Hardy Presents Student Opportunity Act Review to School Committee

Reading, MA — Assistant Superintendent for Teaching and Learning Dr. Sarah Hardy shared her report to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) regarding the Fiscal Year 2022 use of chapter 70 funding to the School Committee on Thursday. Hardy explained that the report required focus on two to three groups of students and which plans for the current year are meeting the needs of those students. “[DESE wants us to] do a few things well as opposed to a comprehensive plan,” Hardy commented.

Assistant Superintendent for Teaching and Learning Dr. Sarah Hardy and Superintendent Thomas Milaschewski

Hardy’s report focuses on three groups of students, English language learners, low-income or economically disadvantaged students, and African-American or black students. Commitments have been made to use evidence-based program selection to aid students, especially in tier one instruction. These include research-based literacy tools in early education settings, acceleration academies, the expansion of social and emotional learning, and a focus on mental health needs. Budget money has been committed to these pursuits, and metrics to measure success have been identified.

School Committee member Sarah McLaughlin questioned why there was a limited focus on just these three groups. Hardy responded that DESE limited the scope and that these groups were small enough to measure results efficiently. “[The choice] was not an exclusionary measure,” Hardy explained. 

Both Vice-Chair Shawn Brandt and Chair Thomas Wise expressed frustration that most of what DESE seemed to be requiring was looking back and not forward. Hardy shared the concerns, though indicated that the expectation from DESE in implementation was to be forward looking. The School Committee voted 6-0 to approve the Student Opportunity Act Review as presented.

The School Committee also heard a presentation from resident Carl McFadden and Coach John Fiore regarding a nomination to name the new high school track after long-time Reading Memorial High School (RMHS) teacher, coach, and former School Committee member Hal Croft. McFadden shared Croft’s military service in the Marine Corps, including the award of a bronze star and a silver star for valor, Croft’s success on the field, winning 262 straight matches during a thirty-year career, and Croft’s effectiveness in the classroom. “I am an English teacher first,” McFadden stated, quoting Croft from a Sports Illustrated article. 

“[Croft] turned an individual sport into the greatest team program this storied athletic department has ever had,” Fiore continued. “He gave thousands of kids a place to belong.” The School Committee will deliberate on the matter at its April 14 meeting.

The committee received a school resource officer update and introduced to “Officer Cooper,” the police department’s new nine-week-old comfort dog. Superintendent Thomas Milaschewski also reported that, in partnership with the police department, live A.L.I.C.E. drills at elementary schools will now be confined to teachers and staff. “Students tend to follow their adult leaders in an emergency,” SRO Brian Lewis noted.

The School Committee voted 6-0 to affirm a memorandum of understanding with the cafeteria employees. It also appointed members to serve on various committees and responded to the quarterly personnel update from Human Resources Director Michelle Roach. 

Discussion was generated around the number of staff absences in the district and the percentage of which are able to be covered by substitutes, despite the fact that over ninety substitutes have been added to the pool since the beginning of the year. Roach reported that twelve percent of the staff had missed over ten days of work due to non-COVID-related issues. Milaschewski affirmed that efforts are being made to determine the root causes of absenteeism and address any changes that may need to be made.

The School Committee adjourned at 9:00 pm

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