The School Committee on Wednesday, June 14, provided more detail on transitional plans as Maquan Elementary School enters its final year as an active school in Hanson this September.
Superintendent of Schools Dr. Ruth Gilbert-Whitner along with Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources, Safety and Security Dr. Patrick Dillon and other administrators have met with Maquan and Indian Head School faculty to discuss the transition.
Dillon is leading that transition.
“This summer, during the school break when kids aren’t in session, we’ll start to meet with school leaders who are responsible for various portions of the transition and start the detailed planning process,” Dillon said.
“I think we’ve made good progress,” Gilbert-Whitner said. “I think people feel comfortable that, if they do have questions, to bring them forward. We’re asking them to remain calm, we’ve been through this process before.”
Dillon reported the leadership team has been identified and new Special Education Director Kyle Riley will oversee the preschool and special ed transition at Maquan. Hanson Middle School Principal William Tranter will be responsible for the incorporation of fifth-graders into that school and Maquan Principal Elizabeth Wilcox, who will serve as principal of both schools next year, will also supervise the transition of the remaining grades into Indian Head.
The district had announced to parents last week that John Riley will continue as Indian Head School’s assistant principal and Director of Science Mark Stephansky, a licensed principal/assistant principal, will be based at Maquan where he will also serve as assistant principal.
Maquan Administrative Assistant Susan Andrews will remain in place next year and will move to Indian Head for the 2018-19 school year. Indian Head Administrative Assistant Joan Maloney is retiring, effective June 30, and a temporary assistant will be hired for next year. Maquan’s Early Childhood Coordinator Patricia Collins and School Psychologist Joan Joyce will continue to assist with administrative responsibilities.
A steering committee of from eight to 10 stakeholders will also help provide guidance in the process.
The committee also reviewed the district’s Emergency Management Plan, which has addressed situations this year ranging from a smell in the Hanson Middle School elevator and a gas problem at Whitman Middle School to the national concern over scary clown sightings last fall.
“As we were reflecting on that, folks were saying, ‘and that all happened this year?’ — and it did,” Gilbert-Whitner said.
For the past two years, Dillon, has been working on a comprehensive emergency plan.
“When we reflected on the events from this year, we became ever more certain as to why those things [in the plan] needed to happen,” Gilbert-Whitner said.
Dillon reported on the progress of his 13-person planning task force. That group has reviewed the plan and provided individual feedback, which will be incorporated into the plan and submitted to Gilbert-Whitner by the end of the month and the police and fire chiefs in both towns over the summer.
The 2017-18 training plan will be presented to the School Committee in August, including procedures for evacuation, relocation and reunification plan for emergencies.
“One of the goals next year will be to practice that evolution in one of the schools,” he said. “It won’t happen until the springtime, but that’s an example of what we’re training for.”
In other business, the Committee presented its evaluation of Gilbert-Whitner’s goals and performance for 2016-17.
“The committee seems to be very pleased with our superintendent,” School Committee Chairman Bob Hayes said of the rankings which were in the proficient-to-exemplary range. The reports are kept on file at the administration office.
“The role of the superintendent has really changed over the years,” said committee member Robert Trotta. “I think it’s important to know that there’s a lot that goes on at the superintendent level — just dealing with the budget alone has got to be the most frustrating thing … All in all, I think you’ve done a great job.”
“I know we’re getting beat up a lot with financial issues … but I’ve seen a lot of improvement in what’s happening,” said member Kevin Lynam, whose children attend school in Whitman. “I’ve seen science programs hit the elementary schools … my oldest did not have that program and my youngest do.”
He said his children are now always bringing home science projects and are talking about science.
“That never happened before,” he said. “Neither of their parents have a science background at all — this is all coming from the schools.”
Committee member Fred Small, cautioned that the budget situation remains a concern.
“There’s so much more that we could be doing and should be doing,” he said.