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School Committee recommends new director of student services

by | May 26, 2023 | Education, Featured: Education

On Thursday, the Hopkinton School Committee voted 4-0 for the superintendent to enter negotiations with Abigail Hanscom, a Hopkinton resident, for the position of director of student services.

If negotiations are successful, Hanscom, currently director of student services in Westwood, will replace Karen Zaleski, who left the district to become interim superintendent in Weston.

Superintendent Carol Cavanaugh noted that 12 applicants were narrowed down to eight, then five and ultimately two, Hanscom and Jennifer Toth, currently director of pupil services in Harvard.

Board members spoke to the strengths of both candidates but gave the edge to Hanscom based on her direct experience in special education and the good relationship she has established with the SPED parent advisory group in Westwood.

Prior to her 11 years of experience in Westwood, Hanscom served as special education administrator in Newton Public Schools for nearly 13 years.

Her work experience also includes four years as a learning center teacher for Framingham Public Schools.

She earned a certificate of advanced graduate study in educational administration and supervision from the University of Massachusetts Boston Graduate School of Education.

Hanscom also has a master’s degree in social work from Boston University and a master’s in special education and teaching from BU’s Wheelock College of Education and Human Development.

Her undergraduate degree in elementary education and teaching is from the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Overview on computer science given

In other business, Assistant Superintendent Jeff LaBroad and Hopkinton High School teacher Doug Scott gave a presentation about computer science and its evolution in Grades K-12.

LaBroad said 15,000 to 20,000 jobs open daily in that industry with a starting salary of $105,000, so the district owes it to students to prepare them for that line of work if it interests them.

He noted that computer science “lives” in several areas of curriculum, including business/technology/engineering, library/media, visual art, science, literacy/English and social/emotional learning.

Scott said he has seen a lot of growth in computer science since 2017. At the elementary level, he explained, students have three to six lessons at each grade level through the library focusing on digital citizenship, computing systems and computational thinking.

At the middle school, computer science is embedded in media arts, media literacy and technology and engineering.

The program at HHS in business/technology/engineering now has a senior capstone project option, Scott said.

The visual arts program and extracurricular activities also expose students to the field through activities like robotics, the Girls Who Code Club, Business Professionals of America, Science Fair, Inventors Club and more.

“There’s opportunities for students all over the place if students would like to jump in and engage in them,” Scott said.

LaBroad noted the addition in this year’s budget for a 0.4 FTE (full-time equivalent) educator to offer one introductory and one advanced placement course in computer science.

The courses will be offered each semester, with 24 seats available in each of the four sessions. Those 96 seats filled up quickly for the program’s rollout this coming school year, LaBroad said.

In 2022, 5.8% of students in the state enrolled in a high school computer science class. That compares with 13.4 percent in Hopkinton, the presenters noted.

Interest from female students has increased from 7 percent in 2015 to 35 percent in 2022. Scott said he would like that percentage at 50/50 someday.

HMS robotics team recognized

The committee congratulated the Hopkinton Middle School KryptoKnights robotics team, which won the Excellence Award at the VEX IQ Robotics Competition in Dallas earlier this month.

“Just for clarity, you are the best middle school [robotics team] in the world,” Nancy Cavanaugh said to the students, who were present.

Advisor Patricia Allen noted there were 50 countries represented by 800 teams at the world competition, narrowed down from a preliminary field of 4,500 teams.

Allen noted she had 19 HMS teams this year, with four competing in Dallas. The KrptoKnights also placed third in their division’s Teamwork Champions event.

The team is comprised of eighth graders Agam Bhatia, Sai Shrivardhan (Shri) Dasari, Rudra Pachori, Suhani Patni, Prannav Raja and Pahlaj Sharma.

The students showed the committee the robot they created, explained the challenges of the competition and posed for photos.

Misc.: New school cost discussed

During her superintendent’s report, Carol Cavanaugh addressed concerns expressed about the possible price tag for a proposed Elmwood School replacement.

She said the total cost will not be known until factors like building materials are chosen and tweaks continue to be made in design to reduce the budget.

The $170 million-plus figure people are seeing is based on using all the best materials and features, she said. It also does not factor in the likely 25% reimbursement from the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA).

She urged members of the public to watch or attend Elementary School Building Committee (ESBC) meetings and consult the Elmwood School website to get detailed information.

An ESBC virtual public forum will take place on June 7 at 6:30 p.m. …

The School Committee voted to name Vertex LLT as owner’s project manager (OPM) for the Hopkins School addition project. Town Meeting approved $3 million for the OPM design and engineering piece of that project.

“Vertex has served us well,” vice chair Amanda Fargiano noted, referring to the fact that Vertex also is the OPM for the proposed Elmwood School replacement project. …

Earlier in the meeting, during the committee’s annual reorganization, Nancy Cavanaugh was reelected as chair, but both Holly Morand and Fargiano expressed interest in serving as vice chair. The committee decided to wait until all members were present (Adam Munroe missed the meeting) to have a vote. …

The next regular School Committee meeting will be June 5 at 7 p.m.

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