Nashoba Approves New Grad Rules…May 18, 2016

By Ann Needle
The relatively brief May 11 Nashoba School Committee meeting was devoted primarily to approving more than 15 updated district polices, with several not having been been reviewed in over a decade. The SC also heard that the district’s finances are healthy, anticipating the release of a first-time analysis of Nashoba’s business practices.

The updated policies, which the SC unanimously approved, included changes made during the first review at the end of April. The Graduation Requirements policy carried the most substantial changes. As of the 2016/17 school year, Nashoba Regional High School students will no longer be required to earn a  given number of credits in certain subjects to graduate, though they will still need at least 90 credits overall for a diploma. Students also must meet a certain number of hours in some subjects, which will not change. Most year-long classes offer four credits for one year, though students can earn more credits in a few higher-level Science classes. (For instance, each student was required to take English Language Arts for four years and 16 credits.)

During the SC’s first review of the policy at its April 27 meeting, Principal Dr. Parry Graham explained that, while most students earn substantially more than 90 credits in their four years at the high school, a few have run into trouble meeting that requirement for each subject area. He noted that, under school policy, a number of unexcused absences (which do not include most parent-excused or medical absences) can take away credits, cutting into the required credits for an individual subject, even if a student passes the class. This means that, even if they had at least 90 credits overall—and the number of hours needed — they cannot graduate because they have not met the required credits for the subject, Graham said.

Also, under the updated policy students now can help meet their Technology requirement with classes in Business Technology and Applied Arts. SC Chair Lorraine Romasco of Bolton suggested Personal Finance be mandatory, given that many have never balanced a checkbook in today’s electronic world. The class is offered, but not required, Graham said.

Graham mentioned that NRHS has more rigorous graduation requirements than many of the state’s high schools, but more lenient ones than MA state colleges call for from applicants.

Finances Still Sound
The Nashoba District’s finances remained sound, continuing the positive trend of the past several months, Assistant Superintendent George King concluded in his third quarter financial report. While the budget for students leaving the district under school choice programs and for charter schools is healthy, King conceded that there has been an uptick in the number of students attending school elsewhere under these programs in the past few years. One area of concern King pointed to was Facilities, where a high number of employees out with illness and injuries has meant increased spending on temporary help and overtime, King said.

Meanwhile, Lorraine Romasco said that the report by the MA Association of Business Officials on Nashoba’s financial operations will be discussed at the May 18 SC meeting.  MASBO did a review of Nashoba’s finances during a two-day visit in late March, laying out recommendations for particular areas. The full report is posted at www.nrsd.net, under “School Committee,” then meeting materials for May 18, 2016.

In his report, Interim Superintendent Dr. Curtis Bates announced that Nashoba was one of nine school districts receiving a grant from the STEM Education Center at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. Nashoba will collaborate with the Central Massachusetts Alliance for Secondary Science Educators “to offer a science and engineering course that focuses on the practice of modeling, physical science concepts, and basic assessment literacy,” Bates said. Funding comes from the MA Math and Science Partnership Program, allowing two Nashoba middle school and two high school teachers to participate.

And, as Nashoba approaches the end of the school year, the SC voted unanimously to add meetings on June 1 and 15.

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