On Monday, September 14, 2020, I had an appointment in Massachusetts. On the way home, I stopped at Shawsheen Cemetery to pay my respects to my family, interred there; longtime residents of Bedford.
I was appalled at the condition of my family’s gravesites (12 total) at Shawsheen Cemetery. There was no grass and weeds had taken over. The graves hadn’t been weeded (pictures attached). Last Spring I made my stance well known on the Bedford site on Facebook and I wasn’t alone.
I haven’t been to a political demonstration in a few years. Having been distressed by the news in recent months, I decided to show up and make a statement with other Bedford citizens in support of the idea that Black lives matter.
Superintendent Conrad’s recent email to Bedford parents referring to so-called “privilege pods” is tone-deaf at best and reprehensible at worst. As concerning is the possibility that this judgmental and narrow mindset is shared by Bedford administrators and certain students may be treated differently or unfairly.
Parents in Bedford and across the country are struggling to do what is best for their families; balancing health, education, caregiving, and careers.
As our communities continue to practice social distancing, more and more of our connections with one another happen over computers. There is much about this to celebrate – at least we all have ways for meetings to occur; churches can offer Sunday services; and the day-to-day life keeps happening.
A shortfall of using this meeting software (something that most people don’t notice) is that it doesn’t really enable people who have hearing problems to take part. Since these meeting platforms often don’t provide really simultaneous faces talking and sound, even ‘hearing helps’ like lip reading can’t work.
I have a confession to make. I haven’t been paying attention to the 2020 elections. This, despite being a self-described political activist. There is just too much going on (#coronavirus) and I know I will vote down party lines. So there I was, sitting down late at night to fill out my mail-in primary ballot, and I filled in the bubble for Seth Moulton without even thinking. Luckily, some synapses fired just in time for me to recognize that there were two other candidates listed. The gears in my head started firing.
At the School Committee Meeting on August 5, the community comments were dominated by talk of ensuring that remote-only learners are taken care of. We know now that only 20% of students will be in that cohort according to the non-binding survey. We respectfully ask that there be more opportunity afforded to engage with the 80% of families that want in-person learning.
I want to thank the members of our school committee in regard to the current decisions they are faced with. This is an extremely difficult task and one that would have great consequences on all of our students, families, teachers, staff, and administration.
Thank you for acknowledging and providing families multiple options to meet their needs. Thank you for having vision, expectations, and not settling for a good enough approach by accepting the state’s LMS option. Thank you for listening to the parents’ and teachers’ concerns for a remote option that is taught by the wonderful and talented teachers within our own schools.
ByJames P Sunderland President Bedford Education Association |
The Bedford Education Association (BEA) has always had a collaborative relationship with school administration and has held our students’ educations at the forefront of our thinking.
In that spirit, the BEA wants to be transparent with the data we have collected from our members and we hope this will help to inform collaborative decisions that are in the best interest of the Bedford educational community.
Editor’s Note: Please click this link to read the detailed survey results, graphics, charts, and tables in the BEA’s survey results.
Sunday, July 26, marked the 30th anniversary of the ADA, the Americans with Disabilities Act. A long fought-for piece of legislation, President Bush signed what amounts to the first civil rights law for people with disabilities. Thanks to the ADA, communication systems have to be accessible to those with disabilities. Employment discrimination based on disability is illegal. New public buildings have to be built to standards that permit access to all parts of the buildings.
ByBradford L. Jackson, Ed.D. ~ Superintendent , Shawsheen Valley Technical High School |
I am writing to provide you with an update to our planning efforts for the reopening of Shawsheen this fall. I have been directed by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) to hold off making any formal and final announcement of our plans for reopening until at least Monday, August 10th, but I thought it was important to provide you with some information that might help you as you plan for the return to school.
All school districts in Massachusetts have been instructed to prepare 3 plans for reopening:
Reopen with all students physically attending school while observing required social distancing (Full Open);
A hybrid model where some students physically attend school (observing required social distancing) and the remainder attend school remotely (Hybrid Open); and
A 100% remote learning model with stricter expectations for student performance, participation, and graded work (Remote Open).
As an educator, I see the Remote Open as the least desirable option both from a curriculum/instruction and a social/emotional lens. However, this decision must be, and will be, made based on student and staff safety, which has been informing all of the guidelines issued by DESE since mid-June. The directive from DESE is clear: “our goal is the safe return of as many students as possible to in-person school settings, to maximize learning and address our students’ holistic needs.” Accordingly, we are focusing our efforts on returning “as many students as possible to in-person school settings” and are viewing the 100% remote learning model as an option only if there are significant changes in the progress of the virus here in Massachusetts.
Last night the House of Representatives joined the Senate in passing historic and sweeping reform to police oversight, training, certification and certain practices. While the approach of our bill differed from the Senate in many ways, they share the same goals. The branches will likely establish committees that will conference in an attempt to resolve the differences in our approach.
