School Committee: Graduation Plans, Student Opportunity Act, Anticipated Budget Deficit, and Continuing Salaries Resolution

At their May 19 meeting, the School Committee heard updates on seniors’ last week and graduation, the district’s Student Opportunity Act submission, continued to address the expected 2020-2021 budget deficits and voted to approve paying salaried workers through the end of the 2019-2020 school year.

Seniors Last Week and Graduation
Following the vote on the revised BHS grading proposal, Principal Galante continued to provide details on the senior class’s last week and graduation plans, along with contingency plans, if they were interrupted by Covid-19. Galante said these plans were designed by a combined effort of the school’s administration, class officers, and a sub-committee of senior parents.

Galante stressed the importance of honoring the senior class as it is not only a particular time for students but for their entire families, especially parents. Galante explained that the graduation of the class of 2020 is special to her since it marks the first class she saw as freshmen when she became the Bedford High principal in 2016.

As part of the school’s effort to support the senior class, Galante described a combined effort of faculty, Bedford and Hanscom residents, and coaches to send a letter to graduating students as part of the “Celebrate-A-Senior” campaign. However, originally intending for each student to receive one letter, the sign-ups were quickly filled, and students are receiving upwards of five letters.

Galante listed other initiatives the school is undertaking to celebrate the class of 2020 graduation, including the delivery of graduation signs by the Bedford Buccaneers and herself. A tribute video is also being compiled by the school administration, which features an original song by Bedford High music teacher Jim Felker. This video is expected early next week.

In lieu of the rescheduled prom for July 22, which class officers believe will not happen, they are planning to hold a class of 2020 reunion over Thanksgiving break. Funds that would have been used on prom will be used to host this event.

In preparation for graduation, Galante explained the school’s “Cap and Gown Drive through Pickup,” where seniors exchange their school supplies, including iPads and textbooks, for their caps and gowns. The drive-through will be celebrated by teachers who will be socially distanced around the Bedford High grounds.

When looking at the possibility of holding in-person graduation, Galante said the school administration is doing their best to fulfill this request that so many students have asked for. Currently, graduation is planned for June 25; however, the Tsongas Center has already contacted Bedford High with doubt that this date would work. Galante named August 13 as the latest date to hold in-person graduation. However, she added that if outdoor graduation was possible, and not the Tsongas Center, the High School would choose to hold the ceremony in an outdoor venue.

Student Opportunity Act Submission
Assistant Superintendent Tricia Clifford updated the School Committee on the district’s Student Opportunity Act (SOA) submission. The Student Opportunity Act intends to close the student achievement gap between many students, Clifford explained. The Student Opportunity Act and its implementation can be read here.

Clifford said that the district’s SOA submission focused on closing the gap between African American or black students, students with disabilities, and economically disadvantaged students. These subgroups were chosen based on a careful analysis of K-5 data, which can expose the achievement gap earlier.

Clifford said Bedford needed to focus on two specific initiatives in part of the district’s efforts to close these identified gaps. The first is research-based literacy programs in pre-kindergarten and early elementary grades. This effort will help ensure that students will be better supported at an earlier level so that they can grow as readers. To track the progress of these programs, Clifford said district would further test students through a variety of assessments. She stressed the importance of the K-5 academic achievement program administrator in the district’s hopes to solve these student achievement gaps, who will analyze the data provided and the programs offered, with extra emphasis on the targeted subgroups, to ensure progress is being made.

The other priority for the district will be supporting a high-quality curriculum that is aligned to the state levels for all students. As part of ensuring that a high-quality curriculum is offered to all students, Clifford spoke of the importance of adding a Grade 3-5 math coach and a K-2 math interventionalist. The addition of these positions will ensure that there are a math coach and interventionalist at both Davis and Lane schools.

The combined total of both initiatives would cost the district a total of $238,320.
Also, part of the Student Opportunity Act is monitoring success through the district’s initiatives. Clifford laid out her measures for success, which included MCAS data, achievement level, and growth percentile in math and language arts, as well as district-specific measures that focused on the assessments given to students in K-5.

The fourth and final commitment that Bedford Public Schools will make through the Student Opportunity Act is to engage in more communication with affected parents. Clifford explained that this enhanced communication with parents is essential and will help solve issues that may arise in a student’s education.

When asked if this plan will continue with the lack of SOA funding due to Covid-19’s effect on state revenues, Superintendent Jon Sills called the implementation more necessary than ever. However, some aspects of the SOA plan will have to be extended until a later date due to budget limitations.

FY21 Anticipated Budget Deficit
Superintendent Sills further addressed the impacts on the anticipated FY21 budget deficit. Sills spoke on the expected increased costs due to cleaning and sanitization equipment. This equipment will be necessary to return to in-person education come September. These additional costs were in addition to the expected increased costs and loss of state funding due to decreased revenue.

However, when discussing where budget cuts will be made, Sills highlighted that the district would not interfere with education. Sills said that the district is looking to make cuts in extracurricular programming, but is reluctant; these programs are essential in the lives of students and are often used to mitigate stress. He said the district would look to cut waste elsewhere and find ways that do not affect students’ education. Through this process, the core principle the district is taking is avoiding cutting positions as they are also crucial to students’ education. 

Continuing Salaries Resolution and Vote
The Bedford School Committee voted to extend a previously made resolution that paid all salaried workers, except for daily substitutes, employed by the Bedford Public Schools through May 4 until the end of the school year.

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