In the face of a reported $765 million state midyear budget deficit, Rep. Sean Garballey, Democrat of Arlington, assured the School Committee on Thursday, Jan. 22, "there should be no need to cut local aid."

School Committee logo

Whether or not that occurs will not be up to one local representative.

Garballey spoke to the committee mainly to update them about his legislative efforts. 

Filed on behalf of the Massachusetts Association of School Committees, they seek limits on unfunded mandates and high-stakes testing. The former are requirements school districts face without enough money to pay for them.

The goal, he said, is to first require an investigation into costs for programs and ways to fund them via partnerships around priorities.

In addition, he said, he has refiled a bill for six years aimed at getting insurance companies to pay for mental-health counseling at schools. "One way to stop gun violence [at schools] is by addressing mental health, he said, in an indirect reference to the 2012 shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut in which 26 died.

During a brief discussion, member Paul Schlichtman asked Garballey about Arlington students having long waits in the cold for MBTA buses on the 77 route. The representative said it has been ongoing issue for five years, that he goes to the top for help, gets it and a few months later, the issue crops up again.

Garballey noted the $2 million-plus that the town pays for its MBTA assessment and agreed with Schlichtman that the issue is one of safety.

Traditional calendar without details adopted

In other business, the committee voted, 7-0, to adopt a bare-bones, traditional calendar for 2015-2016.

Approved was the start date for grades one through 12, which will be Tuesday, Sept. 8, as well as and vacation and holidays. Additional details will be discussed and voted on in the spring.

At its Jan. 8 meeting, the committee discussed two calendars -- a traditional one starting after Labor Day and another starting earlier, which would have to be negotiated with the Arlington Education Association.

Linda Hanson, the teachers' union president, was asked how the membership viewed an earlier calandar. She responded Jan. 24:

"Our internal poll indicated there is interest in considering an earlier start when Labor Day falls late in September and the two Jewish holidays
(which are 'No school days' on the APS calendar) both fall during week days.

"When this happens, it necessitates a late June end of the school year, which in addition to the unpredictable addition of possible snow-day makeup days, means a very late final school day in June.

"Our polling also indicated that it is a hardship for teachers to change a published start date with less than a year's notice. We are working with the administration and the School Committee to consider how we can plan for these unusual calendar years with more advanced notice."

Casses to 'Selma'

It was announced at the meeting that Arlington High School classes would attending "Selma," a film nominated for an Academy Award about civil-rights marches in Alabama in 1965.

On Sunday, Jan. 25, Principal Matthew Janger provided more detail:

"We are excited about a wonderful opportunity for students in US History II and AP US History. We are taking all students in those classes to see the new critically acclaimed film Selma this Wednesday, January 28. This drama chronicles the story of the voting rights march in Selma, Alabama on March 7, 1965 -- this year being the 50th anniversary.

"The intersection between this timely movie, current events, and our US History curriculum provides a rich learning opportunity for students. Protest and civil disobedience are a recurring theme in American history. In addition these themes are finding current resonance in the demonstrations around the nation as part of the Black Lives Matter movement and other rallies in connection to the attacks in Paris.

"Teachers will be utilizing the film in their curriculum. Classes will be doing preparatory work to be sure students have a strong understanding of the context of the film and the event. Additionally, students can expect some simple initial follow up and some more detailed discussion and utilization of the film in the early spring as the topic will align more directly with the curriculum sequence.

"Students in other grades may be interested in seeing this movie. Tickets are available for students in grades 7, 8, and 9 through this offer http://selmastudenttickets.com/"


This story was published Sunday, Jan. 25, 2015.