Public interviews next week
Both Victoria Greer and Elizabeth Homan bring to public interviews strong credentials to be Arlington's next school superintendent as well as decided support from the search committee. Read about each candidate >>
Accompanying Greer is controversy about race, which WBUR has detailed at length >>
Contacted at her North Cambridge home, Greer confirmed the accuracy of the report about her experience as superintendent of Sharon Public Schools. That includes the nonrenewal of her contract this summer, her filing a discrimination complaint with the state and being placed on paid leave in September without explanation.
Previously an assistant superintendent in Cambridge, the Sharon School Committee unanimously hired her in 2017 to lead the predominantly white and Asian district because of her expertise addressing equity issues.
The two final candidates seeking to be Arlington's next school superintendent are scheduled for separate public appearances this week.
Dr. Victoria Greer and Dr. Elizabeth Holman are to appear informally for the community and in public interviews before the School Committee.
Community meetings are set for Zoom on Tuesday, Nov. 17, for Homan, and Greer on Wednesday, Nov. 18, both at 7 p.m., providing parents and caregivers the opportunity to meet and give feedback.
Register for Nov. 17 here >>
Register for Nov. 18 here >>
Regular voluntary virus testing for on-campus school personnel will continue for the next few months and is being paid for primarily by grant funding, according to Dr. Kathleen Bodie, superintendent of the Arlington Public Schools.
For example, the Oct. 9 testing cost $25,500 from the federal CARES Act and CvRF grants. This price does not include staff time, she said, providing no specific figures about that.
The CARES Act, or Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, became law March 27. CvRF is the Coronarvirus Relief Fund: school-reopening grants that provide eligible school districts and charter schools with funding to reopen schools.
“At this time, the intent is to offer weekly tests throughout the year,” she wrote in an email to YourArlington late Wednesday, adding that results are not yet complete from the most recent testing, on Monday, in which 200 APS employees took part.
The Oct. 9 testing in which 249 staff members were tested revealed two positive results, Bodie said, temporarily affecting operations at Stratton Elementary School.
UPDATED: Covid-19 is more prevalent in Arlington Public Schools than local authorities have widely acknowledged, YourArlington.com has learned. And this phenomenon comes at a time when novel coronavirus infection is also growing among the entire town population age 19 and under, state statistics show.
Positive virus results have been found in recent days at Menotomy Preschool, at Hardy and Stratton elementary schools, and at Ottoson Middle School, necessitating a retreat to distance learning for a time for those most at risk there.
Information about this was sent earlier this month to parents of the town's public school students. In the same time frame as those emails – Oct. 13 through Oct. 18 – YourArlington sent public-health-oriented questions to APS officials three times but has received no response to date.
Superintendent Dr. Kathleen Bodie wrote to parents, in part, Oct. 13:
“The District has instituted a voluntary COVID-19 testing program for all staff who are in-person in buildings. The results were that there were two positive cases, one of which was at Stratton. Because of the number of close contacts with the person who tested positive, the decision was made to have both the 4th and 5th grades classes engage in all-remote learning through next week. The second case does not involve close contacts either with students or staff members, so programming at Peirce will not be affected.”
Free Covid-19 testing for all asymptomatic, in-person staff of the Arlington Public Schools will be available Friday, in an effort first announced in late August as twice weekly, but not yet fully put into effect.
In an Oct. 6 email update, Superintendent Kathy Bodie told YourArlington.com that "all of the teachers were notified of free testing for Covid this Friday, and all are eligible to sign up for the test."
She declined to address several other questions posed about the free twice-monthly testing that had been expected by both the School Committee and the Arlington Teachers Association.
The Sept. 24 meeting drew anger from the head of the teachers’ union and the committee, in a rare case of immediate agreement. In contrast, it took weeks of negotiation – into the start of the school year Monday – for that organization to reach a memorandum of agreement, as announced earlier at the meeting. The accord is an addendum to the contract addressing changes caused by the impact of Covid-19. Read it here >>
A series of questions were sent to school and health officials, but only Bodie has responded to date.
UPDATED: Free-of-charge, voluntary Covid-19 testing for Arlington Public Schools' teachers and staff began Friday, Oct. 9, and aims to take place on a near-weekly basis thereafter, Superintendent Kathleen Bodie has told the School Committee.
Almost 200 district employees have preregistered, the committee learned at its Thursday, Oct. 8, meeting.
The next testing session is set for Monday, Oct. 19, and will be held thereafter approximately weekly and on Mondays whenever possible so that results can be known and any needed contract tracing done during the work week rather than over the weekend.
Three sites have been established: Dallin School, Thompson School and Ottoson Middle School.
UPDATED, Sept. 25: The School Committee has approved a 15-member Arlington Superintendent Search Screening Committee, to conduct the first round of candidate screening for the next superintendent of schools. Superintendent Kathleen Bodie is retiring in June.
The 15 members were nominated at the Sept. 21 meeting of the Superintendent Search Process Committee. Based on a previous School Committee vote, the subcommittee made nominations in seven categories. Paul Schlichtman, subcommittee chair, said the district received 38 statements of interest from people who volunteered to serve on the screening committee.
