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6 candidates apply for 1-year school seat

School Committee logo

The School Committee on Thursday, April 26, announced six candidates for the seat left vacant when four-year member Joseph A. Curro Jr. was elected as a selectman. They are, in alphabetical border:

Karen Bjorkman, 142 George St.; David Brecht, 55 Norfolk Road; James Flanagan, 49 Trowbridge St.; Len Kardon, 65 Tanager St.; Andrew O'Brien, 109 Hillside Ave.; and Paul Schlichtman, 47 Mystic St. A seventh person applied but was not a registered voter.

Flanagan and O'Brien are tecent town election candidates, Kardon is a parent activist and Schlichtman is a former School Committee member.

Schlichtman had earlier told YourArlington that he had not thought about applying, but he has changed his mind.

Committee secretary Karen Fitzgerald received applications until 4 p.m. April 26. The committee will interview all applying publicly at a special meeting from 8 to 10 p.m. Thursday, May 3, in the committee's room, sixth floor, Arlington High School.

Flanagan, who polled third in town election voting, wrote in response to an earlier query April 26:

"I have decided to apply for the open seat. Due to my strong desire to serve on the committee, the value I feel my professional background will bring to the committee, and the knowledge on issues and policy I've acquired in the last few years (especially leading up to the campaign this year) I feel I would be an ideal fit for the Arlington School Committee."

Kardon provided his application to YourArlington on April 26.

O'Brien said his application was received April 23. Two other recent candidate, A. Matthew Pallett and Ian Jackson, have decided not to apply for the appointed position. Pallett said he wants to leave open the option of running in the future.

In his application, Schlichtman explains why he seeks the seat:

"When I was a member of the school committee, we had a vacancy due to the resignation of Suzanne Owayda. The committee was fortunate that a former member, Katharine Fennelly, returned to the committee to fill the seat until the next election. I was grateful to have the benefit of a “new” colleague with considerable experience on the school committee.

"I hope to be able to contribute to the work of this school committee, in the same way we benefitted from Ms. Fennelly’s service during the 2006-07 school year.

"For ten years, I have served the Town of Arlington as a school committee member. I served on the Minuteman Regional School Committee from 1997-2001, and on the Arlington School Committee from 2001-2007.

"During my tenure as a school committee member, I was active on statewide issues of public policy as a member of the Board of Directors and an elected officer of the Massachusetts Association of School Committees (MASC). In 2003 I served as MASC President-Elect; in 2004 I served as MASC President; and in 2005 I served as MASC Immediate Past President. During that time, I also served on the Governor’s Advisory Commission on Local Government."

At its April 12, meeting, a number of School Committee members said applicants should understand the time commitment involved and that they should be committed to improving Arlington's public schools.

Members did not see eye to eye about whether election involvement -- in the recent past and in the future -- should be a factor in who is chosen.

In 2006, member Jeff Thielman said, the committee chose former committee member Fennelly to replace departing Owayda in part because she was not interested in continuing after a year.

"I’d prefer someone who has not gone through the electoral process" and does not want to run for the seat," said member Cindy Starks, reelected Tuesday.

Members Leba Heigham, Judson Pierce and Thielman said they wanted to attract as many qualified applicants as possible.

Among former committee member, Fennelly and Barbara Goodman do not plan to apply.

For more information about the application process, call Fitzgerald at 781-316-3540. More information is expected soon on the town and school district websites.

The application is available online >>

It should be returned to Fitzgerald, School Committee secretary, Arlington High School, sixth floor, 869 Mass. Ave., Arlington, MA 02476.

This story was first published Wednesday, April 25, and updated the next day.

Search for new special-education director put off

Kathleen Bodie

In an email to parents on Thursday, April 12, Superintendent Kathleen Bodie wrote that she has informed the School Committee that "we were unable to choose a director of special education following our search this year." Three finalists recently visited Arlington.

"We will conduct another search next year, but we are fortunate that our current interim director, Kathleen Lockyer, has agreed to serve another year," pending approval by the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

"As always, we will continue to focus on our ongoing Special Education initiatives and improvements," the statement concluded.

As a search for a permanent director of special education got underway last year, pay was an issue.

"We have been on the low side," Bodie told the School Committee on Thursday, Nov. 17. She said she will be looking in the range of $110,000 to $120,000.

Mark Ryder, who directed the department for three years and announced he was leaving in March for a nonprofit in Maine, was paid $110,000 a year.

The job description the committee approved last week does not state the salary.

The committee received a list of annual salaries paid to top administrators of special education in some Massachusetts school districts. Here is the list (at the end are explanations of what the varying asterisks mean):

Arlington: $110,000 *

Belmont: $120,923 *

Lexington: $135,194 *

Acton: $119,734 ***

Bedford: $92,745 ***

Boxborough: $96,663 ***

Brookline: $101,663-$136,000 ***

Carlisle: $122,400 ***

Concord: $133,900 ***

Dedham: $103,000 (260 days) **

Dover/Sherborn: $100-$105,000 (3 administrators of special education, 220 days) **

Framingham: $116,032 (12 months) **

Holliston: $113,300 (260 days) **

Hopkinton: $114,477 (225 days) **

Lincoln: 132,487 ***

Medfield: $116,500 (220 days) **

Medford: $103,000 *

Millis: $106,406 (260 days) **

Natick: $114.000-$130,000 (220.5 days) **

Needham: $123,814 (260 days) **

Newton: $130,000 ***

Norwood: $113,497 (260 days) **

Walpole: $88,000 (261 days) **

Watertown: $117,260 ***

Wayland: $122,148 (261 days) **

Wellesley: $131,078 (260 days) **

Weston: $125,065 (260 days) **

Westwood: $120,983 (225 days) **

*Winchester: $114,000 *

TEC: $110,000 (260 days) ** 

* Arlington, Belmont, Lexington, Medford, Winchester data given by HR/payroll, Nov. 12, 2011

** Data with number of days is from TEC 

*** Data without number of days is from EDCO 


This story was first published at 2 p.m. Thursday, April 12, 2012.

3 finalists for principal at Stratton named

Stratton sign

Three finalists to be principal of the Stratton School have been identified to the public at large. All, including an Arlington High School graduate, have been welcomed by the Stratton community.

Teachers, students, parents and administrators met one finalist April 2. Two others met parents Monday, April 9, at the following times in the Stratton Library.

In a news release issued at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, April 4, by the office of Superintendent Kathleen Bodie, the three are:

* Maureen Devlin, who is the associate head of school of the Rio Grande School in Santa Fe, N.M.  Ms. Devlin previously served as an assistant principal of the Sippican School in Marion, Mass., and served as a vice principal, curriculum coordinator and classroom teacher in the Brookline public schools.

She received a bachelor's in history from Pomona College, a master's in education from Lesley College and a master's of education in organizational development from the Endicott College Leadership Licensure Program. She visited Stratton on April 2. 

* Bridget Harris, who has been a principal, assistant principal, curriculum supervisor and classroom teacher in the West Irondequoit Central School District in Rochester, N.Y. Ms. Harris received a bachelor's in elementary education from St. Bonaventure University and a master's in education from Canisius College.

She will visit Stratton on April 9 and have the opportunity to see classrooms and meet the faculty, District administrators and parents. 

* Shamus Brady, who is the interim assistant principal for the Clark Avenue Middle School in Chelsea, Mass. Brady previously served as a seventh- and eighth-grade level principal for the Innovation Academy Charter School in Tyngsboro, Mass., and as the assistant principal for the Cora Kelly STEM Elementary School in Alexandria, Va.

He previously taught special education and reading at the Thurgood Marshall Academy Public Charter High School and Dunbar High School in Washington, D.C.

A graduate of the Arlington public schools, he received a bachelor's in English and political science from Williams College, a master of arts in teaching from Trinity Univerity in Washington D.C., and a master's in education leadership from Columbia University Teachers College.

Brady visited Stratton on Tuesday, April 3, where he had the opportunity to see classrooms and meet the faculty and District Administrators. Brady will return to Stratton on Monday, April 9, when he will get the chance to meet parents. 

Sheri Donovan is the principal of Thompson and Stratton for this school year while the East Arlington school undergoes preparation for reconstruction. Groundbreaking for the $20 million school is expected soon, and rebuilding continues through the next school year. A new Stratton principal is expected to be in place by summer.

Longtime Stratton Principal Alan Brown retired last June.

