Bedford’s new superintendent of schools begins his second week on the job immersed in the pandemic-induced challenges of trying to plan for the resumption of classes in two months.
“We are working really hard on how we are going to re-enter school. That’s the focus for the summer,” said Philip Conrad. “Together we are going into uncharted territory, and hopefully we will be flexible and safe and smart.”
Conrad emphasized that he and his team are staying on top of requirements issued by the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, including options for in-person, remote, and hybrid school experiences, “to keep everybody safe and healthy.”
The transition in the central office of the Bedford Public Schools is unusual to begin with, as the last new superintendent from outside the district was Joseph Buckley in 1981. Conrad, most recently principal of Andover High School, was selected by the School Committee in March to succeed the retiring Superintendent Jon Sills.
Now Conrad’s arrival is complicated by the exigencies of the coronavirus, but there is a silver lining: Sills is remaining on staff through the summer in the position of associate superintendent.
“Jon and I have a lot of interactions, pretty much on a daily basis, through a lot of different media – in person, on the phone, on Zoom,” Conrad said. “Jon’s presence is an incredible luxury for us because of his institutional knowledge. It is a wonderful way to transition from his leadership to my leadership.”
Conrad has met with, or scheduled conversations with, members of the central office leadership team, building principals and the president of the teachers’ union. Together with his predecessor he will connect with elected and appointed municipal officials. “It has been great to meet people – the welcome has been really wonderful.”
“I really want to get to everybody I can,” Conrad said, and whenever possible in person. Later in the summer, he added, “I hope we can figure out a way to meet with students and parents, outside or virtually.”
The Zoom platform, he observed, “is a great tool, and it has transformed the way we meet with people, the way we learn, maintain relationships, and the way to be able to continue to operate, whether school or businesses.”
On behalf of the Bedford School Committee, I am pleased to present the Fiscal Year 2021 (FY21) School Department Budget. This budget totals $42,031,459, which is a 0.4% increase over the current adjusted FY20 operating budget of $41,844,365. The School Committee also received Finance Committee approval for a $450,000 reserve fund transfer to cover extraordinarily large increases in our special education out of district expenses. This budget reflects reductions made in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Representative Ken Gordon (D-Bedford) and Senator Mike Barrett (D-Lexington) joined their colleagues in the Massachusetts Legislature last week to pass a bill that expands voter access and ensures voters have safe voting options for all remaining 2020 elections, including the September 1, 2020 state primary and November 3, 2020, general election, in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The bill became law on Monday after receiving Governor Charlie Baker’s signature.
The legislation establishes a vote-by-mail option and an early voting period for the upcoming fall elections. In addition to those options, the bill also addresses polling place safety for those who choose to cast their ballots in person.
The Finance Committee has a responsibility for preparing the budget for the Town, as well as providing for recommendations on articles in the Town Meeting Warrant. The committee reviews each article on the Warrant, listens to presentations, asks questions, discusses, and finally votes for a recommendation.
While our recommendations are printed in the warrant, we are presenting additional information about our recommendations in advance of Town Meeting. It is our hope and goal that making this additional information available will be of benefit to the voters.