OBSERVER CORPS REPORT 2020
The Town of Falmouth has a School Committee comprised of 9 volunteers, who must be voted on during the town election. Each committee member is voted on for a rotating 3 year commitment. The Committee chair and vice chair are also newly elected every year by the committee members. This year William Rider and Kelly Welch are chair and vice chair.
The Falmouth School Committee strives to “Making decisions to fulfill the educational needs of children is the primary responsibility with which the citizens entrust to the school committee. Under education reform the school committee deliberates on a range of issues and concerns at a broad policy level, such as:
- System-wide goals
- Policy development
- Hiring and evaluating the Superintendent of Schools
- Community relations
- Budget review and approval
- Health and safety
- Curriculum approval
- Collective bargaining
We will work to improve our instruction, leadership, operations and finance so all students are engaged in their education in a way that develops their capacity to pursue their goals and fosters life-long learning.”
The members take this to heart, which is apparent in their interactions. In observing the committee, it became obvious that the committee members take their roles seriously. They are engaged and enthused about the work they do. The members are respectful of each other and the multiple people who they interact with during the course of their work.
Every meeting is structured the same, with time for open comments from the public, new business and updates from administration. They are usually scheduled every second and last Tuesday of the month, however this may change depending on town meetings or other conflicts.
The Falmouth Public School website contains more up to date reflections of the committee meeting dates. The town website was updated with the agenda and notes of the meetings but the meeting schedule and locations were not updated as frequently on the town website.
This year has obviously been a very different year for the Falmouth Public Schools as well as the School Committee. The first half of the 2019-2020 school year was fairly standard. The school committee covered such topics as school field trips, received updates from every school principal on the individual school statuses as well as the 3-5 year plans, Anti –Vaping forums, Volunteer in Public Schools (“VIPS”) updates and the school transportation, i.e. the buses contract was out for rebid. Each meeting also receives an update from the following individuals; School Superintendent, Assistant Superintendent, Director of Technology, Director of Human Resources, Director of Finance and Operations, Director of Student Services, Director of Curriculum K-6. Each director provides a short update on recent events, conferences they attended, curriculum, or staff updates.
However, by the beginning of March, it became clear that the school year may look very different for Falmouth students, but to what extent was still unknown at that time. On March 13th, the School Committee, in conjunction with the Health Agent as well as other members of the community, advised that school would be closed for 2 weeks.
As the days went on, it became clear that the two weeks may be extended, and by the end of March, beginning of April, the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (“DESE”) provided guidance to all Massachusetts districts that school would remain closed till the end of the school year and that some form of remote learning would need to be implemented.
The DESE initially advised that they would be providing further guidance on the extent and how remote learning should look, but after some time, the DESE advised the individual MA school districts that they can institute their own form of remote learning.
At this point, the School Committee along with the Superintendent Lori Duerr, went into overdrive working with the teachers, parents, and Falmouth community to come up with a plan for the Falmouth students.
The School Committee conducted several additional meetings during the end of March and beginning of April as plans were being evaluated and finalized for the remainder of the school year. Meetings were moved to Zoom, were well publicized and followed the same format of open comment period, scheduled presentations, and chair updates. There was a large increase in attendees, which has tapered off a bit, but remote attendance emains high.
The school committee continues to cover school activities and policy updates but is also working through the challenging discussions of summer school and what the Fall 2020-2021 school year may look like. The DESE will be providing guidance for the next school year in mid-June. The next few meetings have yet to be determined if they will be virtual or in person.
Meghan Palanza, LWVF Observer