Letter to the Editor: An Open Letter to the Bedford School Committee and Superintendent Conrad

Thank you to the teachers, administration, committee members, and volunteers for the hard work and many hours it’s taken to develop our reopening plans and safely enable some form of in-person learning this fall. This letter’s intent is to share the dialogue that many concerned parents have had privately with various members of the school administration, School Committee members, and Town staff. There is a growing group of Bedford School District parents (the Facebook group Bring Bedford Back Safely currently has almost 70 members) who find remote instruction unworkable despite everyone’s best efforts. We are asking the collective decision makers in Bedford to prioritize the development of a data-driven, metrics-based plan to safely enable a return to full in-person learning. 

Reserve Accounts Expected to Help Offset Schools’ Covid-19 Costs

Three-and-a-half months into the fiscal year, most additional expenses for local education in response to the Covid-19 pandemic will be covered by two reserve accounts, according to the schools’ director of finance.

Julie Kirrane, finance director for the Bedford schools, presented that update to the School Committee at its meeting on Oct. 13.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Bedford School Department Calendar for the 2020-2021 School Year

The Bedford School Department has announced its calendar for the 2020-2021 school year.

New teachers will report on August 27, with Arena Day on the 28th. Professional Development days extend from August 31 to September 15 to allow for Covid-era set up and training.

Students will report for classes on Wednesday, September 16, with Kindergarten orientation on Thursday, September 17.

School Committee Approves Plan for Schools to Reopen Under Hybrid Model

At an over-subscribed Zoom meeting that became a webinar with 479 participants on August 5, the School Committee heard a presentation and recommendation by Superintendent Philip Conrad, questioned district leadership about the school reopening process, and ultimately voted to approve a plan that would allow schools to open this Fall under a hybrid model.

Superintendent’s Update on Reopening the Bedford Schools ~ August 3, 2020

Hello Bedford School Community,

As I mentioned in my Friday letter I am letting you know that we have placed our Bedford Public Schools Draft Reopening Plan Fall 2020 on our website.

Click this link to read the Draft Reopening Plan for Fall 2020

This draft is nearly 50 pages long and answers many questions about the All Remote, the Hybrid, and the All In-Person models we have developed for the fall.  It also includes information about the Learning Management System (LMS) that will be offered by the state of Massachusetts, although we are still awaiting more clarity on this option.  Please note that this document is a draft and we will continue to add to it as new information becomes available. I hope that you will have a chance to review the document.

School Committee Confirms Y2020-21 Budget Cuts

At their June 16 meeting, the School Committee approved the 2020-21 school year budget, approved changes to the JGMS and BHS handbooks, and approved a two month contract for retiring Superintendent Jon Sills to assume an associate superintendent position from July 1 through August 31, 2020.

Celebrating the Class of 2020 ~ The Citizen’s Special Tribute Edition

Today in the virtual pages of The Bedford Citizen we bring you our first-ever Special Tribute Edition dedicated to all of Bedford’s high school seniors. Whether you attended Bedford High School, Shawsheen Tech, or an independent high school we salute your achievements and your resilience in this very unusual year.

Click this link in the actual story to read The Bedford Citizen’s Tribute to the Class of 2020. After graduation The Citizen will offer this special edition in PDF format,
so it can be printed and saved alongside your yearbook and other mementos.

I know there was a lot surrounding graduation that didn’t happen this year…but we are struck by the creative and innovative ways that so much did happen…and may even happen yet. Virtual awards are not as much fun as the in-person events, but our kids got recognized. While photos of friends in caps and gowns are not as wonderful as photos together in caps and gowns, hundreds of pictures and videos are being shared through The Citizen. Yard signs dot our local landscape…and for the first time were hand-delivered by BHS principal Heather Galante and teacher Charlie Humphrey. Cap-and-gown pick-up was transformed into a mini-parade which made a socially distanced attempt to allow students and teachers to see one another one last time.

To the Class of 2020: We’ve brought all of this and more together into a single edition of The Bedford Citizen. This edition captures the ways in which parents, teachers, administrators, town officials and employees, and Bedford at-large came together in the Year of the Pandemic to ensure that your graduation would be recognized and remembered as the important milestone it is…Covid-19 be damned!

A huge thank-you and shout-out to the many hands that brought this special edition to life: Heather Galante; Andy Pigeon; Charlie Humprey; Patrick Morrissey; Jonathan Pierre; Keith Mangan; Karen Santos; the 2020 BHS Senior Parents Committee; Jeff Hoyland; Rep. Ken Gordon; and all those who generously shared their videos and photographs with us.

The Bedford Citizen’s Tribute to the Class of 2020 was coordinated by Ginni Spencer with help from Gene Kalb, Meredith McCulloch, Mike Rosenberg, Jordan Stewart, and Julie Turner.

A Message from Superintendent Jon Sills ~ Reductions to the FY21 School Budget

Editor’s Note: The following message regarding reductions to the FY21 budget, was sent by School Superintendent Jon Sills  to families on Sunday, June 7, 2020

As you may be aware, the school department is required to reduce the FY21 budget that we originally created with the support of the School Committee, and which received the support of the Finance Committee back in January, by $1,278,000.  This is due to over $2,000,000 in reduced state and local revenues.

While we are not reducing below our FY20 budget number, we are significantly reducing what we originally proposed for FY21.  The $1,278,000 net reductions change our FY21 budget from a 3.5% increase over FY20 plus a $450,000 extra fund for what were extraordinary out-of-district special education costs, to a .4% increase plus the extra special education funds.  In looking at where to make these changes, we could not simply eliminate the new positions we had asked for, as these are needed to meet our special education/IEP ethical and legal obligations and anticipated increases in emotional and mental health needs.

Click the following links in the actual document:

Read the FY21 Budget Chart – Bedford School Department 06072020

The School Committee will meet in remote session at noon on Wednesday, June 10; click this link for the agenda and instructions for joining the meeting

School Committee Amends BHS Grading Proposal In Response To Covid-19

Principal Heather Galante joined by Assistant Principals Thomas Casey and Daniel Hudder, as well as Director of Guidance Alicia Linsey, shared Bedford High’s proposal for Term 3 and 4 grading that helps mitigate the effects of Covid-19.

Galante stressed that this proposal was the only option that did not penalize students for the effects of Covid-19. The desire to not penalize students was a central focus of the school administration as they drafted this proposal.