This story was published Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Grief follows freak crash that kills Peirce teaching assistant

Alanna DeMello

Channel 5: At service, friends remember

A pregnant Peirce School teaching assistant died in a freak accident in Florida on Sunday, March 18, when an out-of-control car crashed into a hotel cabana that she and her husband were in as part of a weekend getaway that was a gift from the church.

Fort Lauderdale police said a driver crashed her four-door sedan into a cabana at the Riverside Hotel on East Las Olas Blvd. about 1:30 p.m.

Witnesses said the couple had been lying by the pool when the woman, identified as Alanna DeMella, 26, of Roberts Road, Medford, got up to use the restroom inside the cabana. Moments later, the car crashed into the two-story building, plowing through two concrete pillars.

Globe, March 20: Weekend trip was gift from Woburn church | Genesis community blog >>

Ft. Lauderdale Fire Rescue workers prepare to remove the accident vehicle from the scene of a crash March 18. / Sun Sentinel photo Ft. Lauderdale Fire Rescue workers prepare to remove the vehicle from the scene March 18. /     Sun Sentinel photo

The office of Superintendent Kathleen Bodie issued a statement at 10:45 a.m. March 19 that the public schools "received very sad news last night that" the special-education teaching assistant in the third-grade co-taught program at Peirce "was killed ... while on a long weekend vacation in Florida. Alanna was 7 months' pregnant.

"This tragedy is heartbreaking for all of us. Our hearts and prayers go out to Alanna's husband and family.

"A team of district social workers and psychologists along with the STARS crisis team and counselors from AYCC are at Peirce today supporting teachers, staff and children and will continue to offer support throughout the week."

DeMella was new to the public schools this year and had started in in September, the administration said.

In comments that are published with permission, Arlington parent June Rutkowski wrote to the Arlington email list March 19:

"We are all devastated at the loss of Alanna DeMella. She was a fabulous young teacher.

"My daughter and her classmates loved her in that deep, sweet, beautiful way that young children love their teachers."

Peirce Principal Karen Hartley told a Boston television station, "We are devastated and heartbroken by the news."

According to a report on Channel 5, David Gordon, a tourist from the United Kingdom, said, "It's a tragic accident, it's sad. There was no braking, no screeching of tires, just a big explosion."

DeMella's unborn baby also died. Her husband, Michael DeMella was treated at Broward General Hospital for minor injuries and released, hospital officials said. He was also in the cabana when the car hit, witnesses said., citing police, reported the driver of the car was identified as Rosa Rivera Kim, 34, of Plantation, Fla. She suffered injuries that were not life-threatening and is hospitalized in stable condition at the Broward General Medical Center.

Bodie's office updated its statement an hour later to remove the claim that the driver was drunk. So far, no news account has confirmed that. The South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported that investigators are still determining if charges will be filed.

Read more: Sun-Sentinel | Boston's Channel 5

This story was first published at 8:20 a.m. Monday, March 19, 2012, and updated numerous times thereafter.

Superintendent offers goals, background on redistricting

Redistricting logo

Superintendent Kathleen Bodie sent the lengthy message below to the Thompson email list on Monday, Jan. 16, again outlining the goals she sees for the redistricting process:

Dear Elementary Parents/Guardians,

It’s apparent from some emails that I have received in the last month and from comments made at the School Committee meeting last week, including a letter signed by 160 parents, that the reasons why we need to redistrict are still not clear to everyone. Nor is the role of the Redistricting Committee completely understood. Hopefully, the information provided below will be helpful understanding both issues.

There are two reasons that we need to redistrict:

1) To correct enrollment imbalances among the elementary schools. Some schools have seen enrollments grow at a faster pace than other schools over the last two decades, which has forced some schools to turn special rooms (i.e. art, music, computer, science) into classrooms and is one of the causes of class size discrepancies among the schools. Some of the inequities were mitigated when new schools were built, but the inequities still exist. For example, Brackett cannot continue to sustain the addition of a fourth Kindergarten each year without giving up specialty spaces. Bishop has had to use the teacher’s lunch room for art for most of the last decade because there was not an available classroom. The science room was used for music.

2) To ensure that when Thompson opens in September 2013 all 18 classrooms are used for classes. The Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) agreed that our District enrollment projections indicate that Arlington is a growing district that will require more classroom space in the years ahead. As a result, they agreed to provide funding for a few more classrooms in the new building than what had previously existed in the old building. The targeted enrollment to ensure this usage is 380. Presently, the enrollment at Thompson is 335.

When did the district begin the redistricting process?

The School Committee began discussing the need to redistrict in early 2010 (see below) as part of the Thompson rebuild project, though redistricting had been a topic discussed at different times throughout the past decade because of school space inequities. In the spring of 2010, the School Committee tasked me with the assignment to draft a new district map for their approval that would rebalance the schools to their capacities and would provide an enrollment of 380 at Thompson.

I could have decided to hire an outside firm to develop the draft plan as other districts are currently doing. However, when the town acquired GIS software and hired an expert GIS programmer, I decided we had the capability to develop a plan “in-house”, which would not only save money, but would have the added benefit of parental involvement in the development of the plan. To that end, I decided to create an advisory committee with representation from each school. School Councils were asked to assign a representative to the Superintendent's Redistricting Advisory Committee.

The development of a new district map is a process. It began with the development of a draft map for MSBA in May 2011 that would demonstrate Arlington’s intention and commitment to redistricting. As we have seen, there have been several draft maps since then and there is likely to be more before a final map is approved by the School Committee, The goal of each draft is to come closer to the target numbers for each school while addressing other issues and constraints.

How were target numbers determined for each school?

Target numbers were determined by the number of available classrooms in each school after assigning classroom space for current and anticipated special education and ELL programs, art, music, computer, and science rooms (if science rooms were part of the design) using School Committee policy numbers for ideal classroom enrollments. The sum total of all school target numbers equals our current enrollment.

What is the role of the Redistricting Committee?

The Redistricting Committee is an advisory committee to help me develop a new district map. It is not an advisory committee to the School Committee. The Redistricting Advisory Committee will vote on a recommended draft plan, but it will be a plan that I recommend to the School Committee. Members are not expected to hold school-based meetings during the process except for the parent forum in March. But, they are not restricted from reporting the progress of the Committee at School Council or PTO meetings. Comments/concerns can be emailed to your representative or to the Committee at large using the dropbox email address (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.).

How can parents participate in the redistricting process?

1) Send comments to your representative or through the dropbox (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) to the whole Committee.

2) Attend the parent school-based forums in March (to be scheduled). Feedback from those forums will be used to “fine-tune” district lines on the draft map. The draft map will be sent (by a link) to all parents before the forums. Each new draft map reflects an attempt to address concerns raised about such issues as safety, neighborhood cohesion, busing, minimal movement of lines to accomplish the target goals, children under the age of 5 in each district, and natural barriers.

3) Attend redistricting meetings to educate yourselves about the process and the issues being discussed. Documents from these meetings are posted on the District’s website after each meeting so attendance at the meeting is not necessary to understand where we are in the process. Having iterative documents available during the development of the final map is both the strength and problem with the process. Each new map, which represents the attempt of the Committee to problem-solve issues and concerns, causes upset.

At the end of the process, it is true that some families will be assigned to a new school. But, what is also true is that there will be no change in the quality of instruction that children who move will experience. Each school is staffed by a strong team of teachers who are led by strong instructional-focused Principals. The curriculum is the same in every school.

When is the next Redistricting Meeting?

The next meeting of the Redistricting Advisory Committee is scheduled for Tuesday, January 17. It will be necessary to move into Executive Session at the beginning of the meeting in order to review student information that was requested at the last meeting and which cannot be discussed in an open session (exemption under the Open Meeting Law). The Executive Session is scheduled for 45 minutes. Meeting dates are posted on our website. The Committee meets monthly from 7:00 - 9:00 p.m. in the School Committee Room.

When will the new district map be finalized?

The plan is for the School Committee to review and vote on the new map in June.

Please see below excepts (remarks and motions) from School Committee minutes from February 23, 2010 regarding redistricting.

Best regards.

Kathleen Bodie, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

School Committee redacted minutes - Remarks, Motions around Thompson Elementary School, and remarks regarding Redistricting from February 23, 2010 to present



Ms. Starks attended events regarding the Crosby and Parmenter Schools and noted that the town would like additional input on the warrant articles. Ms. Heigham said that negotiations are continuing. Mr. Thielman noted the Thompson School Bldg Subcommittee will meet Wednesday, March 24, 2010 at Town Hall.

