Nashoba Begins Year-End Review… June 24, 2015
By Ann Needle
The issues of the last school year were the focus of Wednesday’s Nashoba School Committee meeting.
SC Chair Lorraine Romasco of Bolton gave an overview of the process for replacing Bolton’s Nancy Federspeil and Lancaster’s Julie Fay, who both resigned on June 12. Romasco noted that, under the SC bylaws, the seats must be filled within 30 days of the resignations. The current representatives from each of the two towns are to work with their selectmen to choose a new representative.
In a lingering issue for the SC, Nashoba Regional High School Principal Dr. Parry Graham reviewed how the high school is working to keep illegal drugs off of school grounds. The topic took the spotlight last month, when several guests at a private party following the NRHS prom were rushed to the hospital after ingesting candy laced with THC, the main ingredient in marijuana.
Graham outlined what the high school does to help keep drugs out of students’ hands, including two school resource officers (Bolton policemen), two canine drug searches this school year, and speakers that included a state drug enforcement officer at the Underage Substance Abuse Forum for parents earlier this month. He explained that “we can’t search a student unless we have reasonable suspicion. But if we hear something, we will investigate it.”
Concerning consequences for drug use, he stressed, “Our chemical health policy is pretty strong and straightforward.” Based on the MIAA’s (MA Interscholastic Athletic Assn.’s) policy — which applies to athletes found using drugs, whether on or off member schools’ grounds — Nashoba’s policy extends to students in any other extracurricular activities as well, Graham said.
When Nashoba finds a student has violated the CHP at a school-sponsored function, “that always results in an external suspension,” anywhere from a day to, in rare cases, more than 10 days (usually for distribution). Graham added that drug counseling also may be involved. External suspension is an approved absence, allowing students to keep up through tutoring and online work, “Recognizing that this kid is going to return to us,” he said.
However, Graham expressed concern that things have not changed much outside of school doors. He referred to the Social Hosting Forum Nashoba sponsored last month, which covered the laws regarding parent responsibility if minors are found drinking or using drugs in their homes. Given only two parents attended, Graham remarked, “I’m concerned that I’m not seeing a big change in the community. I don’t have an answer to that.”
To help alleviate prom night hazards and parental responsibility for private parties, Graham pointed out that NRHS offers an after-prom party. But this year, only 70 attended the event, he estimated, and “I want 250 kids at that party.”
SC student representative Tom Bunnell of Stow commented that the high school has work to do in attracting students to the party, given, “There’s a stigma around it; it’s not the cool thing to do.”
SC members reviewed Superintendent Michael Wood’s detailed performance evaluation for the school year, along with a shorter version that fits new state guidelines on how these evaluations must be submitted to the MA Dept. Of Education.
Once fellow SC members’ ratings and remarks on Wood were gathered, Stow Rep. Nicole Oderkirk explained state regulations required the Personnel Subcommittee to “adapt, adopt, or revise current frameworks to fit the mandated standards.” That meant the version of the evaluation submitted to the DOE required the use of “unsatisfactory,” “needs improvement,” “proficient,” or “exemplary” to describe Wood’s performance in each category. However, she emphasized that the SC will keep the longer version on file. (Odekirk mentioned that Wood’s overall rating under the state format was a proficient.)
Stow Rep. Lynn Colletti commented that limiting categories can be misleading, similar to being forced to give a student a B rather than a B+.
The SC voted to accept the DOE-formatted evaluation, with Colletti opposed, and Reps. Mark Jones of Stow and Kathy Codianne of Lancaster abstaining. Both the DOE and longer versions are at http://www.nrsd.net/index.php?id=535.
Allergy Policy Accepted
The SC also voted to accept its new Life Threatening Allergy Policy on its second reading, with the language unchanged from the original document. The policy guides the district in how to help protect students with life-threatening food allergies while including them in all regular activities at school. The only dissenting vote was by Colletti, who said she was uncomfortable with some of the wording.
Center School’s incoming principal, Ross Mulkerin, introduced himself briefly to SC members. Living in Northborough and currently commuting to his job as principal of Waltham’s Whittemore Elementary School, Mulkerin called Center “a win for me — I can be more present at school and not get stuck in traffic.” Mulkerin mentioned he knows school administrators who used to work in the district, “And they had nothing but good things to say about Nashoba.” He starts work at Center on July 1.
The final meeting of the school year will be tonight/Wednesday night at 7pm.