Summer 2020 Update #1
Posted by Jennifer Buller on 7/20/2020 6:00:00 AM
Hello Coolidge Corner School Families and Friends,
I hope you have been finding time to be outside safely, read, and connect with family and friends. I’ve missed seeing many of you at our weekly family forums and really miss seeing many of your children at our nightly read alouds.
For me, July used to feel like the Saturday of summer, with August feeling much like the Sundays before the school week begins again. July was a time where things could move a little slower and more relaxed and August was filled with all the nervous anticipation and preparations for the start to the year. This summer certainly has been very different with planning and work not really slowing down for our school.
I wanted to reach out with a few updates to share with you as we hit the midpoint of July. I will go over each of these at a Family Forum this Thursday at 8:00pm and also hold space to gather any questions and feedback people wish to share at this time. Below you will find information about:
- Our upcoming CCS Family Forum
- Staffing updates at CCS for the 2020-2021 school year
- Access and Equity team work
- Planning for September
- Summer communication schedule
CCS Family Forum Thursday, July 23rd at 8:00pm
This Thursday at 8:00p.m. I will host an online family forum to review the information shared in this email as well as provide a space for families to ask questions and offer feedback. Below is the link to the meeting.
Join Zoom Meeting
Meeting ID: 863 4040 9731
Staffing Updates at CCS for the 2020-2021 School Year
As many of you know, this has been an exceptional year for hiring and staffing decisions at CCS. Between the budget cuts we faced in our middle school because of reduced sections to the larger budget situation at the district level that resulted in layoffs, bumping, and restoring staff, we have endured some changes to our staffing structures and the people in certain positions. To compound the situation there was a budget freeze right during the most critical period for hiring new staff, setting us back months in our timeline for finalizing staff prior to the start of the school year.
So where are we now?
Grade 1 positions
Prior to the budget freeze we have completed a thorough interview process and put forward two candidates for consideration to hire with Human Resources. Since the freeze, cuts, and bumping our two vacant positions have been filled by staff members in the district who had bumping rights to those positions. I am still working with Human Resources on finalizing the decisions around these positions. Once this is finalized I will communicate the decisions with the Grade 1 team first, then out the whole staff, and then out to all CCS families in a summer update.
Grade 6 Math Position
Just prior to the hiring freeze we completed a thorough interview process for this position and submitted one of the two finalists for the position to Human Resources for hiring. The hiring freeze went into effect prior to the conditional offer being sent and paperwork being processed at the town level. After 3 months of working with Human Resources to unfreeze our budget, this position has been extended to one of our finalists. I am thrilled to share that the candidate has accepted the position. I am communicating the decision with the Grade 6 team this week then out to our whole staff. I will share more information about the candidate in my next update to families in two weeks.
Educational Team Facilitator
Liza Martiniello, our K-3 ETF is moving to the high school leaving a vacancy in this position that is shared with Runkle School. We will be working in partnership with staff at Runkle to conduct interviews this week and share updates with the whole staff and all families once the hiring process is completed.
Alexandra Washburn, one of our Health educators on our Wellness Team, took a full time Health educator position in Vermont for the next school year. We are thrilled to share that Erin Grogan, one of our current Wellness educators, will fill this position next year.
New Middle School Learning Center Position
This is a newly created position for this coming school year. We are increasing our special education staffing in the middle school in an effort to provide more inclusive experiences for students and co-teaching opportunities between general and special education staff. We have formed an interview team including staff and family representatives and will begin interviews this week. We hope to have the hiring process completed for this position during the week of July 27th with announcements to staff and families early in August.
We had a difficult decision to make when we were required by the district to cut positions in our middle school because we will be reducing 2 sections based on our enrollment, one in our rising Grade 6 class and one in the rising Grade 8 class. In looking forward to the myriad of needs that we will be facing this fall and taking into careful consideration family and staff feedback over the past two years, I prioritized social emotional learning in middle school and the reintroduction of advisory to the middle school schedule. Prior to the closure and budget crisis this was already on our minds as we have felt a need for advisory for two years since eliminating it as our cohorts grew in size and we were unable to provide this opportunity using our existing staffing structure. Having the space to provide an advisory will be critical as we help our students transition back (hopefully) to in person learning and process the trauma and social isolation they experienced during the school closure and COVID-19 pandemic.
In order to create space in our core teachers' schedules to run advisory this meant that I needed to keep all 13 content area teachers in the middle school and find reductions in other places.
As I looked to other places to reduce to meet our required reduction I focused on positions that were either overstaffed or mostly adult facing, which included our .5 math coaching position and .3 FTE of Art. Based on our sections for next year, having a total of 1.7FTE for Art will allow us to schedule each K-8 section adequately and meet contractual obligations. Though the direct math coaching support to our middle school teaching staff will not be available this coming year we will still be able to support math intervention groups for students in the middle school (in addition to the intervention support in place for our K-5 students) through the intervention structure we had begun prior to the school closure. Additionally Matt Rosenthal, who was the district wide Enrichment and Challenge Coordinator is now the Math Curriculum Coordinator for K-8 for the district. We will work with him and the 2 district wide math coaches to offer opportunities for our staff to be supported and grow in their practices.
