The 2013-14 school year is what the School Committees in both Acton and Boxborough are calling a “transitional year”, the year in which all the planning related to expanding our school district to include both Acton and Boxborough from Pre-K through grade 12 will occur. In order to keep both parents and other community members informed, the ABRSC and ABTSC has begun a monthly update of the issues being addressed that relate to this transition. If you have any comments or concerns regarding this update, please contact Kristina Rychlik at email@example.com.
At our October 3rd School Committee meeting, JD Head, our Director of Facilities and Transportation, presented a first look at a possible new transportation plan for next year, which could transition the elementary schools to a “one-tier” schedule (e.g., all elementary schools in Acton and Boxborough would begin and end at the same time every year).
While many details remain to be addressed, JD has demonstrated that it may be possible to succeed in this regard, while making our overall transportation program run more efficiently. Briefly, a number of buses would be assigned to each school (Merriam and McCarthy-Towne would be grouped together, as would Gates and Douglas, while Blanchard and Conant would stand alone), and those buses would pick up children and drop them at their respective schools for the same start time.
There are both pros and cons to this new idea; benefits include overall greater efficiency in having fuller buses, less idling time, more convenience for families, and additional resources to service extracurricular bus needs and ease secondary level overcrowding. Bus passing will continue as it currently does in Acton and will be expanded to include Boxborough; even now, occasionally a bus is “full” and cannot accept bus passes, but that is not a common problem and is not expected to become a significant issue. There are some potential drawbacks to this one-tier idea: the system may be slightly more expensive, some bus stops may be eliminated, there may be additional buses running through neighborhoods, and we may face challenges with driver retention and hiring.
There was sufficient interest in further developing this plan, and the School Committee asked JD to present a second iteration of this plan to the Regional School Committee, targeting our meeting on December 5th.
Principal Search Process/Blanchard Elementary
Currently, Dr. Curtis Bates serves as both the Superintendent of Boxborough and the Principal of the Blanchard School. When the districts are fully regionalized, we will only require a principal at Blanchard, and the search has begun for a candidate to fill that position. The search committee is being facilitated by Marie Altieri, Director of Personnel and Administration for the Acton-Boxborough Regional School District, and includes faculty and staff, parents and community members.
The search committee has begun meeting, the position has been advertised and posted, and the search committee has received a number of applications. They expect to select candidates to interview by late October, with the hope of making a decision by late December.
School Calendar Review Process
As there are currently differences between the Acton and Boxborough school calendars, the School Committee has begun the process of evaluating our options for reconciling those differences, particularly in the area of religious holidays, start date for the first day of school, and Thursday schedule. An e-mail survey was sent to parents via the school principals on Friday, September 20th, and survey results were discussed at the October 3rd Regional School Committee meeting.
As a result of the survey responses, Dr. Steve Mills has presented two options for the 2014-15 school year: both start after Labor Day (which is Sept. 1, 2014); Option A includes Rosh Hashanah and Good Friday as “no school” days (Yom Kippur is on a Saturday in 2014), while Option B shows school scheduled on those religious holidays.
The calendar will be voted on at the November 7th Transitional School Committee meeting.
Mission, Values and Goals Policy
At its October 3, 2013 meeting, the ABTSC reviewed proposed revisions to the policies on Mission and Values (AD) and Goals (ADA). The Policy Subcommittee has recommended combining these two policies into one and making other related modifications. This was a first read of the proposed revisions. The ABTSC will vote on the proposed revisions at its November 7, 2013 meeting.
Elementary Enrollment Report/Class Size Guidelines Update
At our October 17th meeting, Marie Altieri, Director of Personnel and Administration presented the annual Enrollment Report, in which recent enrollment changes were documented and projected for 2014-15. Key information presented included a review of class size guidelines in Acton and Boxborough as well as projections for the number of elementary classes and their projected sizes for next year.
Currently, the class size guidelines are slightly different in Acton and Boxborough. Acton recommends no more than 22 students in grades K-3, with no more than 25 students in grades 4-6. Boxborough recommends no more than 20 students per Kindergarten class, with no more than 22 in grades 1-3 and no more than 24 in grades 4-6. Boxborough recently did a detailed review of the literature and analysis of the issue of class size, and Marie Altieri explained the benefits of smaller Kindergarten classes. She has asked the School Committee to reconcile the differences in these policies, which the Policy Subcommittee will be doing in the near future.
In addition, Acton Elementary Parents have been notified via their principals of the opportunity to transfer to the Blanchard Memorial School in Boxborough for the 2014-2015 school year on a space-available basis. Class sizes at Blanchard are currently smaller at some grade levels, and transportation will be provided from Acton homes to Blanchard beginning September 2014.
