MINUTES FOR THE LINCOLN SCHOOL COMMITTEE MEETING OF
Thursday, March 10, 2005
7:00 Open Session
Hartwell Multi-purpose room, Lincoln

Members present: Julie Dobrow, Sandy Hessler, Ashton Peery, Dennis Picker, Pam Borgert (Hanscom Representative), Corie Cruise (Hanscom Representative).
Also present: Mickey Brandmeyer (Superintendent), Paul Naso (Assistant Superintendent), Dave Jack (Business Administrator)
  1. Greetings and Call to Order
    Mr. Picker called the meeting to order at 7:04 P.M.

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  2. Chairperson�s and Members� report
    Mr. Picker reported that he attended the Lincoln School International Dinner on March 9 which celebrated 5th through 8th grade students� accomplishments in French and Spanish and that he was impressed with the high level of students� work and with their creativity.

    Commenting on misstatements in an opinion column in the March 10 edition of the Lincoln Journal, Mr. Picker presented the Committee with an analogy: What if the School Committee operated under the same rules as Neil Feinberg?

  3. Public Comments
    None.

  4. Consent Agenda
    1. Field Trip Proposal
      Mr. Picker moved that the 5th grade field trip to Cape Cod be approved by the School Committee. Ms. Hessler seconded the motion. All members voted in favor, with Ms. Borgert and Ms. Cruise concurring.
    2. CASE Agreement
      This item was called out of the consent agenda and will be considered at the next School Committee meeting.

  5. Time Scheduled Appointments
    1. Special Education Program Evaluation Report
      Mr. Picker explained that the District decided last spring to conduct an independent evaluation of its Special Education program. This fall, Dr. Mary Ann Byrnes, an Educational Consultant, was hired to carry out this evaluation. Mr. Brandmeyer said that Dr. Byrnes� report is one of three sets of data that will be used in developing recommendations and an action plan for pursuing improvements to the special education program. The other items are the PAC Survey which was discussed at the last School Committee meeting and the Department of Education Mid-Cycle Review which is currently being conducted. Mr. Brandmeyer explained that Dr. Byrnes was asked to respond certain questions about the Special Education program.

      Dr. Byrnes said that she used the following data in compiling her report: her own surveys completed by parents and staff, student records, and other reports such as the new Instructional Team Support (IST) document, a draft of the 2004 PAC Survey, the 2003 PAC Survey, draft job descriptions, and the Noguera report. She also had meetings with the general education faculty, the special education faculty and liaisons, related service personnel, tutors, parents from each campus, administrators, and School Committee members.

      Dr. Byrnes noted the high level of regard for the special educators from parents and general education faculty and cited other overall strengths: supportiveness, flexibility, professional knowledge, commitment to teamwork, active partnership with parents, dedication to student success, and interest in parent perceptions. She noted that the Parent Feedback Form that goes out to parents with IEPs is a good practice, and that not many districts ask parents about their experience.

      Regarding pre- referral, she said that the newly established IST process does seem to meet student need. Pre-referral takes place when a teacher sees that a student is struggling and turns to a group of colleagues to problem solve and develop ideas and solutions. If pre-referral is not successful, the next step is to consider whether a special education referral is appropriate. She noted that the principal is part of each IST meeting and that this is an unusual and extraordinarily strong element. Other strengths are increased use of student work, increased consideration of differentiated instruction, the favorable general education in Lincoln and the low teacher student ratio. She recommended that the district evaluate the new IST process at the end of the year. She also recommended developing a collection of student work to exemplify the accomplishments expected of typical Lincoln students at each grade level.

      Next, Dr. Byrnes explained the Massachusetts Department of Education flow chart which shows the steps that take place once a parent agrees to a referral. The first question asked is whether the child has a disability. She noted that in Massachusetts, legislation recently changed this threshold criteria to require that the child have one (or more) of a number of specific disabilities from the old, more inclusive, standard of whether the child has special needs. Dr. Byrnes said the change of the standard has been a difficult transition for Massachusetts educators and parents.

