Five Things You Missed at School Committee: Naming Rights, METCO Update
Updates on the district's METCO program, a plea to keep the Ligerbots program going and a public forum on naming rights.
In addition to the discussion about expanding background checks for newly hired teachers, the Newton School Committee touched on a number of items at Tuesday night's meeting. Here's what you may have missed:
1. Although no one showed up to comment during the open public forum for buffer zones and school naming rights, Marcia Tabenken of the Newton Schools Foundation offered a comment about the Newton Schools Foundation naming rights campaign, clarifying that the school names are not for sale and that the Newton Schools Foundation will only approach alumni groups, people and businesses with Newton ties.
"In the best of all possible worlds, all this would be purchased with public funds, but...it would mean a trade-off of teachers for technology," Tabenken said. "In the meantime, the technology gap will only grow as students continue to lose out, if we don’t turn to creative solutions now."
Tabenken also reminded the public that the School Committee has final approval of the naming rights and can refuse any naming donation or offer.
2. A number of team members and students made a plea to the School Committee to save the Ligerbots FIRST robotics team, as the coaches for the team are leaving after this year.
Jim Allard, one of the mentors of the Ligerbots, explained that the coaches are often over-worked and burned out, putting in hundreds of hours for just a small stipend. Under the current arrangement, no coach is willing to take on the task, Allard said.
"The standard for first-class STEM [science, technology, engineering and math] education includes a vibrant FIRST robotics team," Allard said. "This team needs to be put onto sustainable footing."
Some current students spoke on behalf of the team as well as on behalf of graduates who were members in previous years. Team parents and sponsors also advocated for the program.
"Students who experience FIRST [robotics] have an experience no classroom can teach," said John Fitzpatrick, the Raytheon team sponsor. "The programs have so many benefits on so many levels that we must do what we can to keep it going."
3. Superintendent David Fleishman and the School Committee took a moment of silence for Lucas Voss-Kernan, a 2010 Newton South graduate who tragically died last Friday while on a road trip with friends.
4. Susan Eaton and Gina Chirichigno, co-creators and co-directors of One Nation Indivisible, gave a presentation on the state's METCO program (Metropolitan Council for Educational Opportunity) and its history over the last four decades. Newton is the largest city/town of the 38 Greater Boston communities participating in the program.
In addition, Newton METCO director Lisa Reed spoke a bit about Newton's program. Reed said there are currently 420 students participating throughout the district, with another 28 currently looking to get in. Reed explained the different programs METCO offers to students in various grade levels.
The School Committee had a chance to hear from two METCO success stories, Raymond Farmer and Carla Forbes. Farmer is a Newton South senior who has received a full, four-year scholarship to Union College where he plans to study biology.
"The Newton Public Schools have helped me become the person I am today," Farmer said. "I have ambitions, goals and dreams I may not have had otherwise."
Forbes, a Newton North junior and track star, also spoke about the positive impact the METCO program has had on her life as a student and an athlete.
"[METCO] has opened up doors for me everywhere with track and academics," Forbes said.
Check the .pdf section above for copies of the METCO presentations.
5. Assistant Superintendent for Elementary Education Joe Russo went over the current projected elementary class sizes for the 2012-2013 school year, and where some classes have been added. Some of the added classrooms include second grade at Angier, third grade at Cabot, second grade at Memorial-Spaulding and a kindergarten class at Zervas. For a full list, check out the elementary arrays in the .pdf above.