UPDATED, Dec. 22: The School Committee approved Dr. Elizabeth Homan’s contract as the next superintendent of the Arlington Public Schools, 6-1, on Thursday, Dec. 17.
Committee member Paul Schlichtman, who has made clear that he strongly preferred Dr. Victoria Greer for the post, was the lone holdout. “I cannot agree with my colleagues,” he said shortly before the vote. “But I am grateful that I got to share this work with you.”
Homan’s three-year contract will run from July 1, 2021, through June 30, 2024.
Schlichtman joined the others in the unanimous vote to approve Homan working in a temporary transitional capacity with retiring Superintendent Dr. Kathleen Bodie. Homan thus may work the equivalent of 15 eight-hour days from Feb. 22 through June 30, 2021.
Homan's annual salary for each of these years is $192,000, $198,000 and $204,000. During the transition, she will be paid $700 a day. In the final year of her contract, Bodie is receiving $207,021.
New budget position
The committee also voted, 7-0, to approve a new position of budget analyst, to be assigned to the business office team at the district level. The new employee once recruited and hired will provide additional oversight to financial matters, compile data, analyze trends and provide support in case of absences of colleagues.
Elementary wish lists in difficult times
Elementary school principals, administrators, union officials and committee members described their desires for the budget for the 2021-2022 school year. See the document presented >>
Committee Chair Jane Morgan called this discussion “the easier part of the process,” to be followed by “harder conversations” at the Town Meeting in April, all during “a particularly uncertain year.”
Many at the meeting mentioned the eventual goal of having a full-time assistant principal at each of the seven K-5 campuses, especially in the light of expected pandemic-related learning lags and possible enrollment jumps starting next September.
Peirce School Principal Andrew Ahmadi anticipated “a more profound need” going forward. “We need more nuanced programming,” he said, adding that he was “concerned about equity in all forms” given the pandemic’s negative effect on students who are already disadvantaged.
Like Ahmadi, Stratton Principal Dr. Michael Hanna also backed creating a coordinator of reading curriculum and instruction at the district level to help “bring all children to reading proficiency.”
Committee member Jeff Thielman said that assistant principals had been “a need in our district for a long time,” and Schlichtman concurred.
Having assistant principals might also promote a goal that Ahmadi, Dallin Principal Thad Dingman, Hardy Principal Kate Peretz and Bishop Principal Mark McAneny mentioned: more social workers. Ahmadi suggested that a full-time assistant principal could possibly, as part of his/her work, take on contacting families and other “logistical, back-end” work, thus freeing up licensed social workers for direct service.
Committee member Bill Hayner asked for full-time certified librarians at the elementary schools along with more money and more consistency with book choices across campuses. Assistant Superintendent Dr. Roderick MacNeal Jr. said that the district had hired one full-time certified librarian. He said progress was ongoing “to begin to curate the various collections to bring them into alignment” while keeping in mind social-emotional learning and multicultural representation. Chief Financial Officer Michael Mason noted that in the current budget year $5,000 was allocated for materials purchases at each of the district’s 10 schools.
From the perspective of the teachers’ union, hiring more social workers is a priority as well, said Liz Higgins of the Arlington Education Association. She also asked for salary increases, especially as “teachers have been doing the impossible this year,” and also requested that class sizes be kept low so that teachers can give pupils more individual attention.
“We share Ms. Higgins’ view on this,” Bodie said. She said classes were averaging roughly 23 students each and that this should continue, though the number of rooms at any given campus might pose a constraint.
Budget planning, playing catch-up and achieving continued educational progress all will be challenging, MacNeal said. It could take “three to five years to really address the learning loss that some of our students have endured,” he said, due to the pandemic. “We don’t know what fall is going to look like. We have high hopes that we will be able to be back in school full time, but that’s a question mark.”
Bodie earns high marks from committee
Bodie, who had announced in June 2019 her intention to retire, was lauded by committee members who read aloud portions of their written statements submitted earlier as part of the annual evaluation process.
Dr. Kirsi Allison-Ampe praised “the strong collaborative relationships that she has fostered” with others in the district.
Schlichtman called her “decisive” in taking the district to all-remote learning in March rather than waiting to be ordered to do so by state authorities. He also mentioned her “commendable” work on the rebuilding of Arlington High School, predicting that it would benefit the community “for the next half century.”
Jeff Thielman said she “kept her cool” and has “kept our students and staff safe” in dealing with the ongoing pandemic and also mentioned her “measured and reasonable solutions” in the high school construction project.
Morgan also emphasized the importance of the new improved AHS and said she was “deeply grateful for her stewardship of it”
Superintendent report: Construction, sports, health
The high school is “going to be done on time and continue to be under budget,” predicted Bodie during her report. She called it “a thrill to see it going up” and added, “I hope I get invited to the ribbon-cutting.” She said details are available at this website, www.AHSbuilding.org.
She commended staff and students for coping with the challenges of the coronavirus situation this year. She said the teachers were consistently able to “beautifully and seamlessly” move back to temporary all-remote learning during occasional isolated incidents of Covid-19 infection -- often with only 12 hours’ notice. And the kids have been doing their part as well. “Our students could not be better,” she said, in adhering to the protocols required, such as mask-wearing, social-distancing and hand-washing.
Bodie noted that the high-school athletes have been doing very well this semester, both in their team efforts and individually, and that a detailed report on this will be included in the soon-to-be-published newsletter.
Meanwhile, see the listing of Globe all-stars >> -
See the ACMi video of the Dec. 17 meeting:
Dec. 11, 2020: AHS to move to some in-person learning in 2nd semester
Nov. 20, 2019: Bodie evaluated as proficient for second straight year
This news summaery by YourArlington freelance journalist Judth Pfeffer was published Friday, Dec. 18, 2020. It was updated Dec. 22, to add an ACMi video window.
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