Ipswich School Committee Newsletter
Volume 3, Issue 3: January 2022
Message from School Committee Chair, Chub Whitten
This week I read an article in the Boston Globe that we are experiencing COVID fatigue fatigue (yes, that’s two fatigues). I wholeheartedly agree.
As we struggle to maintain a new normal in this pandemic era, I am constantly amazed by the resilience of our students, parents, teachers, staff, and administration to make this school year the best it possibly can be.
We have been able to enjoy winter concerts, sporting events, art shows, and have our high school students experience midterm exams.
Last year we modified and shifted our teaching and learning to cope with COVID. This year, with the introduction of vaccines and maintenance of protocols, we have been able to be more traditional in our programming and have carried on despite this virus.
As in many past newsletters I have thanked all who have been involved to enable our students to be in front of our teachers. The School Committee remains grateful for the contribution of all. Today, I would like to recognize the entire nursing staff for ensuring that the school district remains as safe as possible during this health crisis. They have worked at 110% since March of 2020 and I suspect they may carry more than the two fatigues we are all experiencing.
Over the holiday break, our nurses got some much-needed downtime. However, our school community exposures didn’t stop, and they answered the call and still spent vacation time logging cases, following up with families, and ensuring that our students would be able to return to class in early January. We are in a much better place because of this commitment, persistence, and willingness to do whatever it takes to keep our school district safer. Thank you nurses for being there for our community! I hope we all express our gratitude to our nursing staff whenever we have the chance.
This is my last letter as School Committee Chair. I have personal and professional commitments that will keep me out of the district for longer than is practical. It has been a privilege to serve in this capacity. I would like to thank everyone for the opportunity.
Feoffees Trust: Traverso-Weatherall Innovation Grants
Twice a year Ipswich educators are offered the chance to showcase their creativity and passion for education through the Traverso-Weatherall Innovation Grant process. These grants are developed by educators and administrators and are dedicated to the pursuit of innovation in education for all Ipswich students. This year there was a specific emphasis placed on grants aimed at helping students to adapt to the challenges brought on by COVID and support their foundational learning. The following is a list of the grants funded this fall:
3D Printers by Ethan Powers (HS)
This grant will increase the number of 3D printers and multicolor 3D printers available to students in the robotics, drafting and design classes.
Pamper Pole High Element by Kristen McGinely (HS)
This grant will upgrade the high element component of the Project Adventure Outdoor Challenge Course at the High School.
Laser Cutting 2 by Bill Gallant (HS)
An upgrade was needed on the laser cutting machine that has been used by students in a variety of creative projects including to engrave Principle Mitchell’s desk!
Books for Diversity by Gabrielle Archambault (MS/HS)
There was a dearth in the books available to our multi language learners that this grant is certain to fill. These books will be reflective of our students’ experiences and enrich their book club learning.
Multilingual Showcase by Gabrielle Archambault (MS/HS)
Our ELL students have been busy preparing to showcase their work at various locations around Ipswich. This grant will be used to highlight their work in a magazine and at an event held in celebration of all of their efforts.
Joy is Contagious by Jake Patterson and Jen McNichols (MS)
This grant is to help build a more robust Project Adventure curriculum for our middle school students, aimed at pushing them out of their comfort zones and increasing collaboration.
Girls, Inc. Steam Project by Sarah Mitchell (Winthrop)
This grant is to support our elementary and middle school girls as they learn to navigate gender barriers through a focus on self esteem building and STEAM activities.
Building Fact Fluency by Lina Lopez-Ryan (Doyon)
One way to fill in the math gaps created by learning loss is through play. This grant is aimed at the creation of new tool kits for educators that focus on building fact fluency in ways that are imaginative and fun for students.
Stepping Into Kindergarten by Kerry Zagarella (Winthrop)
As the number of friends increases in our kindergarten so does the need for more pairs of shoes so that they can participate in Fred’s Treads, a program aimed at creating routine and common experience for our youngest learners through the practices of Fred Rogers. This grant will fill that need!
Focus Garden - 4th Grade by Martin Daignault and Kathryn Morris (Winthrop)
This grant is in support of our 4th graders as they learn how to design, build and care for their own focus garden.
Tiger Year Festival by Jasmine Carbone (Winthrop)
This grant will bring in the New England Chinese Cultural Studio to celebrate the Year of the Tiger through dance and artwork.
Elementary Comicon by Teresa Hohenstein and Karen Sekiguchi (Doyon/Winthrop)
This grant will bring graphic novel creators to the elementary schools to work with students in creating their own comic books and graphic novels.
Elementary Robotics by Teresa Hohenstein, Karen Sekiguchi and Jena Woodworth (Doyon/Winthrop)
This grant will bring in a curriculum aimed at building elementary level computer programing skills.
The grants are named in honor of Edmund Traverso and Robert Weatherall, whose diligent discovery and passionate persistence made the Feoffees funds and their benefits possible. Congratulations to all grant recipients and thank you for continuing to inspire our students!
