MASC Academic Excellence Awards
The Silver Lake Regional School Committee met Thursday, Oct. 27. Superintendent Jill Proulx told the Committee, “On behalf of the Mass Association of School Superintendents I’m honored to present two certificates of academic excellence to two graduating seniors each year; this award is given to two Silver Lake seniors who have distinguished themselves in pursuit of excellence during their high school careers. Both Anna Billings and Caroline McKenna, who is here with us this evening, have distinguished themselves in terms of their three-year cumulative averages and both are in the top percent of the class of 2023.” Of McKenna, Proulx said she participates in field hockey, band, marching band, jazz band, drama, National Honor Society, and the Journalism Club. She also works at CVS and volunteers at the Kingston Public Library. McKenna’s father, who was also in attendance, thanked the school and the school system for all they have done for his children.
Committee Chair Paula Hatch let everyone know that Chris Eklund had rejoined the Committee. “We’re thrilled, he’s been very generous with his time,” Hatch said. He is filling the position of Leslie-Ann McGee who resigned from her seat. Hatch said that Eklund had been added to the negotiations subcommittee since he had previously served on it. Committee member Jason Fraser nominated Lukasz Kowalski for the now open position of secretary. Committee member Summer Schmaling seconded the nomination, and the Committee voted unanimously to appoint Kowalski as secretary. Fraser joined the school start time subcommittee.
Approval for Seaview Learning Academy
Hatch brought up some old business from previous meetings regarding the District’s approval of a school at Camp Norse in Kingston. Hatch said that they were now in possession of all the items required on the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) checklist. Schmaling made a motion to approve Seaview Learning Academy to operate within the District and the Committee voted to approve it.
Charles Demeulle Memorial Bench
Jeanine Nastar, an educator at Silver Lake Regional Middle School, spoke regarding the untimely passing of student Charles Demeulle in June. She called it “the saddest reason I have ever reached out to our school community in my entire life.” She continued saying, “Through the generosity of the staff and the Silver Lake Regional School District, we brought the Demeulle/Riley family food, we sent flowers to memorial services, we gave the family over $1,000 in gift cards to local establishments and stores, and still had leftover money to a more permanent celebration of his life.” A student reached out in August with a suggestion for a more permanent reminder of her schoolmate. “This was by far the most painful, beautiful, rewarding, humbling fundraiser I have ever done,” Nastar said. She said that Demeulle “presented himself in the most positive way he could every day” despite a number of physical and emotional struggles. “He was kind, he was grateful, and he was fragile,” Nastar said. “We have raised over $2,000 for a memorial bench to be installed by Quincy Memorial; our hope is to invite the entire school community for a brief dedication ceremony in November,” Nastar continued.
High School Principal Michaela Gill said that the school has secured a flight to Disney for the out of State field trip for the music program. “It’s good to have that tradition back on the calendar,” Gill said. Gill also said it was requested last month that she share with the Committee the school’s protocols and responses when incidents involving bullying or harassment are reported. “There are actually very few substantiated bullying incidents in the last six years,” Gill told the Committee. She continued, “I would say though that there are many more cases of substantiated civil rights violations, discriminatory behaviors, and harassment.” She said that per the handbook these offenses are suspendable. “It’s not just about prescribing discipline, it really is about helping the student grow and learn from that experience which is why discipline is often progressive and you may not necessarily get a suspension the first time,” Gill said. She also said that they have begun focusing on restorative justice in the last few years.
MCAS Presentation and Results
Assistant Superintendent Ryan Lynch provided some MCAS results for Grades 7-12 as he has done at all of the recent elementary school committee meetings over the last month. He reminded the Committee that in 2020 no test was administered, in 2021, a half test was administered, and in the spring of 2022 the full test was given. Regarding the State-wide assessment following the pandemic, Lynch said, “There’s been some progress in math, ELA scores declined, and science scores increased slightly.” Lynch said that 43 percent of Silver Lake students in 7th and 8th grade are meeting or exceeding expectations compared to 41 percent State-wide. “Our goal really is to make more progress toward our students meeting or exceeding expectations… our goal is to make progress against sort of the setback we’ve seen over the last three years due to the pandemic and absenteeism,” Lynch continued. He said that the State assesses students on not only achievement but also growth. He said that Silver Lake had slightly lower growth in ELA at the Middle School compared to the State overall. Lynch said that 60 percent of Silver Lake high school students are meeting or exceeding expectations in ELA compared to 58 percent State-wide. He said that they had lower growth in ELA compared to State-wide.
