SCHOOL COMMITTEE NEWS: 10 Things That Happened At Last Night’s Meeting

WILMINGTON, MA — Here are TEN things that happened at the Wilmington School Committee Meeting on Wednesday, April 26, 2017:

#1) At the start of the meeting, the Wilmington School Committee members honored former Superintendent Joanne Benton, who recently passed away, by taking turns reciting passages from one of her favorite children’s books — Oh, The Places You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss.  Benton would cite the book in my of her presentations and commencement speeches.

The book has additional special meaning as committee members also read it to Benton at her final School Committee meeting prior to her initial retirement in 2014.  “We wanted to bring this full circle tonight,” said School Committee member Julie Broussard.

#2) Look for the School Committee to have more student presentations at its meetings in the future.

“Each meeting going forward, I [propose] we have something fun with the kids on the agenda to remind us why we do this job,” said Broussard.  “I hope we can keep Joanne’s spirit alive by bringing the kids in more often.  With Joanne, it was always all about the kids.”

The School Committee’s April 12th meeting included an unprecedented TEN student presentations. Members, for example, heard from a WHS English class that partnered with the Wilmington Senior Center in a type of “Senior to Senior” intergenerational program to learn more about each other; a WHS student who created his own app; a group of WHS students excited for the upcoming Wilmington Special Olympics; the President of the WHS DECA Club; and a performance of the National Anthem from WHS Soundscape.

“Joanne’s fingerprints were all over that meeting,” continued Broussard.  “When I asked her, she came up with a list of 10 kids and [WHS Principal] Linda Peters got me in touch with the various groups.”

#3) The Wilmington School Committee conducted their annual reorganization.  Steve Bjork was elected Chair, Julie Broussard was elected Vice Chair, and M.J. Byrnes was elected Secretary.  So, Bjork and Broussard switch spots and Byrnes replaces former member Ginny Bonish, who chose not to seek re-election.

“Last year was an extremely challenging year for us,” remarked Broussard.  “When talked into being the chair, I didn’t expect to deal with what we had to deal with.  There were a lot of difficult decisions with no precedent to follow and no simple answers.”

Members praised Broussard’s tenure as chair.

“Thank you for leading us through some darkness.  You did an outstanding job,” said Steve Bjork.

“I truly appreciate your leadership. You sacrificed more than anyone can know,” added M.J. Byrnes.

#4) Chair Steve Bjork asked members to review their subcommittee assignments and be prepared to discuss their preferences for the coming year at the May 10th School Committee meeting.

Of particular urgency, Ginny Bonish will need to be replaced as the Chair of the Policy Subcommittee, School Committee representative to the Town Master Facilities Plan Committee, co-representative to the SEPAC, and member of the recently-formed School Committee-Family Communication Subcommittee.

Bjork also announced a new ad hoc committee will need to be created for the upcoming negotiations for the food services contract.

“No more than three members of the School Committee can be on an individual subcommittee before it becomes a quorum,” Bjork reminded members.

There are currently 13 subcommittees, plus two negotiation teams.

#5) School Committee Student Representative Ashley Bonnette-Kim issued gave bi-monthly report.  She noted that the WHS Local Heroes Club is currently collecting hygiene products to be sent to veterans in need. She called last week’s WHS Europe Field Trip a success.  Bonnette-Kim reminded the committee that Wilmington High is hosting Wilmington’s First Annual Special Olympics this Thursday, from 9am to 1pm.  She also announced that National Honor Society letters have recently gone out to qualifying WHS students.

#6) After a second reading, the School Committee unanimously adopted a revised policy surrounding administering medicines to students (Policy JLCD). The policy, already approved by the Police Subcommittee, was drafted by WPS Nurse Leader Doreen Crowe. The purpose of the policy was to clarify and strengthen the school nurses’ role in administering prescription and non-prescription medication to students.

“Wilmington nursing staff will administer all medication required during the school day (1) under specific written request of the parent/guardian and (2) under the written directive of a prescribing physician,” reads the revised policy.  “Children are NOT permitted to have medication in the classroom or on their person, unless permission has been granted for self-administration by a parent/guardian AND physician AND provided the school nurse determines it is safe and appropriate.”

