environments, and the second is developing a talented and committed staff. Strategies to address these areas include introducing common operational systems, developing shared mindsets and practices, and improving systems for retention, development, and recruitment.
Milaschewski also shared a new statement to define equity prepared by district leadership. This statement concluded with the requirement to “identify, analyze, and confront gaps in opportunities and outcomes for all students.” This concept leads to a stated district goal that all Reading Public Schools students demonstrate academic, social-emotional, and personal success.
“All means ALL,” commented Director of Student Services Jennifer Stys.
Wise also led the committee to discuss what priorities the committee may want to advocate for in the use of the federal ARPA funding that will become available to Reading. On one issue: the need for additional nursing staff, the committee directed the superintendent to seek the staff now, as the need is seen as immediate. Other priorities include the possibility of universal full-day kindergarten, increased tutoring, and other academic supports, and greater high school programming opportunities. The committee will look at the issue again at its October 14 meeting.
The School Committee adjourned to executive session at 10:00 pm.