THOMASTON – The Board of Education voted on several matters, including the acceptance of 25 curriculum guides, the current bus transportation contract and the 2019-20 school budget, among other motions during its meeting on Monday, June 10.

The board recognized 11th grader Alexander Thornberg for placing third at the National Invention Convention in Michigan and Daniel Paul as June’s Rotary Student of the Month.

Thomaston Public Schools Student of the Month recipients are Alexandra Houle, grade 11; Rachel Foell, grade 10; Olivia Grenier, grade 9; Nathan Kowalski, grade 8; Justin Dorso, grade 7; Mackenzie Pelletier, grade 6; Samantha Armstrong, grade 5; Emily Thornton, grade 4; Ava Nicosia, grade 3; AJ Stadalnik, grade 2; Tessa Hungerford, grade 1 and Jasmine Malik, kindergarten.

Patrick Chesanek, Marina Dauti, Naime Gilan, Megan Guay, Shay Murphy and Alexander Nolan were commended for volunteering to create Thomaston Student of the Month audio visual presentations during the academic year. 

Director of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment Eric Martin explained how the Thomaston School District’s new curriculums are being developed.

He urged the school board to approve the 25 curriculum guides which had been prepared in advance and distributed with board members prior to his presentation.

Mr. Martin has undertaken a curricular overhaul since his appointment three years ago in an effort to create engaging curriculum which remains in alignment with the state’s current educational standards.

Mr. Martin envisions shifts in curriculum functionality consisting of transforming passive mandates into active language, placing emphasis on students at the “center of our instruction.”

The rewriting of curriculum with statements from the perspective of students reinforces the role of personal empowerment for youth, especially when learning about complex or challenging content.

Another notable change with the Thomaston school district’s preparation of curriculums has altered the timeframe for when courses are being drafted from the summer months to while school remains in session throughout the academic year.

Educators across the district are drafting curriculum while school is in session versus during the summer recess, allowing for faculty to enjoy a reprieve, and remaining focused throughout the calendar year on creating new academic content. 

“Curriculum is a contract with the public,” Mr. Martin stated.

After further elaboration, Mr. Martin explained that curriculum guides act as a half-curriculum, sharing all of the necessary information with residents, especially the parents of students.

An example of the type of details found in a curriculum guide that can be shared with parents consists of a shift from developing the former essential to compelling learning questions.

Compelling questions are supposed to be “constantly considering and requestioning” throughout any entire course, as explained by Mr. Martin.

Compelling questions are more open-ended with less emphasis on an objectively correct answer by stimulating meaningful conversations about a subject. 

Additionally, learning targets serve as a series of certain skillsets that are noted as vital for any student to succeed with a specific curriculum. 

Mr. Martin also shared that the 25 proposed curriculum guides have undergone multiple rounds of revisions, all in the effort to establish “robust curriculum.”

As a result of Mr. Martin’s exhaustive presentation which left the board without any additional inquiries, the board unanimously approved of the 25 curriculum guides. 

Next the board unanimously voted to allow Superintendent of Schools Francine Coss “to hire the Director of Pupil-Personnel Services in accordance with the Recruitment and Selection of the Director of Pupil Personnel Services Plan, district hiring practices and the Professional Agreement between the Thomaston Board of Education and the Thomaston School Administrators Association” instead of agreeing to host a special Board of Education meeting on Thursday, June 20 to determine the hiring of the new Director of Pupil Personnel Services for the district.

After clarifying updates pertaining to the revised 2019-2020 Thomaston Board of Education budget, the board unanimously approved the changes and subsequent cuts in the overall budget, a $160,000 reduction since this past winter’s proposed budget, as informed by Superintendent Coss.

“The Board of Finance considered savings from the installation of LED bulbs at Thomaston High School, the change in tuition rate for the PATHS school, and the adjustment to the Excess Cost threshold to be revenue (or savings); the balance of the $160,000 cut from the budget required an actual cut to expenditures,” Ms. Coss told the Town Times. 

The board also unanimously approved of the “Transfer of Membership Interest of Transportation Contract Resolution” following Student Transportation of America’s acquisition of All Star Transportation.

“We are the last district to approve this,” Ms. Coss said. 

The agreement between STA and the Thomaston school district intends to honor the transportation membership contract that has been outlined by the former contract-owner, All Star Transportation which guaranteed transportation services from 2018 until the expiration date in 2023. 

Ms. Coss received a letter from Chief Operation Officer Gene Kowalczewski of STA, assuring that the contract will be held.

Member Roxy Fainer inquired if the letter holds any legal weight, to which Ms. Coss affirmed that formally it does not. 

However, Ms. Coss stated that the current contract would require the board to approve of any selling interest.

Previously, the Policy Committee met, which caused the board to address a policy change for the town’s graduation requirements in compliance with state standards. 

“It is a state legislated matter that Thomaston did account for and that Thomaston included in its Parent-Student Handbook. The policy needs to be changed to bring it into alignment with Thomaston’s handbook and the legislated changes to high school graduation requirements,” Superintendent Coss told the Town Times. 

Policy 9311, which was voted upon during the board meeting, essentially defines the policy approval process for the board and outlines two possible avenues: the first of which requires that a policy or policy change must be posted for two meetings in advance before taking any form of action; the second possible form of approval would require a two-thirds majority from all board members present at the meeting.

As a result, Ms. Fainer made the motion seconded by Scott Theriault to accept and approve, in accordance with Policy 9311, of hastening of the typical policy approval process for Policy 6146 only. 

“Since the graduation requirements were already included in the Parent-Student Handbook, the second option was selected. Then Policy 6146 was voted on as updated and presented,” Ms. Coss stated. 

Following this final motion, the Board of Education moved into an executive session while inviting Superintendent Coss to give an evaluation of her overall performance.

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