WILMINGTON — Wilmington’s school board meeting last Wednesday night featured college updates, summer reading, the superintendent’s report and the high school textbook.
Wilmington Middle School representatives David Dynan and Isabella Zaya shared some of the events unfolding as they complete eighth grade. These included the Great East Music Festival, a trip to Six Flags, a trip to the North End, and a middle and high school choir.
They shared their excitement for new and old traditions to end college with a week of events, including a yard dance party and a passing ceremony. The committee thanked them for their time as representatives on the committee and presented them with certificates of recognition.
Another Grade 8 student, Allison Hall, introduced Project 351, which held a spring donation drive to collect clothing for the nonprofit Cradles to Crayons. They collected 81 bags of donations in Wilmington alone. She also mentioned the WMS Drama Club production of Beauty and the Beast which ran out.
David Ragsdale said he was proud of the middle school and high school drama departments for the excellent productions this spring.
Wilmington Eagle Scout Zachary Weinstein was invited to the meeting to talk about a donation he was making as part of his Eagle Scout project of 30 heavy-duty embroidered playbags. He said it would help to continue using the recreation bags in the protocol in the future. The bags would contain materials, hand sanitizer and indoor recreation games for Woburn Street School classrooms.
MJ Byrnes appreciated Laura Stinson, a physical education teacher, who had started the playbag program, and the committee accepted the donation.
After that, Mia Parviainen, an English teacher at Wilmington High School, provided an update on this summer’s reading schedule. She indicated that student reading programs are nearly universal and that independent reading leads to better knowledge of words and language, greater fluency as readers, and learning about people and the world.
After surveying students in grades 6-12, they found that families supported encouraged but not required reading and book choice. For this year, they had created a program that would gradually increase expectations by year.
Middle school students would have recommended but non-required books and optional challenges and note-taking guides, while high school students needed summer readings with different assignments or activities by class and course level.
Parviainen also talked about the 100 copies of a poetry book she had won in a contest that she would read to see where they would fit into the program.
Deputy Superintendent Christine Elliott shared that co-directors have been hired and have begun planning five weeks of summer school with two sessions: 7:45-9:45 and 10:00-12:00. It would welcome students in need of remediation or at risk of failure. in middle school, and credit recovery or remediation in high school.
There was also a plan for an enrichment program this summer offering a summer book club, computer-aided design, an introduction to robotics, and creative writing for students entering grades 7-12.
In a public comment, resident Jeffrey Cohen claimed that students are being taught inappropriate ideas about gender and race. He read a poster campaign he found in high school and replaced the slogans with his own ideas.
“Instead of encouraging students to become activists, it should say, ‘Activism has no place in a school setting,’” he suggested.
In response, another resident stood up to thank the committee for providing a space where students receive an inclusive and diverse education and step into the 21st century.
The superintendent’s report covered the evaluation of the superintendent, the nursing coordinator, the Wildwood School and an update on the bullying and harassment program.
He shared with the committee the components of the assessment, which would be evidence against the four standards determined by DESE and the performance objectives linked to the district’s goals. District goals for the superintendent were the WHS and WMS program reviews and the Back-to-School Time Project.
Brand announced that Rebecca Brown would step in as the official permanent director of nursing after the unexpected departure of Doreen Crowe, which led to Brown taking over as acting director.
He explained the reason for the decision not to occupy the Wildwood Street school with pupils or staff next year.
“After discussion and consideration of some overall concerns about this facility, it particularly seems that moving students and staff for next year, even with the building ready, does not seem prudent,” he said. .
Beginning a study to see how they could move students from Wildwood to other schools, they would have options presented to the school committee at the end of the summer. President Jenn Bryson said she was grateful for the ongoing MSBA process with the Wildwood.
Finally, Brand discussed the district’s intention to focus on the Massachusetts Aggression Reduction Center program and grow it through to full implementation next year. This program would help educate students about bullying, cyberbullying, bias, diversity, and healthy peer relationships, while incorporating a school-community partnership.
WHS Principal Linda Peters explained updates to the WHS Handbook. Some changes were more organizational – such as the reorganization of sections – and others related to recent program changes that the committee had approved – such as changes to the grade point average (GPA) system.
Some additional explanations have been added on the course dropout policy and the disciplinary block. A note for Bryson’s future was a desire for a textbook that could be engaging and readable for students and families; the manual as presented is over 100 pages.
Committee members mentioned other recent events they had attended in high school and all the talented students involved: the Great East Music Festival with the WHS band, choir and strings; the Wilmington Art Exhibition; and induction into the National Honor Society.
The next school committee meeting is scheduled for June 8 at 7 p.m.