Daily Buzz | Pine Glen Parents Appeal to Save Nurse's Job, Cafeteria Workers Speak Out About New Food Service Provider
And, equity audit expected by end of school year
I wanted to correct something I said yesterday. I mistakenly wrote that the MWRA connection would be completed in June. Phase 2B (6.5 million gallons per day) will actually be completed closer to 2025. Phase 2A, however, is expected to be completed in June, and that will provide us with up to 3.5 millions of gallons of water per day.
Pine Glen Parents Speak Out
Last night at School Committee, a group of Pine Glen parents came out with a heartfelt appeal to the district to renew the contract for Nurse Alexandra Laverty.
I received the following background from a concerned member of the Pine Glen community: “Nurse Laverty lives in Precinct 5, and she is a single mother with three kids whose husband passed away unexpectedly. She is an army veteran, and an active member of the Army Reserves. She started her job as Pine Glen nurse in Jan 2020. She has been great with kids, parents and school staff.”
Speakers last night echoed these sentiments, saying how great Laverty is at supporting kids with anxiety, disabilities, allergies, and other needs. Two school committee members also chimed in that they believe losing her would be a great loss to the community.
A petition has been circulating for the last couple of weeks, alleging the motivation for not renewing Nurse Laverty’s contract is interpersonal and despite her strong performance and rapport with students and families. The petition currently has 183 signatures. (For reference, Pine Glen enrollment is around 300 students.)
Dr. Conti’s response, as with all things personnel, was that the issue can’t be discussed in public but they’re trying to “work through the process.”
Equity Audit, Food Service Update, and More
The Robotics Team appealed to the Committee for financial support so they can be more competitive without the burden of fundraising for equipment and competition costs. Dr. Conti promised to find the money to fund them so they can compete at the level they want to.
The Burlington Education Association (Burlington’s teacher’s union) also spoke last night to reinforce the need for a Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, as well as a number of school-based positions, and express their appreciation to the district for including funding in the FY24 budget for these roles. They implored the Committee and the district to maintain their commitment to this work, and while they recognize that this work costs money, they emphasized that this will be money well spent to support all our kids in reaching their potential.
BHS has been working with Kristan Rodriguez from the Commonwealth Consulting Agency to perform an equity audit. If this sounds like deja vu, that’s because another company, BlackPrint, was contracted last year to perform an equity audit.
That audit never materialized, and while there was much mention in the last 18 months of how the equity audit would be used in policy decisions and planning for the future, the district hasn’t been proactive in communicating what happened with BlackPrint, or even that the relationship was terminated. Nevertheless, the new agency expects to complete this equity audit by the end of June, and hopefully the community will be informed of this process as it moves along.
The equity audit’s goal is “to assess student access to high-quality programs, high-quality teaching, just discipline procedures, equitable resources, and root-cause analysis of persistent opportunity gaps for students who have been historically marginalized.”
They’ll be doing on-site work, including some surveys and some focus groups, as well as using quantitative background information from the district.
The district will aim to provide information on the website, including a timeline and regular updates.
Several cafeteria workers came to speak at School Committee about their experience with the new food service provider, Whitson’s. They expressed a number of concerns about the transition:
There are too many options, too many dishes, too much prep, and too much food waste.
They’re having to use (and waste) lots of plastic containers (recall that one of the major points of discussion during the selection process was moving away from creating more waste).
Cafeterias are understaffed and many staff are working more hours than they’re contracted for.
They are having a lot of difficulty communicating with the main contact from Whitson’s and not feeling respected or listened to.
Dr. Conti and Director of Facilities, Bob Cunha, gave a food service update later in the meeting, addressing some of the concerns brought up:
We’re serving about 500 more meals per day (25% increase in participation); that increase, combined with the introduction of new menu items and systems, does necessarily create more work for staff. Five positions have been posted, and the district hopes to fill them soon to ease the burden.
There is a liaison in place to interface between BPS and Whitson’s. There’s also a daily newsletter being sent out.
Fox Hill staff participated in a visioning exercise regarding their new facility, to be sure designers have all the important features in mind before putting their ideas for the new building on paper; Pine Glen will participate in a similar meeting this week.
We’ll be applying to the MSBA for funding for the 13th year in a row for the high school. From School Committee member, Martha Simon: The main feedback we’ve gotten from the state is that one of the top criteria for receiving MSBA funding is enrollment pressure; since our high school is built for 2000 students but there are less than 1000 in attendance, it will never check that box. But we keep applying because it’s a lot of potential money. We should, however, be looking at servicing the high school even as we wait to hear back from MSBA.
Today in Burlington
Meetings and Events
8:30 AM - 7:00 PM - Early Voting at Town Hall
8:30 AM - Planning Board Sculpture Park Subcommittee will discuss a spring event, a construction update, and more. (virtual)
2:45-3:50 - Homework Club at The Reserve (20 Corporate Drive); email Kim Holt for more information.
5:30 PM - Community Meal at Presbyterian Church in Burlington. While a donation is appreciated, everyone is welcome at this free meal!
7:00 PM - Ways and Means Committee will discuss and vote on fire, police, and EMS proposed budgets for FY24. (Town Hall and virtual)
7:00 PM - Teen Event: Escape Room: Escape Bowser's Castle at the library (Register)
Sports and Activities
4:00 PM - Burlington hosts Lynnfield today in Boys’ Varsity Lacrosse.
I’ll stop there for today. I hope you have a good one! See you tomorrow.