School Committee Establishes Facility Naming Committee

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Reading, MA — With votes of 6-0, the School Committee accepted two nominations for the naming of facilities at Reading Memorial High School (RMHS). The first nomination is to name the gymnasium in the Hawkes Field House after long-time RMHS coach and athletics director Phil Vaccaro. Vaccaro served as athletics director for RMHS for eighteen years. The second accepted nomination is to name the “Turf 2” practice field at RMHS after coach Charlie Hardy started the lacrosse program at the school while amassing a 403-103 record in twenty-two seasons as the team’s coach.

The School Committee also voted 6-0 to create and charge a Facility Naming Advisory Committee with the task of making final recommendations regarding the nominations. The advisory committee will consist of one member of the Select Board, one member of the School Committee, a member from the RMHS administration, an RMHS student, and a local business owner. There will also be a second student and an additional resident on the committee as associate members. The School Committee expects the advisory committee’s recommendations regarding the nominations by the end of November. School Committee member Chuck Robinson will serve as the School Committee representative on the advisory committee.

Representatives from the Special Education Advisory Committee (SEPAC) reported to the committee as to how it has sought to fulfill its mission of “fostering a community in Reading for children with an array of special needs and their caregivers, and who help advise the Reading Massachusetts School District on children with disabilities.”

Dilly Wilson, from SEPAC, shared that communications have been a major focus for the SEPAC this past year. The annual parent survey pointed out that there needs to be more outreach to parents with younger children. School Committee chair Thomas Wise noted there is a continuing need to “make talking about special education a ‘safe’ place” in the district.

SEPAC board member Eunice Kenyon also shared about the growth of the group in the past year and how well-attended events throughout the year have been, especially virtual events. She also reported that the SEPAC has a good working relationship with the district Student Services department. “It is exciting to see the SEPAC flourishing,” added School Committee member Sarah McLoughlin.

District Human Resources Director Michelle Roach reported on the district goals of employee satisfaction and retaining and attracting a diverse workforce. She shared that contracts have been completed with all five bargaining units and that the contracts have all been revised into uniform formats for better cohesiveness. Roach shared results from exit surveys given to staff members who have departed the district, noting that most younger staff who leave Reading leave for opportunities or roles not available in Reading Public Schools. She also noted that most veteran staff members leave for retirement. Wise thanked Roach for providing this information, which had been requested by the board for several years. He also recognized the effort taken to rework all the contracts.

Roach reported that there has been significant growth in the number of diverse staff in the district during the last several years. However, she agreed with School Committee member Shawn Brandt, who noted that much of that growth is through roles such as METCO directors in the schools, which are more easily accessed by diverse candidates. Roach also indicated that continuing to grow in this area is the responsibility of supervisors across the district.

Assistant Superintendent for Teaching and Learning Sarah Hardy presented a final school year 2024 update on work being done with math pathways in the district. She shared that progress has been made in all six strategies that were presented to the committee in November. New initiatives include a schedule shift creating 720 additional minutes of math instruction next year at Parker Middle School, a middle school math curriculum review coming next year, and the reinvestment into the RMHS math laboratory. She also highlighted the summer math enrichment courses for middle and high school students and the opportunity for students who are slightly below the threshold for advanced math in middle school to choose to advance anyway. Eighteen students will be taking advantage of this in the 2024-2025 school year.

Both Brandt and Wise acknowledged the progress that has been made in a short period of time. “This is a sea of change in terms of progress made in eight or nine months,” Brandt stated. Wise noted, “A lot of districts are stepping back [in this area], and we are moving forward.”

During an update on her department, Assistant Superintendent of Student Services Jennifer Stys shared that Reading will be hosting the SEEM Collaborative’s Deaf and Hard of Hearing Program next year. She noted this as a part of the district’s initiative, “Celebration of Everyone.” She continued to share that exposure to students in this program will have mutual benefits for Reading’s students.

Stys also gave the committee a benchmark update on pillars one and four of the district improvement plan. In pillar one, creating a supportive, equitable, and safe learning environment, attendance has been a goal. She reported that all schools in the district had reached the 95% attendance plateau, which is an overall improvement, though not quite to the 97% goal that was set in the plan. There are only seven districts in Massachusetts with higher attendance rates than Reading. 

Stys also reported that, as planned, investments in tier one and two supports for students have started to develop into a reduction in special education referrals district wide. Additionally, the district, in collaboration with the Reading Police Department, has completed the Comprehensive School Threat Assessment Protocol. Stys also highlighted ways in which the district has improved community and family engagement as part of pillar four, including personal contact made with families by teachers as the school year was getting underway.

Superintendent Thomas Milaschewski presented the plan to replace Rochelle Rubino as principal of Parker Middle School. Rubino is moving on to become the principal of Ottoson Middle School, a 1,000-student middle school in Arlington. Milaschewski indicated that both the full-time position and an interim position have been posted in case the late posting of the position limits the candidate pool. Brandt was appointed to serve as the School Committee representative on the screening committee.

The School Committee also voted 6-0 to revise the 2024-2025 school calendar to include a half-day on December 6 for professional development.

The School Committee adjourned to executive session at 10:15 pm.

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