“Per the MA Department of Public Health, self-administered medication is limited to the following and requires a written individualized self-administraiton health care plan:

  1. Students with asthma or other respiratory conditions may possess and administer prescription inhalers.
  2. Students with cystic fibrosis may possess and administer prescription enzyme supplements.
  3. Students with diabetes may possess and administer glucose monitoring tests and prescription insulin.
  4. Students with life-threatening allergies may self-carry/self-administer prescription Epinephrine.”

If you’d like to read the policy in its entirety (it’s just one page), email

#7) After a second reading, the School Committee decided to table a vote on the district’s proposed new policy on the SBIRT (Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment).  Newcomer Jennifer Bryson had some questions that the policy subcommittee was unable to answer.  WPS Nurse Leader Doreen Crowe, who drafted the policy, will be invited in at the next meeting to provide the requested information.

“The purpose of SBIRT is to promote prevention and identify early risk for substance use in our adolescents and to take appropriate actions as soon as possible if a problem is identified,” reads the policy.  “SBIRT screenings are performed like other health screenings in school settings (i.e., vision, hearing, BMI) with respect to identifying a health condition as soon as possible so as to enable all children to obtain the fullest benefit of their educational opportunities.”

The screening would be conducted annually for one grade at the middle school and one grade at the high school.

Parents would be notified of the screenings in advance and given the opportunity to opt their child out of the screening.  Students are also allowed to self-opt out at any time before or during the screening.

Bryson’s biggest concern was the confidentiality clause in the policy — “Any statement, response or disclosure made by a pupil during a [screening] shall be considered confidential information and shall not be disclosed by a person receiving the statement, response or disclosure to any other person without the prior written consent of the pupil, except in cases of immediate medical emergency or a disclosure is otherwise required by state law…. No record of any statement, response or disclosure shall be made in any form — written, electronic, or otherwise — that includes information identifying the pupil.” Bryson wanted clarity as to how the confidentiality clause would effect teacher’s and guidance counselor’s legal responsibility to act as mandated reporters to the Department of Children and Families (DCF) if abuse or neglect is detected.

#8) The School Committee received a FY17 Revolving Account Report from Interim Superintendent Paul Ruggiero. All of the district’s revolving accounts were included — athletics, food service, community programs, pre-school program, CARES program, school facilities, grants, high school revolving account, CHNA-15 (Wildcat Project), one-to-one Chromebook program, and special accounts (Circuit Breaker, Lost Books account, 9/11 Memorial account, and Scholarship account). No major issues were conveyed and the committee had no questions on the report.

School Committee member Peggy Kane requested a presentation from the Food Services Department, per past practice, before the end of the school year.

#9) Assistant Superintendent Sean Gallagher thanked the Wilmington Educational Foundation for sponsoring the STEM Fair for Grades K-8 this Thursday, April 27, from 6pm to 8pm, in the Wilmington Middle School cafeteria.

#10) School Committee Chair Steve Bjork thanked former School Committee member Ginny Bonish for her six years on the board. “We miss you and appreciate your service.”

School Committee member Julie Broussard welcomed Jenn Bryson to the board.  “We want to give you a warm welcome… You ran a strong campaign.  We look forward to working with you.”

ODDS & ENDS: The School Committee changed up their seating arrangements so they no longer all sit on the same side of the table. ** Peggy Kane will be a guest speaker at the WHS National Honor Society Induction Ceremony. ** The meeting began 20 minutes late because the Committee was in an Executive Session, presumably discussing contract negotiations for a new deal with the teacher’s union. ** Wilmington resident David Ragsdale, who works for the Massachusetts DESE and specializes in Student Assessment, was happy to report during ‘Public Comments’ that the state recently observed the Wilmington Middle School’s next generation computer-based testing for MCAS and “everything was good.”  Ragsdale also congratulated Bjork and Bryson on their recent elections and thanked Broussard for her stewardship of the committee over the past year.

The School Committee next meets on Wednesday, May 10, 2017 (typically at 7pm) in the Wilmington High School’s Large Instruction Room.

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE: Wilmington Apple will cover the report on upcoming building projects at the schools this summer in a future article.

(NOTE: The cover photo was from the Steve Bjork campaign committee, taken by Maureen Lamoureux.)

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