Combined School Committee addresses criticism and community concerns

Earlier this month, district school committee members addressed parents’ concerns about members’ knowledge of Common Core issues. They also addressed criticism about committees’ communications with the community.

At the Combined School Committee meeting, Regional School Committee Chair Kathleen Harrigan responded to recent criticism about the committees’ communication policy regarding audience sharing.

At the May Regional School Committee meeting, audience members asked members to become educated on issues related to the Common Core. Harrigan told them that they couldn’t deliberate on issues raised unless they were on the agenda. That policy was heavily criticized by commenters on this blog.

At the June Combined School Committee meeting, Harrigan defended:

we very much value [the community’s] input and your comments and in fact, if you just look at our track record over this past year about issues that have come up. . . we actually do take action on them.

She clarified that even when comments aren’t addressed at the same meeting, “they certainly get our attention”. Harrigan cited examples of community-raised issues the committee recently addressed:

  • Changing the school calendar (committee was formed and recommendations presented)
  • Parent’s concern about fees (administration did a “thorough review” and recommended capping certain fees)
  • Core Curriculum (devoted an entire year in Curriculum Advisory Committee)
  • Start time initiative (Administration investigating possibilities)
  • School policies

And this month, Harrigan presented fellow committee members with a packet of information to help them self-educate on issues related to the Common Core. It included links to arguments for and against the standards.

The packet was developed in partnership with member Barbara O’Mara and her husband John. John was one of the voices in May asking the regional committee to hold and attend a pro/con forum on Common Core issues. Barbara and Harrigan encouraged available members to attend a forum held at the Northborough Library on June 20th. (That has since been posted on YouTube.)

Superintendent Christine Johnson told the committee that the administration is working on increased communication with parents.

Southborough School Committee’s Gerry DeCapra pointed out that the committee had worked hard on a MCAS/Common Core curriculum forum for parents in the past, only to have five people turn up for it.

Earlier in the meeting, Assistant Superintendent Gregory Martineau presented a summary of the district’s work on curriculum development. He explained that the schools curriculum is rigorous and goes beyond standards.

Harrigan said she asked teachers about criticism that standards are restricting their creativity. She was surprised to hear from a teacher that curriculum alignment efforts have “enhanced their creativity”. Online tools have district teachers “an online place to collaborate”.

Southborough School Committee Chair Paul Desmond told the public that the administration’s job is to work with standards handed down.

If you want to make changes to the Common Core, this is not the place to do it. You need to go to the Mass Board of Ed and talk to them.

To see the presentation on curriculum work, or other discussions, check out the recently posted video of the meeting by Northborough Cable Access Television.

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John Butler
7 years ago

“working on increased communication”. A solvable problem. No committee is too important to interact directly with citizens who attend its meetings. Time to change policy and do that. Just like every other committee.

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