School Committee meeting Feb 23, 2010

Mr. Thielman noted that Permanent Building Committee met last week, and reported that questions regarding the design of the Thompson School could need Town Meeting vote if building occurred on the playground.

Ms. Burns requested clarification from Ms. Johnson on MSBA documents that the Thompson School Project Manager incorrectly sent to MSBA. Ms. Johnson said she had followed up on this and MSBA confirmed receiving the documents.

School Committee Meeting March 25, 2010


Mr. Thielman said that the Thompson Building Committee will hold a public hearing to discuss the project with the architects and listen to feedback from the community.

School Committee meeting April 13, 2010

Thompson Building Committee Update

Dr. Bodie gave a brief updated on the Thompson Building Committee findings for the Thompson School rebuild and the letter written by Ms. Diane Johnson, Chief Financial Officer to Mr. Kevin Nigro, PMA Consultants, dated March 25, 2010 was presented with data on updated enrollment projections and elementary school capacity analysis.

School Committee Meeting Tuesday, May 11, 2010


Dr. Bodie updated the School Committee members on the Thompson School and Massachusetts School Building Authority report, which must show equity among all schools in Arlington. As the Thompson School project moves forward Dr. Bodie must show a report and design capacity that shows enrollment is equitably through all seven elementary schools. The process to redistrict and a written plan must be completed by June 30, 2011.

After Dr. Bodie noted the plans the following motion was made.

Mr. Thielman moved in order to distribute enrollment more equitably throughout the town’s seven elementary schools, it is moved that the Arlington School Committee will begin the process of redistricting during the 2010-11 school year and will implement a redistricting plan by the date the new Thompson Elementary School opens. The School Committee will receive an interim report on plans to redistrict from the Superintendent by December 31, 2010 and a final report with specific recommendations for redistricting by June 30, 2011. The Community Relations Subcommittee will work with the Superintendent and her staff to develop the interim and final reports, seconded by Mr. Curran.

Voted: 7-0

After Dr. Ampe ask if redistricting means new lines or just policy, Mr. Thielman stated that redistricting would mean new hard lines.

School Committee Meeting May 25, 2010

Superintendent's Report

Dr. Bodie received a letter today from Massachusetts School Building Authority and in order for the Massachusetts School Building Authority to consider and proceed with the larger Thompson School design, the district must agree to initiate and implement a redistricting plan to move 50 students into the Thompson Elementary School district, in accordance with the enrollment information presented by the District to the MSBA. Dr. Bodie said the vote would move us forward. The meeting minutes must include the vote language and the results of the vote. Dr. Bodie said this should get us moving forward.

Mr. Thielman moved that the Arlington School Committee would initiate and implement a redistricting plan to move 50 students into the Thompson Elementary School District, in accordance with the enrollment information presented by the District to the MSBA, seconded by Ms. Starks.

Voted: 7- 0

Mr. Thielman moved to direct Mr. Joe Curro to sign the MSBA, Thompson

Elementary School, Design Enrollment Certification, seconded by Ms. Heigham.

Voted: 7- 0

Secretary's Report

Ms. Starks reported on all correspondence received:

- Letter to Superintendent Bodie from the MSBA about enrollment at Thompson

School Committee Meeting June 8, 2010

Ms. Starks said the Community Relations Subcommittee met on April 26 and discussed redistricting and with continue to gather information on this over the summer and will hold a meeting then.

School Committee Meeting 6/22/2010

Secretary's Report, given by Cindy Starks:

- copy of a letter from Superintendent Bodie to the director of capital planning at the Mass. School building authority about our vote taken to redistrict more students into Thompson

School Committee Meeting 8/3/2010

Vote to Authorize Relocation of Preschool Programs to Thompson Elementary School

Mr. Thielman informed the School Committee members by voting to authorize the Relocation of the Preschool Program to Thompson Elementary Schools that this would be included in a feasible study, which could potentially qualify Arlington for reimbursement.

Mr. Thielman moved that the School Committee recommend plans for the redesigned Thompson School include an Early Childhood Center, to best accommodate the district needs for the Special Education integrated preschool programs, seconded by Ms. Heigham

Voted: 7-0


Roundtable Discussion


- Mr. Thielman noted that there was much discussion during the Thompson School Building Committee during the presentation to the Parks and Recreation Commission about the possibility of constructing the new building on the playground and reversing the location of the playground. Ms. Bodie said that it will be necessary to submit certain documents to the MSBA in October in order to be on their agenda in November. The architects have developed two plans: 1.) renovate the current building and add space, or 2.) construct a new facility. It was noted that major discussion will involve analyzing the planning and financing for early childhood programming at the Thompson.


MSBA Funding for Stratton School, D. Johnson

Requested vote to pursue-Statement of Interest

Ms. Heigham motioned to pursue Statement of Interest and stated having convened in an open meeting on Tuesday, September 14, 2010, the Arlington School Committee of Arlington, MA, in accordance with its charter, by-laws and ordinances, has voted to authorize the Superintendent to submit to the Massachusetts School Building Authority the Statement of Interested dated September 22, 2010 For the M. Norcross Stratton School located at 180 Mountain Avenue, Arlington, MA 02474, which describes and explains the following deficiencies and the priority category(s) for which Arlington, MA may be invited to apply to the Massachusetts School Building Authority in the future, seconded by Mr. Curran.

Voted: 7-0

Secretary’s Report C. Starks

Ms. Starks reported on all correspondence received since June 2010 until current.

- copy of a letter from Supt. Bodie to MSBA regarding the SC vote on May 11, 2010 regarding school enrollment


Secretary’s Report

Ms. Starks noted the following documents the School Committee received:

School Committee Meeting October 26, 2010

Mr. Thielman moved to approve the Arlington Public Schools District Goals for 2010 – 2011, with additional Goal 1 h, as articulated by Dr. Bodie: Implementation of the Teaching American History Grant, seconded by Ms. Starks.

Voted: 6-0

Approved by the Arlington School Committee October 26, 2010

Arlington Public Schools District Goals 2010-2011

Goal 3: Provide the tools, infrastructure and systems to support district

initiatives and learning environments

c. Complete feasibility study and develop schematics for new or

renovated Thompson Elementary School

1. Complete feasibility study

2. Prepare documents for January Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) board meeting.

d. Develop redistricting plan

Provide School Committee with interim redistricting report by December 2010

(implementation upon completion Thompson school project).

School Committee Meeting 11/9/2010

Thompson Building Committee Update

After Mr. Thielman informed the School Committee that a substitute motion on Article 3 should be presented to Town Meeting on November 15, 2010 the following motion was made:

Mr. Thielman moved that Arlington Town Meeting endorses the rebuilding or renovation of the Thompson Elementary School in a manner that:

• Receives approval and funding from the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA);

• Meets the educational needs of the Thompson Elementary School student body and the Arlington

• Public Schools;

• Is of a scope, size and cost that is supported by the Thompson School Building Committee and other town bodies and committees, including the Permanent Town Building Committee, School Committee, Finance Committee, Capital Planning Committee and Board of Selectmen;

• Preserves – to the greatest practicable extent – the integrity and identity of the Thompson community; and

• Incorporates public input, seconded by Mr. Pierce.

Voted: 6-0, Mr. Curro had exited the room

Dr. Ampe asked if the land swap had been taken off the table and Mr. Thielman replied no and said the three preferred options are still on the table. Mr. Thielman said the MASBA hoped a good faith effort is being made to have unanimous support for the rebuild or renovations of the Thompson Elementary School and therefore the motion assures them of that. Mr. Thielman would be looking for a vote at the next School Committee meeting on one of the three preferred options.

Secretary’s Report

Ms. Starks reported on the following documents received:

- notice of an art exhibit of AHS student work at a gallery in Lexington, Mass

- copy of the Powers & Sullivan review of SC finances

- copy of the process audit by MASBO

- copy of the November FY11 monthly budget tracking reports

- copies of the district's MCAS achievement and growth by grade as well as % of students at each performance level for Arlington

- copy of the Thompson Building Committee Report dated November 15, 2010

School Committee Meeting 11/15/2010

Special Town Meeting Preparation

Mr. Curro said that Town Meeting would report out on the following sub motion. The Board of Selectmen would be voting this endorsement prior to tonight’s Town Meeting.

