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 School Notes

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Dave
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PostSchool Notes

I am starting this thread as a go to place for information and comments on school stuff;

Just wanted to drop a note on a few School things…

Hats off to... Lucas Thompson

The Middle School held a Career day. I was very impressed at the setup and speakers. Featured were a Toymaker (Hasbro), an Attorney General Prosecutor, Police, Fire, DEA, and at least 15 other occupations.

The Middle School Bands (6th, 7th, and 8th each have a band) participated in the Great East Competition in North Andover. 6th received a Gold, 7th a Silver, and 8th a Gold for their performances.

Though limited time kept me from attending other district events that perhaps other members can comment on, I must say that the level of commitment and pride on the part of faculty, parents, and students alike has been quite impressive.

We are moving through quite a transition period between the incoming Superintendent and the almost daily budget issues. Several policies are in the process of being updated or created. One such policy that is in the process of being finalized is a Multi-Media Communications policy. The goals of this policy are to connect the public information generated from School Committee meetings, such as budget information, contracts, information used to determine a motion on, with the taxpayers through the website, cable 17, School Notes, and e-mail.

Another topic that is entering the High School is a pilot program that creates student advisors. This person aids a student by being a confidant and pointing them in the right direction for resources. This is done at no additional cost to the district and is another example at the level of commitment in our schools.

Hope to add more as time allows.

Dave
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School Notes :: Comments

Re: School Notes
Post on Tue Jun 02, 2009 7:30 pm  tombenoit
Dave;

Great start. Keep the info flowing. One hint - keep a ruuning list of the new services being performed (i.e. student advisors) at not cost. Have that ready when it comes time for contract discussions. My experience was that they somehow show up as a proposed stipend.
Hi Dave,
Where can we find the agenda for upcoming meetings? It has been emailed from the schools, but I'm not able to open it. I've checked a few sites, no luck there either. Very frustrating for parents who want to stay involved. I'm sure this will be addressed in the Multi Media Policy being organized , but what about now?
Any insight you can provide would be helpful/appreciated.
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Re: School Notes
Post on Sat Jun 13, 2009 10:58 pm  Dave
From the school website- district calendar;

June 15th

The language in the multi-media policy will address the agenda with the method of posting the agenda and the timeframe to do so.

D
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Re: School Notes
Post on Wed Jun 17, 2009 2:24 pm  Dave
I am very happy to report that the District's first ever Multi-media Policy was passed Monday night with a 5-0 vote. This policy is a major step forward for the District in that it shifts the burden of obtaining information about the District from the stakeholder to the District Administration.

Here is the policy-

Quote :
Multi-Media Communications Policy

The Seekonk School Committee recognizes the importance of providing communication and transparency through the use of multi-media including, but not limited to, the School Notes Community Board, the Educational Access Channel, the School Website, and e-mail.

The purpose of this policy is to establish a series of guidelines to address several methods of multi-media formats. The guidelines are designed to provide the District Stakeholders with information in a timely and effective manner.

COMMUNICATION GUIDELINES

I. Educational Access Channel

The Educational Access Channel is a place where educational information can be easily disseminated to the community. As part of that process, the broadcast of School Committee Meetings and school functions is a priority of the School Committee.

The Superintendent or his/her designee shall be responsible for ensuring that the following guidelines are adhered to for preparing and recording School Committee meetings:


1. All Regular School Committee meetings shall be broadcast to the community. The Superintendent or his/her designee, shall be responsible for setting up all necessary equipment prior to the start of the School Committee meeting. This shall not delay the start of the Committee meeting.
2. Should a meeting not be broadcast live, a minimum of five (5) business days notice (when possible) shall be given via Channel 17 School Notes. The notice will also include the dates and times that the meeting will be shown.
3. The camera positions, operating personnel, and equipment will not interfere with the decorum and dignity of the Committee meetings. The cables, microphone cords, and camera locations will be as unobtrusive as possible, and will not be operated in a distracting manner.
4. Equipment will not be located in such a way that a safety hazard is created for room occupants





The Superintendent or his/her designee shall be responsible for ensuring that the following formats are adhered to for recording School Committee meetings:

1. Every effort will be made to broadcast each meeting live and rebroadcast it a minimum of six (6) times per week (including weekends) until the next Regular School Committee Meeting with proper notice posted on the Channel 17 School Notes Bulletin Board.
2. All meetings will be stored on digital media formats. All meetings will also be saved as a podcast to be uploaded to the district website within forty-eight (48) hours. Streaming and/or Downloadable Video shall also be available via the School Department website within seventy-two (72) hours of the conclusion of the Committee meeting and shall be available for thirty (30) days. The Superintendent or his/her designee shall be responsible for creating the podcast and streaming and/or downloadable video and uploading it to the website within the established timeline.




