Attending the May 10 Marion School Committee meeting remotely from Camp Burgess in Sandwich where she was with a Grade 6 field trip, Sippican Elementary School Principal Marla Sirois reported the kids were “having a fantastic time,” noting the noise in the background of her call.
May brought that time of year when the end of school seemed near, even if it remained several weeks away.
Sirois reported that the sixth graders had engaged that day in ropes courses and team-building exercises with a “night hike” scheduled for after the dinner they were enjoying while their principal zoomed into School Committee.
The Marion School Committee voted to accept two grants related to literacy: a $152,000 Accelerating Literacy Learning through High Quality Instructional Materials Grant to support Sippican Elementary with 50% funding toward core instructional materials for literacy for Grades K-6 and a $5,076 Early Literacy Universal Screening Grant to purchase the DESE-approved Early Literacy Screening Assessment DIBELS 8th Edition for Grades K-3. The funding would also provide professional development for teachers.
Chairperson April Nye and other members of the committee thanked Assistant Superintendent of Schools Dr. Shari Fedorowicz for her work in procuring the “highly competitive” grants from the state.
Superintendent of Schools Mike Nelson pointed out that the state only offered a total of $1,000,000 in grant funding for the program statewide.
“For districts like ours, competitive grants can oftentimes be very difficult because of the criteria that the Department of (Education) often outlines for those who would be given priority,” said Nelson. “Sometimes, based on success and the type of communities that we work on behalf of, we don’t meet those priority lists.
“This type of financial support to move in the direction and support the work that we committed to system wide allows us really to accelerate where I think we’re going to be going in literacy in the next three to five years. Just a great jumpstart in Year One of this work …”
“We still don’t know all the choices (of programming),” explained Fedorowicz, who is still waiting for guidance from DESE on pricing details.
Fedorowicz said the new literacy program is moving quickly with its leadership teams involving administrators and faculty. All three of the Tri-Towns’ educators will meet with program representatives together before the end of the school year.
Per state regulations, the committee held an annual public hearing to address its status as a School Choice district. In recent years, Marion has voted not to participate in the School Choice program.
The School Choice public hearing was opened and without response from the committee or the public to the latter’s invitation for comments was closed. The vote was just as decisive, as the four committee members, April Nye, Mary Beauregard, Nichole Daniel and Nichole Nye McGaffey, all voted for Marion to remain a non-School Choice District.
This means that students who reside in other school districts (towns) will not be allowed to attend Sippican Elementary via the state’s School Choice program in 2023-24.
The committee voted to accept the memorandum of understanding between Nelson and Marion Chief of Police Richard Nighelli regarding the school resource officer for next school year.
In her Chairperson’s Report, April Nye celebrated the Town Meeting vote and police budget paving the way for an SRO at Sippican in 2023-24.
“As many of you know, when I initially ran for School Committee over five years ago, my goal was to make our schools as safe as they could possibly be through various measures, and one of them was my want of an SRO,” said Nye. “Through the years, working with administration as well as the superintendent’s office as well as the town, we’ve been able to improve on various security measures. Again, one of my biggest goals still was to continue to fight for and get that SRO if we possibly could.”
With that, Nye thanked the committee members for “always putting what’s best for children as well as the staff and the school community as the number-one priority.” She added public thanks to Sirois, Crisafulli, Nelson, Nighelli, Marion Town Administrator Geoff Gorman and parents for reaching out to the committee and to Marion voters at large for supporting the school children.
Upon the recommendation of the Old Rochester Regional School District as read by Nelson, the Marion School Committee unanimously voted to adopt the following schedule for 2023-24 meetings: September 14, October 19, November 30, January 4, February 8, March 14, April 25 and May 23.
Nelson clarified the new approach targeting Thursday as the night for school-committee and major-subcommittee meetings across the ORR District. April Nye thanked secretary Melissa Wilcox for constructing the schedule, calling it “phenomenal” especially as members try to juggle family-related obligations.
Assistant Superintendent of Finance and Operations Howie Barber reported with budgetary, facilities and food-service updates.
Citing skyrocketing costs and other needs in the Tri-Towns, Nelson admitted he had been nervous about the FY24 budgeting process but said meaningful conversations about education with other stakeholders helped get the students what they will need for the next year. He thanked the educators for their steadfast focus as the current school year winds down.
April Nye thanked Craig Davidson, the director of Student Services, for his acceleration camp.
Nelson updated the committee that SMEC is looking to purchase a building.
Early in the meeting, the committee broke into executive session to discuss collective bargaining and security and to comply with related laws and federal grant-in-aid requirements. The committee returned to public session.
The recognition presentation on the May 10 agenda was held until the committee’s next meeting.
The next meeting of the Marion School Committee is scheduled for Wednesday, June 14, at Sippican School, and the next meeting of the Joint School Committee is scheduled for Monday, June 8, at the Old Rochester Regional Junior High School media room. Both meetings start at 6:30 pm.
Marion School Committee
By Mick Colageo