School Committee Provides Budget Guidance

Reading, MA — The School Committee provided overarching principles to district administration that will guide the creation of the district’s Fiscal Year 2023 budget on Thursday. Member Erin Gaffen shared her belief that reasonable class sizes and the ability for high school students to access the classes that they need are priorities. The budget “should reflect what Reading stands for,” Gaffen suggested. 

Erin Gaffen

Chuck Robinson mentioned his priorities are meeting the district’s contractual and legal obligations and a commitment to each student’s social and emotional learning. Sarah McLaughlin added a commitment to accelerated learning outcomes at all levels. Member Shawn Brandt suggested that reducing the price of full-day kindergarten is important. The School Committee will begin its budget process in January.

Chief of Police David Clark presented plans for the School Resource Officers (SROs) to use comfort dogs in schools and other situations. The dogs will be available specifically for those impacted by tragedy as well as other issues. They will be with the SROs each day in the schools. “[The dogs] will be a valuable resource to teachers and counselors,” Clark added.

Chief of Police David Clark

Director of the Coalition for Prevention and Support Erica McNamara added that the animals would allow officers to continue to build relationships, break down barriers, and aid with informal communication with students. School Committee member Carla Nazzaro praised the effort as “a different way to de-escalate and calm people down.”

“I appreciate creative ways to support our students,” Gaffen added.

Community Development Director Julie Mercier shared an outline for the town’s energy reduction plan with the committee. This plan is one of the final steps needed for Reading to achieve a “green communities” designation. The energy savings plan needs to be endorsed by both the Select Board and the School Committee. 

Community Development Director Julie Mercier

Mercier explained that the plan would demonstrate a 20 % reduction in municipal energy use over a five-year period. The plan will include both “hard measures,” such as technology and building upgrades, which need to create 15% of the savings, and “soft measures,” such as behavioral changes, which can make up 5% of the savings. Director of Facilities Joe Huggins suggested some “hard measures” might include LED conversion in all of the school buildings except Killam Elementary School. Mercier intends for the Select Board to endorse the final plan at their December 7 meeting, with the School Committee endorsing the plan on December 16.

The School Committee voted 6-0 to accept the school improvement plans from all eight schools in the district. While separate for each school, the plans focused around two central themes: the need to strengthen and revise systems that will ensure all students have access to effective instructional practices and to support student access to rigorous instruction aligned with grade-level standards. “These are important documents to us,” RMHS Principal Kevin Tracey indicated.

Brandt praised the plans highlighting as fantastic the “through lines in the plans.” Robinson added that the plans and rollout are “taking it to the next level.”

The committee also discussed options for developing hybrid meeting technology in their meetings, creating sub-committees, and addressing a policy when substantive changes are needed.

The School Committee adjourned at 10:45 pm.

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