Inside Arlington

Experimental News Digest for Arlington, MA

School Committee, September 07, 2023

The September 7 Arlington School Committee began with an acknowledgment that this was the first meeting attended by Arlington’s new deputy superintendent, Dr. Mona Ford Walker. Student representatives will join the next meeting.

Opening Day Report and Summer Activities

The committee discussed the successful start to the school year and the curriculum work done over the summer. Various departments highlighted their efforts in enhancing curricula and training teachers. The committee also welcomed approximately 70 new staff members who joined Arlington Public Schools and introduced them to the curriculum, systems, structures, special education, diversity, equity, inclusion, justice, and belonging.

Departmental Updates

Each department presented its summer activities and updates. The Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Justice, and Belonging Department conducted anti-racist school practices training. The English Language Arts department prioritized curriculum mapping and examined heterogeneous grouping in the 9th grade. The History and Social Studies department revamped its curriculum to align with the new ELA curriculum, Expeditionary Learning. The Health and Wellness department updated lessons for grades four and six through nine, particularly around Human Growth and Development units. The Library Digital Learning department identified Massachusetts Digital Literacy Computer Science Standards within lessons and made connections to the National Library standards.

New Departments and Initiatives

The director of data research and accountability reviewed systems currently in place within Arlington public schools and identified areas of growth around data collection and analysis. The new family engagement and communications director worked on updating district offerings and launched the district’s Instagram page. The Leadership Development and Onboarding department supported the onboarding of new leaders, teachers, and central office staff.

August Leadership Workshop and Strategic Plan

The committee focused on the August Leadership Workshop, the opening day of the school year, and the strategic plan for the year. The workshop aimed to provide a better understanding of deeper learning and the core initiatives of the strategic plan. The attendees also started working on their school improvement plans. The opening day of the school year included a panel with the new cabinet team and a student panel discussing their experiences of teaching.

New Arts Courses and Professional Development

The committee discussed the new arts courses at the high school and the influence of the new facility on expanding and developing the art curriculum. The committee also discussed the professional development that took place over the summer and its potential impact on student learning and experiences.

Grading for Equity Initiative and Paraprofessional Guidebook

The committee touched on the Grading for Equity initiative and the creation of a Paraprofessional guidebook. The committee also discussed the timing of the superintendent evaluation materials and the superintendent’s report, which included updates on the new Department of Communications and Family Engagement, the new APS before School Breakfast Club, and the hiring of a new engagement specialist.

Heat Issues in Schools

The committee primarily focused on the issue of extreme heat affecting the students and staff in schools this week. The committee discussed the potential health risks associated with the heat, including visits to the nurse due to heat-related illnesses and the safety concerns of sending students home to empty houses without air conditioning. The committee also discussed the need for clear communication with families about potential school closures due to heat.

Consent Agenda and Subcommittee Reports

The meeting moved on to the consent agenda, which included a list of routine items to be enacted by one motion. These items included several warrants and the minutes of previous school committee meetings. The committee unanimously approved the consent agenda. Subcommittee and liaison reports were then presented. The Budget subcommittee had nothing to report. The Community Relations subcommittee discussed the draft school committee chat and proposed cancelling the chat scheduled for Town Day due to other obligations. The committee agreed to cancel the chat and possibly reschedule it. The Curriculum Accountability subcommittee announced a meeting for the following week. The Facilities subcommittee discussed finding a date to meet and discuss the district’s submission to the capital planning committee. The Building Committee reported that the turnover of phase two is scheduled for October 30, with everything but the Menotomy preschool expected to be completed by then. No liaison reports were presented.

Future Agenda Items

The committee discussed future agenda items, including a presentation on the district’s exploration of grading for equity and arranging a meeting with new leadership personnel. The committee did not have an executive session scheduled for this meeting. The meeting concluded with a motion to adjourn, which was moved and seconded by the committee members.



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