The Halifax, Plympton, and Kingston school committees were all invited to attend the first portion of the Silver Lake Regional School Committee meeting on Thursday, May 23.
The meeting began with an in-depth discussion of the superintendent search that is to be conducted this summer in order to find a replacement for retiring Superintendent Joy Blackwood. MASC (Massachusetts Association of School Committees) has been hired to aid Silver Lake in conducting the search.
MASC Executive Director Glenn Koocher attended the meeting and spoke to the committees regarding the overall timeline and process for the search. Koocher stated that the goal would be to have promotional materials reviewed and approved by mid-June with the position posted by late June and remaining posted throughout the summer. According to Koocher 80-90 percent of applicants come in the last week with some 60 percent coming in in the final days.
The search committee, which will include members from all four of the district’s school committees as well as members of the school administration, will see all applications. MASC will place the applications into tiers based on their perceived level of qualification. The search committee can elect to look at these tiers or not as they see fit. A wide net will be cast with the position posted to the MASC website which receives 100,000 hits per year as well as a superintendent website which receives a million hits per year.
Of great importance to the committee members was that the new superintendent have a lengthy tenure with Silver Lake. There was mutual agreement that the committee wanted to avoid the so-called revolving door that seems to be the new way for superintendents in Massachusetts with most averaging around three years in a given school district. Current Superintendent Blackwood began her tenure when the current graduating class was starting kindergarten.
Koocher explained that while a standard contract is usually for three years, as part of the interview process, the search committee could certainly question applicants as to whether or not they still saw themselves in the district in five years’ time. Silver Lake Regional School Committee member Edward Desharnais stated that he would like to see someone hired who has spent a decade or longer of their career actually teaching in a classroom rather than someone who had spent less time teaching and more time doing strictly administrative work. Regional experience was also deemed an important search criterion as the new superintendent will have to work with four school committees, three boards of selectmen, three finance committees, as well as all the other considerations that come along with a three-town district combining for a total of five schools. Chair of the Plympton School Committee Jon Wilhelmsen reminded the committees that no one applicant is going to have all of the experience and qualities wanted while Regional School Committee Secretary Paula Hatch spoke of the need for chemistry and again reiterated the importance of choosing a candidate that will be willing to marry the district. Regional School Committee Chair Jason Fraser said, “I’ve had several people from all three of the towns say that they believe this is the most important municipal position we have in the three towns and I could not agree more.”
A compensation package was also discussed. “We’re looking for a superintendent for a very dynamic superintendency; we’re also looking for a superintendent to come in in an off cycle mid-year,” Fraser said. Fraser based his proposed salary on data as well as current superintendent salaries in like communities saying, “The number that I’m looking at as a salary range would be $170,000 to $190,000. That’s the salary range I’d like us to publish to get the attention of the candidates we’d like to see.”
The school committees will meet on June 13 to vote on materials and authorize the distribution of materials as well as the posting of the position.
Elliot Glass, Director of Career and Technical Programs at Silver Lake, gave an update on the various community programs that the CTE students have been working on as of late. The greenhouse construction project at the back of the high school is on track and should be complete by the end of June. CTE students at Silver Lake have also lent their skills to various projects in all three of their local communities. Students were tasked with designing and landscaping a portion of the area at the Halifax playground. Carpentry finished their garage on Lake St. in Kingston and will also be assisting with some of the structures at Gray’s Beach. The metal fabrication department has been working on replacing the flag pole at Dennett Elementary School in Plympton.
Silver Lake CTE
A presentation was also given on the newest CTE program offered at Silver Lake as of this year. Allied Health teacher Kathryn Morini was present as were two of her students. In just its first year, the Allied Health program was the most requested of the CTE offerings. Students in the program have already earned their stop the bleed and CPR certifications and will undergo domestic violence training in the fall to certify them as domestic violence interventionists. Students within the program will test for their CNA (certified nursing assistant) and HHA (home health aide) in their junior year, gaining them employability as well as a leg up in applying to nursing school and more, to continue their education.
Morini spoke about the enormity of the healthcare field citing the opportunity for employment in both the medical and business sides of the industry. Students attended a career fair where a wide range of representatives were brought in including owners of care vendors, the CEO of Linden Ponds, OR nurses, physical therapists, and such. “We just had a whole gamut of different people come up and talk to the kids about all the different career fields that they could go down and the doors that would be open to them really if they took on this field of study,” Morini explained.
Glass commended Morini for her extensive connections in the field and her ability to use those connections to further the students’ experience. Regarding the future of the program Morini said, “The main goal for the first year was to make sure that they learned it, retained it, and now they’re applying it. We’ll come back next year and we’ll do more and hit the ground running.”
Blackwood gave an update on the school related matters that were voted on at the various town meetings. Kingston, Plympton, and Halifax unanimously voted the Silver Lake assessments despite increases, a fact Fraser credits to the towns’ trust in Blackwood’s leadership. Blackwood also gave an update on the article to add a part-time school resource officer at the middle school which was voted on at both the Plympton and Halifax town meetings. Plympton supported the article while Halifax did not. Neither the finance committee nor the selectmen voted to support the article in Halifax and it failed to pass by a vote of 68-44. The vote was the final one of the evening in Halifax, occurring at nearly 11pm.
While Kingston, Plympton, and Halifax all seem to support the concept of a school resource officer at the middle school, the mechanism to pay for that officer has been a major point of contention for the finance committee and board of selectmen in Halifax since the idea was first introduced.
Kingston supported a part time school resource officer at the high school for four years and has been funding a full-time officer as of this year. By law, the school resource officers at the high school and middle school have to be Kingston police officers as the schools are located within their jurisdiction. The current school resource officer spends 99 percent of his time at the high school so Blackwood and other members of the administration feel strongly about bringing in an additional resource officer to increase security at the middle school.
The plan, for the first year only, was to put it as a warrant article and then have the towns come up with an intermunicipal agreement where they would reimburse Kingston for the cost of that resource officer. With only Plympton voting through the article, there is now only $14,000 (Plympton’s share of the cost) allotted toward funding for the part time resource officer at the middle school. While this means that the officer will not be available as often as if Halifax had also voted in favor, there will still be somewhat of a consistent police presence at the middle school; an improvement over the current situation.
Blackwood is determined to find a solution to fund the officer that will work for all three towns moving forward. The problem with placing the cost within the school budget is that it changes the assessment and adds to Kingston’s cost. The only equitable solution for the towns would be to add 1.5 resource officers into the budget. The problem with this approach is that it would result in having to make roughly $150,000 in cuts from the school budget.
Having the resource officers included in the school budget doesn’t make sense to Blackwood as she explains, “They are not my employee. I don’t evaluate them. I don’t pay their health insurance. It’s a very difficult thing. We are not year-round. Police officers are year-round. We are only 184 days.” Old Rochester, the nearest, most comparable district to Silver Lake funds their resource officers by putting the cost into each of the town’s police budgets. Blackwood said, “I know I’m leaving but I have not cut back on the goals in my agenda. One of my hopes for this fall is to get something in place before I’m done. I am here full time, until I’m not. Security has been something that I have really focused on and I’m hopeful that we can come to an agreement that everybody can live with.”