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Middle School redistricting not endorsed by school officials

Date: 6/11/2015

LONGMEADOW – Williams Middle School Principal Christopher Collins spoke against middle school redistricting because class sizes would be unpredictable and there is adequate space at both schools.

Collins made his position known while presenting information on the possibility of redistricting at the June 8 School Committee meeting.

“Our feeling, living in the buildings everyday and doing this work everyday with these kids, and working with our staffs the way their currently structure, we feel really strongly that what we’re doing is working and that there’s not anything that’s apparent to us that would encourage us to do something different,” he said.

There are currently 394 students at Williams Middle School and 300 students at Glenbrook Middle School, Collins said.

The enrollment trends during the last few years have shown more students attending Williams than Glenbrook, he noted. During the 2013-2014 school year, the difference was 89 students. This school year, that number jumped to 94 students.

Collins said the projected enrollment difference between Williams and Glenbrook is 70 students for the 2015-2016 school year, which is projected to increase by one student the following year. For the 2018-2019 school year, the difference is projected to be 80 students, followed by 84 students in the 2019-2020 school year.

He added that other reasons for not redistricting the middle schools were staffing certification, math leveling, and teacher travel time.

“Clustering students at one school allows for more flexibility,” Collins said. “[It] allows us to keep the current team structure at Williams for grades 7 and 8.”

The district could find a way to balance both schools with enrollment numbers, but it isn’t the solution that “we’re looking for,” he noted.

School Committee Chair Janet Robinson said the committee would make a determination whether to charge a subcommittee with researching middle school redistricting or defer to the recommendation of the administration not to redistrict at its next meeting.

In other business, the committee rated Superintendent of Schools Marie Doyle “proficient” overall for her annual performance review.

However, individual committee members gave her rankings in categories ranging from “needs improvement’ to “exemplary.”

Doyle was ranked in four standards, including instructional leadership, management and operations, family and community engagement as well as professional culture.

The committee also evaluated Doyle’s three goals for the year – professional practice, student learning, and district improvement.

School Committee members Michelle Grodsky and Kimberly King ranked Doyle as “needs improvement” in various subcategories of the four standards.

“The special education children being put into one room is a little bit bigger of a problem to me,” King said, referring to a potential civil rights allegation at Blueberry Hill Elementary School. “I don’t feel like we should have been doing that at all. It shouldn’t been acceptable.”

Prior to her evaluation, Doyle said the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) found that the special education resource room utilized by the fourth and fifth grade and was not ideal under the current situation.

“Although the ratio between staff and students is appropriate, the total number of staff teaching at one time – four – [is] not allowed,” she added.

However, as part of the elementary school redistricting plan two staff will be moved to other classes in the building for the 2015-2016 school year, she noted. DESE representatives stated that moving these staff members would bring the district into compliance.

DESE would review Blueberry Hill School in the early fall to confirm that everything is in order, Doyle said.

School Committee Vice Chair Michael Clark, during Doyle’s performance evaluation, said this year has been full of “ups and downs” for the district.

“The biggest area of continued improvement for her is communication,” he added. “Superintendent Doyle has struggled with striking the right balance of effective communications from her office.”