The Silver Lake Regional School Committee met in-person on Thursday, July 14. They began with a moment of silence in honor of seventh grade student Charles Demuelle who passed away in late June. Superintendent Jill Proulx was unexpectedly unable to attend the meeting.
Seaview Learning Academy Approval
Assistant Superintendent Ryan Lynch explained to the Committee that Camp Norse is a micro school known as Seaview Learning Academy that wishes to extend from K-8 to K-12. Lynch said that when a school wishes to operate in the same municipality as a main district, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) requires that permission be granted from the other district. Lynch said the intent was for the Director of Camp Norse to come and explain the request, but they were unable to attend that night. Proulx called in to the meeting to provide further explanation. Committee member Summer Schmaling said she was in favor of alternative schools and learning opportunities but said she would like to hear from the Director before approving. The Committee agreed to hold off on approving until their September meeting.
Whitman-Hanson De-regionalization Update
Committee Chair Paula Hatch told the Committee that while Hanson had previously expressed interest in potentially leaving Whitman-Hanson and regionalizing with Silver Lake, they no longer wish to explore that option.
Hatch also told the Committee that they received an email from DESE that week regarding the Silver Lake Preschool. “We all did receive an email from Jill updating everybody that we did have a discussion with DESE on Monday and we will need to make some changes to that program,” Hatch said. She said the matter would be discussed further in executive session.
Lynch told the Committee that per DESE the District is required to have a wellness committee that meets a minimum of four times per year. He said that himself, Nutrition Director Megan Ahrenholz, the school nurses, and the Director of Wellness and Athletics serve on the Committee. “We make sure that the wellness policy is aligned with DESE and federal guidelines,” Lynch explained. He said that there were a few updates to the District’s policy to bring them up to date with those guidelines. Committee member Gordon Laws asked why the minimum 20-minute time frame for lunch was struck from the updated policy. Lynch said that while the goal is certainly to ensure that students have an adequate time to eat lunch, they didn’t want the policy to be too restrictive in the cases of things like grab-and-go lunches.
Lynch also provided an update on the homeschooling policy. He said that a parent intending to homeschool must provide written consent and information at least 14 days prior to the beginning of the school year. The Superintendent and School Committee must then evaluate the request against the criteria stated in the policy.
Technology Director Steve Pellowe requested that an update be made to the technology policy. “It would be against school policy for students or employees to run a mobile device as a hotspot during school hours because it would interfere with the school’s wi-fi. Another thing Mr. Pellowe brough up is if a student or staff member were to create a hotspot and use a school issued device, they would be sort of skirting the filters and other pieces like that the school has in place to ensure that students are accessing educationally appropriate and relevant content,” Lynch explained.
Director of Financial Services Christine Healy provided a budget update. “So with the funding of the operating budget this year, we received $561,000 in addition to what we had budgeted for revenue from a couple of different sources; one of those sources is the Pembroke CTE tuition…this year for the first time more than half of our eighth graders applied for the CTE program for next year so we do not have room for Pembroke students in the ninth grade for next year… so that number will not be the same for next year,” Healy explained. She also said that they received 100 percent reimbursement for homeless transportation this year which she explained was much higher than previous years. She also explained that additional reimbursements would be coming from ARPA expenditures. “It will be about $681,000 that will be going back to E&D [excess and deficiency account],” she told the Committee. The money in that fund is used to fund the Capital Plan on an annual basis.
Lynch began the District update by introducing the new HR Director David Turcotte. “We are really excited to have David on board in this position; he was a teacher and an administrator in Newton as well as an administrator in Canton and filled the role of HR Director in Salem,” Lynch said of Turcotte.
A donation request was made for a piano from Committee member Leslie-Ann McGee. The Committee voted to approve the request and the associated costs of moving the piano.
SLEA President Jon Lay spoke to the Committee requesting more money for paraprofessionals to stay competitive with other local districts. “A lot of other districts are realizing that paras are chronically underpaid for what they do and I do think we are going to see more and more difficulty attracting paras,” Lay said.