As the clock in the tower at Center School accurately ticks down to the last day of the school year – June 25 – the Mattapoisett School Committee met for the last time on May 21 to give reports and share successes on a wide range of topics.
Sandy Hering, a member of the Mattapoisett Garden Group/Women’s Club announced that her group wished to install a memorial butterfly garden on Center School grounds to honor the late Suzanne Sylvester, a former teacher.
Hering described the area as a pollinator garden that would not only provide a tribute to a teacher whose passing is still felt, but would also give students an opportunity to study the importance of pollinating insects such as butterflies on the overall health and well-being of the environment.
Hering explained that with the assistance of Charles Dupont, a local landscaper, and Gene Jones, school facilities manager, the location of the proposed garden was evaluated and that with some selective pruning, invasive species removal, and updated design, the garden could be ready by fall.
The design as currently planned includes a memorial bench and, from Dupont, the donation of a yellow magnolia tree. Hering added that she is cultivating milkweed seeds at her residence and that those plants would be used to attract butterflies, bees, and other pollinators.
Principal Rose Bowman said, “Remembering a person who has made such a significant difference in the students’ lives is wonderful. Gardening was her passion.”
The committee voted to accept the garden as presented.
Winging their way back to the black and white issues that face educators and their institutions, District Superintendent Doug White gave the financial update.
While a recent refrigeration problem (a failing unit at Old Hammondtown School) had caused a wrinkle in the operating budget, some $288,000 remained in the fund with $172,000 earmarked for special education programs and $116,000 for regular day student needs.
White later thanked the voters of Mattapoisett for supporting the schools during the Annual Town Meeting and announced that contract negotiations were now nearing completion. School Committee member James Muse said that the FY19 budget had been signed.
White noted that the problem of securing talented computer programmers was recently discussed at a conference he attended. He said that the issue of educating students, not only with digital literacy but in computer programming, was critical and might be a career path students are not necessarily considering.
“We need to think about how we can help students consider computer science as a major,” White said.
Assistant Superintendent Dr. Elise Frangos reported that she had attended a seminar on “empathic discipline” methods for Grades 6 through 12. “It’s restorative justice,” Frangos said.
The discipline model allows the offending student to meet with peers to hear how his/her actions have hurt others, and then to make amends that allow the student to remain in the classroom versus being punitively removed from the school.
“Rather than the ejector seat … it’s a new way to think about discipline,” Frangos said.
School Committee member Carol Clifford said that during her professional life as an educator in Connecticut this method has been employed with great success.
Also during the meeting, Bowman emphasized the importance of the morning meetings that take place before the start of each school day that help to frame the students’ school day by providing social and emotional support.
“This leads them to making better responsible decisions,” she said. Younger children are allowed time to work off energy after arriving at school with a walk around the auditoriums and learning yoga, Bowman said. “It’s amazing to see the change.”
Bowman also thanked and appreciated the partnerships the schools enjoy with the YMCA, PTA, Mattapoisett Land Trust, and Buzzards Bay Coalition. She also mentioned the important role of the Mattapoisett Free Public Library in supporting reading achievement with the Quahog Reading Program and summer reading programs.
The next meeting of the Mattapoisett School Committee is scheduled for September 17at 6:30 pm in Center School.
Mattapoisett School Committee
By Marilou Newell