By Christopher Roberson
In a continuation of their May 22 marathon meeting, School Committee members reconvened with the district’s principals and leadership team to discuss space issues and social emotional learning (SEL). During the June 5 meeting, Lynnfield Middle School Principal Stephen Ralston said he currently has 700 students in a building designed for 680. Lynnfield High School Principal Robert Cleary said he currently has 640 students in a building designed for 590. However, they have both been able to accommodate more students by having additional multipurpose rooms.
School Committee Member Timothy Doyle, who also sits on the School Enrollment, Capacity and Exploration Committee, said a space analysis will be conducted during the summer by an outside company. “It should be really interesting; I don’t know what the projections will show,” he said.
Superintendent of Schools Jane Tremblay said the kindergarten enrollment figures will be carefully monitored during the summer. “We watch them all summer long because they fluctuate,” she said.
Regarding SEL, Tremblay advised against adopting a universal K-12 program. “I’m vehemently opposed to that,” she said, adding that a customized approach is required for the district’s diverse student population, and “It has become such an important aspect of what we do, it’s pervasive throughout the district.”
School Committee Member Philip McQueen shared Tremblay’s thoughts. “We don’t want to be stuffing a square peg into a round hole,” he said.
Huckleberry Hill Elementary School Principal Brian Bemiss said that in addition to the school’s SEL Steering Committee, he also meets with his teachers every six weeks to discuss student assessments. “We talk about almost every single student on every single grade level,” said Bemiss. “The teachers are 100 percent as far as meeting the social-emotional needs of students. At the beginning of this year, I was able to tell a parent to trust us. That is a great feeling as a principal.”
Summer Street Elementary School Principal Gregory Hurray said it will take time to implement an effective SEL program. “We’re not going to tackle everything at once; it’s not going to happen all in one year,” he said. “We have to understand child development.”
Ralston emphasized the importance of “teaching the whole child,” saying his English teachers use Socratic Seminars to teach students how to respectfully disagree with each other.
High School internships and meal price increase
In other news, recent high school graduates Ashley Mitchell and Anthony Murphy went before the committee to share their senior internship experiences.
With a passion for elementary education, Mitchell said she was able to shadow the teacher she had in fourth grade. “I was surprised at how well technology is incorporated into these classrooms,” she said. “That was a really awesome thing.”
Mitchell will be attending St. Anselm College and also plans to pursue a master’s degree in special education.
Murphy said he interned for his grandfather’s company, Commercial Wharf West. “This was the best thing I’ve done,” he said, adding that he will be attending the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and “I’ve learned a lot about the family business; I’m very happy I did this.”
Lynnfield Public Schools Director of Finance and Operations Thomas Geary said there is currently a $25,000 deficit in the food service budget for fiscal year 2018. He also said unpaid meal debts continue to be a problem, ranging between “$4,000 and $8,000” per year.
Geary said it is time for the current meal prices to change after being in place for the past eight years. “We’ve worked within these prices for a while, and it’s just not sustainable,” he said.
Therefore, he suggested increasing meal prices by 50 cents at the high school and middle school and offering a premium lunch at the high school for $4. Geary also recommended increasing the cost of bottled water and snacks. He said he expects the new prices would be in place for “four to five” years.