For math, 43 percent of Silver Lake middle school students are meeting or exceeding expectations compared to 39 percent State-wide. The Middle School has slightly higher growth and achievement in math compared to the rest of the State. Sixty-one percent of Silver Lake high school students are meeting or exceeding expectations compared to 49 percent State-wide. Lynch noted that the District’s goals do not focus solely on test taking and enhancing test scores.
At Silver Lake, students in Grades 5, 8, and 9 took the Science MCAS. For Silver Lake eighth graders, 45 percent of students are meeting or exceeding expectations compared to 42 percent State-wide. For Grade 9, 46 percent of students are meeting or exceeding expectations compared to 49 percent State-wide. He said that this was the first year of the Next Generation Assessment in physics for those Grade 9 students.
Committee member Gordon Laws asked what the time frame was for the goal of having 70 percent of students meeting or exceeding expectations across all content areas. He further asked how realistic it was to expect that. “It’s ambitious; the goal is for the results that we receive in the fall of 2024 to reflect movement in that 70 percent goal,” Proulx said. “Statistically how likely is it? I think more importantly is that we set the goal and keep working until we reach it,” she continued. Regarding MCAS Proulx noted that it was not the only measure of a school’s success or a child’s potential. Laws noted that across a number of different careers, test taking is mandatory and said that he doesn’t believe that the school needs to apologize for focusing on test results.
Proulx said that the administrative team met regarding the role of a support team to provide interventions and supports for students who may be struggling. She also said that herself, Lynch, the building principals, and the Police and Fire Departments from all three towns met to review their emergency response plans. Proulx noted that the budget timeline has been released. She said that in January, herself and Director of Business Services Christine Healy would present the preliminary FY24 budget to the School Committee. In February, the public budget hearing will be held and in March, the School Committee will be voting the FY24 budgets prior to them being voted on at the various town meetings. She also told the Committee that homeschool enrollment has decreased overall since last year. Regarding FY24 assessments, Proulx said that Halifax has remained steady, Kingston’s has declined, and Plympton’s has increased slightly. Regarding shared costs, Proulx said that Halifax’s percentage has decreased, Kingston’s has increased, and Plympton’s has decreased.
Migrant Students from Kingston
Schmaling asked Proulx if she could address the news that an estimated 20 students would be entering the school district from Kingston. Though not explicitly stated, the assumption was that these students are English Language Learners. According to The Boston Globe, a group of over 100 migrants, most from Haiti, have been housed in a hotel in Kingston. That group is thought to include 64 children with an estimated 20 of them being school-aged. Proulx said that DESE is working with her on ways that they could potentially assist the district with the large influx of students. Schmaling expressed concern that the District would not receive enough financial support to offset the burden. Others on the Committee said that they heard that the number could be nearly double the 20-student estimate. Hatch said that she assumed that by the next meeting she anticipates them having a better idea of where these students will land.
Reports of Standing Committees
Ashley Ferreira spoke on behalf of the Silver Lake Education Association (SLEA). She spoke about how data is used for intervention purposes. “Me as the junior coach, I’m looking at students who have one or more F’s… how can we help these kids because one F turns into two and there’s a snowball effect. Two or more F’s and the kids are not engaged in things because they can’t,” Ferreira said.
For CTE, Fraser said that Elliot Glass had his advisory dinner the week previous. “It was in the lobby of the high school; it was like walking into a completely different building,” Fraser said. He further said that a CTE meeting would be held in mid-November to start talking about some different possibilities for expanding CTE in the future.
For PAC, the October meeting was said to be mainly housekeeping. They discussed the audit which was described as very clean as well as the reorganization of the subcommittee.
For SAFER, Fraser said that they looked at the air handler which he said is part of the original CTE building from 1976. He said that replacing it would provide better air quality for that wing of the building. He also said that they would be holding a tri-town meeting in early December where they would be advocating for new HVAC systems in those areas of the building.
For the School Start Times subcommittee, a website is being created to educate people on school start times. There is also a survey for Grades 7-12 that may be sent out.
The update for Union 31 included the assumption that the preschool would be added to the regional agreement umbrella. “We met with DESE… they were pleased to hear it,” Hatch said. Proulx added that a waiver would allow for the District to continue to function in the same way that they have been since 2004.