School Budget Update
Budget season is here and our administrators are busy pulling together budgets for each of our school buildings. Our budget subcommittee has already met with the principals and superintendent to get a high level overview of the needs within our district and what each school will be requesting for the next school year.
The administrative team will present their full budgets to the School Committee on February 2nd and 3rd in the Ensemble room at the High School (our usual School Committee meeting room). These meetings are open to the public and are a great way to learn about all of the moving parts that go into running our schools. We encourage all who are interested to attend.
Residents have the opportunity to ask budget-related questions at the budget hearing scheduled for February 17th at 7:00 PM (also in the Ensemble room at the high school).
The fiscal year 2023 budget will be funded in part by a draw down of the school’s stabilization fund. The School Committee will ask taxpayers to support an override at the May 2022 town meeting in order to replenish our stabilization fund and give our schools the ability to provide a quality education for our students. Now is the perfect time to join us for our budget discussions and ask questions!
COVID Expenses: Use of Outside Funds
The Ipswich schools are fortunate to have the financial support of various outside funding sources to help offset some of the costs incurred due to the impact of COVID-19. To date, Ipswich schools have received approximately $3.2 million in direct financial support from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief fund (ESSER), CARES Act funds, and various other smaller grant sources. This money has been used to tackle the unexpected financial burden put on the schools over the last 2 years.
Transitioning back to in-person learning from the remote model we finished the 2020 school year with required some significant (and expensive) adjustments within our school buildings. ESSER funds made it possible to enhance the air filtration systems within the schools and provide tents for outdoor learning. Our buildings were stocked with PPE and cleaning supplies paid for by outside funding sources and we were able to offset the cost of increased custodial overtime incurred due to strict cleaning protocols. Adding the staff needed to help support our students’ social and emotional health, which suffered greatly due to the pandemic, was perhaps the most worthwhile use of these funds.
Our dedicated groups of administrators, educators and nurses continue to do their best to manage our district through the uncertainty of COVID-19. In order to plan for the unexpected, a decision was made to push approximately $1 million of ESSER funds to fiscal year 2023. This money will give us the resources needed to supplement our school budget by covering some of the costs of pandemic-related expenses.
School Facilities Working Group Update
At the School Committee meeting on January 6, 2022, Dr. Blake presented two proposals to further the work of the School Facilities Working Group as we look toward the future of our elementary schools. Both proposals received unanimous support.
The first proposal was to do a more comprehensive demographic study on the school age population in Ipswich. The working group felt that the annual enrollment projections that we receive from NESDEC (New England School Development Council) do not provide enough information concerning the changing population in Ipswich. The Demographic Study is specifically designed to assist in future planning. The subcommittee feels that with the recent building projects in town, the sales of existing homes to young families, and the overall changing demographics of the area, additional information is needed in order to make informed decisions about any future school building project(s). The demographic study will be completed over the next three months with a final report out to the School Committee.
The second proposal was to enter into a contract with Bill Logue of the Logue Group to organize and facilitate public engagement listening sessions throughout the community in the coming months. The School Facilities Working Group acknowledges that there are many questions and concerns surrounding the future of any school building project(s). It is the intent of the School Committee to conduct listening sessions with the various stakeholders in the community to better understand how the community feels about our elementary schools, their hopes, and fears, and any other concerns they have regarding any potential building project.
Following the listening sessions, the Logue Group will produce a final summary of the listening sessions for the School Committee to consider.
School Committee Meeting Highlights
Traverso-Weatherall Grant presentation
Discussion/vote on Operational Override
Discussion/vote to request Bialek Park release from Select Board
Electric Vehicle Charging Station Project Presentation
School Choice votes
Fall Sports awards
Upcoming District Events
February 2: FY23 Budget presentations from administrators*
February 3: FY23 Budget presentations from administrators*
February 17: Public hearing on FY23 School Budget*
February 21-25: No School - Winter Break
* School Committee Open Session Meetings are typically held on the first and third Thursday of the month in the MS/HS Ensemble Room located at 134 High Street, Ipswich and begin at 7:00 PM. Meeting agendas, minutes, folders with applicable meeting documents, and calendar may be found on the district website. These meetings are broadcast live on YouTube, with a link in the agenda for each meeting. To view past meetings, please tune into Comcast Channel 98 and Verizon Channel 31. Past meetings can also be viewed on the ICAM Ipswich website on the Education channel: www.icamipswich.com.
Chub Whitten, Chair: email@example.com
Greg Stevens, Vice Chair: firstname.lastname@example.org
Emily Cannon: email@example.com
Kate Eliot: firstname.lastname@example.org
Pavica Kneedler: email@example.com
Hugh O’Flynn: firstname.lastname@example.org
Jeff Poirier: email@example.com
Brian Blake, Superintendent: firstname.lastname@example.org; 978-356-2935
The Ipswich School Committee places great value on feedback from our community and welcomes the opportunity for dialogue and transparency. Per our policy, communication sent to the School Committee as a group is replied to by the School Committee Chair.