Chair Grateful for Normal Student Life

            In her February 16 Chairperson’s Report to the Rochester School Committee, Sharon Hartley told the members she has been preparing her report to the town for budget season. Part of that preparation has included the reading of the minutes from every School Committee meeting.

            “It’s impossible … to read the pages and pages of meeting minutes without feeling proud of the work that we’ve done, the reports that we’ve heard, the feedback we’ve given and the decisions we’ve made,” said Hartley, citing the fact RMS has zero positive COVID-19 cases, was able to move to a layered, mitigation approach involving some social distancing and is now experiencing student life as it should be.

            Alluding to the committee’s tour of ORR District schools and the joy it has been to “see them like in prepandemic days,” Hartley said, “This (past) fall, we’re no longer discussing mitigation efforts and are able to focus on education …”

            Hartley would later brief the committee on the progress on the FY24 budget, saying the Budget Subcommittee is nearing the end of its work.

            Old Rochester Regional Superintendent of Schools Mike Nelson reported that the School Committee’s Budget Subcommittee will meet to finalize its recommended FY24 budget on Wednesday, March 1, at 2:00 pm at Rochester Memorial School.

            Focusing on some of that normal student life in his Principal’s Report, Derek Medeiros announced a transition and welcome event held on February 1 for incoming Kindergarten students. Registration is open online.

            Medeiros also credited the participants in the January 26 fourth-grade concert on an all-around Disney theme.

            ORR Assistant Superintendent of Teaching and Learning Shari Fedorowicz told the committee that Hill for Literacy, Inc., Executive Director Darci Burns would be attending its March meeting to present the needs-assessment program that began in district elementary schools in the fall.

            As of February 16, 31 faculty members had expressed interest in participating in program leadership roles, and Fedorowicz said that Medeiros was instrumental in getting the program up and running in Rochester.

            Fedorowicz explained the process, noting that a leadership team has been working with Hill for Literacy, Inc., since the start of the academic year. Once all data is in, the team will in May or June select from options a core program to introduce in the fall.

            The team will meet twice per month with the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE.)

            Fedorowicz said up to 150 educators and 176 caregivers are participating in professional development via the Instructional Council. She thanked the committee for its feedback.

            A half-day professional-development day on March 8 will be the team’s first session working with Hill for Literacy, Inc.

            The committee voted to delegate the response to the Open Meeting Law violation filed against the committee by Mattapoisett resident Kathleen LeClair to town legal counsel as recommended by the superintendent.

            On February 14, LeClair filed three complaints with the state, on February 16 updating her complaint regarding the Rochester School Community’s reception of public gifts (donated books) without a vote. LeClair’s other two complaints against the Equity and Policy subcommittees require response by those subcommittees, according to Nelson.

            The committee voted to approve the READS Collaborative Agreement Amendment, the School Health Unit Application through the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (allows designated staff to administer certain medications such as an epi-pen or aspirin to students when medical staff is not available such as field trips.)

            In his Financial Report, Assistant Superintendent of Finance and Operations Howie Barber told the committee that RMS still has $875,000 in the FY23 operating budget and updated the members on ice-removal work as reported by ORR Facilities Director Gene Jones. He also reported on free school lunches and the hope that the service can continue into the 2023-24 academic year.

            In the Administration Report, Director of Student Services Craig Davidson discussed the Math Acceleration Academy that would be held during February vacation, some 13 classrooms operating for students in Grades 3-10, all staffed by professionals, teachers and specialists, along with social workers, cafeteria workers and custodial staff, all part of ORR District staff.

            “It is a stipend position, but they’re still giving up their February breaks to educate our own students,” said Davidson.

            In answer to committee member Anne Fernandes’ question, Medeiros explained that students are recruited to attend the Acceleration Academy based on performance data.

            Davidson also reported on RMS special-education liaisons (staff) participating in a February 13 event at ORR Junior High School. The aim of the event is to prepare Grade 6 students for transition to Grade 7.

            Nelson announced the retirement of Theresa Craig, the READS program’s executive director.

            No one answered the invitation to participate in an Open Comment session.

            The next meeting of the Rochester School Committee is scheduled for Thursday, March 23, at RMS library, and the next meeting of the Joint School Committee will be held on Thursday, March 30, at ORR Junior High School media room. Both meetings begin at 6:30 pm and are accessible in person or remotely via Zoom.

Rochester School Committee

By Mick Colageo

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