School Committee logo'Students overall are more diverse than our staff.'
   -- Robert Spiegel, human-resources director

The Arlington Public Schools have hired more than 200 new employees in the past 13 months, Human Resources Director Robert Spiegel told the School Committee at its regular meeting Thursday, Oct. 27.

These include 82 educators, 54 paraprofessionals, 23 after-school employees, 14 food-service staff, eight administrators, four custodians, two crossing guards, two registration coordinators -- and even more.

APS is still in hiring mode, seeking special-education teachers, a nurse, an Italian teacher, substitutes, paraprofessionals, crossing guards and food-service workers.

The district especially hopes to find employees of color so staff will better resemble the children they work with. “Students overall are more diverse than our staff,” he said.

Currently, he said, 78 percent of APS employees are considered white , as are 71 percent of the new hires -- although it is not always certain, as some decline to identify their ethnicity, Spiegel said. Diverse employees “have a lens” that others may not and provide “windows and mirrors” for children of color, he said.

Other goals are to provide pathways to licensure for those teaching assistants who want to become teachers; meaningful professional development; and increased opportunities to recruit/retain employees of color.

Spiegel said that those who quit APS do so for many reasons: moving away, growing tired of commute times, taking other posts in education, changing to other fields, seeking more money, feeling dissatisfied with the workload/work environment or for family concerns.

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School improvement, heterogeneous grouping

A sense of belonging and a sense of engagement are “really important” at Arlington High School, said its principal, Matthew Janger. In survey scores from late spring this year, these indicators are relatively low, especially in English classes. The latest such “Panorama Survey” was conducted at AHS the same day as the meeting, Oct. 27, he added, and results will be reported when they become available.

The two-year pilot program for “the heterogeneous grouping initiative” in freshman English at AHS may help improve students’ sense of belonging and engagement, administrators hope.

The plan, approved last school year and begun this school year, is a big change from the previous “tracking” system. The new approach means that students are no longer separated by perceived ability level. All will study the same things but can choose whether to do assignments at the regular curriculum A level or the more advanced curriculum H level. For the latter, they must present more complex, sophisticated evidence and writing.

There are 21 sections of ninth-grade English and a maximum of 22 students in each. One of the teachers, Nicole Eidson, said that the students are expressing their ideas well in group settings and collaborating successfully. Another, Megan Miller, said an important theme examined in the course is that of identity and belonging and that materials studied include fiction, poetry, nonfiction, films and podcasts. Janger said that texts exploring equity also will be studied.

Read all of the documents for this agenda item >> 

In other business:
  • Committee members voted, 7-0, to support a resolution from the Town Manager’s Gas Leaks Task Force, asking National Grid to commit to repair 14 methane leaks, including two near the high school, by June 30, 2023. “The School Committee will sign on to this resolution,” Chair Liz Exton said.
  • The possible renewal of an overnight environmental experience for preteens was discussed Oct. 24 at the curriculum, instruction, assessment and accountability subcommittee. The matter will be taken up again at the next CIAA meeting, set for at 8:20 a.m. Nov. 14, said subcommittee head Jane Morgan. 
  • The death of longtime Select Board Administrator Marie Krepelka was noted at the meeting’s beginning. “We extend our deepest sympathies to Marie’s family and friends. She will be missed,” Exton said.
  • Tickets are going fast for the Nov. 4-5 performance of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” at the high school, Superintendent Elizabeth Homan said.
  • The district has adopted a new logo with the motto “Education that empowers.” The circular design shows a body of water, the bike path, people and a tree.
  • Committee member Len Kardon is creating a form to evaluate Superintendent Homan for all committee members to complete by Nov. 10. Those completed documents are to be conveyed to Homan at the committee meeting of Nov. 17 as part of her first evaluation. Homan has led APS since July 1, 2021.
  • Homan and other school personnel were commended recently for finding a local family to care for an Arlington student by 9 p.m. the same day of removal from the home, Exton said. The commendation came from a social worker with the state Department of Children and Families.
  • Playground rehabilitation has concluded at Bishop School and should be done by early November at Stratton School and by mid-November at Peirce School, Homan reported.

The consent agenda passed unanimously.

The meeting adjourned at 8:51 p.m. with no closed session. 

Oct. 15, 2022: Board weighs renewing camp, MCAS impact, concern about absences, school improvements

This summary by YourArlington freelance writer Judith Pfeffer was published Saturday, Oct. 29, 2022.

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