In attendance is Jon Sjoberg, Stephanie Cronin, Jeff Kubick,  Jennifer McKenzie, Alison Manugian, Leslie Lathrop, Peter Cronin, Superintendent Dr. Kristan Rodriguez and Jared Stanton, Director of Business and Finance.

Peter Cronin as the Chair of the Public Communication and Community Engagement Advisory Committee presented the power presentation of the PCCE Assessment to the SC tonight.

Key Findings:

  • Communications has been a historical SC priority and continues to be so today. However limited resources vs effort required for comprehensive communication and the concern about possible Open Meeting Law violations are key factors that are limiting SC communications despite its acknowledged importance.
  • Current SC communications consists predominately of mandated postings to comply with MA Open Meeting Laws.
  • Understanding key constituent groups, their top communications needs and the most effective channel through which we reach them is essential for strategic communications planning. Top priorities include district performance, goals, strategy, finance and budget.

Three SC members were newly established as the signatories for warrant articles due to the recent 24 hour time restrictions in which the warrants must be reviewed and endorsed.  Jeff Kubick, Alison Managuan and Leslie Lathrop are the official warrant approval signatures however Jon Sjoberg and Peter Cronin made note that they are still interested in seeing the warrants although they are not able to endorse them within the 24 hour restriction due to their work schedules.

The Superintendent provided an estimate of 37.87 faculty members needed to solve the districts current needs. Strategic discussions began with the Superintendent Dr. Kristan Rodriguez opening the discussion of past staffing changes, current status and current needs.  Currently we have still have many classes with students over 25, additional needs that align with the district goals that are not limited too but include social & emotional learning, licensed librarians at all levels (currently the MS & elementary school libraries can not be open at the same time because there is only one para professional that floats between the two libraries), reading teachers, a HS nurse (recommendation received in an official letter from the state due to numbers of enrollment) and SPED staff needed to accommodate the state required IEP requirements.  Peter Cronin asked the Superintendent if the current needs is the solution to a challenge our district is currently facing and Superintendent did confirm that it does however it does not take into consideration a Capital or Technology plan. Clearly it is time for residents, the Board of Selectman and Finance Committees of both Dunstable and Groton to take notice of the NEEDS of our district and stand behind our schools.  

Jon Sjoberg made a note that the Superintendent should be able to present what our district needs to the community; otherwise the SC is hand cuffing her hands. Alison Manugian expressed her concern that if we were to push forward the needs assessment verses the full ask that includes the technology and capital plan we may end up only obtaining a portion of the funds needed for the district.  

Peter Cronin made a statement that he has spoken with many Fin Comm members and they have all stated that they support our schools.  It is the SC that has not asked for the money, they have never been denied money that they asked for.  At some point we will need to stop choosing to continue down a downward spiral of settling on what we feel we will get for funding verses requesting what our schools need. 

Leslie Lathrop is concerned that if we go for the needs now then there is a good chance we will not be able obtain the technology and capital plan because we will never get a second override approved. I could not help myself but interject into the meeting by making the analogy of “If your child needs food you feed them, our children needs so we should be providing it to them”.  Leslie Lathrop suggested that the alternative analogy could be that we wait and then provide the children enough food to last a life time.  That would work if a child “educational health” was not what we were discussing because to me it is equal to their physical heath.

After sitting through tonight’s meeting it is clear to me that the SC would benefit from some input from the community.  I feel that fear of not receiving the vote for two overrides to accommodate both our imediate needs and our future vision of a Technology & Capital plan could be prohibiting the SC from properly representing our children and what our community wants. If you want to see our children receive what they need in 2017 verses waiting for a futuristic date (2-3 years) while our children move through elementary, middle school or even the high school then I urge you to contact your school committee members.  Send all your SC members emails, call them and when you see them around town make sure you tell them what you want for our Children.   

SC Contact Info:

jkubick@gdrsd.org

jsjoberg@gdrsd.org

amanugian@gdrsd.org

llathrop@gdrsd.org

scronin@gdrsd.org

jmckenzie@gdrsd.org

pcronin@gdrsd.org

Advocate for your children.  Our children’s needs have been identified, don’t deny them what they currently need so we can try to grasp onto a future goal. 

