Academic & Social Support
The pandemic has had and will continue to have a deep impact on our young people. We must use data systematically to understand and track students’ academic, social, and emotional development and invest strategically to meet their needs. The resources of our schools are limited, so we will need to develop external partnerships and in-town networks to serve our students well, now and for the next several years.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, our COVID-related policies have been confusing and inflexible. The School Committee should collaborate closely with the Belmont Board of Health and parents and caregivers to enact sensible policies regarding COVID-19 that have clearly defined paths and metrics and allow us to respond quickly to changing conditions without confusion, protracted debate, and rancor.
Retaining Families & Staff
In the last few years, many families, teachers, and school leaders have left our system. We must re-commit to creating the conditions where educators and families want to stay in the Belmont Public Schools. To do this, we have to find out why families and educators leave and improve in those areas. Then we can invite families who have left BPS to return and increase the retention of our most talented teachers and leaders.
We must improve two-way communication among parents and caregivers, students, the School Committee, and the leadership of the BPS. We can and should use technology to streamline the volume of email communication parents receive and make information and other resources accessible in more dynamic ways. We should ask families how communication can be improved and then tap local communication expertise within our community to implement new communication systems that result in families being heard and knowing what they need to know when they need to know it. In particular, we should ensure that students with disabilities and their families are better supported and more respected.
The recent override vote demonstrates that many members of our community do not have confidence in the fiscal management of our schools. In a world of finite resources, we must exercise transparent fiscal decision-making and good judgment so that the community, especially our neighbors who may not have students in BPS, have confidence in the financial stewardship of the district and are willing to make additional investments that are needed. We need to understand what the drivers are of unsustainably increasing special education costs and commit to ensuring that out-of-district placements are less frequent and necessary.
Our commitments to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) are very important and need to be better understood and more broadly embraced by the community at large. Whenever possible, we need to clarify and quantify our DEI goals and create an invitational environment in which to do this important and complex work. We must use a variety of data, including data that comes from students’ and families’ experiences, to make the case for new conversations, policies, and initiatives and to track our progress towards clearly articulated outcomes.
With the launch of the second phase of the new 7-12 complex and new grade configurations across the district, we should articulate and commit to an exciting and innovative vision of teaching and learning and institute later start times for adolescent learners. We should build on the technology investments we’ve made during the pandemic to articulate the appropriate role of technology in student learning. To make sure that our educators are equipped to realize this new vision and meet students’ complex needs, we must invest more heavily in professional learning and prioritize additional professional learning time in contract negotiations.