A joint meeting was held June 13 between Union 31 and the various Silver Lake school committees. The meeting began with a reorganization of the Silver Lake Regional School Committee. A unanimous vote named Jason Fraser and Eric Crone to continue to serve as chair and vice chair respectively of the Silver Lake Regional School Committee. The committee also voted to keep Paula Hatch as secretary as well as naming Michael Antoine assistant treasurer. Later in the meeting, Antoine was also named chair of Union 31.
Silver Lake Regional Middle School Principal James Dupille introduced science teacher Kathy Benash who heads up the science club and NASA project at the school as well as several of her students. Benash explained that through the NASA sponsored initiative, students were tasked with inventing something that would help society. Four groups of students presented their inventions to the committees. Among them were an epi-case, a phone case which would hold an EpiPen, as well as an astro sleeve, which would enable astronauts that cannot speak to communicate with other astronauts through an armband with built in speakers, screen, and keyboard.
Benash thanked the committee for their support and expressed how proud she was of her students.
Fraser addressed the students saying, “As a fellow science teacher, I just wanted to comment that each one of your designs and ideas are applicable today. As you were describing how they would improve lives of others,
I was already thinking of other ways they could be implemented into the workplace and into the marketplace. You guys all have marketable ideas right now standing in front of us today.” Fraser added, “I want to buy your products right now.”
Principal Dupille thanked Benash, who is retiring, saying, “It’s teachers like you, and we have some great teachers in these schools, that make all the difference, I think. The opportunities that these kids get at the middle school are a lot more than I did when I was growing up. So, thank you for everything that you’ve done and good luck with the next chapter in your life.”
Benash responded saying, “I am very happy as I retire that these kids are going to eventually take care of us. They’re amazing, amazing children.”
Following the student presentations, the committees then turned their attention to the superintendent search. School committee member Laura Tilton put together a packet with data gathered thus far from the surveys that are open to Silver Lake students and faculty as well as residents of the three towns. Based on Tilton’s analysis of the data, financial management and curriculum development were of high importance to respondents. Other items that were considered important included strong communication skills as well as understanding and recognizing good teaching.
Silver Lake has hired the Massachusetts Association of School Committees to aid in the search. Executive Director Glenn Koocher attended the meeting to go over and make edits to a mockup of the literature which would be distributed to potential candidates. The committee agreed to make changes to the mockup to better align with the issues constituents have pointed out as being of high importance to them. Committee member Leslie-Ann McGee suggested changing selection criteria to KSA’s or knowledge, skills, and abilities. The other major changes requested and agreed upon by the committees centered around the desire for a more aggressive timeline than the one suggested by Koocher.
Of concern was that a sitting superintendent might need to give anywhere from a one to three month notice at their current job. The committees were also eager to ensure that the incoming superintendent’s start date overlap with the final month of current superintendent Joy Blackwood’s tenure to allow for training. According to Koocher the only date that would be immutable would be the closing date for applications. Originally scheduled for September 22 the committee voted to move that date to September 16. Other notable dates include selecting the candidate by early November with a start date set for January 1.
After adjourning all but the Silver Lake Regional School Committee, the meeting continued with a reorganization of the various sub-committees. Tilton, McGee, and Gordon Andrews were named to a new sub-committee, calendar survey, that would brainstorm adjustments to the school calendar and would serve as informational only as no formal votes would take place until presented to the school committee in its entirety.
School start time discussion continues
Also discussed was the sub-committee school start times. Crone mentioned that in the last few months he has been contacted by three separate sets of parents about concerns over school start times. Crone said that based on a Facebook group focused on the issue, there appears to be just as many parents and students against the change as there are for it. While the existence of the sub-committee was deemed necessary, it is unlikely that it will even meet. Fraser explained, “This is more of a statement to acknowledge that there is research stating that our students at the middle school and the high school would benefit from a later start time though we don’t currently have the resources or the resolve to make that a reality here in the district.” Fraser continued, “This continues to be a topic of much discussion and there are several more schools this year that will be adjusting their start times so it is something that we should keep on the radar.”
is a success
The success of the recent high school graduation was a source of laughs and good will during the meeting. Carl Pike of Kingston attended the meeting as a member of the public addressing the committee as follows, “I’d just like to take a quick minute to say that I was fortunate enough to attend both the high school awards ceremony and the high school graduation and I’d like to thank the school committee for the support and the leadership that they provide to our school systems. I thought that both of those occurrences were very well done and I think that a lot of times we hear people concerned about the funds that we spend on education; well there is two examples where we see what a great job we are doing and I for one, say thank you.”
Blackwood spoke fondly of the student tasked with introducing her at graduation. Graduating senior Joe Mirisola presented Blackwood with a diploma he designed for her to celebrate her time at Silver Lake.
Blackwood, who passed the diploma around, joked about how Mirisola had signed her diploma as he had given himself the authority.
Blackwood also told an anecdote about her decision to have herself and the teachers attending graduation sing a Jason Mraz song, Have it All, as a way of doing something special for the graduating class. Blackwood explained that she incorrectly assumed that the teachers’ microphones were turned on while, in fact, the only live microphone was the one she was singing into.
Laughing, Blackwood said, “I sang karaoke to over 1,000 people unintentionally but you have to have a sense of humor in life, right?”