Ms. Heigham moved to approve the Substitute Motion on Article 3 to Town Meeting,

I, Joseph A. Curro, Jr. do hereby submit the following Substitute Motion:

Be it resolved, that Town Meeting endorses the rebuilding or renovation of the Thompson Elementary School in a manner that:

Receives approval and funding from the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA); Meets the educational needs of the Thompson Elementary School student body and the Arlington Public Schools; Is of a scope, size and cost that is supported by the Thompson School Building Committee and other town bodies and committees, including the Permanent Town Building Committee, School Committee, Finance Committee, Capital Planning Committee and Board of Selectmen; Preserves – to the greatest practicable extent – the integrity and identity of the Thompson community; and Incorporates public input, seconded by Dr. Ampe.

Voted: 7-0

School Committee Meeting 11/23/2010

Thompson Building Committee Update

Mr. Thielman informed the School Committee that the Thompson Building Committee would like the School Committee to ratify two things tonight. First, The Thompson Building Committee would like the School Committee to approve the Preferred Option 2 for Thompson School Rebuild/Renovation Project of the Thompson Building Committee that endorses a rebuild on the existing site.

Mr. Thielman moved that the Arlington School Committee endorses Alternative II (rebuild new on existing site) as the preferred option, for the Thompson School, with the understanding that the Thompson School Building Committee will conduct further analysis upon receiving feedback from the MSBA and that the Superintendent will make every effort to relocate Thompson School students in a manner similar to previous rebuild projects, seconded by Ms. Starks.

Voted: 7-0

Mr. Thielman said they moved away from the land swap option and said parents are now saying they want a similar transition as other school rebuild projects.

Second, Mr. Thielman informed the committee that it’s necessary to renew our Statement of Interest with the Massachusetts School Building Authority.

Mr. Thielman moved that the Arlington School Committee renew its Statement of Interest with the Thompson Elementary School, seconded by Ms. Heigham.

Voted: 7-0

School Committee Meeting 12/14/2010

Ms. Starks reported on all correspondence received from November 23 through December 14, 2010:

-- Copy of a letter from MSBA announcing the opening of the statement of interest process for FY 11 between 11/17/2010 and January 26, 2011

-- copy of a letter from MSBA to Superintendent Bodie containing review comments of several pieces of the Thompson rebuild

School Committee Meeting 2/8/2011

Update on Redistricting Planning

Dr. Bodie said she is waiting to start the plan of redistricting until the Town Manager hires someone. The Massachusetts School Building Authority requires a report that must show design capacity that shows enrollment is equitable through all seven elementary schools. The process to redistrict and a written plan must be completed by June 30, 2011.

Dr. Bodie said once we have the person in place and the software, we should start the parent groups and look at redistricting. Dr. Bodie will provide an update in a few weeks.

School Committee Special Public Hearing 2/15/2011

Special School Committee Meeting

FY 12 Budget Public Hearing

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The uncertainties going forward that would affect the budget are State Aid, Town Meeting and MSBA approval of Thompson Reconstruction, Pay as you throw, potential override income, health insurance benefits, scheduling and course selection, enrollment growth, contract negotiations and open legal issues will all impact this budget as we move forward.

Public Comments (relevant to redistricting)

Bishop Parent is concerned with inequity in elementary class sizes and the possible reduction of teachers at the Bishop School. She has asked the School Committee to create options and look at redistricting. She realizes the Town has no more money and suggested the Board of Selectmen look into it.

A parent of a Brackett student asked for a vision and a 5-year budget projection. She also requested that the School Committee look at the demographics and capacity at the Ottoson Middle School and wonders how the town will be able to handle all the families moving into Arlington. She also spoke about the many directed studies students have the concern with sports, arts and music programs and asked to come together with the town and make a vision for the community.

Fourth Grade Bishop Teacher spoke of the low morale with teachers and the large class sizes for the students and more than 25 will not fit in her classroom. She was concerned with students with social anxiety and suggested everyone focus on creative and innovative ways to look at the budget and appreciates the hard work of the Superintendent.

Dr. Bodie gave a brief summarization of parents and the community member’s comments.

Dr. Bodie said she will look at inequities of the class sizes in each elementary school and said a Redistricting Committee will look at distribution of all students and said we have to provide MSBA with a plan and this will include all elementary schools too.

School Committee Meeting 03 08 2011


Dr. Ampe asked Dr. Bodie if the MSBA request that was included in our packet to implement a redistricting plan by June 30, 2011 would be completed and Dr. Bodie replied that it would get done.

School Committee 3/22/2011

Special Town Meeting

Mr. Thielman moved to support Article 3: Appropriation/Arlington High School Repair,

Article 4: Capital Budget/Stratton School, Article 5: Capital Budget/Thompson School, and Article 6: Appropriation/Unpaid Bills from Previous Fiscal Years, seconded by Ms. Starks.

Voted: 7-0

Secretary’s Report

Ms. Starks reported on all correspondence received over the past few months

- 1 to Brian Sullivan, TM, with the fully executed feasibility study agreement for the Thompson and instructions or entering project budgets into the system

- 2 to superintendent Bodie, one on the design enrollment certification for the Thompson and one forwarding review comments of the preferred schematic

School Committee 5/10/2011

Thompson Update

Dr. Bodie said next Monday, May 16, 2011 Town Meeting will vote to fund the rebuild of Thompson Elementary School or not. Dr. Bodie said given this vote, we will move forward with the relocation of Thompson students for the next two years and will meet to discuss plans with an override vote and plans without and override vote which would affect after school programs, monitors and busing. The plan is for Thompson to reopen in September 2013.

Secretary’s Report

Some correspondence received from 5/11/11-5/24/11)

Correspondence from MASC regarding recent legislative work and a save the date

Several emails concerning the Thompson school transition plan.

Email from Representative Garballey concerning the Thompson school and the MSBA

Email from Ms. Fitzgerald regarding a Thompson School Letter from Principal Sheri Donovan, dated May 16, 2011

Email from the Superintendent regarding Thompson Elementary School

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Mr. Thielman moved that the Arlington School Committee approves and authorizes the Owner’s Project Manager to submit the Schematic Design for the new Thompson School to the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) and directs the Chairperson of the Arlington School Committee to sign a letter to the MSBA certifying that the Arlington Public School District has supplied true, complete and accurate information to the MSBA relative to the Thompson School Schematic Design, seconded by Mr. Hayner.

Voted: 7-0

Thompson School

Dr. Bodie said the Owner’s Project Manager for the new Thompson School would need to submit the Schematic Design for the new Thompson School to the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) by Friday, June 17, 2011 and said she would like the Arlington School Committee to vote to approve and authorize the Schematic Design tonight. Dr. Bodie informed the Committee that the MSBA will meet on July 27th to approve the next phase-design phase.

Ms. Lori Cowles, from HMFH Architects, Inc. presented the new Thompson Elementary School design with site plans, and floor plans for first, second and third floor to the School Committee. The plans included the design to accommodate 380 students in first through fifth grades and 80 kindergarteners. The total proposed building size is just over 57,000 gross square feet and will include 15 general classrooms, 4 kindergarten classrooms, 1 art classroom, 1 music classroom 1 resource room, 1 speech and language room, 1 OT/PT room, 1 reading suite to accommodate 4 teachers plus storage, 1 ESL room, 1 gymnasium that will be adjoined by a platform for school performances, 1 library, 1 cafeteria with an enlarged kitchen to accommodate school-wide food storage and distribution, 1 administration/health/guidance suite.

Mr. Thielman moved that the Arlington School Committee approves and authorizes the Owner’s Project Manager to submit the Schematic Design for the new Thompson School to the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) and directs the Chairperson of the Arlington School Committee to sign a letter to the MSBA certifying that the Arlington Public School District has supplied true, complete and accurate information to the MSBA relative to the Thompson School Schematic Design, seconded by Mr. Hayner.

Voted: 7-0

School Committee 6/28/2011

District Goals 2010 – 2011

Dr. Bodie presented the District Goals for 2010-2011 and the Action Steps to each of the three Goals and Evidence of Success and Completion Comments.

Dr. Bodie said she brought forward a Redistricting Plan to Massachusetts School Business Authority (MSBA) in June 2011 as required for the Thompson Elementary School Rebuild and pointed out that in the end when the Thompson Elementary School is done being built they must have 380 students in the building.

