WATERTOWN — The Board of Education, meeting Monday, November 9, appointed Brian Flaherty to fill the vacancy left by the death of board member Thomas A. Lambert.

The board also received an update from Superintendent Dr. John Ramos who noted the district’s commitment to keep students in school and keep them safe during the pandemic. “Staff members are working extremely hard to implement these mitigation strategies.”

The protocol for Covid-19 cases is to send students home if they test positive and conduct contact tracing.

“Please know, we’re also prepared to go to remote learning should that become necessary,” Dr. Ramos said the approach is day-to-day.

He also announced the resignation of Tom DiStasio, CPA, business manager, who is leaving the district for a new opportunity in Avon and the board welcomed Lisa Jones, the new business manager.

During the meeting, Lisa Fekete, director of curriculum and instruction, provided an update on test scores from 2019-2020 as she noted that the unusual circumstances of the last school year have made it a challenge to create new baselines.

Data is grouped by cohort or the same set of students over time and form a data point.

Historically, winter scores have been the most representative of student performance.

She reviewed data from fall and winter of 2019 to note good growth; there was some regression in 2020 but tracking for students in the second tier were larger, indicating that students were sliding back but not as far as they might have.

There is some progress over the long term, with students needing higher intervention moving into the second and first tiers.

The short term consideration is to reckon with changing conditions and mitigating the gaps from the pandemic.

For long term, there is consideration of providing intervention beyond post elementary years.

Action steps are connected to the instructional core and Ms. Fekete reviewed last year’s goals to compare them with this year’s actions, such as building consistency and capacity within data driven decision making.

Ms. Fekete pointed out that some curriculum work was suspended in March but has resumed and new action steps include customized professional growth and evaluation and professional learning.

The latter has been conducted in person, hybrid, and remote models.

The board asked how teachers are doing as they engage students, learning from Ms. Fekete that they are rallying in a difficult situation. “I think the data helps.”

In other business, the board approved the Superintendent of Schools Leadership Profile as prepared by CABE Search Consultant Mary Broderick, Ed.D.

She noted the time spent in a focus group with 20 people and analyzing a survey to produce the profile. The latter response rate was 220, including 56 teachers.

Feedback was very positive in regard to the quality of teachers and staff and community was a strong aspect of the school district and town.

Communication was also a strength as was the dedication of students.

Dr. Broderick listed challenges as consistency in administration, noting the district has welcomed 15 superintendents in 21 years, the challenges of the position, and the desire to find a person who will stay, as noted in survey results.

She said the district could feel good about where it is now before she launched into the desired expertise and qualities in a new superintendent.

In addition to putting down roots, the survey respondents want to see a person dedicated to the mission of the school district, demonstrating a great track record as a teacher, innovative leadership, and commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.

The new superintendent will be able to earn the trust of the town.

The search committee will use the profile as they go through the process and question candidates.

Before the meeting adjourned, the education board accepted a $3,000 donation from Theraplant LLC, Watertown, for in-service training.

Chair Leslie Crotty thanked the business owner for continued support of the district, noting this was the third or fourth year of donation. 

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