The Halifax School Committee met in-person on Monday, May 9. Committee Chair Summer Schmaling began the meeting by opening it for public participation.
Elizabeth Antoine asked to speak on behalf of the Halifax Teachers’ Association (HTA). “We are here as the HTA to express that we are disappointed and disheartened at the School Committee’s role in the negotiation process. Your lack of compromise, good faith, and collaboration has brought negative consequences to our staff’s morale and most importantly to our work environment,” Antoine said. She mentioned that the school employees were the only town employees not to receive a stipend in 2021. Antoine said that the school employees felt that they were not valued.
A parent also spoke on behalf of the teachers thanking them for all that they do for the children of Halifax. “Please know that you are supported and appreciated by a large group of parents in this community,” she said. She pointed out that seven neighboring communities have all offered greater increases to their teachers in the last year and many of those communities have job openings posted. “I can assure you if you drive our dedicated teachers out of Halifax, no one will be waiting in the wings to replace them,” she said. Committee member James Keegan said that he took “great offense” at the suggestion that the School Committee doesn’t respect the teachers. The meeting was well attended and according to Schmaling there were residents outside holding signs in support of teachers.
Donald Cline also asked to speak. “We would like to run a fundraiser at the elementary school. My son, who is 16, has been shaving his head for One Mission for kids with cancer for the last six years,” Cline explained. He said that his son has also sold candy at baseball games to earn money for the cause. Cline, who identified himself as a cancer survivor, said that he and his wife have also shaved their heads for the last several years. Cline said his son has started a club for One Mission fundraising at the high school. A scheduled event will be held on May 22 on the town green where Teeka Lynne’s Hair Salon will be shaving heads or giving haircuts for a donation for One Mission. “Last year, our fundraising team came in sixth place in the State with over $6,000 raised,” Cline said to rousing applause. He said that this year’s team has already raised over $6,000. Cline asked for permission to collect change at the school and hand out flyers for the event on May 22. Schmaling said they would run the request by administration and get back to the Clines.
Schmaling requested that the Committee discuss the use of the school logo by candidates running for public office. She said that a candidate was campaigning using the Halifax Elementary School logo in their efforts. “I just want to make a statement that the School Committee or the Elementary School or the Regional Middle and High School do not endorse any public candidate running for public office,” Schmaling said.
The Committee also had a discussion regarding supporting Silver Lake Regional and Plympton Elementary School Committee member Jason Fraser’s bid for Vice President of the Massachusetts Association of School Committees (MASC). “He’s just wonderful; he’s been a resource for us in the past,” Schmaling said. Committee member Gordon C. Andrews concurred. Schmaling said that he has a lot of influence at the State House due to his legislative work and noted that he was constantly advocating for the district. The Committee voted to endorse Fraser in the endeavor.
Superintendent Jill Proulx told the Committee that they had a request to change half days from Wednesdays to Thursdays. She also told them, “We have been informed by our Food Services Director that starting next year all school days students must be provided with lunch and that lunch must be provided in a congregate setting; the grab and go option will not be a possibility in the way that it has been in the pandemic.” As a result, Proulx requested a 12:45 release for specific, affected days. She did note that the day before the Thanksgiving break posed a particular difficulty but said that they would try and provide breakfast in a congregate setting on that day as well. Keegan asked why half days were requested to be moved to Thursdays and was told by Proulx that the request was made by the Kingston Teacher’s Association. Keegan said that he would like to hear from the Halifax Teacher’s Association as well. Antoine spoke up saying that Thursday was their preference as well. The Committee voted in favor of the calendar changes as presented by Proulx.
Proulx provided a few more updates including that the COVID 19 testing program has been extended through the remainder of the school year. She said that a change to chronic absenteeism was being suggested from 10 percent to 20 percent. The change was being proposed given encouraged absenteeism when children are sick since the advent of the pandemic.
Keegan provided a brief update saying that the school newspaper was up and running. He also said that youth and rec are trying to bring back a night at the Pawtucket Red Sox in July. He said that the department is also planning a fifth and sixth grade social to return to some pre-COVID normalcy.