School Committee 9/8/2011

Superintendent’s Report

Dr. Bodie discussed the bus schedules and said the first day of school went smoothly with a few minor problems around a new bus driver pickup schedule. Dr. Bodie thanked the Arlington Community for passing the override and said that this override provides the same level of service as last year.

Dr. Bodie said the move from Thompson to three schools and the renovation of Stratton School made for a very busy summer. Dr. Bodie thanked all staff, parents, and especially the IT Department.

Dr. Bodie pointed out the large class sizes at the schools and will continue to review classroom sizes and if a classroom reaches 25 students she will add a Teacher Assistant.

After the committee members discussed class sizes, Dr. Bodie did say she has started on a plan for redistricting. Dr. Bodie will ask each school to nominate a person to be on the Redistricting Committee to open up the discussion.

School Committee 9/22/2011

Superintendent’s Report

Dr. Bodie is aware of the Enrollment chart dated September 22, 2011, which shows classroom sizes are growing and space and school budgets will need to be reviewed over the next few years to accommodate the students. Dr. Bodie did say that Redistricting after the Thompson School opens will make a difference and suggested the possibility of expanding the Stratton School.

Secretary’s Report

Some correspondence from 9/8/11-9/22/11.

Letter from the Massachusetts School Building Authority regarding the fully executed Project Funding Agreement for the Thompson Elementary School Project dated September 13, 2011.

School Committee Meeting 10/27/2011

Superintendent’s Report Con’t

Dr. Bodie asked if anyone on the School Committee would like to be a representative on the Redistricting Committee which will meet one time a month and said they should be completed with a Redistricting Plan by June 2012. Mr. Curro suggested that those interested to serve on this committee, should contact the Chair and then she can put nominees out and be voted on at our next School Committee meeting.

School Committee 11 17/2011

Superintendent’s Report

Dr. Bodie said the Redistricting Committee met Tuesday, November 15, 2011 and started the process of drafting a Redistricting map and will have it completed by June 2012. Dr. Bodie will have it posted to the website as soon as possible. Mr. Spiegel said he had attended the Transportation Advisory Committee meeting and said the discussion was about the Stratton School safety with the AM/PM bus drop off and pick up. The TAC recommendation was to hire a Traffic Supervisor to the post for the safety of the students. Dr. Bodie said it could possibly be billed back to the Thompson School Project line item for relocation expenses.

After the committee agreed with the recommendation they decided no motion was needed from the committee but appreciate being informed.

School Committee 12/8/2011


Dr. Bodie apologized and took full responsibility for the posting of the Redistricting map to the media, which included confidential information where special education students lived in each school district. Dr. Bodie said the map was created as part of the MSBA recommendation to have additional students attend the new Thompson School. Dr. Bodie said the Redistricting Committee will be meeting again on Tuesday, December 13, 2011 at 7:00 in the School Committee Room and said they are in the beginning stages of developing a map and plan and said that all documents are working documents and nothing is final. Dr. Bodie assured the community that they would be heard through their school representative, public forums at each school on Redistricting Committee plans and that the Community Relations Subcommittee with work the Redistricting Committee to bring forward recommendations and a timeline to the full School Committee members.

After the committee heard from Dr. Bodie, Mr. Hayner recommended to Dr. Bodie she provide the School Committee members assurance of protocols are being followed so another incident of a breach of confidentiality would not happen again. Mr. Curro suggested to Dr. Bodie she provide regular communication to school districts the progress of all Redistricting meetings and publish dates, forum dates and the timeline and publish the representatives names on our website.

Superintendent’s Report

Dr. Bodie thanked all the schools on the holiday giving each school were involved in over the past few weeks. Dr. Bodie placed the Thompson Demolition CD showing the school being torn down this past week and thanked Brian Murray, Tree Arborist who saved a tree from the Thomspon School. Dr. Bodie spoke on the need to Redistrict due to the imbalance of elementary classroom sizes and to growing Arlington community.

This story was published Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2012.

Parents hear plans for measured special-education expansion

SEPAC logo, 2011

Members of a parent group heard top Arlington special-education administrators Tuesday, Jan. 3, describe a landscape for services that has not been seen for a number of years -- one that promises some expansion.

Billed as a discussion of a "Vision for Special Education," the SEPAC meeting at the Jefferson Cutter House with 19 present focused more on budget requests, to which no dollar figures have yet been assigned. Kathleen Lockyer, interim special-education director, joined by two administrators, made these points:

-- The School Committee's Dec. 22 7-0 vote to begin the search for a full-time assistant superintendent and the hiring in 2011 of a full-time human-resources director Robert Spiegel are key steps toward stabilizing retaining staff;

-- For the fiscal 2013 budget, special ed will request:

   * Adding two to three coteachers in the seventh grade at Ottoson,

   * A structured learning center teacher and aide at the high school,

   * Another team chair, in part to handle the increase in work on out-of-district placements (three team chairs now handled all cases among seven elementary schools) and

   * Four new social workers for elementary schools, an issue she called the "highest requirement" from principals, Lockyer said.

Walker Partnership grant

In addition, the speakers, who included Lori Villani, assistant director, and Chris Carlson, interim director of elementary special education, noted that under a $56,000 grant submitted in December but whose approval is expected, the department will employ a Walker Partnership consultant.

Such a consultant will work districtwide to address a variety of ways to social/emotional issues. Lockyer said she hopes to build communities of therapists who will be "experts" in particular areas.

Lockyer said an occupational therapist had just been hired Ottoson, and she seeks a full-time speech therapist (current caseload is 45-50).

"Less clear-cut" than the budget needs outlined above, Lockyer said, are the pursuit of these related services (speech, language, physical therapy):

-- A change at the preschool, from 1.6 to 2.0 positions; and

-- A change in the elementary schools, from a 0.4 to 1.0 therapist.

The positions described remain a wish list for now, but members of SEPAC, who had some pointed questions, appeared to welcome a potentially expansive trend. Typically, budgets get their first look in January and are firmed up by March before further changes as the plan goes before Town Meeting later in the spring.

"New model"?

Trish Orlovsky, Arlington Special Education Advisory Council chair, asked whether the department would consider a new model, one that might cater to smaller groups.

Villani said the department is "holding fast" to the current model, and Lockyer said she continues to look at underused areas.

A parent noted that a current physical therapist is "stretched."

Lockyer cited a study that says caseloads here are "well within the acceptable range," adding, "We are looking to go beyond" that.

SEPAC Cochair Jerri Newman asked about staff salaries, reported to be lower than surrounding communities.

Lockyer did not address the issue directly, but talked about increasing professional development. "People are pretty responsive to these ideas," she said.

Orlovsky suggested workshops as well as a parent forum about what the department is doing. Another parent suggested a monthly listing to show what services are helping students,

Villani said she hopes to revamp the department's website this spring and would consider including such information.

Another parent wondered whether pulling students out of regular-education classed was productive.

Lockyer said there needs to be more in-class time and more collaboration.

"We're in early stages of thinking about this," Carson said, adding there not a strong answer to the issue.

Summer services

Asked why in the summer services, elementary students get five weeks, but Ottoson just two, Lockyer had a couple of responses.

"It's better to do a few things as well as you can instead of trying to do many things," she said.

She noted staffing issues in the summer and admitted she did not know the history of this issue; that is, "the thinking behind" going from five weeks to two.

"Could you get grad-level students cover?" Orlovsky asked.

Lockyer said there are not as many special-education grad students as in the past.

At this point, she cited the School Committee vote to hire a full-time assistant superintendent. Wallace Raemer has been serving in the role on a part-time basis for a couple of years.

"Such a person can handle this," she said, referring to summer and other issues. "This is really going to help all of us."

Another parent asked what might be done about buffering noise at schools, including the Ottoson cafeteria. No one was sure what to do.

Among those present at the 1-hour, 40-minute meeting was state Rep. Sean Garballey, who stayed for about three-fourths of the meeting

This story was published Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2012, and updated the next day.

145 parents sign letter seeking more redistricting data

Redistricting logo

A letter from the Bishop, Brackett, Dallin and Hardy communities with 145 signatures asks the superintendent share more data about Thompson enrollment and capacity numbers for the seven elementary schools, requesting these points be the focus of the January Redistricting Committee meeting.

David Plumb, who lives in a current Dallin neighborhood, addressed the School Committee on Thursday, Dec 22, about the letter, sent to Superintendent Kathleen Bodie the day before.

