May 6, 2020
Board Members present via Zoom: Jenny Emery, Mark Fiorentino, Melissa Migliaccio, David Peling, Sarah Thrall, Rosemarie Weber, and Dwaritha Ramesh and Jack DeGray (Student Representatives).
Absent: Brandon Webster
This week we are celebrating Teacher Appreciation Week. Students and families have truly honored them by creating videos and signs. Additionally, today is National Nurses’ Day and last week we celebrated National Principals’ Day.
As announced by the governor yesterday, schools will not return for the remainder of this school year. It remains to be seen what will happen with summer school and the beginning of the school year in the fall.
If students are struggling with school or social/emotional needs, please contact your principal and teachers. School social workers, psychologists and social workers are all available to help you as well.
Mr. Dunn will be speaking to the BOE regarding graduation and end-of-year activities for the high school. Our hearts truly go out to our high school seniors. There was nothing to communicate on specific plans relative to graduation and end-of-year activities until yesterday, because it was our hope that we would be back in school.
Regarding summer school, there will be guidance going out from the state. The state has been in contact with local organization running camps to ensure that we are aligned. Families will receive information regarding this.
We have been communicating with the Hartland Superintendent and Open Choice Office on a regular basis to make sure our families from out of town are up-to-date.
The district is working with the public health department to find a safe way for students to pick up personal items left at school. Parents will be hear directly from school principals with plans to enable students picking up personal belongings left in lockers.
A reopening committee will be formed to establish how to best reopen schools in the fall. Waiting for guidance from the state on what opening in the fall should look like. The committee will be led by Central
Office administrators, a BOE member, as well as medical, parent, student, and union representation.
We are continuing our relationship with the Farmington Health District on a program entitled Resiliency Grows Here. This is a program sponsored through the Farmington Valley Health District that will be instituted in grades K-5 in the fall to assist with the social and emotional wellbeing of students. It will be open to grades 6-12 in the following year.
The district is offering additional technology workshops for families. Workshops were held at the middle school and will be available for elementary and high school families as well. Further communication will be coming from the schools.
I am happy to report that the GEF Program, Stay Home, Stay Creative, is very successful. Thank you to parents and students who are sending pictures and videos to post.
Thank you to McKenna Ryan who performed a song from the musical Mamma Mia! this week to start off staff appreciation week. Unfortunately, students worked hard on this musical and were not able to perform it.
Interviews for the Assistant Superintendent position have been completed and a final candidate has been selected. The candidate will join me at the May 20 meeting to meet the board and the community.
Migliaccio thanked Superintendent Grossman, stating that these are interesting times to be a new superintendent and that he has led the district very ably during these times. The communications as a parent and a board member have been excellent. Thank you for your and your team’s work.
Mark Fiorentino inquired about the meals program and if it was still getting good usage. Grossman said yes, the numbers have been very consistent week to week.
Student Representative Reports
Jack DeGray spoke about SAT exams; however, his audio was not clear. Junior planning was held last week and this week. Students spoke to counselors about what they will need to do to prepare for the college application process. Fiorentino inquired if the guidance counselor meetings will be held via Zoom or teleconference. Jack stated it will either be a Google Classroom or Zoom meeting but can also be via e-mail.
Dwaritha Ramesh stated although she is disappointed about a regular senior year, she is making the best of the situation and trying to think ahead. She said that distance learning is going very smoothly and going even more smoothly as time goes on. It has become a new normal. AP classes are ramping up and AP exams will be held next week with different versions of the exam.
Middle school student, Sydney Henry (grade 7), informed the board that distance learning is very good. There are many positive things happening. For example, Ms. Bryanton holds a virtual art club classroom where students can post art, drawings and photos. Additionally, many teachers hold Google Meets every week even just to say hi and check in with peers and teachers. Ms. Buckley held a review Google Meet for an upcoming quiz. It has been a great way to connect with peers and teachers. Overall, distance learning has been great and is getting easier every week. She stated she is enjoying it. Migliaccio inquired how many hours a day does she do work? Sydney stated she starts around 8 a.m. and ends around 10-11 a.m. and attends meetings in the afternoon.
