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UPDATED: In addition to approving a strong pro-LGBTQIA+ resolution June 15, as previously reported, the Arlington School Committee also voted unanimously to support the town’s Nov. 7 property-tax override, approved two international trips and heaped praise on departing Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction Roderick MacNeal Jr.

As of Saturday, July 1, he is going into the private sector, to be succeeded at Arlington Public Schools by Monakatellia “Mona” Ford Walker. Her title will be somewhat different – deputy superintendent of teaching and learning

The vote to endorse the override was 6-0. Chair Kirsi Allison-Ampe was absent because of an important family function; Vice Chair Paul Schlichtman ran the meeting.

5-year plan based on override success

Many parts of the Arlington Public Schools’ Five-Year Strategic Plan are predicated on the override passing and delivering more money to the school system, including making it possible for APS to raise pay rates for educators to the level that many comparable districts have. The override seeks an estimated $7 million.

The vote was unanimous for one of the two international trips, to Quebec City in Canada -- including committee member Jane Morgan, who often votes against such proposals but who called this particular one a “very fiscally responsible trip.” 

However, Morgan and Laura Gitelson, the newest committee member, voted against a different trip, to Taiwan, which Arlington High School Principal Matthew Janger acknowledged was “far away and therefore very expensive. 

“The Taiwan trip I can’t support” at $5,000 per person, Morgan said. Janger said that AHS has some $10,000 available for scholarships and that in the past, for example, with regard to a music-oriented journey to Italy, all those who requested scholarships received them.

The vote was 4-2 to approve.

Kind words for a departing leader

In bidding a fond farewell to MacNeal, many spoke up, from Superintendent Elizabeth Homan to each committee member present to Human Resources Director Rob Spiegel to MacNeal himelf.

Homan called him “committed, capable and caring,” a “fearless advocate for children” and said, “Your compass is always pointed in the right direction.”

Gitelson praised his “calm and reassuring manner” over the years, especially including 2020 and after when all or most committee proceedings were remote.

Len Kardon said he appreciated MacNeal’s “equity focus” and said that MacNeal deserved much credit for “steering Arlington through the pandemic.”

“I am glad we got to keep you as long as we did,” said Morgan, who predicted that MacNeal’s fine qualities will serve him well as he takes over at Chestnut Hill School.

Jeff Thielman also mentioned the “equity lens” and said that he appreciated MacNeal’s “dialogues with many folks on many issues.”

Liz Exton said that the committee and district had “really benefited from your passion and commitment.”

According to Schlichtman, MacNeal has been “a kid-centered ally of great teaching who understands schools” and also said that “teachers appreciate how you value their work.”

Spiegel said he was impressed with how consistently gracious MacNeal was to all at APS, be they custodians, food-service workers, teachers or the superintendent.

As for MacNeal himself, he said that he was “humbled by all the comments” and had been “fortunate to have a great team.” He noted that “two superintendents have trusted me,” referring to both Homan and her immediate predecessor, Kathleen Bodie. MacNeal said that he appreciated “allowing me this opportunity to grow.”

History honors for Ottoson

In other business, the committee:

  • Swiftly, without discussion and toward the end of the meeting unanimously approved changes to four policies having to do with resident complaints and with district curriculum. More will be reported in coming days.
  • Heard about National History Day project achievements. One project took first place in the junior category for a website, “PARC v. Pennsulvania: Pioneering the Right to Education for Children with Cognitive Impairments,” by Spencer Carman, Alexandra Lay and Henry Liu. Carman’s father was a town official some years back. Their teachers at Ottoson Middle School were Adam Amster and Jason Levy. It is listed on page 9 of the 82-page document. Arlington historically tends to do well in this annual competition among U.S. middle-school students.
  • Unanimously appointed Griffin Jones of Mott Street to the town’s Human Rights Commission. Jones spoke briefly, saying that he has a doctorate in social epidemiology, owns his own health-justice practice and is affiliated with both Harvard and Yale.
  • Listened as representatives of Arlington Education Foundation in their presentation recognized its founder, Julie Dunn, noted its nationally recognized disability-awareness program and mentioned that it funds dozens of grant proposals each year.
  • Listened as Margaret Credle Thomas, who has been the district’s director of diversity, equity, inclusion, belonging and justice since July 2021, described activities and accomplishments. These include listening sessions, a participatory equity audit and establishing strategic priorities. The diversity program facilitated professional development for educators and established affinity groups for both students and staff. It has a channel on ACMi local public television station, and Credle Thomas meets regularly with her town counterpart, Jillian Harvey, and also with Police Chief Juliann Flaherty. Homan called Credle Thomas “an excellent relational leader.”
  • Heard from Janger a generally upbeat report on the first year of the pilot program of heterogeneous freshman English. Students pursuing both the regular curriculum and the more advanced honors version studied in the same classrooms with the same teachers but with differing expectations as to the sophisticatio of the writing expected. He said that “I feel we’re moving in the right direction” and that he expected to come back to the committee in December with an update.
  • Unanimously voted to cancel the previously scheduled June 22 committee meeting, seeing it as unnecessary. However, Schlichtman said that the committee expects to meet more than once before regular classes beginning in September.
ACMi video of June 15 meeting:

 


June 17, 2023: 6-0 vote favors strongest version of policy backing LGBTQIA
  

This news summary by YourArlington Editor Judith Pfeffer was published Saturday, July 1, 2023, and updated later that day to correct the spelling of an official's name in a captio and the date of the meeting in a subheadline.

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