Wise Remains Chair of School Committee

Reorganization of School Committee

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Reading, MA — At the close of its June 20 meeting and by a 5-0 vote, the School Committee chose to retain current chair Thomas Wise as chair of the School Committee for the next year. The School Committee does not have a policy regarding serving as chair in an election year. After being nominated by School Committee member Sarah McLaughlin, Wise shared that he initially had planned not to accept the nomination until he had decided whether to run again but that he has already made that decision as well. 

School Committee Chair Tom Wise

School Committee member Shawn Brant supported the nomination. “I think it is important to recognize that it does not feel like a bloodsport here, which is not always true in this town,” Brandt commented. “I hope we all appreciate that.”

The Committee postponed a vote on the Vice Chair to determine current Vice Chair Erin Gaffin’s interest in remaining in the post. Gaffin was unable to attend the June 20 meeting. The Committee expects to vote on the Vice Chair at their July 18 meeting.

Literacy Update

Humanities Curriculum Coordinator Erin Burchill, along with Assistant Superintendent for Teaching and Learning Sarah Hardy, recommended that the committee adopt the change to the Amplify literacy curriculum for grades six through eight starting in September 2024. Hardy shared that the curriculum uses “well-rounded, evidence-based instruction” and is highly rated. 

The new program was piloted this spring by twelve teachers divided between Coolidge and Parker Middle Schools, with classrooms using both digital and print resources. Burchill reported that students had very positive comments regarding the vocabulary application during the pilot testing.


Burchill continued, sharing that the recommendation was to purchase the 100-lesson-a-year pathway for $142,764.47 for five years. This would provide all that will be needed to meet state requirements and allow district-provided units to intersperse with the purchased curriculum. It will also provide all the digital, print, and text resources needed during that time period. Of the purchase price, $71,381 will come from the High-Quality Instructional Materials purchase grant, and the remainder will be funded through the operating budget.

Middle School teacher Andrew Spinelli assured the committee that printed and digital materials would be used in classrooms. “No one wants all digital,” Spinelli quipped. “If there is not a clear purpose to use the digital text, we’re going to go with the print,” Spinelli continued. He also noted that Amplify includes some form of writing every day.

When Brandt inquired about continuing to use district-provided curriculum, it was shared that the working group did not want to limit the creativity and flexibility of teachers who need to be able to meet kids’ needs. Brandt also questioned why the ARC Core curriculum was not chosen, as it is being used at the elementary level. Burchill responded that the ARC Core was so inherently different from Reading’s middle school model that it would have caused a much more significant shift to adapt to that curriculum. “Amplify feels more middle school,” Burchill suggested.

“I’m ecstatic we are doing the 100 (lessons); I’m nervous that we did not go to the 180,” Wise commented. Hardy assured the committee that the goal, even with the district-provided units, is alignment and collaboration. After a question by resident Geoff Coram, Hardy assured the committee that the resources in Amplify include a diversity of authors and viewpoints.

The School Committee voted 5-0 to adopt the Amplify 100-day model recommendation for both middle schools.

Burchill also offered an end-of-the-year update on the ARC Core rollout in the elementary schools. Using the results of two different assessment tools that show test scores rising, Burchill shared that “Results are promising; we saw nice growth over the course of the year.” She continued to share that teachers in kindergarten through grade two report high engagement by their students, though kindergarten students did request more materials for handwriting practice. Teachers also requested more examples of writing samples along with a solidifying of writing instruction, which can be provided through additional professional development.

Parker School Improvement Plan Update

Parker Middle School Principal Rochelle Rubino and Assistant Principal Jill Story reported on progress made on the school’s school improvement plan. Rochelle shared that the plan’s goal is to focus on student outcomes and ensure that all students are achieving at high levels. 

Activities completed this year include creating consistent Team Time practices, focusing on interventions with students, professional development on student belonging, piloting middle school conferences, and aligning electives with the Innovation Pathways at Reading Memorial High School. Rubino also shared that the bell schedule will be revised to increase time on learning in math as well as the continued implementation of the Illustrative math curriculum in grade six.


Special Education Reserve Fund Report

The School Committee voted 5-0 to allocate $200,000 to the Special Education Reserve Fund at the end of the year and recommend a return of $75,000 to the town’s free cash reserves once the books are closed. There was discussion around recommending a smaller return to free cash, with member Carla Nazzaro amending to that effect. Member Chuck Robinson opposed the change, noting that the town had been willing to provide free cash when needed by the schools in the past and that further reducing the amount of return to the town “sends the wrong message.” A vote of 1-4 defeated the amendment.

Mid-Cycle Formative Review of Superintendent

By a vote of 5-0, the committee approved the Mid-Cycle Formative review for Superintendent Thomas Milaschewski. “We continue to see strong leadership and collaborative nature which enables a lot of the other success we see in the district,” Wise commented. The committee also voted 5-0 to make a small change to Milaschewski’s contract, changing the term summative to annual formative and summative in relation to the nature of his reviews. It also voted 5-0 to offer Milaschewski a 3% raise to $220,420 for the coming year. “Dr. Milaschewski has made sure that the people around him are well-compensated, and we need to do the same for him,” Robinson noted as he proposed the raise amount. The 3% raise calculates to an additional $6,420.

Milaschewski reported that thirty-five students applied for school choice in Reading, with thirty-one being accepted. A second lottery for any remaining spots will open on June 21 and will remain open for two weeks.

The School Committee adjourned at 9:55 pm.

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