12 Highlights From The Sept. 27 Shawsheen Tech School Committee Meeting: Shawsheen Begins Process To Receive State Funding For New Building (Or Major Renovation)

BILLERICA, MA — The Shawsheen Tech School Committee met on Tuesday, September 27, 2022 at 7pm in the school’s John P. Miller Conference Room. All members were present.

Committee member Brian O’Donnell, Chair of the Facilities and Capital Planning Subcommittee, announced that the Massachusetts School Building Authority will be visiting the Tech on Wednesday, October 5, 2022 to tour the building in response to the school’s statement of interest to enter the state’s school construction grant program for a new or renovated high school. This is the same grant program that reimbursed Wilmington 55.19% of eligible costs towards the construction of the new Wilmington High School, resulting in a $37.9 million savings to Wilmington taxpayers.

“This is an encouraging sign that we’re moving slowly, but hopefully shortly, in the direction of a renovated or new facility for this 1970 building,” said O’Donnell. Superintendent Tony McIntosh and the Facilities Subcommittee have created a list of the building’s space deficiencies and areas of concern to highlight to the MSBA.

O’Donnell and Budget Committee Chair Charles Fiore, of Wilmington, were unanimously voted as the two Committee members to accompany McIntosh during the MSBA visit.

O’Donnell also thanked for Superintendent Dr. Brad Jackson for submitting the statement of interest to the MBSA in the spring.

O’Donnell stressed that while Tech is a “pretty good candidate” for the MSBA’s school construction grant program, the building has programmatic and facility needs that must be addressed in the short-term.

“I don’t want to put everything on hold in anticipation that a renovation or new building is around the corner,” he said. “Even if the MSBA process starts rolling, we could still be talking 5-10 years. There are some things that can’t wait.”

He encouraged Superintendent McIntosh and Business Manager Jenna Lesko to keep the committee inform of capital and facility requests, despite a potential building project on the horizon.

The Committee unanimously voted to ratify a contract extension with the Shawsheen Techers’ Association. The extension runs from September 1, 2023 through August 31, 2025. The contract includes cost-of-living adjustments of 3% in Year #1 and 2.75% in Year #2. There are no language changes to the contract. The contract was already ratified by the Teachers’ Association last week, 110 to 1.

The Policy Subcommittee proposed a new policy for staff use of Facebook and Social Networking Websites. After soliciting feedback, the Subcommittee will make some edits before bring the policy back to the Committee at its next meeting in October. The Shawsheen Teachers’ Association President signaled concern over the broadness of the policy’s language. The policy requires, on annual basis, that the Superintendent and Principal speak with all staff members and emphasize the following:

    • No improper fraternization with students using Facebook and similar internet sites or social networks, or via cell phones, texting or telephone.
    • No posting of inappropriate items with sexual content.
    • No posting of inappropriate items exhibiting or advocating use of drugs and alcohol.
    • Examples of inappropriate behavior from other districts as behavior to avoid
    • Monitoring and penalties for improper use of district computer and technology
    • The possibility of penalties, including dismissal from employment, for failure to exercise good judgement in online conduct.

The Committee unanimously approved a revised and updated Admissions Policy. Most changes were minor language changes. Two substantial changes were noted. First, based on feedback from the interviewers, one interview question was removed due to its length and ambiguity, and replaced with a question asking the applicant what types of extracurricular activities they would be interested in if admitted. Second, the school will no longer accept juniors or seniors that haven’t attended another technical school.

Superintendent McIntosh noted that the school has welcomed 20 new employees this year school year — 9 teachers, 2 administrators, and 9 additional staff members (e.g., IT, paraprofessionals, cafeteria workers). The Director of Data, Assessment & Admission position remains open due to a last-minute resignation and was re-posted earlier this week.

McIntosh pointed out that 138 seniors, including 22 from Wilmington, are already enrolled in co-op programs, supporting 109 local employers from sending districts. Since the 4th quarter of last school year, Tech students have worked 18,711 hours for these employers, earning nearly $290,000 in wages.

McIntosh announced the school’s pool has re-opened for community events. Jay Tildsley has a full schedule. He’s hosting practice sessions for sending communities, and community swims are back up and running. The pool is being used nearly every night, Monday through Friday. Pool use for Physical Education has not been brought back yet, but it is a goal this school year.

The Committee unanimously voted to authorize the Massachusetts Association of School Committees (MASC) to lead a complete review and update of the Committee’s Policy Manual. The Committee’s Policy Subcommittee will meet with Dorothy Presser, a Field Director with the MASC, every month (or 5 weeks) until the project is complete. Presser will ensure the district’s policies are current with state law and regulations, and reflect the district’s actual practices. The review will cost the Tech $10,500, and will be paid over 3 years.

The Committee began the practice of signing the district’s financial warrants electronically, instead of in-person. The Committee’s Policy Subcommittee, with input from the Budget Subcommittee, will develop a policy around this new practice to ensure there are financial safeguards in place.

The School Committee will have two student representatives this school year — a senior and an underclassman. Principal Jessica Cook is reviewing applications and will make a decision this week. Both representatives will be invited to the Committee’s October meeting.

The Shawsheen Tech is reforming its Special Education Parent Advisory Council (SEPAC), which has been dormant for several years. The SEPAC’s first meeting will take place on Tuesday, October 4, 2022 at 6pm. (The school’s regular PAC meets afterwards at 7pm.) Parents should contact Director of Support Services Jeffrey Albert at 978-667-3648 if they’d like to get involved.

Watch the September 27, 2022 meeting, courtesy of the school’s YouTube channel, HERE.

The Committee next meets on Tuesday, October 25, 2022 at 7pm.

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