      Dr. Byrnes concluded that the district uses the Massachusetts eligibility guidelines appropriately. She recommended that the district develop resources to communicate the guidelines and practices to parents. She noted that workshops were held last year to tell parents about the new guidelines but she said that the need for this information is ongoing as parents discover that their child may require services. She recommended providing this information by web site and creating videotapes of workshops which can be placed in the library.

      Dr. Byrnes said she was not asked to gather information about situations where families wanted services and the school system determined that the child was not eligible for services. When asked whether any negative consequences could come from accepting a child into special education who does not have a disability as defined by the law, Dr. Byrnes said that having such students in special education would reduce the resources available to students who actually have disabilities. She said that the State would ask for justification if there were more students than expected in a district�s special education program. She said that under law the students with special needs but not disabilities should be served by general education, perhaps with special services, rather than special education.

      Dr. Byrnes discussed issues that arise when external evaluators are brought into the picture. She recommended providing information to assist parents who seek an external evaluation. This could include providing a list of external evaluation resources for parents. This could help parents to identify evaluators who speak in terms of the statutory eligibility requirements rather than use other criteria which can create friction and misunderstanding from the start.

      Regarding the continuum of programs or services that allows the implementation of inclusive programming for students with disabilities, Dr. Byrnes said that use of the term �full inclusion� does not do justice to the individually-tailored approach of delivering service in Lincoln. Dr. Byrnes recommended that the district describe its philosophy of inclusionary education in a way that more accurately describes the actual flexible practices and the range of type of services available. She recommended further exploring co-teaching including looking at models used in other school districts. She said that the co-teaching that is occurring this year has been a powerful and positive experience. Teachers want to do more but she cautioned that teams must be formed of teachers who want to do this and rather than top-down assignment. She recommended exploring ways to increase planning mechanisms for tutors, liaisons, and general education teachers. She recommended addressing technology needs and updating assistive technology. She mentioned the CAST Center in Peabody as a source for staff training in assisted technology. She recommended that the range of Lincoln�s programs be described on the website.

      Dr. Byrnes said that the District has sufficient human resources to provide the programs within the bounds of predictability. She recommended considering student grouping. While not advocating any particular choice, she said that grouping Special Education students together can have staffing benefits. She recommended articulating and disseminating a tutor allocation policy, noting that there were instances when faculty and sometimes parents were confused about how these resources are allocated. She also advised ensuring that tutor work is appropriately guided and supervised by licensed special education professionals.

      Dr. Byrnes noted that there have been many changes in administrative roles and personnel. She noted that the building coordinators are important in supporting the principals and the faculty. Special educators are supervising special educators with a good link to the central office. She recommended finalizing and disseminating job descriptions, continued attention to parity with general education regarding administrative structure and supports, and addressing clerical issues on the Lincoln campus.

      Dr. Byrnes identified professional development as an area of need. She noted that this was the one area where the Special Education program is not really at parity with the rest of the educational program. To further educate general education teachers about special education, she recommended increasing offerings and considering support for implementation of instruction. She noted differences in professional development for special educators. Special education professional development generally occurs individually, focuses on regulations, is not in parity with general education, and there is rapid development of new knowledge in the field. For special educators, she recommended increasing onsite offerings, exploring creative options such as collaborating with other districts, sharing internal expertise, and taping presentations. She also recommended retaining some discretionary central funding for professional development contingencies.

      More generally, Dr. Byrnes recommended retaining the strong commitment to parity between general and special education exhibited by the District, and continuing to support small class size. Regarding better communication and more transparency, Dr. Byrnes suggested more print material, more information on the web site, and placing videotapes of any workshops in the library. Specifically, she recommended placing descriptions of programs and terms, eligibility guidelines, reference to state requirements, and links to resources on the web site. She said that these should be regularly updated to keep them current.