Here is the letter in full, provided by the parents who composed it:

"Dear Superintendent Bodie, Members of the Arlington School Committee and Redistricting Committee,

"We are a group of residents from across Arlington who have come together with a shared interest of becoming more engaged in the current redistricting effort.

"We are eager to work with the Redistricting and School Committees to address the challenges that led the town to undertake this effort. We recognize you have a tough task in leading this initiative and applaud the decision to empower parent representatives to recommend a plan.

"We are concerned that the approach to date has created unnecessary confusion. Going forward, we would strongly support an approach to this initiative that more clearly names the problems were trying to resolve, and is firmly grounded in core community priorities.

"Attached are recommendations to improve the redistricting process that we urge you to consider.

"We specifically request that you take the following steps:

"1) Share more data and information that can clarify the underlying problem(s) that this effort must address, in particular:

"a. What exactly is the arrangement with MSBA regarding enrollment at Thompson? How close to 380 must enrollment be, and by when? What exactly is MSBA requiring regarding redistricting in general? We are receiving mixed messages from the state and town on these issues.

"b. Further explanation of where the capacity numbers come from, to identify opportunities for flexibility (i.e., can stand-alone programs be moved or open enrollment changed? Can staffing move? How will changing birth rates affect the numbers?)

"c. Given that schools will never be exactly at capacity, what is the acceptable deviation from the intended capacity at each school (e.g., +/-10, +/-30,)?

"What are the tangible implications of deviations from exact capacity levels at each school?

"2) Focus the January Redistricting Committee meeting around an exploration of this additional data and information, as well as a discussion of metrics of success that include core priorities of parents. Our priorities include protecting existing community networks around elementary schools and ensuring kids have a safe route to school.

"3) Consider a range of options to address the challenges of class size and infrastructure use, in addition to any redrawing of districts.

"4) Engage more proactively with parents through meetings held at each school and other means, well before a final draft map might be completed in March.

"We would welcome the opportunity to meet with Superintendent Bodie and members of the School Committee to discuss these ideas and explore options for making this initiative lead to wise and publicly supported outcomes. We will continue to have active conversations with our local parent representatives, and have greatly appreciated their work to date."

NOTE: 135 signatures were on this letter when sent Dec. 21, but the list had grown to 145 by the next day.

Redistricting timeline: process aims for June recommendation

As the Redistricting Committee had its second meeting Tuesday, Dec. 13, the School Committee has received a timeline for the process.

December- February: Discuss appropriateness of proposed new district lines in draft map. Develop draft map No. 2, which includes buffer areas around district lines. [Buffers are border areas that allow the administration flexibility to choose which district a student may attend.]

Maintain in draft map No. 2 capacity targets at each school.

March: Solicit parent feedback on draft map in forums based at each six current elementary schools.

April-May: Review parental feedback. Make adjustments to draft map while maintaining capacity targets for each school. Review map with community relations subcommittee.

June: Recommended map with new elementary district lines sent to School Committee for approval.

The members of the committee are:

Administration: Superintendent Kathleen Bodie and Chief Financial Officer Diane Johnson

Bishop School: Mark McAneny, principal; and Dorothy Commons, parent representative

Brackett School: Stephanie Zerchykov, principal; and Roly Chaput, parent representative

Dallin School: Tara Rossi, principal; and Lauren Boyle, parent representative

Hardy School: Deborah D’Amico, principal; and Ned Hall, parent representative

Peirce School: Karen Hartley, principal; Charlie Radoslovich, parent representative; and Cate Oranchak, parent representative alternate

Stratton School/Thompson School: Sheryl Donovan, principal; and/or Jackie Daley, Stratton School liaison; and Chuck Hannon, Stratton School parent representative

Thompson: Greg Watt, parent representative

School Committee representative, Leba Heigham

Town GIS coordinator: Adam Kurowski

Each School Council voted its own representative.

Bodie explains why initial redistricting map included special-education student locations

SEPAC logo, 2011

Kathleen Bodie

Superintendent Kathleen Bodie has responded to stinging criticism from the head of an Arlington parent group who said that trust and the law was violated after a map showing proposed new school district lines included dots indicating where special-education students live.

In a statement, Bodie wrote that the incomplete map, intended only for administrators and never expected to be public, was a tool aimed at assessing the numbers of special-education students in districts with schools having those services. The redistricting effort, which began this month and aims to fashion a proposal by next June, involves trying to equalize student numbers according to each capacity for the seven elementary schools.

On Tuesday, Nov. 22, Trish Orlovsky, chair of SEPAC, wrote that creating and releasing this map to the public shows Bodie's "ignorance of her duties or disregard for the law -- both of which are very concerning to parents and a violation of our trust and perhaps a violation of the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)."

Orlovsky asked five questions: (1) Who authorized and created this map targeting students with special needs and what did it cost? (2) What was its purpose? (3) Why was this map ever shown to the School Committee and released to the public? (4) What should the superintendent have known but didn't, and (5) What steps need to be taken to ensure this never occurs again?

The next day, YourArlington asked the superintendent and School Committee Chair Cindy Starks to respond to Orlovsky's questions. Bodie responded Monday, Nov. 28. The full text of her statement follows:

"I first want to reiterate my apology over the release of the district map that distinguished the location of special education students and non-special education students. It was a mistake for which I accept full responsibility. The map was not intended to be released to the public, but it is no less regrettable that it happened. Those few who were given copies by mistake have been asked to destroy or return their copies. The map will not be available in the future to anyone who requests a copy.

"The question that has been asked by many people is why such a map was developed in the first place if it was never intended to be released. How does the location of special education students affect redistricting? The location of our special education students who attend specialized programs in the district does affect redistricting in two ways: (1) the classroom capacity of schools in which the programs reside; and, (2) the distribution of students across the district. The map that was inadvertently released is not helpful in this analysis because there was no distinction made between students who may only receive one service, such as speech and language support, from students who attend specialized programs. It was, however, a first step in developing a map that will be helpful in this analysis.

"First, four of our elementary schools house special education programs that did not exist when the district lines were determined years ago or when the schools were rebuilt. In the last few years, the district has developed a number of programs at all levels (Pre-K-12) to address the needs of students who require support beyond what can be offered in a regular classroom.

"Absent these programs, some of these students would likely have had to be placed in out-of-district programs, which are costly, but, more importantly, takes them out of their community and often requires a long commute. We work hard to ensure that we offer high quality specialized programs. Quality control is another reason for maintaining specialized programs in the district.

"One measure of the quality of our programs are MCAS results, which indicate that the achievement gap between high needs students (special education, minority subgroups, low income and ELL) significantly narrows as students remain in our school system. The ongoing goal is to narrow that gap each year.

"Our intention with respect to these special education programs is to keep the programs in the schools which currently house them. In future years, some of these programs may need to be expanded and other programs may need to be developed (in the other three elementary schools). Any new or expanded programs will require additional space. To the best of our ability, we want to anticipate those needs and building capacity now as we determine new district lines.

"Second, where students in these programs reside also affects the distribution of students among all of the schools. For example, if 10 students in one district attend special education programs in schools in other districts, then those 10 students should not be counted in their home district numbers, but in the numbers of the school they are attending. This is particularly important for the Thompson district since we are required by MSBA to have 380 students enrolled in Thompson when it opens in September 2013.

"To respond to concerns about privacy and trust, going forward, as we have always intended, this program analysis will be completed by district administrators only.

"The Redistricting Committee will be provided only with capacity numbers of the elementary schools after the analysis has been finalized. A very rough start to that analysis is reflected in the map created last spring.

"The school capacity chart on the map reflects some subtraction of the special education classrooms from school capacity totals. Since last spring, however, we have both moved some classrooms and expanded some programs, so the chart does not reflect the current situation. The challenge for the District with respect to redistricting is to predict with some certainty special classroom needs for the foreseeable future.

"Again, I want to apologize for this mistake. I hope that anyone who may have downloaded the map from YourArlington during that brief window of time will commit to deleting or destroying the map. I commit to greater vigilance with regard to all documents involving special education students that leave my office."

YourArlington's publisher has also apologized for his role in releasing the map for three-plus hours on Nov. 18.

SEPAC chair's statement

Here is the full text of Orlovsky's statement sent Nov. 22, and titled "Violation of Trust; Violation of the Law."

