By Nancy Arsenault
By this time next year, Nashoba middle school students may be working toward a mix of academic achievements, prizes and recognitions, rather than the traditional Honor Roll. At last week’s School Committee meeting, the group addressed this topic, the future of half-day kindergarten and expanded parking at the high school.
The Committee has been addressing ways to revamp the Honor Roll criteria, both at the high school and middle school levels. Superintendent Michael Wood told the Committee and concerned parents in attendance, that due to technical roadblocks pertaining to grade compilation within the high school system, the High School Honor Roll revision would not be ready until the 2015-16 school year. The High School Honor Roll criteria will continue with the same grade inclusions and weighted values for the remainder of the school year, said Wood.
Regarding the Middle School Honor Roll, parents and Committee members voiced opposition to an Honor Roll consideration that includes grades submitted for classes such as gym, art, health. Lancaster Rep. Julie Fay believes that to get an A or a B in art, music or gym requires some degree of natural ability or talent. “Not every student has that talent,” she said, adding that a lower grade in those subjects should not prevent a student, who may have straight A’s or B’s in academic core subjects, from being on the Honor Roll.
Superintendent Wood proposed that one averaged grade representing all those non-core subjects be used for Honor Roll consideration, but the Committee was still not convinced that those subjects should be included.
Stow parent Kathy O’Keefe and several committee reps did not support Wood’s further recommendation that the Honor Roll also consider the “Habits of Mind” rankings assigned to a student – indications as to how well a student prepares and turns in homework assignments, participates in class and overall behavior in the social environment of the classroom and the school.
O’Keefe said there are many underlying reasons why a student’s Habits of Mind grades may not be fully satisfactory – e.g: medical or learning issues, personal issues, and other factors – and yet that student could still be gaining A’s and B’s in the school work. She felt this was an unnecessary and subjective category to be considered, and something that could unfairly keep an academically good student off the Honor Roll.
The discussion shifted to the essence of the Middle School Honor Roll, with Committee members speculating that the public recognition of students, usually through a newspaper listing, is more something that parents want to see rather than something students are seeking. While some members felt that students give the Honor Roll little credence, others felt that it becomes just another divisive and exclusionary aspect of Middle School. All were in agreement that it is worthy at the high school level, and sometimes is the only recognition for students there who do not excel in sports or extracurricular activities.
With nearly all of the Committee reps in agreement that eliminating the Middle School honor roll would be the best option, they also recognized that this concept had not yet been put before the public. They felt that to cancel the Middle School Honor Roll now, at the end of the marking trimester, may be too extreme a move.
The Committee instead urged Wood to encourage Middle School principals to work collaboratively to create a program of academic achievement goals and recognitions that would better serve the student population, more than the present Honor Roll. “We can’t take something away without having something else to offer them,” explained Stow Rep Lynn Colletti. Superintendent Wood supported the committee’s recommendation and was confident the principals could create a worthy plan in time to be in place next fall. For the remainder of this school year, the Middle School Honor Roll will continue as it has in the past.
Half-Day Kindergarten Still Controversial
Superintendent Wood told the Committee that he will be hosting an informational night for incoming kindergarten parents in December. Wood said he would be presenting the current model of the “embedded half-day” program within the full day school program. The full day would still be an option, but with a financial cost to parents. The majority of the Board strongly questioned Wood’s intent of presenting the current program as the plan for the next school year.
Lorraine Romasco, representing Bolton said, “I thought we were looking at this current year as a trial and then we would discuss how the blended classroom really worked. This was not supposed to be the first year of a series and continue to move forward with it. We did not vote for that. This was supposed to be a Pilot program. ” Wood said he would be asking for parent input at the meeting. Committee members questioned the value of that input if plans to offer kindergarten in the same form as this year are already determined.
Maureen Busch of Stow cautioned that people could falsely get their hopes up if there is no chance for dedicated half-day programs across the District, something she feel s is still desired by parents. Wood said if that is what people really want, it could be considered, but it would be a funding issue to make it happen.
“If they think they can get what people wanted and didn’t get this year, that needs to be stated up front,” said Busch. Romasco added, “Don’t ask for input if you are not going to use it. If their responses influence the program going forward, good. If you are already phasing out half-day kindergarten, then don’t ask for input. Half-day cannot go away if there is still no free full day.”
More than a dozen Bolton residents of Green Road attended the meeting to protest a recent concept voiced by the Superintendent to repurpose the tennis courts adjacent to Green Road, into an annex parking lot.
Chip Hart of Green Road acknowledged that his street is going to have school related traffic, but that it needs to be better managed, and putting a parking lot, with a proposed entrance on Green Road is not the answer. He stated that the road is already filled with young and inexperienced drivers, and this lot placement would make that even worse. Wood responded that the parking lot was merely in the discussion stage, among other options being considered.