The Plympton School Committee met Monday Sept. 23 for the first time since the school year began.
Vice Chair Jason Fraser gave an update on the new playground, explaining that plans with the original vendor lined up to complete the project have fallen through.
The committee took a vote to allow Dennett Elementary School Principal Peter Veneto and Fraser to allocate some funds, not to exceed $10,000, to hire a consultant only after exhausting the option to cold call some of the vendors on the state bid list.
“We’re very grateful to have the opportunity and we realize that this is a once in a lifetime opportunity for the school and we want to be sure we are using the funds in a prudent manner,” Fraser said.
Committee Chair Jon Wilhelmsen gave an update on the water testing saying the most recent round of testing showed no problems with lead, manganese, or any other concerning substances. Wilhelmsen reiterated that from the best they can tell, the unfavorable results that had previously been found were a result of the sample being pulled concurrently with the backwashing cycle that occurs once every seven days. The plan moving forward is to avoid testing on a backwash day.
Wilhelmsen said that he attended a preliminary screening committee meeting that met to review candidates for Superintendent. Current Superintendent Joy Blackwood will be retiring later this year and the hope is to have some overlap between Blackwood and the incoming Superintendent.
The goal of the preliminary screening committee is to review and screen candidates for the broader committee to look at during the first week of October. Wilhelmsen said, “The process is moving along and is on schedule.” A meeting will be held on October 10 at 6 p.m. at Silver Lake Regional High School’s library to announce the semi-finalists. All four school committees in the district have been invited to attend the meeting.
Veneto gave an update on upcoming dates of importance at Dennett. Fall pictures are scheduled for September 30. There will be no school on October 14, Columbus Day. October 24 will be an early release day with a 12:45 dismissal for parent-teacher conferences.
The following day, October 25, will be the Grade 6 field trip to 5 Wits and that night will be the CASA sponsored Halloween dance from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Fraser said to Veneto, “This is the first time we’ve been with you since the beginning of school and I would just like to ask you to thank your staff for all the time that they put in over the summer going to PD, setting up their classrooms, and making this school a welcoming environment for the students on day one. I know a lot of work goes into it behind the scenes so thank you very much and please pass that to your entire staff.”
State House budget will impact district’s local schools
Fraser shared with the committee that the State House failed to arrive at a budget by June 30. Fraser said that the conference committee has released their agreement on Chapter 70 funding and that it has not been voted on yet as it is currently up for discussion and going back to both the House and the Senate.
According to Fraser, rural schools appear to be getting some attention with funding from the state. Fraser said, “It seems like education may have earned a win here in the last innings of 2019 but it is still too early to give any news about exactly how it may impact us so stay tuned to the State House.”
The committee voted to allow Fraser to represent the Dennett School and the Plympton School Committee at the MASC’s (Massachusetts Association of School Committees) November Delegate Assembly where resolutions will be voted.
Polystyrene ban considered by 2022-2023 school year
Resolution one calls for banning polystyrene foam from schools by the 2022-2023 school year, something Fraser said is thanks in part to the efforts of the Plympton School Committee.
“It really stems from some of the conversations we’ve had as a school committee over the last five years and trying to move away from using polystyrene foam here at the Dennett and moving to compostable trays,” Fraser said. Additionally, there are attempts being made at the State House to ban Styrofoam from the state in totality due to the negative environmental impact.
Title I and II funding decreased by state
Assistant Superintendent Jill Proulx said that cuts were made to Title I and Title II funding. Title I decreased by over $100,000 and Title II funding decreased by over $16,000 since last year. Title II funding is a primary source of professional development funds. Professional development ensures that the practices employed by the district are the most up-to-date and research based. Fraser pointed out how these cuts demonstrate the ways in which what happens in Washington D.C. affects our local schools. Regarding the cuts to Title I funding Blackwood said, “It will definitely impact our ability for summer school next year. That is our main concern at this point is what we’ll be able to do and offer.”
District-wide elementary students sing a capella
Blackwood shared a touching anecdote from Opening Day. The Elementary school students from both Halifax and Kingston were scheduled to sing together despite not having much, if any, practice as a combined group.
They were to perform first and when the music started, the timing was off and Blackwood likened it to Alvin and the Chipmunks. After much struggling on the part of the music teachers, Blackwood suggested that the students sing a cappella. The young students did just that in front of the hundreds of faculty members, etc. present. “They were flawless,” Blackwood said.
“I can’t tell you how well they modeled being resilient and having a growth mindset.” Blackwood also praised the students from the middle school who performed scenes from The Wizard of Oz.
Monday was Dennett Elementary School secretary Gail Thibeault’s last meeting. Thibeault spent eight years at Dennett and twelve at Halifax. Blackwood said, “Gail has always been incredibly dependable and will roll up her sleeves and do anything at all that she’s asked. I know that at a personal level, I will truly miss her.” Blackwood continued, “Thank you Gail for all that you’ve done, you’ve been a joy to work with.”