As Bedford residents, BHS students, volunteers for Neighbor Brigade, and daughters of a Neighbor Brigade staff, we have watched our community and the communities around us rally around food insecure and vulnerable populations this spring.
We feel lucky to live in an area where we can quickly pull together funds and donations and mobilize resources and community members to get necessary supplies to classmates, families, seniors, and veterans. We hope that anyone struggling with food supplies or other issues at home will reach out to our town social worker, school administration or counselor, or Bedford Neighbor Brigade and receive the help that they need.
As a Bedford resident, I have many things to be grateful about, but the recent outdoor Annual Town Meeting has to be one of the best! I was really impressed with the care that everyone put into this unusual event. Everything seemed well thought-out and successfully executed.
I was surprised to read the Bedford Citizen article about the Naval Weapons Industrial Reserve Plant (NWIRP) letter that I forwarded to the Town Manager, and I believe that a better understanding of the issue is needed. This is an amendment to an existing agreement between the Massachusetts Historical Commission (MHC) and the Navy under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA).
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.
As a young person in the 21st century, my highest priority is the environment. If we do not have a safe environment in the future, nothing else we do matters. Therefore, I will be voting for Senator Ed Markey on Primary Day, September 1st, and on election day, November 3rd. He continues to fight hard for many bills to protect the environment; he co-authored the Green New Deal alongside Representative Ocasio-Cortez; this resolution creates jobs in renewable energy, a joint solution to our economic and environmental crises, refuting the narrative that we must choose between the environment and the economy. While it has not yet been passed, its ideas have already changed the conversation.
ByAnn Kiessling, Ph.D., Director, Bedford Research Foundation |
Wednesday, July 1, the Joint Committee on Education has scheduled a hearing on the status of early education and care and is collecting written testimony until 5 pm on Tuesday, July 7.
Click this link to learn more about tomorrow’s hearing.
Written testimony may be submitted to Alice.Peisch@mahouse.gov and Jason.Lewis@masenate.gov with the subject line “EEC OVERSIGHT HEARING TESTIMONY”
I am urging all persons interested in child care and education to respond and request SARS-CoV-2 strategies for children in day care facilities and schools in the Commonwealth that include regular testing. It is obvious that the safest place for a child of any age is an environment in which regular testing is employed to identify contagious persons.
ByJon Sills, Superintendent of the Bedford Schools |
Today, Governor Baker and Commissioner of Education Jeff Riley released their initial guidance about reopening schools this fall. We applaud the level of thought and care that went into the development of this guidance and share its goal of the safe return of as many students as possible to in-person school settings in order to best meet students’ academic, social, and emotional needs. Our thanks go as well to all of the stakeholders who have contributed to this plan, including health professionals, the Massachusetts Superintendents Association, and the teachers’ unions.
ByJon Sills, Superintendent of the Bedford Schools |
On this last day of school for students, I want to thank all of our faculty and staff, as well as our family partners, for working together to educate our children during the past three months. It has been an enormous and complex task. Perseverance, flexibility, creativity, and belief in each other have seen us through. But not without pain, frustration, and a real loss of learning time. And not without problematic inequities in access caused by dramatically different Covid-19 related family circumstances. As we have acknowledged before, many faculty members have also had to manage meeting the needs of their own homebound children and the students sitting virtually before them. I hope that everyone, with these pressures reduced, finds some rest and respite this summer.
I would like to express my sincerest appreciation for your voice, advice, and direction during the recent school committee budget meetings. While there is a strong community voice being heard for the gifted/talented programs and 3rd-grade world language, there is an equally strong and needed voice (but not as vocal) for our struggling and at-risk students and their needed supports. As a parent that has been an advocate for these students over the past 8 years, I was relieved and proud of our leadership that stood up for these students. Unless one walks in the shoes of special education, a struggling student or an at-risk student, it is truly hard to understand how critical early interventions are to their academic, mental health, and life-long successes. These interventions are most impactful when consistent and supported throughout their days – at home, at school, and within the community. Thank you for understanding this.
Your country, your state, maybe the neighborhood in which you live, are engulfed by three crises at once: climate change, a pandemic, and social unrest triggered by murder and racial injustice. Your mind reels. Your heart breaks.
What to do? What you cannot do is give up. At a demonstration to protest the death of George Floyd, someone held a sign: “We didn’t come this far to only come this far.”
At a time when one in five Bedford residents is out of work, some cuts to school funding may be necessary in order to avoid a tax increase, but I am dismayed to read that the proposed cuts include the elimination of the gifted and talented teacher and of third grade foreign language. Are the special needs of talented students somehow less important than those of other students? And in a world where being multilingual is more important than ever, has no one considered that the younger you start, the more success you are likely to have learning a foreign language?