II. School Notes Communication Board:

The bulletin board known as Channel 17 School Notes shall serve as a portal to information about the Seekonk Public Schools. It will provide useful information to town residents in a timely manner that allows them to access the information from the comfort of their home. The Superintendent or his/her designee shall be responsible for ensuring these notices are properly posted and maintained.

The following shall be maintained and updated constantly in the sequence of announcements:
1. Contact information (including phone, fax, and address) for all schools and central administration (including but not limited to The Superintendent, Business Office, Curriculum and Instruction Office, Special Services, Transportation, Athletics, and Maintenance)
2. The next meeting of the School Committee. This shall include date, time, location, and broadcasting status (live or live to tape).
3. Notice of PTO/PAC meetings as well as other civic groups that are based in the schools (including school, date, time, and location).
4. Notice of School Improvement Council Meetings (including school, date, time, and location).
5. Listing of all programs currently airing on the Access Channel (including date and start times).
6. Any other item as deemed necessary by a vote of the School Committee or the Superintendent.








III School Website

The School Committee recognizes that the school district website is a vital source of communication and information for all Stakeholders. The goals of the School Committee for the use of the school website are; to make the school website easier to identify with by implementing the domain name www.SeekonkSchools.org, to improve transparency by making School Committee meetings available through podcasts and streaming and/or downloadable video formats, and to make documentation and information disseminated during open School Committee meetings and other sources available to Stakeholders in a downloadable format.

a) Any documentation that is part of the agenda or voted on by the School Committee during the open portion of the meeting shall be uploaded to the school website within forty-eight (48) hours of the completion of said meeting.
b) Any Contracts between the Committee and Unions, Individuals, or Collaboratives shall be posted on the website in an easily accessible location within forty-eight (48) hours of being signed or ratified. This shall include contracts dealing with tangible items and real property.
c) A podcast of each School Committee meeting shall be uploaded to the school website within forty-eight (48) hours of said meeting and will remain available for download for a period of thirty (30) days.
d) A streaming and/or downloadable video of each School Committee meeting shall be uploaded to the school website within seventy-two (72) hours of said meeting and will remain available for download until replaced by the next School Committee meeting streaming video.
e) It shall be the responsibility of the School Committee to inform the Superintendent or his/her designee on how long any documentation shall remain available for download on the school website.


IV E-mail

The School committee recognizes the importance of disseminating information through the use of e-mail. The Superintendent or his/her designee shall create and maintain an e-mail group consisting of all district e-mail addresses and of all Stakeholders that register their e-mail address through the district website. The purpose of establishing and maintaining this e-mail group will be to inform all district employees and interested Stakeholders of important events and issues.

a) The district e-mail list shall be used to notify recipients of the School Committee meeting Agenda at least forty-eight (48) hours prior to the scheduled meeting time.
b) The district e-mail list shall be used to notify recipients within forty-eight (48) hours of the availability of downloads as they are added to the district website, including, but not limited to, podcasts, streaming and/or downloadable videos, and files.
Re: School Notes
Post on Wed Jun 17, 2009 6:57 pm  seek2mend
I agree wholeheartedly with Wendy. The more options you can realistically offer the better.

Now onto the more pressing issue of a School Committee dress code;)
Multi-Media Policy
Post on Thu Jun 18, 2009 8:52 am  interestedinseekonk
Kudos and Thank You!
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Re: School Notes
Post on Fri Jun 19, 2009 8:33 am  Dave
Our budget went through with a unanimous vote last night at Town Meeting. cheers

Of course the final numbers are still not out from state...keep your fingers crossed. affraid
Re: School Notes
Post on Fri Jun 19, 2009 8:56 am  MitchV
The teamwork exhibited by everyone involved with the budget process this year was unparalleled. We were able to present a balanced budget that still provides essential services to the citizens in these difficult times. I am honored to work with individuals that put the community first. Kudos to the Board of Selectmen, Finance Comm., Town Admin, Finance Director, School Admin., my colleagues on the School Committee, and everyone else involved. Also, a thank you to the voters at Town Meeting for their support of the budget!

