Superintendent recognizes retired teachers and staff | news

WILMINGTON — The school committee received several public comments in support of the negotiations for educational assistants, a proposal for a field trip and the superintendent’s report during its meeting last Wednesday night.

Opening the meeting, Superintendent Dr. Glenn Brand to all the teachers and staff retiring this year. He named the retirees in the audience who were able to attend the meeting that evening: Linda Peters, Christine McMenimen, Lynn Morrison, Carol Trulli, Karin Visalli, Cheryl Lesnik, Laura Hilliard, Jane Ferrara, Michelle Yeomelakis – along with Patricia Jeanette, Suzanne Holmes, Sharon Enos, Darlene Sinopoli and Patricia Aloisi, all unable to attend.

Several residents made public statements to express their support for the city’s educational support contract negotiations. The first, Jane Woods, said she had been a teaching assistant for 19 years and struggled to get by financially and pay bills. She asked the committee to recognize her hard work and dedication by completing the contract with a living wage.

The next comment came from Katie Callahan, who shared how she went back to work as a teaching assistant after having her children. She spoke about the experiences and backgrounds of the Wilmington Educational Assistants.

“We wear many hats: doing daily routines, filling in for teachers, helping out in other classrooms, driving around town and helping out at other schools,” she said. “It’s embarrassing to tell the public how little we earn.”

The third educational assistant and resident to speak emphasized the vitality of these positions, saying the staff support will provide the stability and consistency that Wilmington students deserve.

Another resident spoke on this topic, who submitted a petition for living wages for educational assistants with over 900 signatures. She said educational assistants work with students who need special attention and specialized instruction, and fill in for teachers who are often absent. What they want to see in the contract is a respectable salary of at least $30,000 per year, with opportunities for career advancement and development.

The only other public commentator was Jeffrey Cohen, who pointed out that the Safety Subcommittee has not met in the past two years. He also expressed concern at the response to recent gun violence, citing alleged denied requests to lock inner anteroom doors and door barricades. He suggested that the committee indoctrinated students by allowing ideas of diversity, equity, inclusion and gender in schools.

Among the approved items was a request for a field trip to Machu Picchu from two WHS teachers, Megan Burns and Julie Kim. Burns is a Spanish teacher while Kim is a chemistry teacher and leader of the science team. Burns described how the trip would take place during the February 2024 break so students would not miss class time and gave an overview of the trip details.

They both shared how amazing their own time abroad in college was. This trip would be a chance for Spanish students in Wilmington to learn about the culture and practice the language. The cost would be $3,500 per student, but there would be financial aid and fundraising opportunities.

The committee approved the request and expressed how much they appreciated the opportunity to combine science and language and the financial considerations.

They also approved all of the Wilmington Education Foundation technology grants, which David Ragsdale read aloud. These grants were for things like writing and grammar support, iPads, VR headsets, and more.

In the superintendent’s report, Brand included an opportunity to celebrate something good, along with an update to the FY21 budget and a city leadership meeting on school safety. He highlighted WHS World Language teacher Terresa Pietro, who went to Toronto to complete the Fulbright Teachers for Global Classrooms international field experience. He also offered a salute to the graduating seniors and any colleges they would be attending next year, particularly a number of collegiate athletes.

Deputy Finance Director Paul Ruggiero shared the findings of the fiscal year-end 2021 report, one of which was that the city had received funding for cleaning products, allowing those costs to be reimbursed to schools.

The last thing Brand spoke about was what he called a joint city meeting on school safety. He mentioned how he received questions from the community about how the school district is responding to school safety in buildings. So he wanted to start a conversation between community leaders and partners like the city manager, the chair of the special committee, the police chief and the fire chief. The meeting was scheduled for this week – June 16 at 11 am

However, the meeting would not be public.

“Whatever comes out of these meetings needs to be carefully and thoughtfully socialized,” Brand continued.

He explained that a single meeting would not be enough to address the issue. Ragsdale assured the audience that feedback would be sought from families and staff before any changes were made and that there would be discussion and transparency throughout the process.

The Chair Dr. Jenn Bryson clarified that all school doors are locked during the day, but they are unsure if they should always be locked or if schools should be monitored during after-school events.

In the subcommittee reports, Bryson shared that the Superintendent Evaluation Subcommittee was in session and almost finished consolidating all of the evaluations into a single narrative. They would bring a presentation for the next meeting.

Melissa Plowman also mentioned a CPAC meeting the following evening.

The next school board meeting is scheduled for June 22 at 7 p.m

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