MSAA Matters

August 2020 Special Edition

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August 10

Dear Colleagues,

Please see the minutes from the MSAA Finance Committee's meeting with Commissioner Jeffrey C. Riley from Thursday, August 30, 2020. Once again Vice President, Julie Vincentsen did an outstanding job summarizing meeting and capturing the salient points.

On a final note I have included two additional readings in the Timely Article Section. The first is the late John Lewis' posthumous message to us which is so connected to our Anti-racist work, and the second article is on helping students to cope with change and disruption.

On behalf of MSAA and Executive Director, Bill Gaine: Stay safe, stay strong and take time for yourself.

Warm Regards,


Beth Wittcoff

MSAA Assistant Executive Director

MSAA Matters Newsletter

Middle Level and Elementary Committee Liaison

Social Media

MSAA Finance Committee Meeting with Commissioner Riley

Thursday, August 30, 2020

Note: Unless otherwise stated, all quotations are from Commissioner Jeffrey Riley.

The 1/2 hour meeting began with Commissioner Riley responding to the concerns/question MSAA President Kathleen Duff (Newton Public Schools) had provided to the Commissioner's Office prior to our meeting.

Phasing back into in-person learning the way society and the economy have reopened over the last few months gives us the best opportunity to create safe spaces, predictability, and long-term success. Is this what you envision the Hybrid model looking like?

In answering this question, the Commissioner iterated the Department’s position that “given the low transmission rates, and the guidance from the medical community, in person is the way to go for now.” He spoke of his awareness that he recognizes that the teachers’ union’s believe that remote learning is a more acceptable solution. In the end, each individual school committee will be making that decision in the coming weeks.

Commissioner Riley did recognize that a hybrid approach where more elementary aged children were able to come with older children remote would be acceptable. He shared that the ten additional days that were negotiated with the unions as an option for districts was, in his mind, the phased in approach. He felt the ten days was reasonable and that anything more than that is a “complete disservice to children and unacceptable.”

Is there any way that the State can provide any financial assistance (directly/indirectly) to the Districts with school buildings in disrepair, classrooms without windows and zero air flow, etc. to ensure the safest environment possible for our students and educators?

Commissioner Riley shared that, in the next 7-10 days we should know more about the stimulus money from the federal government. He shared that “sizable amounts of money will be available to support schools and districts; more than we have ever seen before.”

If we are not able to secure adequate disinfectant, masks and sanitizer, we are concerned we cannot safely open. Is there any assistance the state can provide with this?

“We will work with schools and districts. We set up a big buy program to support this. Have your people reach out to us if you are having trouble in this area. The ordering has taken place and is in progress.”

Is the use of portable plexiglass shields in the cafeteria/lunch tables acceptable?

“In general we do not recommend plexiglass in classrooms. It’s not the case everywhere. For example, in science labs this might be needed”, Commissioner Riley stated. He shared that, because masks are not worn in the Cafetera, the doctors consulting with the Department are comfortable with the use of plexiglass barriers. He referred us to Appendix C in the Maintenance Guidance and encouraged administrators to call with specific questions if this does not answer questions.

The Facilities Guidance document can be found in the July 27, 2020 edition of the Commissioner’s Weekly Update. Click here to access that document. Beginning on page 30, there are diagrams of cafeteria tables with plexiglass options. Additional language regarding plexiglass barriers in the classrooms can also be found on page 9.

When wearing a mask, the human voice is muffled. If a teacher is in their 6' space at the front, can they take their mask off to teach the whole class so that students at the back of the class can hear them better?

“We are strongly recommending that teachers do not take masks off. It is the strongest mitigation we have available.”

If a classroom is set up with 3' seat edge to seat edge, is it permissible for the teacher to walk up and down between student desks to provide assistance and accommodations?

“Teachers should ideally stay six feet distance from students. We do not recommend they walk through students like this if at 3’.”

If students are in a classroom 6 feet apart, can they remove their mask during instruction if they are sitting at their desk with no one else moving? We know if they get up for any reason they would need to put on their mask.

“We are strongly recommending that students do not remove masks except during planned mask breaks.”

Rhode Island just announced they were adding mask requirements for the younger grades. Is DESE considering doing the same?

“At this time, we are staying with strongly recommending in K and 1. We do not believe we are changing to be like RI.”

