Amherst School Committee 01-24-2018

Amherst School Committee 01-24-2018


Meeting of the AMHERST School Committee 6:00 PM, WEDNESDAY, January 24, 2018 Library Amherst Regional High School 170 Chestnut Street, Amherst, MA 01002 NOTE: This meeting is recorded and live-broadcast by Amherst Media AGENDA 1) Welcome 6:00 p.m. A. Call to Order B. Approve Minutes—December 19, 2017 2) Announcements and Public Comments 6:05 p.m. 3) Superintendent’s Update 6:15 p.m. 4) New and Continuing Business a. Enrollment Working Group Presentations  Declining Enrollment  Special Education b. MSBA Statement of Interest Discussion c. Initial Budget Presentation  Capital Discussion  School Choice Hearing d. Superintendent’s Goals e. Sabbatical Requests (vote) f. Accept Gifts 8:25 p.m. 5) School Committee Planning 8:30 p.m. 7) Adjournment 8:40 p.m. Amherst School Committee Meeting Tuesday, December 19, 2017 Library, Amherst Regional High School 21 Mattoon Street Amherst, MA 01002 IN ATTENDANCE Phoebe Hazzard, Chair Michael Morris, Superintendent Eric Nakajima Sean Mangano, Finance Director Peter Demling Tim Sheehan, Curriculum Coordinator Anastasia Ordonez Katie Richardson, ELL Coordinator ABSENT Derek Shea, CF Principal Vira Douangmany Cage Diane Chamberlain, FR Principal Nick Yaffe, WW Principal Katherine Appy, Enrollment Working Group Member Jennifer Page, Enrollment Working Group Member Katie McDermott, Enrollment Working Group Member Allison McDonald, Enrollment Working Group Member Kerry Spitzer, Enrollment Working Group Member Debbie Westmoreland, Recorder Public and Press 1. Call to Order and Approve Minutes 6:01 p.m. Ms. Hazzard called the Amherst School Committee to order at 6:01 p.m. She announced that the meeting is recorded and live broadcast by Amherst Media. Ms. Ordonez moved to approve the minutes of November 21, 2017. Mr. Nakajima seconded and the motion was unanimously approved. 2. Announcements and Public Comments 6:04 p.m. Ms. Ariel Schwell, parent, read a statement (attached) in opposition to using the elementary schools as a polling site during voting due to safety concerns. She thanked the School Committee for voting for a calendar in 2018- 2019 that has a Curriculum Day on the November election so students will not be in the buildings. Marla Jamate, parent, also expressed appreciation for making the election date next November a Curriculum Day. She expressed concern about traffic issues that arise at the schools during voting, noting the danger to students and the difficulty for school administrators to ensure student safety. Both speakers encouraged bringing an end to use of the schools as polling sites. Ms. Hazzard expressed appreciation for the speakers' comments and noted that there is an item about this issue in Dr. Morris' update. Based on a comment in the last meeting minutes, Ms. Hazzard asked for clarification from Ms. Ordonez about how she suggests the School Building Committee Updates be referenced on agendas. After discussion, it was agreed to use the term "Fort River Feasibility Study Committee." Ms. Hazzard noted that she and Mr. Demling will not be serving on the BCG since the Regional Chair is expected to attend, which would create a quorum of the Amherst School Committee. Instead, Mr. Nakajima and Ms. Marriott will attend as the Regional Chair and Vice-Chair. 3. Superintendent's Update 6:14 p.m. Dr. Morris reported that he attended the first Racial Imbalance Advisory Committee (RIAC) meeting at DESE yesterday and found it very helpful to interact with people from various sectors regarding equity. He noted that all district administrators will be participating in a workshop regarding harassment incidents and investigations on January 5. Dr. Morris reported that he has talked with Town Manager Paul Bockelman who supports having the Amherst Police do a risk assessment of using the schools as polling sites. The assessment should be done before the March election. Ms. Ordonez asked if the committee can also get more information about what is involved in changing polling sites when the risk assessment report is made. Dr. Morris will connect with the Town Clerk to get that information. Finally, Dr. Morris reported that the health insurance trust is continuing to decline despite the reallocation of funds to those expenses. The Insurance Advisory Commission (IAC) is scheduled to meet tomorrow with the Town Manager to discuss the issues around the insurance trust in more depth. Dr. Morris noted that there will be in-depth discussion of the impact of health insurance costs, both to the FY18 and FY19 budgets, as the budget process unfolds. Members of the School Committee encouraged Dr. Morris to share as much, and as in-depth, information with the public as possible as it becomes available since this is an issue that impacts the Town as well as the schools. 