Please feel free to cc me on your emails and I will be happy to post them on my blog. 

A follow up blog to these minutes can be found here:  Communicating & Collaborating With The SC

 

 

The PCCE ( Public Communications & Community Engagement) Advisory Committee to the SC has completed their assessment on the current SC communication & community engagement methods utilized by our SC.

In attendance was Peter Cronin/Chair, Russ Harris, Jeff Kubick/Secretary, Marlena Gilbert/Vice Chair, Christine Muir, Alison Manugian and Superintendent Dr. Kristan Rodriguez.

Peter Cronin reviewed the first draft of our power point presentation that will be viewed at the SC workshop tomorrow night.   The complete power point presentation will be added to this blog tomorrow. 

The presentation acknowledged the past efforts and methods researched in communicating & engaging the community. An explanation of why they were no longer in use and what current methods are being used now is also discussed.  When viewing the presentation you will see that the Superintendent has utilized many methods of communication and has been the primary source of communication; while the SC methods mainly comply with the Open Meeting Law requirements.  There was discussion that the open meeting law has possibly hindered the SC ability to increase transparency, increase communication & community engagement.  

Russ Harris made a point that during election time there are many articles and letters to the editor being submitted to the Groton Herald but nothing during budget season.  The only group that he recalls submitting is APEX “Advocates for Promoting Educational Excellence” and information may be perceived differently than the SC news releases.  Because the SC does not release any information, the community only has the opportunity to be informed by what is provided to them.  Although I am a Community Outreach Representative of APEX, my comments were my own as an individual when adding to this discussion.  I pointed out that I agree with Russ because if the SC was to release information and get in front of a challenge then other groups such as APEX would not feel obligated to inform the public.  Alison Manugian made note that the SC has restrictions due to the open meeting law that other groups like APEX do not. These restrictions may can cause a delay in the ability to respond. 

I cited an example in which the open meeting law should not restrict their ability to communicate to the public – addressing the growing pains of SchoolBrains.  An email was released after school started from the Luke Callahan, Director of Technology and Information and Media Relations to explain the history and challenges that the administration is working to overcome. This was informative but it came to late.  Parents were already feeling like they were in the dark which caused unneccesary anxiety.  If that email came out in July or the end of June then that could have been avoided and the adm/SC would have looked like they were on top of things and no one would have any reason to question why we even chose to change, why SchoolBrains was chosen out of all the SIC systems and why are we in the dark?

Identifying & having the SC acknowledge what methods are able to be utilized to communicate & engage the community while abiding by the open meeting law is crucial to increasing transparency and increase community engagement.  It seems that the open meeting law has created a fear in the past that results in the impulse to claim “can not do that because of the open meeting law”.  Being the woman that my mother raised, I can not accept any argument without documentation to back up your claim that tells me “NO” otherwise your argument is out of fear of the new.   

I personally challenge every SC member to require documentation of why a method of communication is not in compliance with the open meeting law as it should be documented within the sections of the law itself or a prior case should be able to be cited as supporting documentation.  In fact you can send an email to the Division of Open Government at openmeeting@state.ma.us and obtain clarification within 24 hours; I have emailed them more than once and they are swift to respond. 

If our schools are to move forward then we need our SC members to be strong, bold and creative leaders that can find ways to increase transparency while abiding by the Open Meeting Law. I am confident it can be done.  

Meeting was adjourned at 9:30pm

 

 

 

 

 

   

 

 

The SC meeting began at 7pm as scheduled. In attendance was Peter Cronin, Leslie Lathrop, Jennifer McKenzie, Stephanie Cronin, Jeff Kubick, Jon Sjoberg, Alison Manugian, Jared Stanton, Director of Business & Finance, Assistant Superintendent Dr. Katie Novak and Superintendent Dr. Kristan Rodriguez.