“The volunteers were all extremely well qualified, and narrowing the list was difficult,” Schlichtman said in a Sept. 24 news release. “Subcommittee members Kirsi Allison-Ampe, Len Kardon, and I worked to select members who have very different life experiences. We wanted people who would look at superintendent candidates through different lenses. We also made a commitment to the community that we would include members from underrepresented constituencies.”
UPDATED, Sept. 25: A father in Arlington said his 9-year-old son was sent home from Bishop Elementary School because he was sneezing, Patch and CBS Boston report.
The fourth-grade student was told he could not to return until he gets a negative Covid-19 test. Patch reported that he has beern cleared to return to school.
"I sneezed two times then the teacher told me to go to the nurse," said Lancinet Keita.
UPDATED: Peirce Elementary School will pursue a fully remote learning model Monday and into next week after a staff member has tested positive for Covid-19, Superintendent Kathleen Bodie announced Sunday, Sept. 20.
The Arlington Board of Health facilitated free Covid-19 testing last week for Arlington Public Schools staff on a voluntary basis. Testing took place Wednesday and Thursday. This weekend, the district learned that a staff member at Peirce Elementary School has tested positive.
The staff member is isolating in accordance with state Department of Public Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention protocol, and will be eligible to return upon completion of a 10-day isolation period.
UPDATED, Sept. 1: An East Arlington resident who has a child in an Arlington Public School is circulating an online petition asking the School Committee to reverse its 6-1 vote supporting reopening this fall under a hybrid model.
Charles Aydin concurs with the lone committee no-voter Paul Schlichtman and Arlington Education Association President Julianna Keyes, who favor reopening remotely.
“I don't have a concrete plan,” Aydin wrote in response to questions from YourArlington. “Frankly, I think what's been happening in the country for the past couple months (also given the upticks in MA in the past couple weeks) should be evidence of what could happen subsequent to premature 'openings.' In that sense, it was quite appalling for me to witness the dismissive attitude of most School Committee members toward the real danger of this very contagious virus, during the meeting on Monday.”
As of 2:45 p.m. Sept. 2, the petition had drawn 252 signers. See it here >>
The Arlington Education Foundation (AEF) has awarded a $12,000 grant to the Arlington Public Schools to fund a course on remote-learning strategies for educators.
Fifty-four Arlington educators are currently enrolled in the monthlong course titled “Developing Strategies for Online Teaching and Learning,” offered by the Harvard School of Education.
AEF made this large-scale professional-developmental opportunity possible this summer because the school district faces extraordinary challenges because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Part of school is the familiarity and comfort of school lunches, so we have tried to maintain that for kids during this uncertain time." -- Denise Boucher, director of food services
Since April, the Arlington public school system has provided weekly deliveries of free breakfasts and lunches to children and teens facing food insecurity in Arlington. This program will continue through the summer.
This continuing program means Arlington EATS will not run a separate summer lunch program this year.
All children and teens up through age 18 can receive meals through this program, regardless of whether they attend public schools or are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch. Families can sign up to receive weekly deliveries using this form, which is short and requires no financial information.
A black teen known for “attitude” spoke out of turn and got a detention. A white teen with his own issues did, too, and faced no consequences.
Was dealing discipline this way racist? Depending on the circumstances, it could be, and the Arlington Public Schools are taking steps to address it.
At a 90-minute virtual “community conversation” Wednesday, July 15, attended by 200 people at its height, a series of administrators took on “disproportionality” – that is the ongoing ways that shape how discipline is meted out fairly – or not.
Based on their comments and the numbers presented, the proportions between white and nonwhite students are narrowing.
From 2017 through 2020, the overall number of detentions and suspensions at the high school have declined.
A virtual reunion of alums from various programs is set for 7 p.m. Sunday, July 26, EDT, on Zoom.
Involved are the Arlington Enrichment Collaborative (AEC) middle-school after-school program, as well as its former staff; alumni of the Model United Nations and Roots and Shoots programs, which ran as part of AEC and continued after it, and from all the years of ARMUN (Arlington Regional Model United Nations & Civic Engagement Clubs).
A number of former students from both programs decided they wanted to do this, and several former staff have agreed to participate along with a sizable group of students who are scattered all over the U.S. and beyond.
The Arlington Education Foundation (AEF) in June awarded the Arlington Public Schools a grant of $56,500 to support the ongoing work of Safe & Supportive Schools, a districtwide, multiyear initiative focused on student mental health and community engagement. The most recent grant is the third and final award, fulfilling AEF’s total pledge of $200,000.
In 2017, AEF committed to a District Investment Grant of $200,000 to fund instituting Safe & Supportive Schools within the town's public schools. The first phase of the grant was for $100,500 and funded Youth Mental Health First-Aid training for more than 300 APS staff. The second phase of the grant began last fall. AEF granted $43,000 to support community outreach and engagement around youth mental-health issues. Because of Covid-19, however, the main event to connect with the community had to be postponed. This event, known as ENGAGE: A Parent University, is now scheduled to occur next May.
In the current and final stage of Safe & Supportive Schools, APS will benefit from consultation with Education Everywhere to create deep and sustainable awareness of and support for youth mental health throughout the town's public schools.
Minuteman Article Count: 159
FACEBOOK BOX: To see all images, click the PHOTOS link just below