In addition to the Art and math coach cuts connected to our middle school, the district reduced the ECS program district wide. As a result our building lost .3FTE in ECS. We reduced our ECS staffing from .8 to .5 FTE.
If our enrollment grows and we add back sections in the middle school I intend to work in partnership with our staff to assess current needs, including additional math support if needed, and add additional FTEs to meet our needs.
Leave of Absences
We are currently working on interviewing and hiring for 6 leave of absences that need to be filled starting in September. Saeed, Erin, Steve, and myself have been reaching out to grade level teams and families to create interview teams for each of these positions. Once we have these positions filled we will communicate with teams who work closest with each position first and then broadly to the whole staff and all CSS families in a summer update.
We have a few paraprofessional vacancies for next school year. I am currently working on the exact number and positions as there was some bumping that impacted vacant positions. I am glad to share that all paraprofessionals that were laid off as part of the budget crisis (and not due to performance) were recalled to their positions at CCS.
Once we identify the number and types of paraprofessional positions that are open we will reach out to teams with vacancies to create a process for paraprofessional hiring and placement.
Access and Equity Team Work
At the end of the school year in June and twice so far this summer, staff members have come together to focus and define our work towards becoming a more socially just and culturally competent community. Together in partnership with family representatives from our community we began to craft the vision for the group and identify several major pillars of our work moving forward.
Additionally we have been working on identifying definitions of commonly used terms in our work, such as equity, diversity, bias, so that as a community we can have a shared understanding of these words and concepts as we work together.
I want to thank Kristin Hung for reaching out and gathering additional families to work collaboratively with and support our Access and Equity team. It has been wonderful to have family representatives at our meetings bringing new and different perspectives into our work. We have sent out a survey to our staff inviting feedback on and asking for participation in the work that we have identified so far for our school community. The family representatives will be doing similar outreach and feedback in the broader family community. The Access and Equity team will take this data, prioritize our work, identify clear action steps, timelines, and benchmarks, and then share this information out broadly with the whole of the CCS community.
The work to dismantle systems of oppression in our school and ensure that all students, staff, and families feel connected, valued, and respected requires all of us working together. It will take each and everyone of us doing our parts each and every day with our students, families, and each other.
Planning for September
Hiring aside, there is much work to be done to plan and prepare for September. There is work happening at the district level, with the BEU and Joint Labor Management Committee, and within the School Committee. There must be a strong focus on safety for staff and students with clear guidance and agreement on systems and procedures that will make learning accessible to all. We also need clear guidance on expectations around essential curriculum as much of our work when we reconvene will be addressing the experiences and trauma of the abrupt closure and the rising mental health and social emotional needs of our students. This is not easy work. I am hopeful that with Dr. Marini’s leadership in collaboration with the Brookline Educators Union that we will find a path forward.
Scheduling 920+ students and 175 staff members is a pretty large task in any given year. What is making it exceptionally challenging right now is that every decision about safety, proximity, cohorting, and more directly impacts our schedule. For example, if we need to allow for a staggered start to reduce crowding, we can not have specials or other academic blocks begin at 8:00am. Another example is that if we need to reduce the number of students in the hallways at any time we likely can’t have the entire middle school transitioning classes at the same time or have a whole grade level leaving for a special at the same time. Connected is the fact that we have several shared staff in our building and are uncertain if it will be safe for staff to travel between buildings. And every scheduling decision has domino effects that ripple through specialists, special education, related service providers, and intervention.
As soon as there is clear guidance around the procedures and safety protocols for any in person learning we will begin working on the schedule. At that time I will share an open invitation to our staff to join me in working collaboratively on adjusting or recreating our school schedule.
Transition to Florida Ruffin Ridley School
On September 1st, we will officially take our new name, the Florida Ruffin Ridley School. After doing much research, in collaboration with the town historian, we have decided that when people are looking to shorten the name we will go by Ruffin Ridley to honor the fact that Florida Ruffin Ridley was intentional in keeping the Ruffin part of her name in her writings and communications.
We are working with Deborah Brown and Anne Greenwald (the original petitioners) to create a special ceremony at the end of August/beginning of September. This event will be restricted to limited participants due to COVID-19 but we will work to make sure it is streamed/broadcast for everyone. Additionally, Gabe McCormick, the Social Studies curriculum coordinator will be working with our staff on developing curriculum connected to our name change to ensure that all students know and understand our school history, the significance of the name change, and the life and legacy of Florida Ruffin Ridley.
Summer Communication Schedule
As work begins to pick up momentum in these next weeks I will plan to communicate every other Monday with an update via email followed by a Family Forum on Thursday evenings at 8:00p.m. The format will be similar to this week where the agenda for our forum will be to follow up on items communicated in the Monday message and gather any additional questions or feedback from families.
This week I will be participating in a three-day leadership workshop with district leaders and principals led by Dr. Marini. I will be unavailable from 8:00a - 5:00p Tuesday - Thursday and will work through missed emails in the evenings and on Friday.
I look forward to hopefully seeing some of you this Thursday at our CCS Family Forum!
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