Westfield School Committee considers changes in new year

WESTFIELD – At the final School Committee meeting of the year on Monday, several important changes being considered were scheduled for recommendations in January.
The transportation sub-committee,led by district transportation director Pamela Kortarski, which is considering changes in the school busing schedules for a new 5-year contract beginning July 1, will bring options to the January 25 meeting in time for a mid-February bid. The Jan. 25 meeting will be held at the Westfield Technical Academy in a joint meeting with the Technical Academy’s Advisory Board.
Changes being considered are going from a three-tiered schedule of busing to a two-tiered schedule which may require fifteen minute changes in start times, an earlier start for the elementary schools and a later start for the high school. The resulting change could save millions in the contract over five years and should be considered, according to School Superintendent Suzanne Scallion.
Kortarski was asked to bring a two-tiered and three-tiered option including start times to the School Committee at the Jan. 25 meeting, and what the contract is going to cost.
The human resources sub-committee, led by Diane Mayhew, is also looking at changing the kindergarten entrance age from August 1 to September 1.
Mayhew said out of 400 districts in the state, the entrance age is split about 50/50 between the two dates. The sub-committee will send its recommendation to the full School Committee at the Jan. 25 meeting.
Just prior to the Jan. 25 meeting, the grand opening and ribbon-cutting for Westfield Technical Academy’s new Aviation Maintenance program will take place from 4:30-6:30 p.m. at the school.
Also being held at the Technical Academy on Jan. 4 will be the mayor’s inauguration and swearing in of new city councilors.
During his update, Acting Mayor Brian Sullivan noted that at the last City Council meeting, five members retired.
“What walked out was 55 years of service,” Sullivan said.
He said the Jan. 4 inauguration is open to the public and will be held in the auditorium, with performances by the new Technical Academy band led by Patrick Kennedy, and student singers.
“I’m looking forward to the next two years with all of you,” Sullivan said to the School Committee.
In other business, the human resources sub-committee presented the new handbook on physical restraint of students. Mayhew said the old language was out of compliance with the state, and needed to be revised by Jan. 1. At the previous sub-committee meeting, Mayhew said the language in the new policy was pulled from the state policy, and a team of six which included a special education lawyer has been working on it since August. A motion was made, and the new policy was approved.
Ramon Diaz, Jr. brought up the progress on the advertisements for a new superintendent. He passed out an advertising pamphlet for the search, which has been tailored to Westfield.
“We need to review the final posting for the Internet,” Diaz said. “I hope to get it out by Christmas. Some may apply during Christmas break.”
He said the application will go through February 1.
A discussion on the language for licensing followed. It was agreed to require that all Mass. certifications be obtained by July 1.
Diaz also reported that he spoke to the Massachusetts Association of School Committees (MASC), who will tier the applications at no charge for members. Diaz said the Association of School Superintendents will also review applications, but will not tier them.
Diaz said there are very specific directions about candidates not contacting the School Committee members or the Superintendent, but that all calls must go to Human Resources.
Scallion commented that when the pool of finalists is limited to three candidates, “you have to know your superintendents are probably looking at several districts in the area.”
“Southwick is looking for a superintendent and their salary is higher than ours, with fewer kids,” said Cynthia Sullivan, by example.
Scallion recommended considering four finalists from the start. “The finalists should be unranked. If you lose one, the person you add has been ranked,” she said.
“We want to get the ads out. We’ve got until February,” Diaz said.

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