Mitch Vieira
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Re: School Notes
Post on Wed Jul 29, 2009 9:22 am  Dave
We had our meeting Monday night. Lots to post as more time allows but I wanted to at least put out there that a 3 year contract was approved for rental of the pool by Seekonk Aquatics.


A lot of number crunching and language review went into this and I am quite confident that the rental covers any expenses used. With this agreement signed we can now work on increasing the use of the pool during rental hours to increase the annual revenue. More to say about this as time allows...

d
Re: School Notes
Post on Wed Jul 29, 2009 10:02 am  seek2mend
Excellent! The Sun Chronicle did report on it, but I haven't had a chance to read the article or see the meeting.

I think most would agree the pool must generate enough revenue to justify it's exsistence. If not, other options would have to be considered. Hopefully the recreation committee is a management option. The pool was sold to us a a community faciity and has never fulfilled it's promise.

Long ago I suggested working out an agreement with the Y. Whether they meet our entire school health and phys ed needs or a portion, perhaps it is something that should be looked at. They have skilled staff and I do not believe they pay property taxes. IMO, The Natatorium could be a great asset to the Y and still be a community asset if things do not work out with Swim Club.

In any event, it is great that this school committee is being proactive.
Re: School Notes
Post on Wed Jul 29, 2009 9:24 pm  MitchV
As part of the School Committee's Multi Media Policy, the Pool Contract is available online at the district's website (www.seekonkschools.org). From the homepage, click on district then school committee. From there, click on School Committee documentation and July 27, 2009. From there, click on SC agenda back up and half way through the pdf is a copy of the contract. A quicker link to the contract should be ready within the next day or two.

Podcasts of the School Committee Meetings are also available on the website under the School Committee page. Downloadable video of the meetings should also be available shortly.

I would also encourage you to peruse the other documentation available in that folder which are items that the school committee approved/reviewed at their last meeting. Also, from the homepage, in the left column, there is a link titled 'contracts'. This contains all Collective Bargaining Agreements, Individual employee contracts, and any leases that involve the School Department. Meeting Agendas and approved minutes are also available on the site.

The goal of this policy is to promote transparency and make retrieving information easier for citizens. Hopefully, everyone will take advantage of these new additions to our website. We would be happy to hear your feedback on the new documentation/podcasts, etc. so please feel free to email us (also on the website).

Thanks,
Mitch Vieira
mvieira@seekonk.k12.ma.us
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Re: School Notes
Post on Thu Jul 30, 2009 9:21 am  terrybohax
Thank you so much to the SC members for producing a fair and transparent agreement about the pool use by the outside aquatics team. fish

I always felt before that the taxpayers were being taken for a ride by nepots overseeing and scheduling pool time and payments.
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Re: School Notes
Post on Wed Sep 30, 2009 11:23 am  Dave
I am a bit behind with a lot going on in life but here are some latest tidbits from the school side of things;

The computer capabilities in the district were discussed. It is true that more than half of the computers are seven years old or older. To me anything over five years is very limited as the option to perform upgrades is not an option. That being said it is great to have the numbers and see the effort of determining where we are so that planning can be done to figure out where we are going.

A revamped facilities policy is now in affect. In addition to providing a lot more guidance on the use of the facilities and fields, language was also included that allows the recreational Committee to be our agent in managing most of the school gyms. This includes opening the long closed Pleasant and North School Gyms. There is no reason that Taxpayers should not have full use of those Gyms and this is now remedied.

A sub-committee was formed to analyze our existing financial polices. One of the first steps was overhauling language regarding money transfers. A mechanism is being placed that requires committee approval prior to the transfer of personnel monies over to operations and vice versa. Other language has been streamlined or better defined. The bidding policy now ties directly into MGL. These are critically important policies with the economic conditions that the district is experiencing and will continue to be huge priority.

Also I was very impressed with the level of volunteers and hours that went into rebuilding the concession stand at SHS. This was accomplished at a very reasonable cost because of donations.

