John D. Runkle School

School Council Meeting Minutes

March 7, 2013

Multi-Purpose Room

 

Members Present: V. Beauchaine, A. DePew, E. Perez, M. Bienen,

T. Gallo-Toth, C. Pelton, D. Dixon, R. McElroy, J. Shapiro, A. Hummel, V. Godhwani

Members Absent: M. Voros, J. Katz

 

The meeting was called to order at 4:33 p.m.

 

The Council began with the Agenda item. Approval of last month’s Minutes was postponed until the end of the meeting.

 

I.  Runkle Calendar

Superintendent Dr. Lupini joined the School Council from 4:30pm to 5:30pm in order to provide a summary of background information regarding fulfilling the 180-day school year requirement. Following this summary, Dr Lupini responded to questions and concerns from Council members and then from members of the public present.

 

Overview from Dr. Lupini

Dr. Lupini briefly shared considerations that are possibilities for fulfilling the 180-day requirement without extending the school year to July 1st.  These options included opening school on Good Friday, opening school on a Saturday, or using a day during April vacation to fulfill the 180-day requirement. Although going into July is also an option, Dr. Lupini stated concern about attendance, given that July 1st spills into a Monday, and that attendance is historically low after June 20th.

 

The issue of granting a waiver was raised. Dr. Lupini stated that the Commissioner of Education has specific guidelines for granting waivers, and that he was almost certain that Runkle did not meet these guidelines. Dr. Lupini explained that a school would only be considered for a waiver if it had used every possible day available for completing missed school days, including Saturdays and vacation days. Dr. Lupini shared that he may have another opportunity to have a conversation with the Commissioner but he reiterated that it was highly unlikely that Runkle would qualify for a waiver.

 

Dr. Lupini’s summary of his meeting with staff

 

Dr. Lupini met with staff on Tuesday, March 5th with the goals of discussing options for fulfilling the 180-day requirement and hearing staff preferences. He shared that staff preferred to make up the additional days of school on Good Friday and Friday, June 28th, both of which could be half days (the district has met the hours requirement to enable this option).  He stated that Thursday, June 27th (which is the last school day for the rest of the district) could also be a half-day so that Runkle would be consistent with the district and transportation plans could be coordinated town wide. Approximately 80% of the staff were present at this meeting and participated in a straw poll about their preference.

 

Parent responses

 

  • Parents were in agreement that no one wanted the last day of school to be July 1st. Parents expressed resentment about how the decision to extend school until July 1st was made and the way in which it was communicated. There was concern that parents had initially been told one thing (school would not extend beyond June 30th) and then were told another thing (it would extend to July 1st). There was acknowledgement that there are no easy answers or good options to making up missed days.
  • Some parents felt that Good Friday should not be one of the make up days under consideration since it is a religious holiday.
  • Some parents stated that they would prefer a Saturday option to Good Friday.

 

One question for Dr. Lupini was whether an additional option might be extending the school day. It was stated that adding hours to the school day now, as opposed to adding days later in the year, would better support instruction given that the end of June is a time when attendance is low and students tend to be ‘checked out.’  Dr. Lupini reiterated that although previous commissioners have been more lenient, the current Commissioner was unlikely to make an exception and holds to a strict interpretation of the 180- day rule. In view of the recent history of the circumstances under which waivers have been granted in Massachusetts, it is unlikely that the Commissioner will consider granting a waiver for Runkle.

Other considerations included: whether there would be transportation available to students on a Saturday or on a day during April vacation; how teachers who have Saturday jobs manage would manage; what the quality of education would like on those days if there are a significant number of subs instead of classroom teachers.

 

D. Dixon mentioned that Runkle has lost six instructional days. She expressed concern that coming into the MCAS season we are short of time to prepare students. We all might want to consider making up missed days before the MCAS instead of after, to enhance learning and help students prepare.

 

Dr. Lupini stated that whatever option is chosen, there will not be budgetary constraints on providing whatever is needed for school to be up and running. Dr. Lupini will check all of the options with Senior Staff to make sure they are viable. He will make a decision by Tuesday, March 12th.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Additional comments/concerns from parents and teachers

 

Additional comments and concerns were raised throughout the meeting. Some included:

 

  • Sending a survey out to parents to find out which option they preferred.
  • Parents were eager for a decision soon and felt stressed not knowing.
  • Some teachers felt that teaching for 6 days would be stressful.
  • April vacation would be hard because many people have already made vacation plans.
  • Parents in the community still think that July 1st is the last day of school. Parents need to know that other options are now under consideration.

 

Wrap up

 

Dr. Lupini will communicate with parents and share the options for meeting the 180-day requirement.  It would be helpful to have discussions with the School Committee regarding why we have school on some days and not on other days.

 

II.  Approval of Minutes:

A motion was made and seconded to approve the Minutes of the January 24, 2013 meeting with minor changes.  (V. Beauchaine, A. DePew, E. Perez, R. McElroy, D. Dixon, J. Shapiro, A. Hummel, C. Pelton, and T. Gallo-Toth voted to approve the minutes.)

 

A motion was made and seconded to approve the Minutes of the February 7, 2013 meeting with minor changes.  (V. Beauchaine, E. Perez, M. Bienen, T. Gallo-Toth, C. Pelton, A. Hummel, and A. Depew voted to approve the minutes.)

 

III.  Public Comment

Chad Ellis expressed concern about the elimination of the ECS program and support for the virtual high school and grade acceleration. It was mentioned that ECS is not just for the most gifted students but reaches a wide range of students. It also helps teachers. Everyone benefits.  He stated that his family moved here for Runkle and that ECS is the number one reason for being here. It would be a major blow to the education of our children if ECS were removed from the budget.

 

Dr. Beauchaine clarified that ECS is undergoing a program review and that both parent and staff representation are part of this effort.  Dr. Beauchaine said that we would review this issue and address it as a Council in the future following the program review process.

 

IV.  Superintendent/ School Parent Leader Meeting Update

R. McElroy reported that Dr. Lupini shared information about the budget, security and safety of the buildings and what the BSPACE committee is discussing as options to meet the needs in the district due to the increasing enrollment each year.

 

Dr. Lupini is aware that people are very concerned about the future of ECS. It was discussed that ECS is on the restoration list. How it will be restored is open to discussion and adjustment. J. Shapiro suggested that we consider what we can do now to plan for ECS and to shape the restoration.  Parent letters should include what they think the restoration should look like. Parents, teachers and students are very invested in this decision.

 

T. Gallo-Toth shared additional budget cuts that will have other impacts on Runkle. We will have to pay attention to cuts in music, physical education and art. Budget cuts to library will mean that K-3 Library will be a ‘drop-off’ program- a teacher prep time.  How do we define the library in the 21st century? We need to have conversations about what library will look like and try to make this an opportunity for productive collaboration and creative problem solving.

 

What can the Council do to discuss the impact of these cuts on the education of our children? There was agreement that we need to keep people engaged in these important conversations.

 

6:13 p.m. Meeting adjourned.

 

Respectfully Submitted,

Marcy Bienen

 

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