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School Committee reviews health survey results, SEPAC policy

by | Apr 28, 2023 | Education, Featured: Education

On Thursday, the Hopkinton School Committee heard the results of the Metrowest Adolescent Health Survey, which asked students their feelings about support, connectiveness and social media use.

Board members picked out some of the results, such as 58% of middle school students feeling they have a supportive adult at school versus 89% of that age group thinking they have that support at home.

At the high school, 72 percent of youth feel there is a supportive adult at school compared to 90 percent outside of school.

Another result showed 48% of middle school LGBTQ students feeling close to people at school versus 70% of youth not in the LGBTQ community feeling that way.

At the high school, 46% of LGBTQ students report feeling close to people at school compared to 69% outside of that community.

“Is this going to lead to an investigation and possibly supports put into place?” School Committee member Lya Batlle-Rafferty asked.

Superintendent Carol Cavanaugh said the district takes the data and other information gathered from similar surveys for that purpose. “That’s what we do when we get this data,” she said.

School Committee member Holly Morand said she is not surprised by the feedback from LGBTQ students “given the current socio-political climate.” She said constant conversations about worthiness impact feelings of self-worth and self-esteem.

Board members also talked about results showing 21% of middle school girls and 13% of boys using social media for three or more hours per day. At the high school, 25% of girls and 20% of boys report that amount of usage.

A related question showed 13% of boys at the middle school and 26% of girls feeling badly about themselves or left out because of what others post online. At the high school, the rates are 16% of boys and 39% of girls on that issue.

Committee members questioned what is considered “social media” and whether the hours were spread out throughout the course of the day or all at once.

The superintendent said that the data is important for parents and staff to know.

Evaluation of superintendent continues

The board and superintendent continued to review her job performance, looking at the steps she has taken to achieve her goals for the school year.

The goals concern changes to K-6 math curriculum; writing curriculum re-design and disciplinary literacy instruction; DEI/social emotional learning efforts; enrollment growth and building use; and growth and improvement of administration team through communication and care for each other as well as a refocus on teaching and learning.

Committee chair Nancy Cavanaugh said the meeting next week would be devoted to board members giving their feedback and ratings. That information will be compiled and averaged into a single report to be voted on in two weeks.

“No one can leave this committee before that vote,” Nancy Cavanaugh jokingly noted to Jennifer Devlin and Batlle-Rafferty, who are not seeking re-election on May 15.

The chair explained that it is important for the members who worked with the superintendent all year to be the ones to evaluate her.

SEPAC, committee look at policy

Chair Jennifer Halliday and vice chair Jamie Wronka, representing the Special Education Parents Advisory Council (SEPAC), discussed a policy draft outlining their future roles and collaboration.

Among its contents: appointment of a School Committee member as SEPAC liaison; establishment of a meeting calendar at the start of the year; monthly meetings between the SEPAC chair, director of special education and possibly other relevant parties to talk about programming concerns; and two meetings with the two boards in the fall and spring to discuss annual goals, opportunities and challenges, etc.

Also, there was discussion about a liaison from SEPAC attending School Committee meetings to be included in agenda topics related to special education. The issue, Halliday said, is having access to information enough in advance so SEPAC can provide input and ask questions.

Halliday said, “I think we’re moving forward. We’re doing everything we agreed upon. I think we’re working toward a better relationship.”

The policy will be voted on at a future date.

School choice, enrollment discussed

Following a public hearing, the School Committee voted not to participate in school choice for the 2023-24 school year, citing a lack of space.

The superintendent said in June 2022 that the enrollment was 4,069 (including seniors). Current enrollment as of April 27 is 4,216. In addition, there are 115 children enrolled in integrated preschool, with another three students pending approval.

The superintendent said the district opened Marathon preschool with 53 students and started this year with under 100. Director of Budget and Finance Susan Rothermich said the town is looking into possible uses for the existing Elmwood School (if a replacement is built).

Rothermich said in the future, Parks & Recreation may use some space and would maintain the gym. She said the town project may involve using a portion of the current Elmwood School for integrated preschool.

“That would be really awesome,” Batlle-Rafferty said of the future possibility.

On a related note, the superintendent said the proposed Elmwood School project has been advanced from feasibility to the “preferred schematic design” phase after she and Elmwood Principal Anne Carver and representatives from Perkins Eastman and Vertex committee met with the Massachusetts School Building Authority on Wednesday.

“That is a huge milestone,” the superintendent said. “and it’s super exciting for all of us.” Carol Cavanaugh added that it took a lot of work by many people to get to this point.

In other business, the board voted to authorize payment for the Lou and Cathy White Scholarship and the Annette Joyce Floh Memorial Scholarship, both in the amount of $500.

The STEM Scholarship, totaling $5,000, also was authorized.

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