More info to follow should time allow…
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Re: School Notes
Post on Thu Dec 10, 2009 9:46 am  Dave
Quote :
Source: Sun Chronicle

SEEKONK - School officials are bracing for a reduction in state aid as they prepare a budget for the next fiscal year. At Monday's school committee meeting, Barbara Hamel, the finance administrator for the district, said there might be a 5 percent cut in the budget due to a reduction in funding from the state. Hamel said that amounts to $900,000.

"It's a pretty deep cut," School Superintendent Madeline Meyer said. "It doesn't sound like a lot, but it is a lot."

Meyer said that it was all a guessing game right now as to how much money the schools may actually lose.

I can say that the administration is being very proactive on this. Between D'Amico's comments at town meeting and the known 2 billion dollar tax shortfall facing the state (at this point), you can count on cuts coming our way.

I think the approach of running the ship right from the get go under that assumption and not just worrying about it in the spring is the responsible and practical approach. Our percentage of expended budget by percentage compared to the same period last year is less and I encourage everyone to keep up to date on our numbers by downloading a monthly copy of the budget from the school website.


d
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Re: School Notes
Post on Thu Dec 10, 2009 5:52 pm  mkreyssig
I had heard it wasn't going to be pretty. Hopefully that 900k can be absorbed somehow without having to make significant cuts...
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Re: School Notes
Post on Sun Feb 07, 2010 12:58 pm  Dave
I know that we approved one of two options before us about 2 months ago. It should be on the school website by I do recall that it will be after Labor Day, as that is a contractual obligation.

With a lot of resources devoted towards the recent fiber optics warrant it has been fairly quiet along the school front. We have the budget coming up and that should be an interesting process to participate in as most of that was developed prior to my joining the SC.
Re: School Notes
Post on Mon Feb 08, 2010 2:40 pm  seek2mend
Wendy wrote:


Can you give me a quick version of what's happening with fiber optics? I approve 1000% any money devoted to improving technology infrastructure, but I do know sometimes the devil is in the details.

I can't offer any information about technology. But today's Sun Chronicle published a letter from the Capital Improvement Committee regarding the warrant article's approval.

That committee held such promise. It's too bad this town is so dysfunctional we can't see the value of properly funding for the future.
Re: School Notes
Post on Mon Feb 08, 2010 3:47 pm  tombenoit
Dave;

I saw the debate over this warrant article and read the letter in the Seekonk Star. I also have some grave concerns over the method that appeared to be used to ram this thru. The new supt. continues to claim ignorance over the process. That argument is wearing thin.

The problem with bringing thing forward in a piece meal matter is that, individually, everything seems like a good idea - but - there is no opportunity to weigh the value across all needs. The other issue I have is that apparently, this is set up to be funded by reusing debt service that has been paid off. I would love to know what debt service was paid off to free up funds. Do you know?

Additionally; debt service is factored - before - the 65/35 split. That means that 35% of the cost of this will be coming from the town budget pool and the total cost is now insulated from the operating budget decisions.
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Re: School Notes
Post on Mon Feb 08, 2010 4:15 pm  Dave
Fiber snapshot:

The fiber optics will replace the school's current intranet AKA the
I-Net. It was 30 years old and housed in a shed next to a water tower on top of a hill. It broke down alot and was a top priority for the new Super.

At a rapid (non-Seekonk) pace, the Super priced out and developed a fiber optic system to replace the I-Net. Resistance began in the form of ever changing viewpoints and communications from the Town Manager and BOS...a whole other topic that I will deal with when I have the time but I have seen the machine and it is not pretty. For example the BOS kept changing positions on whether or not to include the town on the warrant and one Selectman went so far as to direct that the fiber be looped and left hanging from a telephone pole next to the library, rather than include it.

During this process neither the TA or BOS involved the Capital Committee or directed the Super to seek their approval. I do think that the Capital Committee should have been brought into the process and clearly a better job should have been done with doing that. This along with the fact that it would replace anything to do with cable, drew fire from the Harts.

Against this resistance a proper warrant was brought to and explained at town meeting. The taxpayers decided to approve the motion. In no way was the meeting stacked and it was after midnight when the article was debated. The taxpayer has the power in this town, over any board or committee. Some members of these boards or committees feel that they have final say.

They do not.

How dare someone question the will of the taxpayer through a letter. This is not the 1st letter speaking against the taxpayer that I have seen in the last two meetings. Another one was authored by someone who is running for BOS.