What constitutes "sufficient" cleaning and disinfecting?

The Commissioner referred us to the Facilities and Operations Guidance which can be found here.

Is it advised that things like manipulatives, books, equipment in STEM classrooms be sanitized between each use?

“Limit the sharing as much as possible. They must be cleaned before being used by another students.” Page 16 of the Facilities and Operations Guidance has more information about shared materials.

Several questions were asked regarding liability for Principals. Commissioner Riley’s response to each question was very similar.

“The Department can not give legal advice on this matter. The answer would be case specific based on the facts. People should reach out to their district’s legal counsel.” When the questions were related to Special Education he also encouraged administrators to “reach out to Russell Johnson and be on all of his calls.” MSAA is looking into having an attorney who specializes in school law supporting administrators possibly coming to a future Ring Central all-level meeting. Stay tuned for more information in those weekly emails.

What will happen with sick time if an administrator has to quarantined? Will they be required to use sick time, even though it is a state mandate? Will it be decided at the local level?

“This will be decided at the local level as it is School Committee purview.”

What will happen if a teacher gets sick – how far down the rabbit hole will we have to go in terms of quarantining kids? What about HIPPA rights for the teacher?

Protocols for how to respond to different COVID-19 scenarios were released in the July 20th Weekly Update from the Commissioner. Click here to access that document.

There is no mention of recess in the guidelines thus far, is this something that will be coming to us? It would be helpful to have guidance on both indoor and outdoor recess/play protocols.

Guidance for recess is included in the Facilities and Operations Guidance. Click here to access that document.

There are differences between the Department of Early Education and Care recommendations and DESE recommendations, specifically related to early childhood programs PreK-2 that exist in public schools and not private centers. Is there more discussion happening to address this difference so schools are in compliance with both?

“We speak weekly with Commissioner Treeworgy.” The Commissioner shared that EEC will be publishing new guidance soon. “EEC will be gravitating to new guidelines” and the Commissioner shared that he felt that the new guidelines would be more in line with DESE’s guidance. Vice President Julie Vincentsen (Lincoln Public Schools) shared the sentiments that MSAA has heard loud and clear from our Early Childhood Administrators that DESE’s guidance is not developmentally appropriate for our youngest learners and that this decision, to align EEC guidance with DESE, should be reconsidered as EEC has been providing child care throughout the pandemic safely and successfully.

Vice President Vincentsen encouraged DESE to reconsider their guidance for early childhood. Russell Johnston, Senior Associate Commissioner encouraged early childhood administrators to read the soon to be published guidance on Special Education preschool as he feels it includes developmentally appropriate practices for our youngest learners. The Commissioner also shared that he was meeting with the Early Learning Team that day to learn from them the work of their committee that is coming up with proposals to add to the guidance for PK-3. Thank you to Kathleen Bailer (W. Springfield Public Schools), Shannon Barca (Franklin Public Schools), Kim Taylor (Dedham Public Schools) and Beth Wittcoff (MSAA) for representing MSAA administrators on this committee that continues its work next week.

What will evaluation requirements be?

“There will be no changes made to the evaluation system.” Beth Wittcoff, MSAA Assistant Executive Director asked a follow up question. She strongly encouraged DESE to reevaluate this decision for safety reasons and based on what she is hearing from the Membership during her weekly Ring Central gatherings. An example was shared of a Principal whose school district is limiting the amount of extra adults who enter a classroom to limit contact. In addition, that district is only allowing adults to come into contact with 2-3 cohorts of students. This would seriously impact the Principal’s ability to maintain the standards of the evaluation process. The Commissioner’s response was, "those are valid points, and we will look into it more and get back to you.”

Through a contact at DESE, 2nd Vice President Liz Garden (Wachusett Regional School District) learned that the evaluation process was an agenda item for the Commissioner’s weekly meeting with the Governor on Tuesday, August 4, 2020. Liz was able to reach out to several Principals and provide feedback to DESE through her contact. It was shared that the people who actually are responsible for implementing the evaluation system must be at the table when these decisions are made. We will continue to advocate for relief in this area and are considering surveying the membership to solicit your opinions regarding this.

What constitutes a remote learning platform provided by the state?