      There were various questions during her presentation from parents and School Committee members. The Committee thanked her for a thorough and professional report and expressed its appreciation for her set of actionable recommendations for improving the program. The Superintendent and Committee restated their intention to consider this report and its recommendations, along with other inputs, as a program improvement plan is formulated later this year.

    2. Superintendent�s Evaluation
      Mr. Picker reviewed the process for evaluating the superintendent that was discussed and agreed upon at the January 27 meeting. Each School Committee member filled out an evaluation and Mr. Picker created a draft which synthesized and summarized the inputs. The Committee discussed whether it felt that the draft review was an accurate reflection of their individual evaluations. The members concluded that it was. Mr. Picker moved that the School Committee accept the Superintendent�s evaluation subject to edits provided by Ms. Borgert and Mr. Peery. Ms. Hessler seconded the motion. All members voted in favor, with Ms. Borgert and Ms. Cruise concurring.

      Next, Mr. Picker provided information about the contents of review to those present at the meeting. He said that by hearing the summary and recommendations sections of the review, the audience would get a very clear sense of the review. The actual review, which is eleven pages long, is a public document and can be obtained from the Superintendent�s office. He proceeded to read the �summary,� the names of the nine areas covered in the performance details section, and the section about �next steps and areas for growth.�

      The Committee then asked Mr. Brandmeyer to comment on the review. Since the review was eleven pages long, he was provided with a copy of the draft to read prior to the meeting in order to familiarize himself with its content. Mr. Brandmeyer said that many of the achievements credited to him were the result of a team effort by his staff. He said that this was the first year that he has had a functioning administrative team in place. He said that Lincoln is the caliber of community he wants to work with. Mr. Brandmeyer said that he would consider the feedback very carefully and attempt to maintain the appropriate balance between work that has to be done and vision and leadership for the future.

      Ms. Dobrow said that it is important for the Committee to think about the allocation of Mr. Brandmeyer�s time in setting goals for next year. Ms. Hessler said that it is important to provide resources for Mr. Brandmeyer�s professional development. Mr. Peery thanked Mr. Brandmeyer for a good year for the schools and said that he exhibited growth in his role as a leader of the community. Mr. Peery also said he thinks Mr. Brandmeyer should not serve as head of the facilities task force because of the demands it would put on his time.

      A copy of the superintendent�s evaluation will be available in the superintendent�s office. Richard Jewett asked how the public would know that this is available to them and said that in general there is no listing of public documents that are available. The Committee noted that a copy of any public document concerning the schools can be obtained by contacting the superintendent�s office. There was a brief discussion about listing the documents being discussed in meeting agendas.

    3. School Choice Hearing and VOTE
      Mr. Brandmeyer explained that under Massachusetts law every school district is required to enroll non-resident students under the School Choice program unless the School Committee votes prior to June 1 not to participate. He recommended that the School Committee vote not to participate in School Choice for the 2005-2006 school year for the following reasons: (1) potential financial loss because of the significant financial discrepancy between the reimbursement figure and the actual per pupil cost in Lincoln, (2) potential special education costs to the district, (3) commitment to maintain small class size, and (4) classroom space constraints. Mr. Peery moved that the Committee vote to withdraw from the Massachusetts School Choice for the 2005-2006 school year. Ms. Dobrow seconded the motion. All members voted in favor, with Ms. Borgert and Ms. Cruise concurring.

  6. Superintendent�s Report
    Mr. Brandmeyer reported that an article written by Mr. Naso with input from Mr. Brandmeyer and the leadership team has been published in the MASCD�s magazine, Perspectives. The article entitled �Creating Conditions for Collaborative School Leadership� is available on the MASCD website. It was also featured in Kim Marshall�s weekly summary of educational literature.

  7. Curriculum
    Mr. Naso reported that he met with Katherine Hall Page, the district�s appointed DeCordova trustee, and DeCordova�s new director of education, Lisa Silagyi and that he was very encouraged about opportunities to work in partnership with the DeCordova.

    Mr. Naso said that the spring MCAS testing schedule has been placed on the web site, the principals will communicate it to parents, and that he will send the dates out via the District News email list.