Middle school student, Chase Alexander (grade 8), stated district learning has posed some unique challenges for students but the biggest surprise is how smooth the transition has been. He misses his friends and the social interaction. Teachers are trying ways to stimulate that environment by using Google Meet quite frequently with unique games and conversations. Mr. Hershon also held a lunch hour to discuss topics. Since spring break ended, a feedback day was instituted where no new material is assigned on that day. This has allowed students to get work done or improve upon previous assignments. He stated distance learning has been a positive experience and is surprised how he is still able to learn while appreciating and enjoying it as well as interacting with teachers and students. Migliaccio inquired about extracurricular activities and if he has found any way to compensate for missing those. Chase stated there will be an attempt to hold a Bridges Meeting next week.
Sarah Thrall asked the students how they get themselves motivated. Sydney stated she gets up early and that distance learning has flexibility. She just enjoys learning but Google Meets motivates her to keep going because of her enthusiasm to share. She tries to finish her work in the morning so she will have time in the afternoon. Chase stated he has the same thought process to do his work in the morning. Dwaritha stated that motivation definitely has been tough but she is still doing all of her work. She does not get up at 8 a.m. as she is most productive later in the day/evening starting her work around 10-11 a.m. Jack stated he likes to do this work when he wakes up so that he can enjoy the rest of the day.
Interim Assistant Superintendent’s Report on Grading
Marian Hourigan, interim assistant superintendent, provided an update on grading for elementary and middle school students. She said district and school leadership teams have come together to adjust grading procedures to best reflect the changes in delivery of instruction.
For elementary students, the third trimester report card will look different this year. There will be two sections: one section will indicate the standards taught in numeracy, reading, writing and science and the second section will contain comments related to students’ participation, areas of strength and areas for continued growth. Grading practices at the middle school will continue as they were prior to distance learning; however, teachers are relaxing some deadlines when posting grades or forgiving some missing work, when appropriate. Grades are intended to provide evidence of student progress and help to identify students needing more support or a new challenge. Grading at the high school using the Connecticut State Department of Education guidance to districts to use a Pass/Fail system as a basis for student grades during distance learning. It was decided that the high school will provide the option to receive a Pass/Fail for fourth quarter courses or receive traditional letter grades on a per-course basis. Both AP and UConn ECE programs have confirmed they will accept Pass/Fail. Students need to communicate their preference to their school counselor by the end of the first week in June.
A motion was made by Thrall and seconded by Weber that the Granby Board of Education adopt the consent agenda. This motion passed unanimously.
Special Education Update on Distance Learning
Aimee Martin, director of pupil personnel services, provided an update on distance learning for special education students. Things are humming along in special education. The last day of school was March 13 and during that first week materials were gathered thinking school would only be out for two weeks.
This being teacher appreciation week Martin stated that Granby has the best special education staff in the state. She said there was not a lot of time to plan. IEPs had to be met. By the next week the teachers and support staff were engaging with families. They have been online face to face with students since then. It was stressful for everyone that this will continue to the end of the year. It is exhausting. A lot of parents are sitting with their children while they are getting their direct services. A child who has a disability may have services all day long. It can be a long day for some of our kids. Teachers slowed down some assignments, which was helpful. She stated she meets with administration and special ed staff at each school once a week to talk about any issues.
Martin stated teachers go into Google Classrooms and try to modify appropriately for each child. It has been an amazing transition and she is very proud of the people doing the work. We have kept all of our teaching assistants and provided a lot of training and technology for them. They go into Google Classrooms and engage with students as well as coordinate with teachers. Distance PPTs have just started where teachers and support staff will need to attend. The teachers and staff are using everything from the state to follow the IEP to best of their ability. It’s not perfect but Martin is not concerned that special education has not kept up with general education.
