Superintendent’s Update ~ Sunday, September 27, 2020

was informed by the Bedford Board of Health that they received a laboratory testing report indicating that a school community member (i.e., student or staff) at Lane Elementary school has been diagnosed with a confirmed case of COVID-19.

The Bedford Board of Health immediately began case investigations. The first step in a school case investigation is to determine whether or not the positive case attended school during the infectious period. According to the MA Department of Public Health (MDPH) guidelines, the infectious period for COVID-19 is two days prior to becoming symptomatic or, if asymptomatic, two days prior to testing. The Board of Health determined that the positive school community member at Lane School was not present at school during their infectious period, therefore, no close contacts were identified among the school community in this situation.

Bedford Schools and Shawsheen Updates at the end of Week One

The first full week of classes is complete, both for the Bedford School Department and for the Bedford students who attend Shawsheen Valley Techical High School.

Superintendent Philip Conrad and Principal Jessica Cook shared messages with their communities on Friday afternoon.

School Committee’s First Meeting Focuses on Assuring Success in the 2020-2021 School Year

At the first School Committee meeting Tuesday since the start of school on Sept. 16, the focus shifted from understanding the intricate details of the reopening plan to ensuring success under the hybrid format and other administrative tasks.

Reflecting on the start of school, Superintendent Philip Conrad said it was nice having students back at all four schools.

Interscholastic Sports Return to Bedford High School

Fall interscholastic sports return to Bedford High School next week.

But like everything else, this year is different.

Keith Mangan, BHS director of athletics, said varsity golf, girls’ and boys’ cross-country, girls’ and boys’ soccer, and field hockey teams have been practicing and will compete against other Dual County League Small Schools Division opponents on Wednesdays and Saturdays. (Golf games are off-site so they are on other days as well.)

Mangan stressed that everyone realizes this scenario is not normal. “We are trying to get kids out of their homes, playing and competing. We are trying to meet their social-emotional needs. And we’ve got kids who are just happy to be here.” Mangan acknowledged that there are some student-athletes who have opted not to play this season.

There will be many changes in rules and practices, some of them dramatic, as directed by the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association. Players, coaches, and officials are wearing masks all the time except for designated breaks.

Here are some other highlights:

Superintendent’s Update on Reopening the Bedford Schools ~ September 18, 2020

Thank you to everyone for making our first week of school so successful! I know that it was not perfect but we appreciate everyone’s patience, perseverance, and cooperation. We were so happy to see the students and to remember why we do what we do.

As I visited each school this week I was constantly amazed at the kindness, patience, and thoughtful way our teachers and students interacted. It was wonderful to see.

For the first day of school, I sent “May This Be A House Of Joy” by Lucille Clifton to the faculty and staff. I hope that each of our schools and every classroom will be a House of Joy for every child this school year in spite of everything that is going on in the world. May This Be a House of Joy by Lucille Clifton

I want to say a special thank you to Jonathan Manor, Pastor of the Lutheran Church for allowing our families to use the church parking lot at arrival and dismissal. This has been very helpful in reducing the traffic in and around the Davis School. Traffic and traffic flows will continue to be a major focus as we get used to our new reality. Thank you to the Bedford Department of Public Works and the Bedford Police Department for their assistance. Please keep an eye out for our walkers and riders as you drive in the area of the schools.

BHS Opening Day All-School Meeting Ended after Interruption

Editor’s Note: A late-afternoon robocall from the Bedford Police cautioned that there is apt to be heavy traffic around town on Thursday, September 16, and Friday, September 17, particularly in the area near the high school as school buses, parents, and students arrive for the first day of in-person classes for Cohorts A and B. Principal Heather Galante emailed families and caregivers on Wednesday evening to let them know that Bedford Police and Fire departments cleared the building after the apparent threats that halted Wednesday’s all-school meeting. Nonetheless, protocol dictates an increased police presence at Bedford High School tomorrow. Galante also noted, and appreciated, the hundreds of supportive emails the administration received after the incident.