    Mr. Naso reported that he is conducting periodic forums for parents. One last fall was on the MCAS results. He will be holding one on the morning of April 12 on Art and Music and one of April 26 which will be a curriculum progress report.

    Mr. Naso said the Institute Day will be held tomorrow.

  8. Policy
    None.

  9. Budget and Financial
    Mr. Picker moved that the School Committee vote warrants in the amount of $1,286,485.25. Mr. Peery seconded the motion. All members voted in favor, with Ms. Borgert and Ms. Cruise concurring.

  10. Old Business
    1. Town Meeting Presentation Draft
      The Committee reviewed and suggested changes in the slides to be used for the town meeting presentation. The Committee will finalize the slides at the next meeting. They considered how to explain that they figure their per pupil cost by a different method than Lincoln Sudbury yielding very different numbers. They determined that they would want several back-up slides. They also discussed the slides for the various warrant articles, which may be taken out of the consent agenda. Mr. Picker will make the changes and provide another draft of the presentation for discussion at the next meeting.

    2. Budget Presentations: Feedback
      The Committee discussed how the presentations made to date have gone and concluded that they did not need to modify the presentation.

    3. Review and Approve Update of FAQs
      The Committee determined that at this time they did not need to update the FAQs. Work is being done on various forms of cost/pupil information to add to the FAQs when ready. There was feedback that the FAQs are being well received.

  11. New Business
    1. Discuss Voter Turnout Activities
      Ms. Dobrow reported that the PTA has offered to help get out the vote and has arranged for babysitting coverage from 9 to 3 for Town Meeting. The Committee discussed using the room parent network to make calls to parents to urge them to go to the polls and to Town Meeting. Ms. Dobrow recommended two rounds of calls, one before the poll vote, and one before town meeting. The Committee determined to stop short of recommending in these calls that people vote in favor of the override. A script would be developed for the callers to use. Laurie Manos suggesting the possibility of using email to urge parents to vote. The email addresses maintained by room parents could be used but there were questions about the legality. Mr. Brandmeyer will check regarding the legality of using room parent lists. The Committee also considered the advisability of a letter to the Lincoln Journal the Thursday before the election urging people to vote. The Committee also discussed posting people with signs at intersections and having volunteers at Donelans and the transfer station. Ms. Dobrow agreed to finalize and coordinate these activities on behalf of the Committee.

    2. Article on School Committee Role for Lincoln Review
      The draft of an article for the Lincoln Review was discussed. The submission deadline is March 15. The Committee agreed that the topic of the draft, concerning the status and future of the contract to operate the Hanscom Schools was appropriate. Ms. Borgert said that it was important to bring these issues to the attention of the Lincoln community. The Committee agreed to authorize Mr. Peery and Ms. Dobrow to make additional edits to the draft and then submit it.

    3. Response to Lincoln Journal Article
      The Committee discussed whether to write a response to the misstatements in a recent Lincoln Journal column by Neil Feinburg titled Committee should act on PAC recommendations and decided not to do so at this time because it was perceived to be more important to concentrate on communicating on the budget for town meeting and the election. Ms. Dobrow agreed to speak with Cheryl Lecesse, the editor, about the concerns.

  12. Approval of Minutes
    Mr. Picker moved that the February 17 minutes as edited be approved. Ms. Dobrow seconded the motion. All members voted in favor with Ms. Borgert and Ms. Cruise concurring.

  13. Information Enclosures

  14. Adjournment
    MMr. Picker moved that the Committee adjourn to Executive Session for the purpose of discussing contract negotiations. Ms. Hessler seconded the motion.

    The motion was approved by the following roll call:
    Ms. Dobrow yes
    Ms. Hessler yes
    Mr. Peery - yes
    Mr. Picker yes
    Ms. Borgert concurring
    Ms. Cruise - concurring
    The Committee adjourned to Executive Session at 10:15 P.M.

Respectfully submitted,
Sara Rolley, School Committee Recording Secretary