School Committee Considers Facility Names

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Reading, MA — A group of residents and Reading Public School staff members presented a proposal to the School Committee on Thursday, May 9, to name the gymnasium in the Hawkes Field House at Reading Memorial High School (RMHS) after long-time RMHS teacher, coach, and athletic director Phil Vaccaro. RMHS baseball coach and math teacher Peter Moscariello explained that Vaccaro was a “unique thirty-year contributor” to the Reading Public Schools and the community. Moscariello also commented that more than 60 people had submitted letters to the committee in support of the proposal.

Former Athletic Director Phil Vaccaro

Vaccaro, who became the RMHS athletic director in 1994, was credited by Moscariello with “building positive relationships, promoting sportsmanship, and developing character” in the athletics programs at RMHS. He also noted Vaccaro’s many state awards and recognitions as an athletic director and a coach. Retired RMHS librarian Sharon Burke referred to Vaccaro as “ahead of his time” in also promoting other student groups, including the LGBTQ alliance. RMHS 1991 alum Cory Wellford also shared how Vacarro created an environment where students and players felt like a family. Former RMHS principal Joe Finnegan shared that Vaccaro also had a positive influence over many of the spaces in the design of the new high school.

“[Vaccaro was] uniquely responsible for the success of the RMHS athletic program,” Wellford added.

After the presentation, the committee also recommended that its policy committee review the school department naming policy. Member Shawn Brandt shared that he believes the policy needs to be loosened regarding who are eligible to have a building or space named after them.

“Many of our buildings are named after people who would not be eligible under the current policy,” Brandt noted.

The School Committee will hear a presentation from another group seeking to name the “turf 2” field after Charlie Hardy at its meeting on May 23 and then discuss whether or not to create a naming advisory committee regarding both requests at its June 6 meeting.

School Resource Officers (SRO) Brian Lewis and Matt Vatcher reported to the committee regarding their recent activities, including performing A.L.I.C.E. drills, helping develop school threat assessment guidelines, and creating a youth police academy that will begin this summer. They also said that canine officers Rusty and Cooper have officially been certified as therapy dogs. According to Lewis, maintaining the partnership between the Reading Police Department and the Reading Public Schools is “the bread and butter” of the SRO program.

The School Committee voted 6-0 to approve a letter advocating for additional funding for the METCO program. The program has been level-funded in the fiscal year 2024-25 budget, and current reports indicate that it will be level-funded in the following budget as well. Chair Thomas Wise pointed out that level funding of this sort is, in essence, a budget cut due to rising costs.

By a 6-0 vote, the committee approved using the Reading Rockets logo on a bobblehead that will be sold to support the making of a movie about former RMHS teacher and coach Hal Croft. After Director of Finance Derek Pinto updated the committee on the third quarter budget, the committee voted 6-0 to approve transferring $84,825 from the regular day cost center to the district-wide athletics cost center.

Due to a change in the RMHS schedule coming next year, the committee voted 6-0 to approve a change in the dismissal time at RMHS from 3:02 pm to 3:05 pm on regular days and from 1:04 pm to 1:05 pm on early release days. The committee chose not to vote on opting out of the school choice program, thus remaining in the program for another year. According to Superintendent Thomas Milaschewski, the district has received $199,851 over the last two years due to its participation in the program.

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