G-D Seniors, Katie Ferro & Peter McLaughlin presented a slide show of the Freshman orientation. The format of the Freshman orientation was changed from a full day that was held prior to the first day of school to a few hours on the first day of school. Stephanie Cronin & Leslie Lathrop both asked if there was any negative or positive impact due to this change.  Both seniors seemed to feel that it went well overall. They did feel that the change resulted in a decrease of senior volunteers for the orientation, those that did volunteer had to miss their first day of classes and It was a different experience having the orientation during a “live” campus. I don’t feel the Seniors should have to miss their first day of school, because they choose to help the Freshman feel comfortable at their new school. I also feel that most kids would appreciate the serenity of an empty school during their orientation verses being tossed into a world wind that included 850 other students in the building. Same thing for the fifth graders entering 5th grade. These are memorable events for our kids and we should do more to help them transition to their new schools so they can start the year off on the right foot.  

Mike McCaffrey, Direct or of Athletics provide a slide show presentation of last years achievements for all sports offered at G-D which will be provided on their website. The GDRHS Football team was a highlight for me as they have been self funded through the efforts of the parents and players involved in the sport for the last eight years. Their revenues come from sport fees, gate sales, game day advertising space on their home game programs through tons of volunteer hours. They would love to be a part of the GDRSD budget to help keep moving forward but for now its all up to the parents & players to keep this club in the black.  If you want to support our GDRHS Football team, you can do so by attending one of their Friday night home games. Their season opener is this Friday – September 11th and they will have First Responders, Groton Ladder Truck will raise the flag high over head and the High School chamber choir will sing the national anthem….    it should be a memorable night for GD football.  

Complete Schedule: GDRHS Football Schedule

Steve Boczenowski of TADS (Teenage Anxiety & Depression Solutions) introduced himself to the new school committee members and shared information about the use of the INTERFACE service and its relationship to the GDRSD. Teenage Anxiety & Depression Solutions is a 501c3 non-profit organization that focuses on mental health issues, especially with regards to helping parents who have children with mental health needs. Stephanie Cronin mentioned she could not find any link to the TADS website or information regarding the services on the GDRSD website, however the Superintendent mentioned it was under resources.  I think she was probably looking for TADS website much like I was until Steve clarified that the service is actually provided by William James INTERFACE and not TADS. TADS concentrates its efforts on advocacy, funding for school-based suicide prevention and mental health education programs, and enabling community-based services.

There was discussion regarding school handbooks.  There was a request to change the language in the handbook pertaining to making up missed work so that it could be clearly identified exactly  how much time each student has to make up work. When the 5 day period begins has been subject by teacher’s interpretation. Some may feel that it is 5 days from the date you return from school, 5 days from the time you log into google docs to review homework or 5 days from the date the homework was issued. Further language would take the interpretation out of the equation for teachers, parents and students. More details on this will be provided at the next SC meeting.

The Superintendent provided a presentation of the 2016 District Improvement Plan (this is not the five-year Strategic Plan) that is funded by the approved 2016 budget. The slide presentation can be viewed here: District Improvement Plan

The Assistant Superintendent provided another great presentation of what the future holds for GDRSD Professional Development. This year our district is beginning to implement Universal design for learning (UDL) and focus on the importance of growth mindset. How this will help engage and create a want for learning in students is so exciting and I can see how this will be a great benefit to our school district.

Here is a four-minute video that provides more information:  UDL information video (4 min)  

Dr Katie Novak was appointed to the Valley Collaborative Board and Stephanie Cronin was appointed the Regional Agreement Liason for Dunstable.

Meeting adjourned at roughly 10pm.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Special Budget & Finance SC Subcommittee began at 5:33pm. Alison Manugian, Jon Sjoberg, Superintendent Dr. Kristan Rodriguez, Peter Cronin and Jared Stanton Director of Business & Finance were present for the meeting.

First on the agenda was checking up on warrant review and signing status. All seemed good on that front, auditors are happy.

There was discussion of the need to finalize the timeline for the strategic plan so budgetary information could be provided to the Multi-Board Meeting. September is the time to provide a heads up to the Multi-Board of when or if any finance implications may be felt when funding our schools. I personally found this part of the meeting very interesting because depending upon who you talk to the level of support for our schools from our Fin Com & BOS varies greatly.  After attending this meeting I walked a way with a puzzling question. That question for me is, if our schools truly has the support of our Fin Comm & BOS then why would the SC feel that they must negotiate with them to fund a NEEDS budget for our children in our town? Take a look at this short video clip and you can see where I am coming from: Budget Process

Review of expenditures and revenues compared to the approved FY 2015 school budget were also discussed. The short version was that all budgetary goals were achieved, two of those goals that stuck out for me was the ability to increase of our E&D fund as well as money the ability to put money into our Transportation Fund for 2016. A short video clip of this discussion can be seen here:  Review By Director of Business & Finance

Review of early FY 2016 revenue projections seemed to be right on track as well.

