Heat, dismissal schedules pose challenges
Despite some glitches surrounding air conditioning in general and dismissal schedules at some of the elementary schools, Superintendent of Schools Jeffrey Szymaniak gave the district’s opening day of the 2018-19 school year a grade of B-plus.
“I want to thank the police and fire departments from both towns who were giving high-fives to all middle school and elementary school kids,” Szymaniak said. “It was a great opening.”
The School Committee on Wednesday, Aug. 29 heard a review of the first day of school and a progress report on the new WHRHS scoreboard project.
There were some air-conditioning issues, even at the high school as the summer’s oppressive heat and humidity continued, according to Szymaniak, but he had Facilities Director Ernest Sandland purchase 60 80-bottle cases of water to distribute to the elementary schools and encouraged staff to keep students hydrated.
Szymaniak and Assistant Superintendent George Ferro toured all the schools on Tuesday, Aug. 28 to ensure they were ready for that evening’s open houses as well as Wednesday’s opener.
“Our facilities department is pretty awesome,” Szymaniak said. “We got emails from the three elementary principals saying [Sandland] got everything done, buildings looked great … and I think parents were very excited about going to open house.”
Ferro was out directing traffic at the new inner drop-off loop at the high school and he and Szymaniak then “bounced around” from building to building to observe the opening.
When the dismissal issues cropped up at Indian Head Elementary, Szymaniak and Ferro went to the school to investigate the situation and get information out to parents “a little bit later than I wanted to, but” Hanson Police Chief Michael Miksch and resource officer William Frazier helped adjust the dismissal process.
Maquan School will officially be closed by Sept. 30, which permits time to hold yard sales of excess equipment on Tuesday, Sept. 18 for town departments to shop and on Friday, Sept. 22 for the general public.
Athletic Director Bob Rodgers announced that the new scoreboard is financed sufficiently with the aim for it to be installed for the season-opening game vs. Marshfield Friday night.
Rodgers took the opportunity to again stress that no taxpayer dollars are being spent on the project. The JJ Frisoli Foundation has donated $25,000 and will receive a double advertising panel on the scoreboard for the life of the unit. Mutual Bank and Richard Rosen have each contributed $10,000 for single panels for 10 years. Rosen will divide his panel between Rosen Realty and McGuiggan’s Pub. Two more $10,000 panels are still available and may be subdivided. Rodgers said he is in discussions with three companies that are “strong possibilities” for those spaces.
The final installation is now estimated at $110,000.
“It’s a much more complicated process than we envisioned when we started this,” he said. “But, with the scoreboard going up, I think a lot of people are going to see this and think the school must have tons of money.”
The project is being paid for outright through previous fundraising and gate receipts in addition to the donations and advertising sponsorships already received. Future fundraising will replenish those funds.
“I’m pretty optimistic about where this is headed,” Rodgers said, noting the board can be leased in a limited capacity for youth sports programs as well as post-WHRHS football game “fifth-quarter” movie screenings.
“We’re going to be able to sell advertising that will be meaningful advertising for the businesses in town,” he said. “Several restaurants” have already expressed interest.
Rodgers anticipates the scoreboard advertising will be an ongoing revenue source for the athletics department for years and can be offered to W-H clubs and organizations to sell advertising from which they can divide proceeds with the athletics department.
The School Committee also voted to accept advertising rates including “nonprofit shoutouts” for $25; 30-second video with audio for between $100 to $400 depending on the sport and season and a digital full color display for between $25 to $100 per game or $200 to $250 per season. The committee will be updated prior to a re-vote on the advertising pricing during a meeting thhis coming June.
Special Ed PAC gears up for year
The district’s Special Education Parent Advisory Committee (SEPAC) has been required since the 1970s but last year Hanson residents Tina Stidstone and James Fitzgerald took a leading role in revitalizing it.
“The plan is to make the SEPAC something more than it ever has been,” Stidstone says. “My kids have been in the district since 2002 and I never got involved before.”
She said in the past, the special education director planned meetings for parents that showed up, but noted SEPACs are intended to be parent-run organizations. Stidstone and Fitzgerald are hopeful some of the programs they are planning attract more parents to those meetings and some special events.
“This past year I emailed and said ‘all right, I’m taking it as a personal goal to get this thing up and running,’” she said. “I think we’ve done OK. … My whole thought is I have no right to say anything if I don’t become part of something to make it better.”
They started with five parents at last year’s meet-and-greet to 23 at the last meeting of the year, but with more than 600 special needs children in the district, Stidstone would like to see more parents attending.
“I think a lot of people aren’t aware of it, don’t know what it is or what it’s for,” Fitzgerald said. “It was one of those things that was slightly on my radar and with some of the changes the district was making I wanted to have an avenue to talk to other parents.”
They are also concerned about the status of Assistant Superintendent of Pupil Services Kyle Riley, who is currently on personal leave. Retired Special Education Coordinator Mildred O’Callaghan has been serving in a consulting capacity for the past few months, according to Stidstone. Executive Assistant Lisa Forbes has also been working with the SEPAC.
SEPAC meetings are held from 6 to 8 p.m., the first and second Tuesday of the month in the WHRHS library. The group’s first meeting of the school year will be on Tuesday, Sept. 11 and is the meet-and-greet session with district administrators, they noted. Other programs will center on school transition and public safety topics. A basic rights meeting also has to be presented every year.
An October meeting will focus on transition of students to new schools with the closing of the Maquan School and a November meeting will feature members of police and fire departments to discuss “our kids in the community” the duo said.
“The biggest impact of all of it was on the special needs kids,” Stidstone said. Most of them were transferred to Whitman’s Duval School, where they don’t know any of the other students she said.
“We have to know what happened good and what happened bad,” she said. “This can’t be just a ‘bash the district session,’ this has to be for constructive feedback.”
Like parents of preschool pupils with older siblings in Hanson Schools, Hanson parents of special needs students attending Duval are still working out transportation arrangements.
Stidstone said members of the group asked for the meeting with public safety personnel.
“If you see my kid walking down the road and he’s stimming (the repetition of physical movements, sounds, or words, or the repetitive movement of objects common in individuals with developmental disabilities), how are you going to react?” she said. Providing profiles for first responders of special needs children for their information in the event of an emergency is another topic they’ve discussed.
“They don’t want to send their guys into a situation where they frighten a child,” she said of the fire chiefs in both towns who are very supportive of the November meeting.
In December, they plan a meeting with the district about emergency drills at school and how the alarms can cause distress.
“During lockdowns, they are supposed to stay quiet in a corner,” she added. “My son’s not going to stay quiet in a corner. What is being done for those kids?”
Fitzgerald said during a first day of school fire drill, his son was upset when it came time to go back into the school.
“Those meetings [in November and December] are really about safety,” he said.
Parents have also asked for day meetings, and that is being looked at as possible spring and fall sessions after preschool drop-offs, perhaps in the high school’s Courtyard Café.
They are also working to plan a SEPAC family picnic with first responders perhaps bringing some of their vehicles for the children to explore. Stidstone said she, for example, has tried to bring her son to community touch-a-truck events in the past but he was too overwhelmed by the crowds.
“This will be our kids only,” she said. “It’s not going to be public. The plan is to have a picnic with our families and meet a couple cops and firefighters in their gear so that they know if a firefighter comes [to the house] he’s not a monster.”
They are also trying to plan a resource fair for the parents of special needs kids later in the school year to address the major concern parents had in a survey Stidstone and Fitzgerald conducted last year.
Fitzgerald said they are also coordinating with SEPACs in other districts.