A virtual all-school meeting on Bedford High School’s opening day was interrupted by obscene language and a possible bomb threat made by one or more participants using the meeting’s ‘chat’ function.  Wednesday’s interruption is akin to unwanted, disruptive intrusions, generally by Internet trolls and hackers, into a video conference call.

The meeting ended quickly after students and school officials noticed offensive language and an apparent mention of a bomb in the chat.

In an email to students, Bedford High Principal Heather Galante and Assistant Principals Daniel Hudder and Thomas Casey wrote that the school administration is “disgusted by the behavior and embarrassed by some of the students’ poor decisions.”

Since the user issued an apparent threat to the High School, the Bedford police department was notified.

In a follow-up email to parents, Galante noted, “The chat was supposed to be disabled and was not, and some students posted highly offensive and threatening content.”

Neither a spokesperson for Bedford Public Schools nor the Bedford Police Department was available for comment due to an on-going investigation.

Will Additional Covid Challenges Create a Shortfall in Bedford’s School Department Budget?

It’s too soon to start speculating on a shortfall in Bedford’s fiscal 2021 education budget, the schools’ finance director told the School Committee in a memorandum this week.

However, Julie Kirrane acknowledged that there is a lengthy list of potential additional expenses in response to the continuing challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic.

In her memo to the committee and superintendent of schools, Kirrane acknowledged that there are still “many unknowns about state funding or additional relief that may be available. Further, there may be some areas of savings in the fiscal 2021 budget, should a period of all-remote learning be required.”

“Until there are numbers that are more definitive for special education circuit-breaker, state impact aid, and a potential next CARES Act, an accurate projection of budgetary needs is not possible at this time,” she wrote.

Among the “currently identified school needs,” Kirrane listed teaching assistants comprising up to 20 full-time equivalent positions; up to 170 air purifiers; and long-term substitutes for staff eligible to take unpaid leaves of absence.

Other unfunded possibilities listed were strengthening some additional remote learning platform needs, consultation for special education, and professional development needs.

Bedford Charter Service: Covid School Bus Protocol Means Reserved Seats

The fleet of school buses at Bedford Charter Service is ready to hit the road after six months of literal idling.

“Our drivers basically lost months of work, and for the most part we didn’t lose any [of them],” said Orna Miles, general manager. “We are extremely lucky.”

Many of the protocols in response to the Covid-19 virus have been handed down from the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, Miles said, while others were developed by the bus company in concert with the schools’ business office. Pre-school planning is “always a lot of work, but especially this year, in a compressed amount of time.”

Bike-to School ~ September through December with Neighborhood Rides

Start spreading the news: From September through December, every week is bike-to-school week. Lane School families seeking an alternative to car dropoff and the bus are pooling their resources and using Bedford’s award-winning Safe Routes to Schools model to organize bike-to-school rides this fall.

A growing list of neighborhood rides is here, and people can sign up here for a slot to lead or support a chaperoned morning ride to Lane School on the Narrow Gauge trail, starting from The Great Road.

Superintendent’s Update on Reopening the Bedford Schools ~ September 11, 2020

As has been my practice since early July, I am writing to you on a Friday, while this has become a normal occurrence, the fact that it is happening today on the 19th anniversary of the 9/11/2001 attacks on our country is not lost on any of us. Nineteen years ago we watched in horror as our nation was attacked. The impact of these attacks was felt around the world but had an additional impact on us here in the Boston area since the planes used for these attacks departed from our very own Logan International Airport. I hope that you will join me in observing a moment of silence and reflection on this somber day.

Next week we will welcome students into our schools. We are all excited to see the students and to get down to the business of supporting our students in their academic endeavors and with their social and emotional needs. This is an important step towards their future and we are excited to be a part of it.

School Counselors are Ready for Reopening

Summer was sort of a footnote for the 16 counselors who work in the Bedford Public Schools.

