Press Release: North Shore Schools to Close Starting Monday through at Least March 27th

The North Shore area superintendents have collaborated to make a timely and unified decision about school closure that they feel is in the best interests of their faculty, staff, students, and families. This decision was made after significant conversations among school leaders, local public health officials, and state officials. State officials have today urged that municipalities should make decisions based on their local circumstances, and given the rapidly changing COVID-19 crisis, which the World Health Organization has this week labeled a global pandemic. 

The following districts have mutually decided to close schools through at least March 27:

  1. Amesbury Public Schools
  2. Beverly Public Schools
  3. Chelsea Public Schools
  4. Danvers Public Schools
  5. Essex North Shore Agricultural and Technical School 
  6. Everett Public Schools
  7. Georgetown Public Schools
  8. Gloucester Public Schools
  9. HamiltonWenham Regional School District
  10. Haverhill Public Schools
  11. Ipswich Public Schools
  12. Lawrence Public Schools
  13. Lynnfield Public Schools
  14. Manchester Essex Regional School District 
  15. Marblehead Public Schools
  16. Masconomet Regional School District (Middle/High Schools of Boxford, Middleton, Topsfield)
  17. Methuen Public Schools
  18. Nahant Public Schools
  19. Newburyport Public Schools
  20. Pentucket Regional School District (Groveland, West Newbury, Merrimac)
  21. Rockport Public Schools
  22. Saugus Public Schools
  23. Swampscott Public Schools
  24. Triton Regional School District (Newbury, Rowley, Salisbury,)
  25. Tri-Town School Union (Elementary schools of Boxford, Middleton, and Topsfield)
  26. Wakefield Public Schools
  27. Whittier Regional Vocational Technical High School 
  28. Winthrop Public Schools

Leadership for all 28 school districts have decided to close their school facilities beginning on Monday, March 16 through Friday, March 27. School district leadership will continue to re-evaluate the situation on a day-by-day basis.

The school leaders held a conference call today after a lengthy call with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. During that call, no determination was made by the state on widespread school closure. The superintendents in this region have consulted with health experts and their own municipal public health agents in reaching a decision that, while difficult, is in the interests of the safety and wellbeing of their communities, which is paramount at all times.

The decision to collectively close schools on the North Shore area has been made after significant consideration and in an effort to proactively address the evolving novel coronavirus (COVID-19) situation. 

The Department of Secondary and Elementary Education (DESE) is advising districts throughout the state this morning to cancel or reschedule gatherings of 250 people or more and to limit instances where students, faculty, and staff are closer than 6 feet away from each other. While DESE is not explicitly advising districts close at this time, due to the concerns regarding the spread of this virus among crowds, area superintendents feel it is prudent to close their facilities temporarily. District leaders additionally encourage students and staff to avoid being in large crowds of people in order to further prevent the spread of the virus. 

Massachusetts school districts have been informed that no district will have to go past June 30 and that school districts will not have to go beyond their planned 185th day of school, regardless of the COVID-19 situation. 

Each district will additionally provide updated information through their websites and individual communication channels to their communities as more information becomes available. 

The following is a statement from the superintendents in the 28 districts:

“The health and wellbeing of our students, faculty, and staff are of the utmost importance to us all on the North Shore, and as a result, we’ve collectively decided to close our school facilities for the next two weeks. This is being done in an effort to proactively address the evolving COVID-19 situation. We have each been in close communication for months now with our local and state health officials to ensure we’re following their recommendations for preventing the spread of this virus. 

“We believe by closing our facilities for this period of time, we will have a positive impact on preventing the spread of this virus and promoting public health and safety by creating a united response to this situation.”

Symptoms of the virus include fever, cough, and shortness of breath, and can appear between two and 14 days after exposure, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Anyone who experiences symptoms and believes they may have the virus is advised to contact their health care provider. For more information from the CDC for those who may have the virus, click here

The North Shore superintendents also wish to encourage students and staff to follow recommended preventative steps from the DPH: 

  • Practice good hand hygiene! Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds including under your fingernails. Alcohol-based hand sanitizer (at least 60% alcohol content) can be used when soap and water are not available.
  • Keep your hands away from your face.
  • Cover your nose and mouth when sneezing and coughing with a tissue and discard it immediately. Cough into the sleeve over your elbow instead of your hand. Wash your hands often when coughing and sneezing.
  • Stay away from people who are sick and stay home when you are sick.

For more information, visit the DPH website by clicking here and the CDC’s website by clicking here.