"As the SEPAC Chair in Arlington and a citizen, I hear feedback from many parents on a variety of issues. The recent event of the Superintendent releasing to the School Committee and then to the press, a map pinpointing the residences of children with special needs (designated as "sped students" on her map), is more than merely a case of administrative carelessness. As superintendent of the schools, Dr. Bodie is charged with ensuring that the rights and safeguarding the identities and personally identifying information of all students with disabilities. Her creating and releasing this map to the public shows her ignorance of her duties or disregard for the law -- both of which are very concerning to parents and a violation of our trust and perhaps a violation of the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).

"Hearing from many parents and thinking of my own child, I am angry with the Superintendent because her negligence has put my child, and every other Arlington child with special needs, in harm's way. Any person with ill intentions and decent skills at searching the internet can find this map and pinpoint the streets where every child with special needs lives. I'm not the only parent who is now become more vigilant at watching street traffic and any cars or persons lingering in the neighborhood, because everyone can see which streets and locations of our children. I feel less secure and am worried even more about the safety of my already vulnerable child with special needs. All this thanks to the Superintendent.

"So the questions I want answered are (1) Who authorized and created this map targeting students with special needs and what did it cost? (2) What was its purpose? (3) Why was this map ever shown to the School Committee and released to the public? (as it then became a public document) (4) What should the superintendent have known but didn't, and (5) What steps need to be taken to ensure this never occurs again?

"While we appreciate her letter of apology to parents, it does not begin to make amends for the damage done. I sincerely hope the administration takes full responsibility for this, with the School Committee, and conducts a complete investigation, as well as comprehensive recommendations and steps to ensure this will not ever happen again.

"The loss of trust is significant and the Superintendent has much to account for.

"We look forward to a response to how this will be rectified."

The next meeting of the Redistricting Committee is set for 7 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 13, in the School Committee Room.

This story was first published Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2011.

Schools' first HR chief in 8 years adds legal dimension

HR chief Spiegel

Bob Spiegel, schools HR officer, 2011SpiegelFor the first time in eight years, the Arlington public schools have a human-resources officer. Robert M. Spiegel brings a background in labor law. In fact, he comes from Deutsch Williams, a Boston firm that handles some labor cases for Arlington.

Spiegel, 43, a Needham resident, was hired March 1 for the $84,000-a-year position, an amount to be split by town and schools, and was introduced to the School Committee April 26.

The administration's last human-resources officer, Gus Martinson, worked from January 2001 to June 2003, when a failed override eliminated the position.

His main aim? "Develop systems that make sense for Arlington public schools," he said in an interview May 10. His focus will be on the central administration with an eye to improve systems there.

His legal background addresses to some of the echoes continuing from the superintendency of Nate Levenson, 2005 to 2008, when, some believe, the school chief needed better, immediate legal advice about personnel issues.

Spiegel arrives as Town Meeting has debated and approved a merged operation for town and school personnel operations (Article 44). The School Committee has yet to sign off on that, so just what shape the operation will take remains unclear.

Asked how he might line up in a new structure -- would he and Caryn Molloy, town personnel director, be on an equal footing? -- he said, "Good question" and added: "It doesn't matter that much." 

He said there will be collaboration with Cove, who he knows for "two or three years" via work with Deutsch Williams. That current collaboration involves, for example, issues with town employees who are assigned to the schools, such as custodians.

Spiegel is working directly for Superintendent Kathleen Bodie.

Feeling some lack of satisfaction, he left Deutsch Williams in the spring of 2010 and took some time off. "It's a great firm; I liked the people," he said.

Having less direct experience in HR, he studied on his own and passed the exam and received the PHR certificate

About 859 regular employees work for Arlington public schools, some of them part time. In addition, about 100 other employees may float in and out as substitutes or seasonal coaches.

According to his resume, Spiegel says he is adept at Title VII, ADA, ADEA, wage and hour, FMLA, unemployment benefits, labor relations and collective bargaining, severance and release agreements, Labor Arbitrations, EEOC Charges, FLSA, employment litigation, employee handbooks, and workplace policies.

He has represented clients before various state courts and agencies, including the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, the Labor Relations  Commission, the Civil Service Commission, the American Arbitration Association, and the Division of Unemployment Assistance.

He calls himself a "resourceful and action-oriented problem-solver able to find and implement speedy, innovative, and  cost-effective solutions for clients'  requirements."

His professional experience includes Deutsch Williams (2005–2010); McCormack & Epstein, Boston (2002–2004); Graydon, Head & Ritchey, Cincinnati (1996–2001); US Department of Labor, Office of Administrative Law Judges, Cincinnati (1994–1996).

He has Juris Doctor degree from The Ohio State University College of Law (1993) and a BA from the University of Michigan (1990).

This story was published at 5 p.m. Wednesday, May 11, 2011.

Stratton among 7 Mass. schools honored nationally

Stratton PrideThe Stratton School, expected to wait years to be renovated but the host for a series of other Arlington schools since 1998, has kept its chin by focusing on pride.

Now national recognition has the Stratton community feeling downright proud. The elementary school near Turkey Hill is among seven in Massachusetts selected as a US Department of Education Blue Ribbon School for 2010, Principal Alan Brown wrote in an e-mail to the Stratton community Sept. 9. It was among 304 schools selected nationwide. It is listed among the high-performing schools. See the full list here >>

"This is a significant honor for Stratton," he wrote. "It is also a recognition of the Arlington School District.

"Stratton is an enthusiastic participant in all district curriculum programs. Our teachers work hard to implement and improve those offerings. We work closely with district curriculum mentors, literacy and math coaches to reflect upon and improve student learning."

Stratton teacher Janice Satlak-Mott and Brown will be going to Washington, D.C., to receive the award on Nov. 15-16.

Each school receives a plaque and flag to signify its Blue Ribbon School status.

Stratton is among 254 public and 50 private schools to be honored. In the past 28 years, more than 6,000 of America’s schools have received this award.

The nomination and application processes for Stratton began during last school year.

"This Blue Ribbon award both recognizes and sets the bar for Stratton, and we plan to exceed that level of expectation.

"I congratulate the Stratton community. A partnership between home and school is the lifeblood of a sound educational program. We have that at Stratton."

The Blue Ribbon Schools Program honors public and private elementary, middle, and high schools that are either high performing or have improved student achievement to high levels, especially among disadvantaged students, according to the US Department of Education Web site.

Announcement in Washington, D.C.

Joining US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan were Washington, D.C., Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, D.C., Public Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee and George Washington University Provost Steven Lerman for the Sept. 9 announcement at School Without Walls Senior High School, a 2010 Blue Ribbon School in Washington, D.C..

"Our nation has a responsibility to help all children realize their full potential," Duncan said, according to news release.

 "Schools honored with the Blue Ribbon Schools award are committed to achievement and to ensuring that students learn and succeed. Their work reflects the conviction that every child has promise and must receive a quality education."

These schools serve as models for other schools throughout the nation and details of their achievements are shared on the US Department of Education’s Web site:  

The Blue Ribbon Schools Program dates to 1982, when then-Secretary of Education Terrel Bell commissioned a study of American education.

The report, called "A Nation at Risk," described a "rising tide" of mediocre schools that threatened the nation’s future. In part, it galvanized the extraordinary energy that has been devoted to educational research and school reform over the last quarter century.  

Bell created the Blue Ribbon Schools Award to bring the best US schools to public attention and to recognize those schools whose students thrived and excelled. Working with the National Association of Elementary School Principals and the National Association of Secondary School Principals, Bell launched the Blue Ribbon Schools and the National Distinguished Principals Programs. Both highlighted outstanding models of American schools and school leadership. 

Since then, the program has honored many of America’s most successful schools.

Criteria for high-performing public schools

The US Department of Education says that regardless of the school’s percentage of students from disadvantaged backgrounds, the school is high performing.

"High performing" means that the achievement of the school’s students in the latest year tested places the school in the top 10 percent of schools in the state on state assessments of reading (or English language arts) and mathematics. Disaggregated results for student subgroups, including students from disadvantaged backgrounds, must be similar to the levels of all students tested.

The school must have made AYP as defined by the state for the past two years and also make AYP in the year it receives the award.

Other requirements for any school to be able to qualify: 

1. The school has some configuration that includes one or more of grades K-12.  (Schools on the same campus with one principal, even a K-12 school, must apply as an entire school.)