And now that reopening is less than a week away, they are prepared to execute a three-tiered all-encompassing plan, said Alicia J. Linsey, director of counseling for pre-kindergarten through high school.

An Inside Look Into The School Reopening Proccess

Enrollment trends. On-site response to issues. Talking during lunch. Air quality and buses.

 These were among the bullet points in the school reopening update Superintendent of Schools Philip Conrad shared with the School Committee Monday evening.

 

These were among the bullet points in the school reopening update Superintendent of Schools Philip Conrad shared with the School Committee Monday evening.

Opening Bedford Schools, 2020 ~ Parents’ Perspectives

Bedford schools will open for the new academic year on Wednesday, September 16, a week from today, and hundreds of households throughout the town are confronting unprecedented scheduling and safety variables   — thanks to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

Yet a sampling of residents indicates that there’s a spirit of resilience and even optimism as the challenges are addressed

School Committee Approves Mask Policy

Following the first reading of the policy at the Aug. 31 meeting, Superintendent Philip Conrad presented the policy, which establishes compliance with the state requirement for comprehensive mask wear in schools.

Tuesday’s reading included an additional policy by School Committee member Ann Guay that prohibits the sharing or trading of masks among students.

Memorandum of Agreement Paves Way for Smooth Reopening of Bedford’s Schools

The Bedford Public Schools administration and the Bedford Education Association have executed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA), paving the way for a smooth reopening of schools on September 16. The MOA has been unanimously confirmed by the School Committee.

Superintendent of Schools Philip Conrad said that the MOA provides specifications and expectations in eight areas: personnel; workload; safety protections and precautions; professional development and preparation time; expectations of time in the building; curriculum and technology; the hybrid model; and full district online model. He noted that there are provisions in each area designed to protect educators and to protect the district.

The agreement also details the district’s procedures if there is a transition from hybrid to a district-wide virtual model.

The superintendent announced the ratification at last week’s School Committee meeting. Several members commented that the deal starkly contrasts the lengthy debate and vitriol between teacher unions and administrations across the commonwealth and nation.

Superintendent’s Update on Reopening the Bedford Schools ~ September 4, 2020

Welcome to September!

This week has seen us welcome faculty and staff back to school (virtually and in person). Faculty and staff are preparing for the return of our students on the 16th. The staff is engaged in a wide variety of professional development activities that will prepare us for the return to school.

It was exciting to be able to speak to the entire staff on Monday morning. I was joined at the virtual podium by Bedford Education Association President James Sunderland and Bedford School Committee Chairman Dan Brosgol. Wonderfully and without kibitzing each of us spoke about togetherness, cooperation, and collaboration. These have been fundamental to our success this summer and I am excited that we are beginning the year with a unified voice.

Bedford School Lunch Program ~ 2020-2021 School Year

Bedford Public Schools Food Services offers healthy meals on school days. Free and reduced meal applications are available to all families.

For a Free and Reduced Meal Application please call 781-275-9129, write to Bedford School Lunch Program 97 McMahon Rd Bedford, MA 01730, download from the district website at https://www.bedfordps.org/ or pick up in the main office at any school.

Educating others should be an enabling act of love and liberation, not didacticism and indoctrination ~ Jon Sills

“I’ve always believed that educating others should be an enabling act of love and liberation, not didacticism and indoctrination.”

Jon Sills, who formally departed from the Bedford Public Schools on August 30, shared that philosophy in a letter to teachers, staff members, and the School Committee. He also told them, “The relationships that you have built, and continue to build, will, for many of our students, be remembered throughout their lives.”

Sills, 69, succeeded Thomas Duggan as Bedford High School principal in 2001. He followed Dr. Maureen Lacroix as superintendent in the summer of 2012 and actually retired on June 30, continuing another two months as associate superintendent to assist in the transition with his successor, Philip Conrad. He called Conrad “an educational leader who truly cares about teachers, who listens, and who places kids at the forefront of every decision.”

