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UPDATED March 19: The Minuteman School Committee continues to negotiate a contract with recently hired superintendent-director Heidi Driscoll and move forward with a number of other issues.

These include presentations of assessments to the financial committees of member towns before their Town Meetings, an imminent report to the state on plans to cope with achievement gap and heralding student accomplishments in culinary and dramatic arts. The committee met from 6:30 to 8:15 p.m. Tuesday, March 12, in hybrid mode -- in person in the Paul Revere Room, 758 Marrett Road, Lexington, and via Zoom.

"We're moving along," commented Pam Norse of Acton -- who spearheaded the search/recruitment process and is immediate past committee chair -- just before the committee went into closed session, with no report made afterward.

The committee, after three hours' discussion at its previous meeting, in February, unanimously chose Heidi Driscoll, currently assistant superintendent of schools in Scituate, as permanent superintendent-director of the Minuteman Regional Vocational Technical School District. Minuteman has been without a permanent superintendent-director since early September; Kevin Mahoney, who had retired from Minuteman after having previously been assistant superintendent, has been in charge since mid-May 2023 and is expected to continue through June 30. 

 FY2025 assessments

The directors, including the newest, Maggie Charron of Dover, after hearing a brief report from Business Manager Nikki Andrade and committee Vice Chair Steve Ledoux, voted unanimously to send information of each member community's assessment for Minuteman to their respective financial committees.

Arlington's representative to Minuteman, Sarah Montague, said that the "Fincoms also should consider looking at projections of where the assessments are going to go" in the future, which is most likely higher in fiscal 2026 and beyond.

Challenge to achievement: high absences

Members also voted 9-0 to send a required report to the state's Department of Elementary and Secondary Education about the district's plan to help high-needs students, generally defined as those who have individual education plans, are low income and/or English language learners. The district has a number of ways intended to raise these subgroups' generally lower scores on standardized testing. These include social-emotional learning/mental health; co-teaching and collaborative teaching models; strategies for working with unique learning profiles; and best practices for students with disabilities.

Calling himself a "data dork" who had looked at the information in numerous ways, Anthony Chiariello, director of teaching and learning innovations, said, "The biggest correlation that we saw [with performance issues] was around attendance." He said that poor scores on the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System appear strongly tied to those students having missed more than 10 school days in a school year and that "reasons for absences are unique."

He and committee Chair Jeff Stulin of Needham emphasized that this problem is widespread nationally, especially after the acute phase of the Covid-19 pandemic -- and that it is a tough nut to crack. Stulin, a recently retired professional educator, said he thinks that "mental health has been the No. 1 reason that students are not showing up" to class sessions and that "We need to focus on it." He and Chiariello said that the committee and the district value mental-health support and that social workers are on staff.

Arts, edible and otherwise

 Committee members seemed to be impressed with Minuteman's recently concluded version of a "top chef" competition. top.chef comp 24Nadia Strange preparing the winning dessert Peach Cobbler with spiced vanilla bean ice cream and sugar dome. Photo courtesy: Minuteman art teacher Erin Bordeau

"It was a beautiful, well-orchestrated event, really well done, and parents were amazed how poised their kids have become," said Montague. 

Dishes were judged on appearance; flavor or seasoning; texture; degree of difficulty; adherence to parameters concerning requirments for omittance of allergens or other restrictions; and the student chefs' ability to answer questions about their creations. The winners were Beet Wellington by So-Ahn Keiffer Kwon of Lexington, whose dish had to be vegetarian; and Peach Cobbler by Nadia Strange of Acton, who was required to avoid using eggs. The event, officially called the "Top Chef Senior Performance Assessment,” satisfied the participating students' senior capstone project. winner.topchef24First place entrée winner Beet Wellington with carrot puree and fondant potatoes made by So-Ahn Keiffer Kwon. Photo courtesy: Minuteman art teacher Erin Bordeau

Committee members also appeared to be ethusiastic about the preview they received of next month's school play, the classic "Twelve Angry Men," to be performed at the theater at Minuteman High School on April 5 and 6. The teacher in charge, Greg Donovan, who has put in more than a quarter-century with the school and the Minuteman Players (Drama Club), said that it would be "collaborative and integrative," using many campus-taught skill sets. There are to be 15 actors, 20 people helping out behind the scenes, 10 student carpenters, four plumbers and an unspecified number of teens studying cosmetology and other career disciplines. "Many aspects of the school are to be involved in the production," Stulin also noted.

Background on Minuteman

The committee's website is here >>  

The committee has a YouTube page where recordings of meetings are often posted a few days later. 

Approximately 215 Arlington teens are enrolled at Minuteman High School, the sole campus of the Minuteman Regional Vocational Technical School District, which serves nine municipalities. That is not only by far the largest participation rate of any other given member municipality, but it is also more than twice the number of students from other single member municipality.

Feb. 15, 2024: Minuteman School Committee chooses permanent superintendent-director

This news summary by YourArlington Editor Judith Pfeffer agenda item was published Thursday, March 14, 2024. It was updated most recently Tuesday, March 19 to include images of the Top Chef competition, courtesy of Minuteman art teacher, Erin Bordeau.