Masconomet Regional District Closed, Friday March 13, 2020

Dear Friends,

We have been made aware of a few students at Masconomet who have may have been exposed to coronavirus.  None of these students are currently exhibiting symptoms.  However, out of an abundance of caution, the Masconomet Regional School District will be closed from Friday, March 13th through Sunday, March 15th so that we may conduct a deep cleaning of the building.  The current plan is to re-open at our regular time on Monday, March 16th.  As this is a fluid situation, please look for additional announcements over the weekend.

In an effort to slow the spread of the virus through our communities and to limit the exposure of students to people from the outside, we will take additional steps:

  • As of today, all field trips are cancelled until further notice.
  • Effective immediately, all events and meetings on school grounds outside of the regular school day are cancelled until further notice.  Student clubs, activities, and extra help sessions that occur immediately after school will still be held for the time being.
  • The start of the spring sports season will be pushed back to March 23rd.

We will continue to monitor the situation and re-assess these cancellations as we learn more.  Please remember that these decisions are not made lightly and are taken to maximize the safety of students, staff and members of the community.   

Sincerely,

Mike Harvey

Superintendent

School Committee Public Hearing on the FY21 Operating Budget and School Choice

On Wednesday March 4th, the Masconomet Regional School Committee will hold a Public Hearing on two very important topics; the Fiscal Year 2021 (FY21) District Annual Operating Budget, and participation in the School Choice Program.  Public hearings are an opportunity for members of the public to share their views with the School Committee.  The public hearing will begin at 7:00 PM in the Osgood Presentation Room at Masconomet Regional High School.  The School Committee Policy governing Public Hearings can be found at https://drive.google.com/file/d/1okO6rv7VSnKGF3YtISbnA-7Oeb_C7p8A/view?usp=sharing

Here is some information on the two topics of the Public Hearing:

FY21 District Operating Budget

The School Committee is charged with approving the Masconomet Regional District’s Annual Operating Budget and is scheduled to take a final vote to adopt the FY21 Operating Budget on Wednesday March 11th.  The School Committee is currently considering the Superintendent’s Recommended Budget of $36,580,321, which is an increase of $1,891,054 or 5.45% over the current year.  This budget recommendation is made up of a level service, or the funds necessary to maintain current programs, staffing and materials, increase of $1,673,078 or 4.82% over the current year and “critical priorities” in the amount of $217,976 or a .63% over the current year’s budget.  Detailed information regarding the FY21 Superintendents’ Recommended Budget is available at https://www.masconomet.org/Page/707

School Choice Program Participation

The Massachusetts School Choice Program was created in 1993 as part of the Massachusetts Education Reform Act.  The program allows districts that opt into the program to accept non-resident students into the school system.  Districts are compensated a set amount of $5,000 for each student that is accepted.  Districts that choose to opt into the School Choice Program have the ability to limit the acceptance of students to specific grades and may set limits on how many students are accepted.  The Administration of the Masconomet Regional District is asking the School Committee to consider accepting School Choice students for next year.  The School Committee is currently scheduled to vote regarding participation in the School Choice Program for next year after the conclusion of the Public Hearing on March 4th.

The School Committee would like to hear your views on these two important issues.  Please considering attending the Public Hearing at 7:00 on March 4th to lend your input to their decisions.

What Knowledge, Skills and Dispositions Do Masco Students Need?

Last fall, I asked faculty, parents and members of the community for their responses to the question “What knowledge, skills and dispositions do you feel Masconomet students will need to master in order to be successful in the future?”  I’ve compiled the responses from these groups and have presented them below in the form of a “word cloud” (https://www.wordclouds.com/). In a word cloud, the size of the word signifies how many times it appears in the response list. The largest words appear many times, while the smallest words appear only once.

Here’s the Word Cloud built from responses from the Masconomet Faculty:

Word Cloud of Faculty Responses

Here’s the Word Cloud composed of responses from parents and the community (Note “S. & E. awareness” is an abbreviation for “Social and Emotional awareness”):

Word Cloud of Parent and Community Responses

Finally, here’s a Word Cloud that combines the responses from both groups:

Word Cloud of combined faculty, parent and community responses

As I review these Word Clouds, I’m struck that there is very little to be found in the way of traditional academic content on either list. “Writing skills” probably comes the closest to being a part of the traditional academic curriculum, but there is no list of essential historical dates or places to memorize, no essential mathematical operations to master, and no essential pieces of literature to read.