4. New and Continuing Business 6:30 p.m. A. ELL Update Dr. Morris introduced Katie Richardson, ELL teacher and Coordinator. Ms. Richardson utilized a Powerpoint presentation to provide an overview of the ELL program in the elementary schools. She reported on demographics of the program, including the first languages spoken; the bilingual interpreter program; next generation ESL guidance from DESE, including service delivery times per level; current models of ESL instruction in Amherst, including pull-out/self-contained, co-teaching and push in/phasing out; assessment; and the RETELL course required for all teachers for relicensure. Ms. Richardson noted that significant changes are coming in Massachusetts law regarding ESL instruction due to Bill H.4032 An Act relative to language opportunity for our kids (LOOK bill), which was signed into law on November 22, 2017. Changes will include flexibility in the models of instruction, including bilingual education; development of a mandatory English Learner Parent Advisory Council if there are more than 100 English learners in the district; and inclusion of a seal of biliteracy on diplomas. Ms. Richardson and Dr. Morris answered clarifying questions for the School Committee throughout and after the presentation. Mr. Shea spoke briefly about the ways in which the schools embrace ESL students as soon as they arrive, noting that the numbers of students are changing constantly throughout the school year. B. Homework Guidelines Mr. Sheehan gave an overview of the changes that were made to the first draft of the Elementary Homework Plan based on feedback received from staff and community members through guided discussions and meetings. He noted that teachers Susan Radke and Stephanie Joyce utilized the feedback to update the plan, which was shared again with staff and families for additional feedback. Mr. Sheehan noted that he has received very little feedback to the updated draft, and he and Dr. Morris will be developing an implementation plan in the near future. Dr. Morris noted that the largest change to the document, based on initial feedback, was the addition of Section IV: Appendix of Supplemental Activities for Families, which was developed by Mr. Sheehan. Dr. Morris and Mr. Sheehan answered clarifying questions for the committee. Ms. Hazzard noted that this has been a model process with regard to engagement and thanked Dr. Morris and Mr. Sheehan for their work. She asked what implementation will look like for teachers and how it will be shared with parents. Mr. Sheehan noted that there will be facilitated discussions with teachers around implementation and, likely, a document will be shared with parents/guardians in report card envelopes to ensure they see them. C. Policy BEAA: Superintendency Union 26 Ms. Hazzard reviewed the changes that were made to Policy BEAA after the first reading by the Amherst and Pelham School Committees. After brief discussion, Mr. Demling moved to approve Policy BEAA: Superintendency Union 26 as presented. Mr. Nakajima seconded and, after brief comments, the motion was unanimously approved. By consensus, it was agreed that the Policy Subcommittee should discuss the potential for developing a policy that defines the relationship between the Union 26 School Committee and the Amherst-Pelham Regional School Committee. D. Enrollment Working Group Report: Socio-Economic Balance Subgroup Dr. Morris thanked the volunteers who have put in tremendous efforts on the Enrollment Working Group subgroups. Katie McDermott introduced herself and other members of the Socio-Economic Balance Subgroup, which includes Katherine Appy, Kathryn McDermott, Allison McDonald, Jennifer Page and Kerry Spitzer. Ms. McDermott reviewed the four purposes of the subgroup and provided background information regarding socio-economic balance in the schools. Ms. Appy provided a review of the history of this issue, including the closure of Marks Meadow School and subsequent redistricting to ensure economic balance in the three remaining elementary schools. Ms. Spitzer reported on the finding of the subcommittee, which is that the proportion of elementary students in Amherst from economically disadvantaged families has increased overall and within the three elementary schools; however, the schools' economically disadvantaged populations are no longer balanced across the schools. She reviewed efforts made by each of the elementary schools to assist students. Ms. McDonald reported on the findings of the subcommittee through their interviews with principals, assistant principals and guidance or adjustment counselors at each of the three schools. The five themes found through the interviews were 1) family engagement and connection; 2) staff training; 3) role of the schools as community centers and service providers; 4) student stress and anxiety, and 5) preschool access and school readiness. Ms. Page reported on possible solutions and steps the School Committee may want to consider taking toward those possible solutions. Ms. Hazzard thanked the subcommittee for the very thoughtful and detailed report, noting that this is the first of five subcommittees that will report on their work. Mr. Demling asked if the report can be shared on the website. Dr. Morris noted that it should be made available, but he would like