Jon Sills’s pre-Bedford resume spans almost 30 years of teaching and administration, much of it at Brookline High School near his home. Indeed, he was a finalist for the position of Brookline superintendent of schools four years ago.

“When I came to Bedford, I thought I would stay for three or four years. My heart was in more urban education,” Sills reflected during a lengthy interview. “But some of the things that attracted me to the Bedford Public Schools – a unique level of diversity, given it’s a small suburban community, and the values that were embedded in the strategic planning — really made it attractive. I came to fall in love with the community.”

School Committee Approves Hybrid Learning Models

The School Committee Monday approved all four hybrid learning models proposed for each of the four schools, as presented virtually by each building principal.

Assistant Superintendent Tricia Clifford introduced and explained the process to develop building-specific hybrid plans.

Clifford said all four schools plan to begin on September 16 in an all-remote format. Students from Cohort A will attend school on September 17 for a half-day and those in Cohort B will attend in-person on September 18, also for a half-day.

Clarified Statement about Learning Pods

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Hello Bedford Public School Community,

I wanted to clarify my statement about the learning pods that I discussed in my Friday letter. We had been told that some home learning pods were soliciting Bedford Public School teachers to teach in their pods rather than the children enrolled in our schools.

Being upset about that, it may have seemed that I was generalizing about parents whose honest efforts to meet the needs of their own children were inappropriate. I apologize for using the term, “privilege pod,” which, while that term is being used in public conversations about this phenomenon it clearly conveys a judgmentalness that is divisive and was not my intention.

As the superintendent I care about the education of all of our children, including those whose parents find alternative means of supplementing their education and those who do not have the means to do so. But our purview is what we can provide in the district, not what some parents choose to do at home. We will strive to do our best to provide the most robust and effective hybrid and remote education possible.

Regretfully,

Philip Conrad
Superintendent

Parents Diversity Council Hosts a Community Book Club, “Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You”

From mid-July to mid-August, members of the community came together via Zoom meetings to discuss the new book, “Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You” by Jason Reynolds and Dr. Ibram X. Kendi.

This young adult remix of Dr. Kendi’s “Stamped From the Beginning” looks at the history of racism in the United States, from its earliest forms to the present day. From the publisher, “this book shines a light on the many insidious forms of racist ideas–and on ways readers can identify and stamp out racist thoughts in their daily lives.”

Superintendent’s Update on Reopening the Bedford Schools ~ August 28, 2020 ~ With the Superintendent’s 8/30 Clarification

Thank you for your continued patience as we work to reopen school.

I wanted to let you know that our Cooperative Teams have completed their work on our reopening plan and that plan will be made public today. The Cooperative Teams did an incredible job working out the myriad of interconnected details with the health and safety of all students, faculty, and staff always front and center in their minds.

We believe that the plans provide for the academic engagement of students while supporting students’ social and emotional well- being, maintaining equity as a core belief, creating welcoming learning environments, and enabling students and teachers to build strong relationships.

The plan which is linked on the Bedford Public Schools School Reopening web page at Reopening Plans Information will be presented to the school committee at their next meeting on Monday, August 31, 2020.

Hybrid/Remote Final Decision

In order to finalize our student and teacher schedules we are asking that any parent who wants to change their child’s current model to please contact your school’s registrar by the end of the day on Monday, August 31, 2020. If your child will remain in their current model, there is no action required of you at this time.

Supporting Bedford’s Boston Students as School Reopens

This is the 47th year that the Bedford Public Schools have participated in the Metco program. But it’s the first that the schools will be welcoming a Boston contingent during a global pandemic.

The program coordinator, Akil Mondesir, is confident that all necessary measures have been taken to ensure that the Boston students can keep on top of remote learning, and can travel to and from Bedford safely.

“Working side by side with the new superintendent, with Jon Sills, the assistant superintendent the finance director, all of the principals, I truly believe that during this crisis they wanted to be sure the families from Boston were never left out, that they always felt connected and truly are part of the Bedford community,” Mondesir declared.