Policy took center stage at the quarterly meeting of the ORR District School Committee, as they discussed several policy updates. The bulk of the debate surrounded the new life-threatening allergies policy.
Due to the rise in the number of allergies in children, as well as the number of children with allergies, schools are on high alert for potential problems from the use of latex gloves by a school nurse to the presence of peanut butter on a student’s sandwich at lunch.
“The superintendent asked us to address the specific policy of life-threatening food allergies,” said Committee member Tina Rood. “Everybody is impacted by this from top to bottom as far as their responsibilities within the policy.”
The district seeks to develop and implement protocols that would minimize the risk of exposing students to allergens that pose a serious risk to school health. In addition to providing education to staff and administration regarding life-threatening allergies, they will create a plan to deal with the needs of students with serious allergies.
In order to expedite implementation of the new life-threatening food allergy policy, the Committee voted in favor of the plan following its discussion.
In one motion, the School Committee voted to approve policies regarding students leaving a charter school, service animals in school settings, and pre-school and kindergarten tuition.
The Committee also voted to approve six other standard policies set down by the state, including the policy regarding equal employment opportunity, equal education opportunities, school choice, and staff hiring.
The superintendent’s evaluation system was also under discussion. Last year, many on the committee, including Superintendent Doug White, felt that there could be a more fair and comprehensive way of judging his performance for the district.
White focused on switching the tool from an objective numerical weight to a system based on specific goals and benchmarks, and how effectively they were achieved. The tool was developed by the Department of Education.
The new method would allow for each school to better address specific needs. He stressed the importance of an evaluation for student learning, professional growth, and improvement plans. The two-step system would begin with a self-assessment on the part of White, followed by meetings with the School Committee members in order to judge his proficiency as superintendent.
“What we need to do as a group is addressing what we need to be working on. With the evaluation, it ends up being a communication between the school committee and myself, what we should be working on, and how to set those goals,” said White. “The difficult part for me is that there are four school committees. If we’re looking at two or three goals for each school, we’re looking at several different directions we could go in,” said White.
Midway through the process, there would be an opportunity for a talk between the Committee and Superintendent to check-in on how well goals are being met.
Committee member Christine Winters suggested an additional meeting to be put on the schedule near the half-way point of the evaluative methodology.
In other business
•The ORR School District will apply again for the state’s Community Innovation Challenge (CIC) Grant. The district was not chosen to receive those funds last year but more money has been released for the program. The money would be used to improve human resource training for new hires and maintain a database of employee credentials and qualifications.
•Center School teacher Greta Anderson won award for Elementary Art Teacher of the Year. She will be recognized on November 10, at noon, at Salem State College.
•Old Hammondtown School was named a commendation school based off their MCAS scores.
•Sharon Hartley was re-appointed as the head of the Rochester School Committee.
The next meeting of the ORR Joint School Committee will be held on January 17, 2013 at 6:30 pm in the Superintendent’s Conference Room at ORRHS.
By Eric Tripoli