Any citizen can bring a petition to town meeting where it will be judged by the taxpayer on its merits. Sorry if I have a twinge of frustration in my writing but I have witnessed a lot of deceit in the past few months and I am far from inspired on what we have for candidates for the BOS. Until fresh faces step up and put their time into bettering this town then disfunction is a best case scenario.
Re: School Notes
Post on Tue Feb 09, 2010 9:30 am  seek2mend
Dave:

I feel the same way about this public debate as I did with the one from the nurses. Letters to the editor are bad form.

But I do have a question or two. You imply that the warrant article was a citizen petition. I believe the warrant indicated it was from the school committee. Which was it? And did everyone on the board approve of the article?

Also, since Mitch put a great deal of time into the capital planning committee and served for a time at its inception, did he ever suggest that the CPC would be the go to group regarding such an infrastructure expense?

BTW, I am beginning to think the BOS may have to consider moving in a different direction regarding the TA. IMO, he has not lived up to his promise of facilitating communication between the boards.

I had great hope for the CPC. But since all the boards can't get on the same page and work for the betterment of the town as a whole by encouraging town meeting to fund the MCSF, may as well close up shop.
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Re: School Notes
Post on Tue Feb 09, 2010 9:31 am  Dave
After a good nights sleep...

To answer more directly Tom's questions;

I believe that state bonds are going to fund the cost. I know that it is over a 5 year period. I am far from an expert on debt service. I do recall that there was a discussion (I think I was at a BOS meeting) on the amount of obligations out there and there were several smaller debts outstanding with talk of trying to combine them into a single debt at a new rate. I know there is a sheet that breaks this down somewhere and if I can find it I will post it here.

In reference to piecemeal, everyone should be made aware that from the start the plan and the bid where for one of three options;

1-Schools Only
2-Schools and Library
3- The Town

This was where the fun began. Getting the town to select one of those options and stick with it changed daily. For those of you who feel this process was rushed I want you to be aware of two things;

This process actually began three years ago before stalling out in the discussion phase (does this sound familiar to anyone- senior center, Rt. 152, ect.).

The town found the I-Net unreliable years ago, so they built their own intranet (non fiber) without going to anyone for approval...they used operating cash (moving it from here to there) to make it happen- anyone can feel free to correct me if this is inaccurate. The cost for this was a lot less because the buildings are closer together.

People had mixed feelings on this warrant. I myself wanted to do this for the May town meeting, probably because I am used to it taking a lot of time to get things done in this town, but also because I was not convinced that it had to be replaced right now.

After attending several meetings on this and seeing how many times the network actually shut down (interesting fact- the high school portion of the network was inoperative the morning of town meeting) I asked myself this question...what would change between this meeting and the one in May? The price was already out on bid, the network itself was not going to repair itself or begin behaving, and I am sad to say this but it is the truth- people that just wanted to kill it because it was going to the schools or had to do with cable would just have more time to try and derail it.

I am fairly new to Seekonk. I understand that there is some bad history out there between the town and schools. We all have to get over the history thing. I do hope bringing new blood into elected positions will accomplish that. Demand that the government be transparent and hold people accountable when they try to manipulate groups against each other.

Time for coffee...
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Re: School Notes
Post on Tue Feb 09, 2010 9:42 am  Dave
Seek posted this while I was writing-

Quote :
"But I do have a question or two. You imply that the warrant article was a citizen petition. I believe the warrant indicated it was from the school committee. Which was it? And did everyone on the board approve of the article?"

The warrant is another fun tale. The wording of the warrant changed several times. The super and TA worked on the original language. The TA then re-wrote what they agreed on. This caused it to be revised several times. Then it went back and forth on who would be on the warrant, the original had both the BOS and SC on it. The BOS signs all warrants and voted (I was at that meeting) to place the warrant on for town meeting.

For some strange reason Rolling Eyes the BOS were removed from the warrant that they signed, leaving only the SC on it. Almost as strange as it being placed dead last for the evening on a long night. Now even though the Library was clamoring to be included in the fiber project, there sure seemed to be a concerted effort (just leave the fiber looped on the pole outside of the Library) to make this a schools only project and I can tell you that it was not the schools doing it.

My reference to petition was only to point out that any taxpayer can petition town meeting for a cause.
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