The B&F Sub-committee set a couple of goals which included increasing communication to the public on the school budget and process, obtaining some year-end projection with comparable line items to make it easier to evaluate with prior year.

Meeting adjourned at roughly 7pm.

I apologize for the audio of the video being off, I used my iPad and it obviously is time for new one.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For those that may have missed my prior cliff notes on the PCCE ( Public Communications & Community Engagement Advisory Committee) Advisory Committee to the SC, the committee is a group of residents & school committee members that are responsible for assessing the SC methods of engaging and communicating with the community. We are to report back to the SC with our findings; they would include but may not be limited to an assessment of current channels, effectiveness and possible ways to be more effective.

Present tonight was Peter Cronin, Chair (Groton SC member), Marlena Gilbert, Vice Chair (Groton Resident), Jeff Kubick, Secretary (Groton SC member), Stephanie Cronin (Dunstable SC member), Dr. Kristan Rodriguez (Superintendent), Christine Muir (Dunstable resident), David Sciuto (Dunstable resident) and Alison Manugian (Groton SC member).

We approved minutes and did round 3 of introductions.

We reviewed the results of a survey that Peter Cronin provided the PECC. This survey was to gather our thoughts on communication methods, constituent interest and various channels that we felt may be more effective for each constituent group. The results showed that the majority of the group found that just about everyone in the community from town department heads, parents, seniors, no child households, media, new residents, town officials, staff, school organizations and business leaders had a high interest in financial information (budgets) and district issues (big picture).  Running for a close 2nd in interests was schedule/calendar and performance data. There were other topics but these jumped out at me.  The question is what channels/methods are we providing information to these folks, how is the information being presented so it is easily digested but complete and do these folks feel like they are engaged and informed about these interests by the SC?

There was a good amount of discussion about identifying some sort of outline of which target groups should be the responsibility of the Superintendent and which of the SC.  Stephanie Cronin made a point that at this time the Superintendent is providing information to parents & staff and she feels that she has credibility from doing so and she looks to her as that information person.  I agree that the credibility of our Superintendent is very important. It is equally important to the credibility and trust between the SC and the community. This will be an important part of the puzzle in increasing transparency in our district. 

Superintendent pointed out that we have a chair for each SC Subcommittees. Information pertaining to those committees could be provided by the chair of each of those Subcommittees such as Business & Finance or Policy after the SC has approved it. This is an interesting idea, and could further community interest without putting too much of a work load on any one spokes person for the SC and abide by the open meeting law. Perhaps someday we may choose to have a Public Relations specialist on our administration staff (Framingham did it) that could provide information, engage to the entire public and solicit Alumni for future revenues for our district… but for now more hands make for lighter work.   

Jeff Kubick added that the same content can be provided in different ways through various ways such as white paper narrative or summary, charts or in person meetings.  I agree that there will need to be different methods of delivery and presentation for different residents in order to increase transparency and interest.

We wrapped up the meeting by checking in with all Advisory Members to see where they felt we were and what are next steps should be. some felt we needed to get with the constituent groups to make sure our theory is correct in what their interests are and how they want to receive the info before moving forward. This is a point well taken. I also feel that we need to have defined lines for which constituent groups the SC & Superintendent are responsible to communicate with and make sure it follows the best practices of the MASC. If the Superintendent was to be the only person engaging and communicating with the public the SC would never establish trust or credibility with the community. By stepping forward our SC will have the ability to be a stronger leader for our schools.

We adjourned at 9pm mainly because many of us had children that were starting their first day of school in the morning. For me personally, Marlena Gilbert, Mommy of Jacob takes precedence over Marlena Gilbert, Vice Chair of the PECC.