Regional School Committee March 24 meeting shorts

by Karina Coombs

Following 90 minutes of meeting in Executive Session to discuss collective bargaining, the Concord School Committee and Concord-Carlisle Regional School Committee (RSC) began their March 24 joint meeting with a brief discussion regarding buyback of employee vacation hours. 

RSC Chair Bill Fink noted that the committees are looking at $2.5 million dollars in vacation pay buyouts allocated to certain groups of employees from 2010 to 2017. He later explained that this did not involve teachers, but pertained to certain groups such as bus drivers, cafeteria workers, high school tutors and some administrators. He said that they accrue vacation time which they are unable to take and this results in the need to address vacation pay or buyback.  He later stated that this is a long-standing practice and totals about $300K per year combined for Concord K-8 and the Concord-Carlisle High School.  Fink said he hoped to have more information for the next meeting.

Health curriculum update proposed

Director of Teaching and Learning Kristen Herbert and the K-12 Health Committee presented their recommendations for a revised K-12 curriculum, following 18 months of work.

Herbert explained that schools follow the Massachusetts Comprehensive Health Curriculum framework, which was developed in 1999 and in need of updating. In addition to looking at the curriculum and its materials – particularly for kindergarten through fifth grade – she explained that the committee also looked to a curriculum that would offer deeper focus on specific issues, stressing depth over breadth and use a skills-based approach for reinforcement. 

Working with data from the 2016 Youth Risk Behavior Survey and with teacher input, the committee also looked to acknowledge the nation’s growing opioid crisis in the new curriculum, which includes expanding the drug section and bringing it to lower grades. The committee also suggested looking at stress reduction and mindfulness as part of the program and at gender expression.

Following the presentation, Fink encouraged the committee to reach out to the Carlisle Public School to see if the group can find a way to integrate the program with Carlisle students headed to the high school. To see the presentation, visit: www.concordps.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Health-Curriculum-Adoption.pdf

Private school seeks approval from board for new location

With a location in Lexington, the FUSE School is looking to expand and has identified a space at Middlesex Green on Virginia Road in Concord. The school currently offers preschool, pre-kindergarten and kindergarten programs and is planning to add a first grade program for the 2017-18 academic year. According to the letter submitted to the school committees, FUSE offers a specialized curriculum for children with social challenges that emphasizes, “social collaboration, perspective taking, mindfulness, sensory integration and emotional regulation.” 

Superintendent Diana Rigby explained that state law requires that the local school committee approve any private special education school that seeks to operate in the town. RSC member and Concord School Committee Chair Wally Johnston noted that the Concord schools already provided a preschool for special education and early intervention and wondered how a private school would affect Concord’s ability to plan for children who may be attending kindergarten through second-grade programs in the future. 

Rigby explained that because the school was private it would not just have Concord families and she believed that, “it provides more options for parents in special education and I think we should support it.” The board will vote on giving them permission to operate at its next meeting. [Corrected 4-6-17 to clarify that vacaton buyout did not apply to teachers.] ∆