Thrall commented that some of her friends have told her that the special education department has been phenomenal, especially their teachers. She inquired if Martin was seeing anything in particular needed for special education department. Martin said more time is needed for collaboration with general education peers. More time and conversation should be dedicated to what works for special education students vs. general education and how to prevent overwhelming kids who are getting those services and doing all of the classroom work. Jenny Emery thanked Martin for raising the issue of teaching assistants. There are places where we can be penny wise and pound foolish. All teachers and teaching assistants are working and it is great to hear how they are engaging with students.
High School Graduation and End-of-Year Activities
Michael Dunn, GMHS principal, provided an update on graduation and end-of-year activities for high school students. Dunn said that as parent of a senior himself, he knows how this has impacted our students. There is a lot of disappointment going through the community given the governor’s decision yesterday. Dunn reviewed the process as follows: There have been regularly scheduled graduation meetings and those have not stopped; The Graduation 2020 Committee consists of administrators, Class of 2020 officers, staff advisors, office staff, and two parents of seniors and this group has been meeting since March; A survey was recently sent to the entire class to solicit preferences; Administration has been in regular communication with the Farmington Valley, NCCC and DRG B high schools to share ideas; Exploring various vendors and resources to facilitate a virtual event; and Administration has maintained regular communication with the State of Connecticut and the Farmington Valley Health District regarding best options. The following were reviewed:
Option A: Traditional graduation on June 16. (This option does not meet the governor’s Executive Order.)
Option B: Restricted traditional graduation with limited guests and use of the field in collaboration with Police Department to enforce guidelines set by the Executive Order and public health officials. (This option does not meet the governor’s Executive Order.)
Option C: Virtual ceremony with drive-through diploma to be broadcast on June 16. A video will definitely be created for the graduating class even if there is a traditional or restricted traditional graduation.
Option D: Delayed graduation. There was interest in a delayed event but there is no guarantee of all students participating.
Dunn said he will communicate to the senior class as soon as possible. Most high schools are considering some combination of a virtual ceremony. There are several other end-of-year events such as award ceremonies, etc. He stated even if we go with a virtual or drive-through celebration, students would need their caps and gowns and would need to come to school to pick up those items. There may also be an opportunity for a graduation photo. He added that there might be a possibility to work with parent groups for a summer send-off or delayed safe graduation event. Migliaccio commented that we do not know what the governor is going to allow or not allow at this point. Fiorentino thanked Dunn and the entire team, saying he knows it is quadruple the work and is grateful to everyone doing the work.
Nothing would mean more to the kids than maximizing what we can do for them. Emery stated a lot of people are asking to contribute to the celebration for seniors. She inquired what is the right advice to give people who want to help. Grossman said any recommendations about graduation can be sent to either Dunn or his office. The goal is to go as long as we can without making a final decision. We are keeping vendors and contractors in place until the last possible minute. Dunn stated Granby has a wonderfully generous community and parents. Grossman also informed the board that 8th grade promotion is being discussed and worked on as well.
Board Standing Committee Reports
The assistant superintendent gave her report. Central Services has been extremely busy. An announcement regarding summer school will be made on May 15—awaiting that announcement from the governor. There has been a lot of work on report cards and grading.
Teacher of the Year has been chosen and will be announced at the end of the year. The professional development day on May 26 will focus on distance learning and professional development around that. A distance learning survey has been sent to teachers. Equity team meetings were held in April. Also discussed summer school programming to include intensive reading and math tutorials for students. Fiorentino inquired when the board will see the guidance plan. Thrall stated the subcommittee had a first look at it this evening and will have it as an agenda item in June. It may potentially go to the full board later in the fall following some sort of board retreat.
A motion was made by Migliaccio and seconded by Weber to enter into an Executive Session to discuss a personnel matter. This motion passed unanimously.
Rosemarie Weber, Board Secretary