to think about whether the reports should be posted separately or at the same time once all of the subcommittees have presented their work. Subcommittee members answered clarifying questions for the committee on various aspects of the report. E. Fort River Feasibility Study Committee Update Mr. Nakajima reported that the committee has met, noting that there was a bit of a glitch in getting all members sworn in, which means the first of two meetings was not official. He noted that this is a terrific group and there is a dynamic in which all members are contributing well. There is a subgroup that will be revising existing RFQs to move into the process for acquiring an OPM by early spring. Ms. Chamberlain, who also serves on the committee, noted that trying to understand the parameters within which the group has to work has been interesting since it is a committee of the town. Mr. Nakajima noted that he was tasked with asking the School Committee if they plan to submit an MSBA Statement of Interest this year, which will be discussed under the School Committee Planning agenda item. F. RSDPC Update Mr. Demling briefly reviewed the history of the appointment of the RSDPC, which includes him, Marylou Theilman and Joan Temkin. The committee met on December 12 and will meet again on January 23 at which time Mr. Mangano will attend. Mr. Demling noted that this is a good team and work is moving forward. Dr. Morris reported that recipients of the grant we applied for to help with this work will be announced after the beginning of the year. J. Accept Gifts Mr. Nakajima moved to accept a gift of $300 from Trevor Takayama, Fort River technology teacher, for the ARPS Family Center holiday drive. Ms. Ordonez seconded and the motion was unanimously approved. K. School Committee Planning 8:31 p.m. Ms. Hazzard noted that Mr. Demling has asked whether the School Committee will take a position regarding the vote on the potential Charter Commission and asked for the committee's input on whether this should be on a future agenda. After brief discussion, it was agreed by consensus that this will not be a future agenda item. For future agendas, topics will include themes from feedback sessions with staff; presentations of the Special Education and Declining Enrollment Subgroups of the Enrollment Working Group; initial MSBA Statement of Interest discussion; initial budget presentation; school choice hearing; and sabbatical requests 5. Adjourn 8:43 p.m. Mr. Nakajima moved to adjourn at 8:43 p.m. Mr. Demling seconded and the motion was unanimously approved. Respectfully Submitted, Debbie Westmoreland MEETING DOCUMENTS 1. Amherst School Committee Minutes of November 21, 2017 2. Superintendent's Update dated December 19, 2017 3. Amherst ELL Program School Committee Presentation dated December 19, 2017 4. Elementary Homework Plan (revised December 2017) 5. Socioeconomic Integration Report 6. Policy BEAA: School Committee: Superintendency Union #26 (revised December 18, 2017) Kornblatt/Leave proposal Dec2017 1 Application for Professional Leave for 2018-2019, Amherst Public Schools Submitted by Anne Kornblatt, Math Intervention teacher, Fort River School ( December 4, 2017 Statement about the professional improvement program to be followed while on leave Having specialized in math intervention instruction in two Amherst elementary schools—Wildwood and Fort River—for more than thirteen years, I have had the opportunity to learn a great deal about math pedagogy and about developments in the field of intervention. Due to my investment in these topics and my longstanding interest in improving student engagement, I have begun to create a series of incremental math lessons and games, reviews, practice pages, and a wide variety of assessments. I’ve been developing these materials as supplements to the curriculum, searching for ways to fill gaps in my students’ knowledge and to help them fully understand the math they’re expected to learn. I propose a sabbatical leave in which I develop a compendium of lessons that can be used by math intervention and classroom teachers in grades 4 and 5. I will devote my leave time to refining and writing additional math lessons for teachers as well as creating supplemental work pages that are based on the Common Core Standards, that are consonant with AVMR principles, and that build on materials already available in the Amherst district. I will write these lessons, refining them during my professional leave through study and consultation with educational experts who focus on explicit teaching and on student-led learning. My lessons will offer tools to classroom and intervention teachers, enabling them to augment mathematics lessons with additional practice pages and alternative approaches that Kornblatt/Leave proposal Dec2017 2 help students at all levels. My ultimate goal during the professional leave will be to consolidate my lessons into a book geared toward educators and others interested in children’s mathematical thinking. Mathematics is a complex subject. Although reading, math’s counterpart, is