School Committee Responds to Redistricting
Also, updates on school construction projects and Special Education iPod initiative.
With the elementary school redistricting committee meeting tomorrow, Tuesday, March 15, Supt. Mark Donovan made the presentation to the School Committee this past Thursday night. Donovan has already made redistricting presentations at four elementary schools.
The working draft of the redistricting plan calls for all students who would otherwise attend the Goodyear School, but are currently at the Clapp School, to go to the new Goodyear when it opens, along with 100 Clapp School students. Sixty-three Clapp School students would go to the Malcolm White Elementary School.
The Clapp School will close as a public school at the end of this school year; the new Goodyear is expected to be completed this summer.
Donovan said he had not received a lot of comments on the working draft or the three other ideas that the committee had considered.
“I thought (redistricting) would go one way,” he said. “It went another.”
The superintendent had hoped for a “richer discussion” on the Web site, he said. Slides from the presentation are available on the redistricting site.
He is concerned that people are “unhappy behind the scenes” about the proposal. “Everyone can’t be happy,” he said.
But he does not want parents to say, “'We didn’t know what was going on,' or 'You never gave us a say,'” he told the committee.
Two committee members had some questions about the proposal. Dr. John Wells asked if some Goodyear students could be redistricted to the Shamrock or White Schools. You’re taking Clapp students past the Shamrock School to the Goodyear and White Schools, he said.
No, because of the distribution of the student population, Donovan said.
What about moving some students from the White School to the Wyman? Wells asked.
“We said students would go to new schools (building-wise)," Donovan replied.
School Committee member Christopher Kisiel pointed to morning traffic on Montvale Avenue; the new Goodyear School is at the corner of Montvale Avenue and Central Street.
Could all Goodyear students go to one place—to the administrative offices at the Joyce Middle School, if those offices moved? asked Kisiel.
Renovation costs would be substantial, Donovan responded.
You gave people ample opportunity to comment on the redistricting draft, committee member Joseph Crowley told the superintendent. If they complain privately, “Shame on them,” he added. Students will be fine wherever they go, Crowley said.
A woman in the audience there on another subject said there is room at the White School but pick-up and drop-off are issues there now.
Goodyear School construction update
A lot of progress has been made inside the new Goodyear School, Donovan told the School Committee; work on the outside is a little slow, he said, but still within the “margin of error.”
Some change orders have saved a small amount of money, he said; he did not elaborate on the amount.
A “mock-up” classroom should be ready for viewing, Donovan said, by the end of the month.
A tour will be planned thereafter, said committee Chairman Patricia Chisholm.
The city will get $180,000 back for the $200,000 in insurance after three break-in and vandalism incidents at the Goodyear site, Chisholm said. The city has to pay a total of $15,000: a deductible of $5,000 for each break, she said.
Roof repairs at the Joyce and Kennedy Middle Schools
Repairs will be more extensive than first imagined, Donovan told the committee. He did not cite a dollar figure.
The implication of the need for roof work, according to committee member Wells, is that the school department does not take care of school roofs. That responsibility rests with the mayor, he said.
The city will still be reimbursed roughly half the cost of the work, the superintendent said.
The work will still start on time—when the school year ends—and the company doing the repairs will have to work hard to meet the deadline, Donovan said, to have the work done before school starts in the fall.
iPods a hit
The 40 iPods used by students in special education programs are a huge hit with both teachers and students, according to a presentation by Christine Lenehan, director of special education, and speech pathologist Meghan Heydt.
“It’s a game-changer,” Lenehan said of the devices. Compared with other communities, “We are the envy of a lot of folks.”
Students with autism are drawn to technology over people, the speech pathologist said. So watching a video is more successful for them, according to research, than watching a teacher, she said. The devices can show students what to do—to follow a recipe, for example, or welcome someone into the classroom—with images and text. Further, the portable devices can “read” material, giving students sound as well as sight input.
Students can access books, textbooks and video and the staff can print out work done during the day at school, connecting school and home.
Most apps are free, Lenehan said, or very inexpensive.
The special education department is keeping data on each student’s progress, to review at the end of the school year, Lenehan said in response to a question about how students are progressing with the devices.