RFPs were submitted to DESE for learning platforms. DESE pulled together a committee of educators to review the vendors. Thank you to Marty Geoghegan (Norton Public Schools) for representing MSAA on this committee. The Commissioner shared that district’s would get a reduced rate negotiated with the vendor by DESE if they chose to adopt the learning platform.

Given the variability in implementation of standards and instruction for 2019-20 and 2020-21, what is the approach the Commonwealth intends to put on standardized tests, particularly given how connections and content have been compromised? It’s important to know this as soon as possible especially in regards to scheduling. There were multiple pleas that it be waived.

“It’s too early to make a decision. I believe we were reasonable last year and we will be again this year if needed.”

However informal, there has been discussion about a teacher strike organized by the MTA. Will there be guidance from DESE in the event this becomes a reality?

“We will cross that bridge if we get there. It is illegal in MA for educators to strike. However, that doesn’t mean that they won’t.”

What about Substitute Teachers? Are they considered visitors to the building (which DESE recommends limiting), as they are working with many buildings, and perhaps other districts? Do they recommend substitute teachers for remote learning? Is that a district decision?

“They are not considered visitors.” Commissioner Riley recommends districts develop a pool of substitutes that regularly are in the school.

Respectfully Submitted,

Julie A. Vincentsen

First Vice President

Principal Hanscom Primary School

Lincoln Public Schools


Principal's Information Session

Wednesday August 12th @ 9:00-9:45

Zoom Link:

Dear Secondary School Principals;

Life has changed for our students. An abrupt end to in-school learning has caused uncertainty and anxiety to become a norm. Students ask “how can I plan for the future when I don’t know what tomorrow will bring?” MyCAP is a holistic process and a tool that engages students in self-discovery and personal development. It helps students understand the value of their education as the foundation for future success by accessing labor market information while experiencing career awareness, exploration and immersion activities so as to envision a satisfying career. MyCAP helps students make sense of and align course taking with their identified career interests. MyCAP creates a post-secondary plan for success after high school. MyCAP is the vehicle to instill hope and allow students to envision that future while promoting student agency, setting individual goals, honing decision-making skills, and creating their individual plan for post-secondary success.

Please join the meeting for more information.

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See member email for links to these gatherings!

MSAA High School Gatherings Mondays ​ @ 9:00 AM

MSAA PK - 6 Gatherings Tuesdays @ 9:00 AM

MSAA Assistant Principals Tuesday @10:00 AM

MSAA Special Education Gatherings Tuesdays @ 11:00 AM

MSAA PK-K Gatherings Tuesdays @ 1:00 PM

MSAA Middle Level Gatherings Wednesdays @ 10:00 AM

MSAA All Levels Gathering Thursdays @ 9:00 AM


July and August Professional Development

Tuesday, August 11, 2020; Wednesday, August 12, 2020; and Thursday, August 13 1:00pm to 2:00pm each day, Designing Distance Learning: 7 Best Virtual Learning Practices to Maximize Student Engagement, Dr. Nicole L'Etoile, Synchronous Online Workshop, Registration Closed

Three-Asynchronous Online: registrations are accepted through August 15, 2020, and the workshop portals close August 30, 2020. Full- registration closed.

1. Succeeding with English Language Learners Approved by DESE for Use toward the 15 PDPs in ELL for License Renewal for Teachers, School Clinicians, and Administrators, Dr. Cindy Crimmin; Running currently through August 30;

Register here for all five modules; Register

For individual modules:

· Succeeding with English Language Learners, MODULE 1: Overview of the English Language Learner Running currently through August 30; use this registration for Module 1 only; Register

· Succeeding with English Language Learners, MODULE 2: Questioning and Assessment for Non-English Speaking Students Running currently through August 30; use this registration for Module 2 only; Register

· Succeeding with English Language Learners, MODULE 3: Teacher Language and Social-Emotional Learning Running currently through August 30; use this registration for Module 3 only; Register

· Succeeding with English Language Learners, MODULE 4: Special Education and English Language Learners Running currently through August 30; use this registration for Module 4 only; Register

· Succeeding with English Language Learners, MODULE 5: Where Culture and Language Intersect Running currently through August 30; use this registration for Module 5 only; Register




Rennie Center Back To School Blueprint

A Report of the Childhood Trauma Task Force

Protecting Our Children's Well - Being During Covid - 19

Building Blocks of Equitable Remote Learning




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