also not a simple cognitive process, it is more straightforward. With reading, a single activity--decoding text of any kind--can help to maintain the reading muscle, whereas in math, the skills required are wide-ranging and not easy to maintain. Math skills can easily atrophy without use since these skills, though ultimately united under the broad umbrella of logical thinking, are diverse and discrete abilities that do not necessarily build on one another. In math children need to learn to count, to compute, to understand measurement, to master paper and pencil procedures, to understand place value, to decipher and create patterns, to classify shapes, and to read data—an overwhelmingly broad skillset that is difficult for teachers to prioritize. Understandably, the scales tend to swing toward the teaching of new material, leaving older skills to languish and sometimes wither. This impacts student confidence and success going forward; children need to fill their mathematical toolboxes, but they also need to keep the tools sharp and ready to be used. This can be particularly challenging for children who consider themselves ‘just bad at math,’ children who benefit greatly from approaches that engage and guide them, enabling them to develop confidence and the sense that they’re capable of succeeding. It is hard for any single curriculum to cover the many elements of math learning and to include this particular kind of incremental support, which is why Kornblatt/Leave proposal Dec2017 3 I’ve needed to develop the lessons and pages I have and why teachers find them useful. We are lucky in Amherst to have a wealth of math materials, including Do the Math and Number Worlds kits for intervention, Everyday Math and Big Ideas for classroom use, and AVMR materials for everyone. AVMR provides teachers with the tools to assess where student thinking is deficient, and it provides activities for children whose conceptual understanding of number is weak. AVMR’s focus-- targeting areas of conceptual weakness in numeracy—helps students to build a stronger mental math framework with the expectation that the written and procedural foundation will be covered elsewhere. Do the Math and Number Worlds provide topic-based instruction on basic operations and a model-based approach for understanding fractions. All of these lessons are vital to strong mathematical thinking, but because creators of these curricula deliberately focus on specific skillsets, the lessons have a narrow lens. On the one hand, we want children to reason about math and to develop their capacity to think logically, but at the same time, as the Common Core Standards make clear, we also expect children to be able to use traditional mathematical procedures with ease and to work through complex problems. Even with the intervention tools currently available in Amherst, it is challenging for teachers to know how and when to supplement lessons, and it’s difficult for intervention teachers to manage the diversity of mathematical subjects they’re required to teach. During a professional leave, I would spend my time writing lessons and text for the book, crafting assessments and reviews, and meeting with educational Kornblatt/Leave proposal Dec2017 4 leaders or attending workshops on the art of explicit instruction and on student accountability in learning. I’m interested in working with Ron Berger on this latter subject, as I have read his books and have implemented several of his ideas and found them to be powerful motivators in the classroom. Anita Archer teaches teachers about explicit instruction and lesson pacing, also a vital element of math instruction as multiple skills need to be practiced on a regular basis. Statement describing the benefits to be derived from the professional improvement program, upon its completion by the person requesting the leave and by the school system A sabbatical will benefit my own intervention program by enabling me to refine my lessons and to write new ones, and to collect all the material in a single book. I look forward to possessing quicker and easier systems for finding my supplemental materials, and to being able to locate assessments and teacher notes with greater speed. The four major vehicles that I use—lessons and games; reviews and student notebooks; practice pages; and assessments—become more integrated into my daily teaching when my materials are published and quickly accessed. The lessons and worksheets that I create are helpful to me, and they are also helpful to intervention and to classroom teachers, whether used for a single student, for a small group or for whole-class activities. For example, fourth grade teachers at Fort River have recently been doing a unit on fractions. Some children struggled with understanding how to name parts of fractions and with understanding equivalent fractions. Teachers asked me for assistance since I had already created pages for fourth grade intervention students on this topic. One teacher used my pages for a small group; the other teacher used my material as an introduction to