Ipswich School Committee Newsletter
Volume 3; Issue 4, April 2022
Message from School Committee Chair, Greg Stevens
I hope this newsletter finds everyone well. It’s hard to believe that April vacation is right around the corner!
Exciting things are going on in our schools this year. Across the district, students are being taught in new and exciting ways with a focus on how their learning in the classroom can be applied to the real world. Seeing this in action within our schools is really quite impressive. The “classroom” has evolved beyond sitting at desks and listening to working collaboratively both inside and outside of the school. I spent some time in the buildings earlier this year observing and was impressed by the creativity of our educators and students.
Our district has come a long way in the last 2 years. Remote and hybrid learning are a distant memory. Our schools are now functioning normally without COVID related restrictions and we look forward to finishing out the year strong. We owe a big thank you to our administrative team for managing the district through the ups and downs of the last 2 years and to our educators for doing their best to teach our kids under less than ideal circumstances. We also owe a huge debt of gratitude to our school nurses. They played perhaps the most important role in keeping schools open during the days of hybrid learning and during our transition to a full opening last spring. We can never thank them enough for all the work they’ve done and continue to do.
In early February, Dr. Blake, our Administrative Team and the School Committee spent three nights presenting our fiscal year 2023 school budget to the Finance Committee. As always, our group was asked excellent questions as the FINCOM really dug into the budget in order to fully understand the details. I encourage everyone to take some time to watch these meetings on ICAM. You’ll hear each of the building principals discuss the great things that are happening in their buildings. They also spoke about the current needs that must be addressed within our schools and how their FY23 budgets account for those needs.
Thank you for your continued support of our school district and I look forward to seeing everyone at our various upcoming spring events.
FY23 Budget Highlights
Budget season is a busy time within our Central Office. Our Administrative Team works with the Superintendent and Director of Finance to develop a budget designed to provide for the needs of all students. The School Committee spent a great deal of time with the school principals listening to all the great things happening in our schools. We also heard about what needs improving and how the FY23 budget reflects those needs.
Our elementary school principals talked about the increase in enrollment they’ve seen this year. The new students are primarily at Winthrop but the increased population there will also have an impact on Doyon as we work to balance out the number of students in each elementary school. The FY23 budget adds teaching positions to account for the enrollment increase as well as staff to support our expanded population of students for which English is not their primary language. The world language curriculum has been implemented and is giving kids a good foundation for a transition into our Middle School world language program.
The Middle School continues to focus on their relatively new math curriculum along with the development of strong written language skills across all grades. Students are also being introduced to computer science offerings across all grades. Extracurricular and after school activities are now back after being shelved during the pandemic, giving kids the opportunity to interact with each other outside of the classroom. Our middle school and high school administrative teams work closely together to ensure a smooth transition for our students as they move up.
At the High School, our team is focussing on the continued development of the Career Pathways programs. This curriculum gives students hands-on training in a career field that they can transition to right after graduation. We also heard about more advanced coursework offerings. These AP and dual enrollment programs give students access to more challenging coursework so they can both improve their academic achievement and prepare for the rigors of a college course load.
We should all be aware that the social emotional needs of our students have never been greater. Kids have also suffered a great deal of learning loss due to school closures and remote learning. Our FY22 budget began adding support to help meet these needs. With the help of Federal COVID relief funds, our district continues to add the resources necessary to help deal with these challenges. The FY23 budget reflects further additions of staff and resources to help get our kids on track.
Overall, the FY23 budget presentations left the School Committee optimistic for the future of our schools. We look forward to seeing our team of administrators and educators work together to keep moving our district forward. The School Committee budget presentations to the Finance Committee were held in early March and are available on ICAM for viewing.
FY23 Operational Override
On May 10th at Annual Town Meeting, the citizens of Ipswich will have the opportunity to decide whether to support an operational override to sustain the school budget. For the last 8 years, with the benefit of the Education Stabilization Fund, there have been sufficient funds to maintain staffing and services, and the flexibility to adapt to changing times. However, the Education Stabilization Fund needs to be periodically replenished to provide stability in the budget and cover the annual shortfall between revenue and expenses. The school operating budget provides funding for teachers, programming - it represents the education our children receive. If there was ever a time for stability in the budget, it is now. While all signs point towards the pandemic waning, the effects on our students is evident and may take years to rectify. We do not feel it is the time to risk destabilizing our education system when many students are struggling both academically and socially after 2 years of disrupted learning.
There are many needs and expenses coming before the town in the years to come. Most in our community can hopefully agree on a couple of things: 1) Our teachers and what happens in the classroom are the essence of an excellent education. 2) Our elementary buildings are old and inadequate for 21st century learning. We as a community need to come together and reach a compromise to improve the physical environment for our elementary students and re-enter the Massachusetts School Building Authority process. The elementary building project is a multi-year project that starts with the submission of a Statement of Interest (SOI), and the entire process from an SOI submission to the doors opening is a minimum of 5-7 years. The School Committee is committed to working with the community to find an equitable solution.
While addressing inadequate facilities and a stable budget are both important and need to be addressed, the School Committee feels that supporting our educational programming and teachers with a stable budget is our top priority.
My Experience as the Student Representative to the School Committee
Over the past two years I have learned much from my time on the School Committee. The School Committee is a collection of intelligent, kind, and devoted people. As a student, I have had the pleasure of working with and knowing the members of this governing body. They have taught me what it means to lead by example and to respectfully, but unapologetically speak my mind.
They have taught me how to question, edit, and challenge ideas brought forth in order to test and understand the strength of it. The members spend large amounts of time reading and reviewing ideas and plans, and meeting with other leaders in the community to make the school system and the town at large, a better place.
Above all else, I have been most impressed with the true commitment that each of the members has to the students of the Ipswich Public Schools. In each discussion, the School Committee members have the well being of each Ipswich student in mind. The level of devotion that each member has to making the schools better environments for our students and staff has inspired me to ensure that I always choose a path in life to which I am thoroughly and completely dedicated.
-by Caroline Jepsen
School Committee Meeting Highlights
Special Education Audit presentation
Overnight field trip request: Ecology School
School committee goals review
Vote on Town Warrant Articles
Upcoming District Events
April 6: String Fest
April 7: School Committee Open Session Meeting
April 18-22: Spring Break
May 27: Memorial Day Celebrations
June 5: Graduation
June 16 (rain date June 17): Crane Beach Day
June 21: Last Day of School (without any further snow days)