Inside Arlington

Experimental News Digest for Arlington, MA

School Committee, February 08, 2024

Public Comment Policy Revision

The committee discussed the revisions to the public comment policy, emphasizing the need for decorum and respect. Key procedures of the policy include a 20-minute limit which can be extended by the chair and a three-minute speaking limit per individual. The chair has the authority to terminate an individual’s address if they persist in improper conduct or remarks. Complaints regarding school personnel are to be directed through administrative channels as the committee does not hold jurisdiction over individual school personnel, except for the superintendent.

  • Public Comment
    Two public participants provided commentary. One expressed concern regarding the district’s approach to serving children needing special education services, the methods used to identify these students, and the mental health impact on children after a distressing event involving two spent bullet casings found at Gibbs School — an situation made worse by the school’s inability to communicate clearly with parents. The other criticized the district’s training system for some vulnerable students, specifically the possible use of applied behavior analysis (ABA) practices, and urged the committee to consider more respectful and humane approaches based on the full humanity of disabled children.

Arlington High School Student Representative Report

The student representative discussed the success of recent events such as the winter crafts fair, Battle of the Bands, and upcoming events like the spirit week and a student-run podcast named Pondercast, providing information on access via ACMI TV.

Stratton School Presentation

Amy Kelly, principal of Stratton School, along with her instructional leadership team, presented the school’s strengths and shared their improvement planning process. The presentation covered:
– The positive behavior plan with guidelines: be safe, be kind, be respectful.
– Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) focusing on data analysis for continuous improvement.
– Professional development for staff including classroom management and engagement techniques for all subjects, including math.
– An emphasis on student belonging and family engagement, with several actionable steps to improve in these areas.

Special Education Program Report

Alison Elmer, assistant superintendent of student services, presented updates on the special education department’s programs, including programs for students with intellectual disabilities, language-based learning disabilities, the MAICE program for students attending community college, and the integration of the school’s curriculum. Elmer also detailed strategies for addressing staff and budget challenges and highlighted recent improvements to physical spaces for special education, such as the new Menotomy Preschool and Arlington High School’s facilities.

Onboarding and Leadership Development

Hardy Elementary School principal Kate Peretz reported on leadership development and onboarding programming, emphasizing relationship-building with new administrators, PARAs, and other roles. She talked about hiring events, guidebooks for staff, and ongoing professional development opportunities crafted for paraprofessionals. Mentoring extensions were also discussed as part of the superintendent’s induction program. Peretz highlighted the importance of concrete onboarding processes, including immediate welcoming gestures and the first 30 days being critical for new employee acclimation.

Superintendent’s Update

Superintendent Homan provided updates that included:
– Thanking Arlington Police and Gibbs staff for a quick response to the bullet incident.
– The start of district-wide training for teachers who will be teaching EL Education’s curriculum in grades K-5 beginning in 2024.
– The opening of kindergarten registration and congratulating the AHS Honors Orchestra on being chosen to perform at a music educators conference.

Subcommittee Reports

  • Budget: Presented changes to the meeting schedule due to delays in proposed budget presentations.
  • Facilities: No report given.
  • High School Building Committee: A brief mention of an upcoming updated building schedule announcement.

Executive Session

The committee went into executive session for the purpose of Unit A negotiations, not intending to return to the open session afterward.



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