School Committee Approves RMHS Improvement Plan

Reading, MA — Reading Memorial High School (RMHS), Assistant Principal Kathleen Buckley presented the school’s improvement plan to the School Committee on Thursday. Buckley shared that the school’s goals are aligned with the district’s strategic objectives of a sense of belonging, a challenging and engaging learning environment, and efficient operational systems.

Buckley presented four goals to the committee, starting with belonging. “We want all members of our community to feel a true sense of equity and access to rigorous programs and activities,” Buckley explained. To reach this goal, RMHS will celebrate and acknowledge the work of students and staff and increase and formalize opportunities for student participation in school. Buckley cited the recent Homecoming Week celebration as an example of this goal.

To meet the second goal of school-wide focus on equity and access to rigorous programs and activities, the school will develop a common language as to what it means to hold high expectations for all students. RMHS leadership will also continue to study the student schedules in order to make incremental changes that benefit students. Superintendent of Schools Thomas Milaschewski explained that one of the areas being considered is the structure of health and physical education classes with the plan of creating increased access to courses and decreasing the number of studies a student may have.

Buckley continued with the third goal of promoting high-level growth and achievement using members of the instructional leadership team. One of the ways to achieve this goal is through the coming launch of the Innovation Pathways program in manufacturing and computer science. Another plan is to continue to develop dual-enrollment courses with Middlesex Community College and its “Gateway to College” program. Buckley also explained the intent to double the amount of collaborative time for staff throughout the year. There also will be extra support for those needing MCAS interventions and a goal for all multilingual learners to hit their “ACCESS” program targets in 2023.

The fourth goal of clear and transparent systems for operations and communication will be met through goals such as the production of a weekly newsletter for families and staff as well as active links to a school-wide calendar.

Both Chair Shawn Brandt and member Thomas Wise encouraged the efforts regarding the schedule, with Wise offering the caution that students and parents be engaged early in the process to ease any possible transitions.

The School Committee voted 5-0 to approve the school improvement plan for RMHS.

Director of Finance Susan Bottan provided the committee with a first-quarter financial update which covers the period from July 1 to September 30. “The budget is being well deployed,” Bottan reported. “I expect no issue in meeting our financial obligations.” 

She also reported progress in allocating savings early in the year and in the use of grant funds rolled over from previous years. Bottan shared that there is currently a projected balance of $347,000 for the fiscal year but cautioned that a lot could occur between now and the end of June to change that outcome.

Bottan also provided a summary of the upcoming Fiscal Year 2024 budget process. She reported that the Finance Committee had provided guidance for a $51,156,000 budget which is a 4.58% increase over FY 2023. This includes $150,000 in community priority funds for the next step in universal full-day kindergarten.

In her description of the process, Bottan shared that baseline costs, such as contractual and legal requirements, were being calculated first using a projection of 3,808 students for the coming school year. Next is a look at maximizing resources such as grants and cost savings. Finally, costs for strategic objectives and emerging priorities are determined. Milaschewski outlined several of these priorities, including universal full-day kindergarten, English/Language Arts and math coaches, plans of multi-year curriculum programs, plans for full-time assistant principals in the elementary schools, support technology services, and increased custodial service during after-hours use of facilities.

School Committee member Erin Gaffen questioned how the use of the teaching fellows may change in the new budget, and Wise asked about the efficacy of the use of the fellows. Milaschewski indicated satisfaction with the program. “In all of the ways we hoped [the fellows] could be leveraged in the classrooms, they have been doing that,” Milaschewski affirmed.

The district administrative team will present its recommended budget to the committee at the January 5 and the January 9 School Committee meetings, with a public hearing on the budget scheduled for January 19. The School Committee plans to vote on the final submitted budget on January 26.

The School Committee also voted 5-0 to approve the amended policies JE, Student Attendance; JH, Student Absence and Excuses; JFABD, Homeless Student Enrollment, and Rights; and EFDA, Unpaid Meals. It also conducted the first readings of policies DEC, Federal Supplement No Supplant; DXC, Expense Reimbursement; GCF, Professional Staff Hiring; and JICK, Harassment of Students.

The School Committee also met for 30 minutes in executive session to discuss strategy for upcoming negotiations with non-represented personnel before adjourning at 9:35 pm.

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