Regionalization Financial Benefits
The Regionalization Study Committee estimated that there would be approximately $986,000 in financial benefits in the first year of regionalization. Of this amount, $402,050 was due to estimated personnel savings. An Administrative Transitional Team has been meeting each week to work through the implementation plans for the expanded Region. At this time, this Administrative Transitional Team has estimated $419,000 in personnel savings. The details of these savings were provided on page 41 of the School Committee packet of information for the October 3, 2013 meeting.
Track Renovation Project
As of this writing, the AB Track Renovation Committee was very close to meeting their goal of raising $450,000 to renovate the Richard E. Dow track surrounding Leary Field. Fundraising will continue in hopes of improving the track design to include an eight-lane straightaway, but enough money has been raised to date to move ahead at this point.
The school district will contribute up to $150,000 towards the project, which will be completed in two phases to minimize the impact to the school and youth sports teams that use the track and Leary Field. Favorably priced project bids have been received, and vendor selection due diligence is ongoing. The project is expected to be awarded in early November.
There have been innumerable community members involved in getting the project to this point; many thanks for all you’ve done so far!
ABRSD Superintendent Search Committee Update
Our School Superintendent, Dr. Stephen Mills, recently announced his retirement planned for the end of this school year. The School Committee has begun the process to find a new Superintendent.
The School Committee will be using the services of Future Management Systems, a search firm, to assist with the recruitment of candidates. A consultant from FMS will be working with the search committee during its review of candidates. The search committee has been selected and will begin meeting in early November, and will review applications in mid-December. Interviews with candidates will take place immediately after Winter Break, and then once finalists are identified - a public process will take place that ends with the School Committee appointing a new Superintendent by the end of January (for a July 1 start date).
The official job posting has now been finalized and is listed in EdWeek magazine, as well as other professional association sites. Applications will be accepted until December 3, 2013.
We have also created a website for the Superintendent search. The address is: www.absuptsearch.com -- the purpose of this website is to provide an initial entry point for potential candidates, where they can learn about the search process and get an initial glimpse at our District. This website is not intended to be a comprehensive overview of the District, but rather a snapshot. Feel free to pass along the website address to colleagues and friends who may be interested in the position. Those who visit the website can download a PDF flyer that also offers some highlights of the District and includes the details of the search process.
We have scheduled 6 community focus groups, listed below, where members of the towns and the schools can offer feedback and perspectives about the search - desired qualities in the next Superintendent, issues and challenges that he/she will need to address, etc.
- Monday, Nov.4 RJ Grey Library 2:00pm--‐3:15pm Acton--‐Boxborough Staff
- Monday, Nov. 4 Blanchard School Library 3:30pm--‐4:45pm Blanchard School Staff
- Monday, Nov. 4 Blanchard School Library 6:30pm--‐8:00pm Boxborough Community
- Tuesday, Nov. 5 High School 115N 1:30pm--‐2:30pm Administrators/Central Office
- Tuesday, Nov. 5 Parker Damon Building 3:00pm--‐4:15pm Acton Public Schools Staff
- Tuesday, Nov. 5 Acton Memorial Library 6:30pm--‐8:00pm Acton Community
Please note that Nov. 5 is our Professional Day, and so the 3:00pm start time for APS staff members will not be problematic for those on the late start schedule.
For those who cannot attend the community focus groups, and for additional input from those who do attend, there is an online survey as well. To ensure that all community feedback is incorporated into the report and leadership profile that is developed for the School Committee and Search Committee to use, we are moving up the window for the online survey instrument and making it available starting October 29th. Community members have from October 29th to November 10th to participate in the online survey. Here is the link to the survey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/N53GLYL
ABTSC Support for Senate Bill 228
At their meeting on 10/17/13, the Acton-Boxborough Transitional School Committee was presented with information on Senate Bill 228, an act relative to regional school district capital project funding, by Nancy Banks and Cheryl Mahoney, respective Acton and Boxborough representatives on the Minuteman District School Committee.
The majority of the AB Transitional School Committee is in favor of this Bill because it is supportive of regional school districts. This is particularly important given that we will be fully regionalized as a PreK-12 district starting July 1, 2014. The Chair of the ABTSC has sent a letter of support to Senator Eldridge, Representative Benson and Representative Atkins.
DESE Ranks Acton-Boxborough Regional High School Level One
Massachusetts' state system places schools and districts on a five-level scale, ranking the highest performing in Level 1 and lowest performing in Level 5. Acton-Boxborough has historically been a Level 1 high school; however, we received a rating of level 2 at the end of last year based on a slightly lower MCAS participation by some groups of students with legitimate excused absences.
Deborah Bookis, Director of Curriculum and Assessment, reports that we have received official word from MA DESE (Department of Elementary and Secondary Education) that the high school's accountability rating was restored back from Level 2 to Level 1 after the initial rating was appealed. Using data district officials provided, they adjusted the district's participation rate, which resulted in the change. This will be reflected on DESE's site when they reload accountability data later this fall.