Kornblatt/Leave proposal Dec2017 5 the Everyday Math work pages, which moved through the subject matter at a quick pace and with little explicit instruction. My work sheets enabled all children to keep up with the lesson, students working on fraction equivalents at differentiated levels. Another example: I have devoted considerable energy to the question of how best to teach students ways to read and to understand word problems. Word problems present myriad challenges, not the least of which is the issue of how to unravel a knot of language so concise that the story seems to be about nothing, about a person baking muffins, say, the drama consisting of the muffins needing to be placed into boxes. Lessons on “translating math into English” and “translating English into math” are an integral part of the work of understanding word problems. This comes first. After that, children learn how to substitute easier numbers into the story. They re-read the story with the easier numbers and at that point can often be heard saying, “Oh, I get it!” But sometimes that doesn’t work, either, which means that children go back to the checklist and choose another strategy, such as writing the equation in words instead of in numbers, noting, for example, if it makes more sense to do muffins ÷ number of boxes, or boxes ÷ number of muffins. Recently, a fifth grade teacher asked me for the word problem-solving lessons I’d created. The fifth grade team had decided to devote time to teaching strategies for tackling word problems. They did not have incremental materials on this topic, so they opted to use mine. By having all of the resources I offer—lessons for fourth grade children who are learning about equivalent fractions, for example; checklists for solving word problems; lessons on applying the checklists to word problems; lessons on understanding how to distinguish division from multiplication Kornblatt/Leave proposal Dec2017 6 language; notebook pages on how to create equivalent fractions—in one place, teachers will be able to make use of materials that follow the Amherst curriculum, are aligned with the Standards, and are based on the AVMR concepts of sequencing, fluency, and mental math. In addition to work on lessons and reviews, I aim to work during a professional leave on the development of intervention assessments. As we know, assessments are vital to the process of both learning and teaching. Over the past year, encouraged by Diane Chamberlain and her introduction of the book Leaders of their Own Learning to the Fort River staff, I have been developing practice and assessment pages on targeted mathematical skills such as bare division, division in word problems, and measurement conversions. Children keep track of their own scores on frequent assessments, and they’re able to monitor their progress on what Ron Berger calls Target Trackers. In addition, I’ve become interested in exit tickets, very short assessments that teachers give to students at the end of a math lesson. These mini-assessments give teachers a snapshot of children’s comprehension of material that has just been taught. Teachers love good exit tickets—they are extremely useful—but classroom teachers rarely have the time to make their own. They are grateful when I’m able to provide them with short, powerful assessments that give them immediate information about the success—or lack thereof—of their lessons. Kornblatt/Leave proposal Dec2017 7 Statement reflecting the staff member's understanding of his/her own professional contributions to the school system I have worked in the Amherst schools since 1990, serving in a variety of roles, including as a classroom teacher (kindergarten and second grade) and as a writing and math intervention teacher. I worked as the bilingual teacher in the Spanish bilingual program for two years. I developed math workshops for district teachers on early childhood concepts of numeracy for kindergarten and second grade, and I also developed a non-fiction writing program for fourth and fifth grade, which I self-published and provided to teachers. I was chosen as one of two Amherst teachers to attend the Mount Holyoke yearlong math initiative for teachers. I have served on Fort River’s Principal’s Advisory Committee, and have participated in scheduling committees and on Summer Math committees, most recently serving on the Data Committee this past summer. In 2014 I applied for and received an AEF grant that was focused on mathematical fluency. The grant paid for an invited speaker who presented to first through fourth grade teachers in the spring of 2015. Last year I spent the day visiting math classes in a Taiwanese elementary school. I brought back a series of math lessons on fractions and mixed numbers, which I re-created in English and then used with my fifth grade students. I have recently been invited to attend the Wallace Research Symposium on Talent Development, a symposium hosted by the University of Iowa Belin-Blank Center, the Johns Hopkins University Center for Talented Youth, and the Vanderbilt University Study