2. The school has made Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) each year for the past two years and has not been identified by the state as "persistently dangerous" within the last two years.  

3. To meet final eligibility, the school must meet the state’s Adequate Yearly Progress requirement for the 2009-2010 school year. AYP must be certified by the state.  Any AYP status appeals must be resolved at least two weeks before the awards ceremony for the school to receive the award.

4. If the school includes grades 7 or higher, the school must have foreign language as a part of its curriculum and a significant number of students in grades 7 and higher must take foreign language courses.

5. The school has been in existence for five full years, that is, from at least September 2004.

6. The nominated school has not received the Blue Ribbon Schools award in the past five years, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, or 2009.

7. The nominated school or district is not refusing the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) access to information necessary to investigate a civil rights complaint or to conduct a district wide compliance review.

8. OCR has not issued a violation letter of findings to the school district concluding that the nominated school or the district as a whole has violated one or more of the civil rights statutes. A violation letter of findings will not be considered outstanding if OCR has accepted a corrective action plan from the district to remedy the violation.

9. The US Department of Justice does not have a pending suit alleging that the nominated school or the school district as a whole has violated one or more of the civil rights statutes or the Constitution’s equal protection clause.

10. There are no findings of violations of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act in a US Department of Education monitoring report that apply to the school or school district in question; or if there are such findings, the state or district has corrected, or agreed to correct, the findings.

This story was first published Thursday, Sept. 9, and updated the next day.

Legos, learning: Brackett students taught hands-on engineering skills

The miniature amusement park ride built out of Lego bricks and a motor works almost too well: a tiny swing hanging by a cord from a tower whirls around so fast that if there were real riders on board, they'd emerge wobbly and dizzy” if they didn't go flying off first, that is.

The two fifth-grade girls at the Brackett School who designed and built the ride giggle as the swing flies around and around. They flip off the switch and immediately know what to do: put another gear on top of the tower to slow down the swing. It works.

In local classrooms and in schools around the country, elementary school students like the one at Brackett and their teachers are learning science, math and engineering principles through the Student Teacher Outreach Mentorship Program, known as STOMP. The program began at Tufts University in 2001, the brainchild of Chris Rogers, a professor in the department of mechanical engineering, and Merredith Portsmore, a 2009 graduate, and now has sent more than 150 university students, known as fellows, into 60 classrooms in Arlington, Somerville, Medford, Cambridge and Boston.

If a class is studying ancient Egypt, for instance, students might learn how to construct a pyramid with Lego bricks. If simple machines are on the curriculum, kids build levers and pulleys and see exactly how they work. Among other topics covered: static electricity and making ice cream without an ice cream maker. STOMP's goal is not to just excite children about learning, but to mentor their teachers about how to incorporate engineering principles into their lessons.

Adam Carberry, a 2005 Tufts graduate who is working toward his doctorate in engineering education, manages STOMP and describes the lively, bustling classroom work as "ractive chaos." Each week the Tufts students prepare a lesson plan in conjunction with classroom teachers and visit the classroom to explain concepts and ideas in a lively give-and-take with their young students.

The Game Plan

At a recent session at the Brackett Elementary School, fifth graders are assigned the job of designing and building amusement park rides. "What does this challenge have to do with engineering?" Jordyn Wolfand, E11, an environmental engineering major, asks the class.

The kids call out the answers in rapid order:

"The rides must be safe."

"They must be really fun but made well."

"They should look good."

"We need to know the number of people who can fit in a ride."

"We need to know what materials the rides should be made of."

"They shouldn't be expensive."

"It shouldn't hit a pole."

The students form groups and quickly choose names for their production companies: Spitfire, Rock and Roll Amusements, Three Mechanics. Then they get down to work.

"Show us your game plan," says Thomas Williamson, a Tufts engineering grad student. He reminds them that one of the requirements is that the ride must have a motor. After drawing up plans, each team is given a green box filled with Lego bricks.

The children sift through the pieces and begin to build, while the Tufts students move from team to team, asking questions and challenging the kids to solve problems on their own. The classroom bubbles with talk and laughter, and soon amusement park equipment begins to emerge in the form of conveyor belts, cranes and pendulums.

Two boys making a free-fall ride talk about cables and safety. Another group, working on a dragon ship, discusses how they can make the ride scarier. “We’ll have to have spikes,” says one.

Teacher Nicole Feroleto says one of the aspects of the program she treasures is the level of interest from the girls. "The boys are good, but I'm thrilled about the girls' ability to use their innate talent to make this work. The girls love it,” she says. “Their projects are always on par with the boys, if not better. They'll often think things out a little bit and not just jump in."

This hands-on approach has inspired nearly 20 other colleges and universities to start their own programs based on STOMP; they all participate in an online network.

Others are inspired, too: a high school in rural New Hampshire sends its students into area elementary schools with engineering projects, and a program called I-STOMP has enlisted employees from such firms as Raytheon and National Instruments to bring engineering to classrooms. Funded by a gift from the LLL Foundation, STOMP operates under the umbrella of the Center for Engineering Education and Outreach (CEEO) at Tufts.

The STOMP fellows not only come from the School of Engineering, but from a range of departments in the School of Arts and Sciences, including geology, psychology, education and child development.

Students are trained in using the Lego bricks and a programming language that operates a special, computerized Lego brick used in many of the projects. Online activity, photo and video databases at allow new participating students to learn from what many past STOMP fellows have done in the classroom. For some of the fellows, the experience has given them a new perspective.

Kara Miranda, a junior, is majoring in education and English at Tufts. She hopes to teach fifth grade, where she'll be asked to teach a range of subjects. "I've learned a lot more about teaching math and science because of STOMP, she says. "It's been really fun."

Elsa Head, a senior who is an engineering science and environmental studies major, says because of her STOMP experience, she'll be back in school in the fall, getting a master's in engineering education, and working at CEEO at Tufts. The work itself is fulfilling, but there are the intangibles, too: It's the one time she walks into a classroom when she gets a round of applause just for showing up.

Click on the play button to watch a video of STOMP in action in a local elementary classroom. Photo by Joanie Tobin.

Marjorie Howard can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Dedham Middle School principal to take over at Ottoson in July

Tim RuggereRuggere

Timothy R. Ruggere, currently the principal of Dedham Middle School, has agreed to serve as the next permanent principal of Ottoson Middle School, starting in July.

Ruggere, 43, is in his second year as principal at the Dedham Middle School, after previously serving as vice principal at Dedham High.

The announcement was made in an e-mail to parents March 2 by Judy Malone Neville, interim principal at the Ottoson. She quoted an e-mail from Kathleen Bodie, interim superintendent, who wrote:

"I believe that Tim's experience, demonstrated leadership, enthusiasm, and energy will serve our middle school and district well in the years ahead.

"We were fortunate to have three excellent candidates for the position, all of whom would have been good choices, which made the decision difficult. We thank Mr. Grubb and Mr. Edwards for sharing with us their ideas and time over the last few weeks.

"Thank you also to the Search Committee, chaired by Charlie Skidmore [Arlington High School principal], for its excellent work."

He competed for the Arlington post with Jacob Edwards, a middle school assistant principal in Gloucester, and William Grubb, a middle school assistant principal in Belmont. Both are Arlington residents.

"Any one of the three of them could be a very strong principal," Bodie told the Daily Transcript in a story published Feb. 25.

"The question is what is going to be the best match for our middle school. But they're all very competent individuals."

The newspaper reported that hoped to find work closer to his home in Andover, where he has two young children.

Ruggere was recently one of five finalists for the principal's job at Littleton High School, but John Harrington, assistant principal of Algonquin Regional High School, emerged on top there, the Daily Transcript reported.

Ruggere is enrolled in a doctoral program at Northeastern University. He holds a C.A.G.S degree in educational leadership from Cambridge College and an Ed.M. in reading from Boston University.

Ruggere, Bodie and Skidmore have been asked to comment.

A 14-member search committee interviewed seven candidates before deciding on the three finalists.

Bodie was not part of the committee, but she made the hiring decision.

That decision moves the school further from the controversy in the summer of 2007 that saw then-Principal Stavroula Bouris and tech teacher Chuck Coughlin fired. Both are seeking to have their dismissal overturned in arbitration.

Malone Neville had been an administrator in the Newton Public Schools and came out of retirement to lead the Ottoson since September 2007.

This story was published at Monday, March 2, and was updated after that. 

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