(EDITOR'S NOTE: The following is from the Sudbury Public Schools Committee.)
On November 16, the Sudbury School Committee held a regularly scheduled meeting at Israel Loring School. The main topics of discussion were the following:
1) Loring State of the School
2) Other Post-Employment Benefits (OPEB)
3) Pre-school Parent Coffees
5) ELA Curriculum Leader and Assistant Superintendent Searches
LORING STATE OF THE SCHOOL
Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) Co-Chairs Katey Detraglia and Michelle Titus opened the State of the School portion of the meeting with a presentation by Detraglia that highlighted the work of the PTO. This parent-run organization coordinates family events at various times during the year and funds educational enrichment programs and technology purchases (such as ActivBoards, laptop carts, and a new audio-visual system) for the school.
Principal Jeffery Dees presented the State of through a theme of "Bringing Your Purpose." Bringing Your Purpose means that through a commitment by people to create and sustain an effective learning environment within a culture that embraces the school's core values, students are able to grow, both academically and socially. Effective teachers, through their attitudes, expertise, and efforts, have a significant impact on student achievement.
According to a study conducted by Sanders and Horn in 1994 (reviewed in Marzano, 2003), there exists a 39 percentage point difference in student achievement between students with "most effective" and "least effective" teachers. Effective teachers plan effective lessons and believe that all students are capable of learning.
At Loring, as in all schools in Sudbury Public Schools, data teams are studying assessment results in order to ensure accessibility of the curriculum to all students and to fine-tune differentiated lessons that will reach each student. Through these efforts, the staff is focused on closing the achievement gap in MCAS results at Loring between the aggregate of students in Grades 3-5 and the group of students with special needs in the same grades.
Other efforts to support reading, writing, and math are being implemented at Loring with a goal to provide differentiated instruction that supports all students. Flexible grouping across classrooms is a structure that will be employed to provide this differentiation. In order to fully support all students, including those who are the most advanced learners, an adequate number of teachers is required. There was some discussion during the meeting about the need for more resources to accomplish this goal.
The social aspect of education is closely linked to the culture of a school. At Loring, all students are taught the core values of the school: respect, responsibility, best effort and caring. These values contribute to the students' belief that they are welcomed by adults and other students and are connected to adults in the school. Teachers, administrators, support staff, and parents create an environment at Loring for students to learn and grow.
Dees thanked the PTO for its considerable support and donations. He also asked the School Committee to provide funding for more technology in the school and to provide for the maintenance of technology tools already in place.
OTHER POST-EMPLOYMENT BENEFITS (OPEB)
Finance Committee Chair Jim Rao discussed the liability of Other Post-Employment Benefits (OPEB), which is the amount owed for benefits, primarily health benefits, for current and future retired town and school employees. The most recent available data specifies that as of 2009, the OPEB liability for Sudbury was $65.8 Million. This includes $36.4 Million for the town and SPS and $29.4 million for . Similar to other towns in Massachusetts, at present, neither the Town of Sudbury nor L-S is setting aside any money for payment of future benefits, but instead is paying retiree expenses in the year they are incurred on a pay-as-you-go basis.
In the future, Massachusetts may require municipalities to pre-fund OPEB liabilities through some instrument, such as a trust. At present, Wellesley is the only town in Massachusetts that has begun to fund their future OPEB liability. According to Wellesley's 2008 Town Report, "Town Meeting approved an $18 million capital exclusion to be added to the tax levy for the fiscal years 2008 through 2017 ($1.8 million per year for 10 years), and the Town is paying another $1.2 million per year within the levy to fund the estimated annual required contribution."
Rao discussed the need to raise public awareness about both the OPEB liability and Sudbury's eventual responsibility to establish a funding mechanism for it. The Finance Committee will provide information about OPEB liability in this year's Town Warrant. There will be opportunities in the future for discussion and education relevant to this topic.
PRE-SCHOOL PARENT COFFEES
On Nov. 15, the School Committee, Superintendent Dr. Anne Wilson, and Early Childhood Director Linda Karpeichik hosted two coffees for parents and guardians of preschoolers. Notices were submitted to Sudbury Patch, the Sudbury Town Crier, and Sudbury Family Network. Additionally, invitations were delivered to the directors of the Sudbury preschools for distribution to the parents and guardians of the children who attend their schools.
The purpose of these informal gatherings was for preschool families to learn about Sudbury's K-8 schools, to meet Dr. Wilson, and to ask questions. Both coffees were well-attended. Parents requested that the School Committee provide another opportunity for this type of gathering later in the school year so that they can remain informed about topics affecting the district. The School Committee thanks everyone who attended the coffees and is grateful to Noyes PTO Co-Chairs, Lisa Potter, and Terrie Hallal, for speaking about the work of the PTOs and the opportunities for parents to be involved in the schools.
Dr. Wilson recognized the 5th Grade Safety Patrol at who provided an informative guided tour of the school during her visit. She commented on the excellent student work that was displayed throughout the school. Dr. Wilson also discussed her visit to and her observation of the extensive focus on academic standards and encouragement of creativity. At both schools, she was impressed by the great deal of respect between teachers and students.
ELA CURRICULUM LEADER & ASSISTANT SUPERINTENDENT SEARCHES
The interview process has begun for the English Language Arts (ELA) Curriculum Leader position. Additionally, the Assistant Superintendent position has been posted, and Dr. Wilson anticipates interviews to begin in December. Dr. Judith Malone-Neville, the school district's interim Assistant Superintendent, will serve until June 30.