of Mathematically Precocious Youth to be held in Baltimore, Maryland in April, 2018. I anticipate being able to bring back ideas for teaching mathematically talented youth to the Amherst schools. Kornblatt/Leave proposal Dec2017 8 As I consider embarking on this professional improvement program, I’m fortunate to have an educational foundation that will help guide me. I have a graduate degree from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, which enables me to understand the value of research-based approaches to education and which affords me connections and context as I do my daily work and envision this book project. I have an MFA in creative writing with a concentration in nonfiction. I’m well-versed in the writing process and have a track record of bringing written projects to fruition. I am passionate about my work, and I look forward to sharing the work I love with others. Amherst Public Schools Sabbatical Application Applicant: Alvaro “Alvie” Borrell School: Crocker Farm Elementary School Position: Special Education Teacher Contact information: ​​, (413) 549-0943 I am requesting a paid sabbatical leave for the Fall Term of the 2017/18 academic year. This leave will allow me to be able to fulfill the 500 hour practicum requirement that is necessary to achieve a Special Education Administrator’s License. The location of the program has yet to be determined, but its purpose will be to work with a special education administrator from a different district in order to gain a practical understanding of what the role entails. I have been a teacher in the Amherst Public Schools since the 2007/8 school year. Out of my 10 years as an elementary school teacher, 8 of them have been as a special education teacher at Crocker Farm Elementary School. For my other two years I served as an intervention teacher for Marks Meadow and Wildwood Elementary Schools. The grades I have worked with range from second to sixth grade. Currently I serve as a 6th grade co-teacher with Judah Hughes. In addition to my teaching and special education responsibilities, I am routinely requested to conduct bilingual-Spanish evaluations for other schools, and I contribute to school discussions pertaining to special education issues and student needs. Justification for the Sabbatical Leave: Currently, I am a graduate student at UMASS Amherst in the Special Education Administrator program. This is my third semester, and by the end of the fall 2016 semester I would have earned 18 credits. My goal with this program is to develop the skills and knowledge necessary to be a Special Education administrator. I have always had an interest in developing these skills so as to be able to positively impact the education of students with special needs and to create an environment where teachers are supported and grow professionally. The opportunity to further research the myriad aspects of administration has been rewarding. It is also exciting when concepts or topics I am learning about can be applied at a practical level. Concepts such as co-teaching and learning how to view a problem through various perspectives are areas I have had to explore deeply in the program. Benefit to Crocker Farm Elementary School and the District My intention with the practicum is to gain a better understanding of how special education services are managed and delivered in a school district other than Amherst’s. In particular, I hope to gain experience in a district that has a diverse socioeconomic and ethnic environment. As a bilingual-Spanish educator, I have an interest with understanding how dual-needs students are identified and serviced in other school settings. By immersing myself in another district, I would hope to be able to return to Amherst with ideas and practices that could be shared with colleagues and administrators that would improve our practices. Areas such as co-teaching, eligibility, specialized programs, curriculum, and intervention/RTI services are just some of the aspects I am excited to learn more about and compare to our practices. Aside from sharing knowledge with Crocker Farm staff and other teachers, I believe that attaining a special education administrator’s license will be a benefit for the Amherst Public School District. The Department of Education identifies “Special Education Administrator” as an area of critical shortage. I would hope that attaining this license would at some point in the future be of value to not just Crocker Farm Elementary but the Amherst School System. Thank you very much for your consideration. Please let me know if I can provide you with any more information that would help you with your decision. My school Principal, Mr. Shea, is aware of my request and may also be contacted. You may contact me at or 413-549-0943.

Production Date: 
Sunday, January 14, 2018

Amherst School Committee

The Amherst School Committee is responsible for the operations of the elementary schools, Pre-K to 6, which serve students from the Town of Amherst. These schools include Crocker Farm, Fort River, Marks Meadow, and Wildwood.