What has made the list are what are known as “soft skills,” such as “collaboration,” “problem solving,” “communication,” or “critical thinking.” While the name “soft skills” probably refers to these skills being in the affective domain and more difficult to measure through traditional testing, I would argue that they are any thing but “soft.” Mastery of these skills are going to be more valuable to our students as they navigate the unknown challenges of the future than any discreet facts they could learn.

I think the similarities between the lists complied by the faculty and parents and the community is a good sign. We seem to be in agreement on what our students should know, do and feel. Our job as educators and as a community is now to make sure our system is designed to deliver helping our students to master these knowledge, skills and dispositions.

Please Welcome Dr. Phil McManus as the Next Principal of Masconomet Middle School

Dear Friends,

I’m happy to announce the hiring of Dr. Phil McManus as the next Principal of the Masconomet Middle School.  Dr. McManus will be joining us after successfully serving as the Assistant Principal at Marblehead Middle School, a post he has held since 2015.  He also brings experience as a principal in a preK-8 school, an English teacher and a dean of admissions.  He also holds a doctorate in educational administration from Boston College, a master’s degree in school administration from Salem State University and a bachelor’s degree in English from Fairfield University.  Dr. McManus grew up in Topsfield and attended Masconomet Middle School.  We are excited for Dr. McManus to begin as the Principal of Masconomet Middle School on July 1, 2020.

I’d like to thank the faculty, staff, parents and members of the community who took the time to participate in the search process through volunteering their time to meet with the finalists and share their thoughtful appraisals of each candidate.  The feedback provided to me was invaluable in helping me make this very difficult decision. 

Finally, I would like to thank Mr. Jim Dillon for serving as the Interim Principal of Masconomet Middle School for this year.  Mr. Dillon’s love for Masconomet is apparent every day in the passion that he brings to working with the students and faculty of the Middle School.  I hope you will join me in wishing him the best in his retirement!

Sincerely,

Mike Harvey

Superintendent

Masconomet Middle School Principal Finalists

Dear Friends,

I am pleased to announce the Finalists for the position of Principal of Masconomet Middle School: Mr. Terry Conant and Dr. Philip McManus. In the next two weeks, each Finalist will spend one day visiting Masconomet Middle School to meet with members of the school community. Mr. Conant will visit Masconomet on Tuesday, January 28th. Dr. McManus’s visit will be on Tuesday, February 4th. Both visits will conclude with an Open Forum for each Finalist to meet with parents and interested members of the community at 6:30 PM in the Masconomet Middle School Library. Participants in these sessions will be asked to provide written feedback on the candidates. I hope that you will be able to attend these sessions and provide me with your impressions on the candidates.

Here’s some brief info on each finalist:

Mr. Terry Conant

Mr. Terry Conant is currently an Assistant Principal at Beverly Middle School, a position he has held since 2011. Prior to this position, Mr. Conant worked in Beverly as a Middle School Technology Instructor, and a Grade 6 Science Teacher. Prior to working in Beverly, he held teaching positions at both the middle and elementary school levels in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Mr. Conant holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Childhood Studies from Plymouth State College, a Master’s of Education Degree in Teaching with Technology from Cambridge College, and a Certificate of Advanced Graduate Study in Leadership in Education from Salem State University. Attached is a link to Mr. Conant’s Resume.

Dr. Philip McManus

Dr. Philip McManus has held the position of Assistant Principal at Marblehead Veterans Middle School since 2015. Before working in Marblehead, Dr. McManus served as the Principal of St. Raphael School, an Elementary School in Medford, MA, as the Dean of Admissions at St. John’s Prep, and as an English Teacher at St. John’s Prep, Beverly High School, and Triton Regional High School. Dr. McManus holds a Bachelor’s Degree in English from Fairfield University, a Master’s Degree in Education from Salem State University and a Doctorate in Educational Leadership from Boston College. Attached is a link to Dr. McManus’ Resume.

The position of Masconomet Middle School Principal was advertised in early December. The posting closed in early January and attracted 46 applications. Seven applicants were invited for interviews over the past week. The two finalists were chosen by members of the Screening Committee, which was Co-Chaired by Masconomet High School Principal Peter Delani and Asst. Superintendent Jeff Sands and included Teachers Sandra Dearborn, Allison Procopio, and Peter Wilson; Parents Marshall Hook, and Terry Telleen; Department Heads Jeanne O’Hearn, and Marie Bridges; and Human Resources Administrator Keri Reddington. I would like to thank all of the members of the Screening Committee for giving their time and thoughtful input to this process. After the candidates’ visits, our interview process will conclude with site visits by a team from Masconomet to each candidate’s current school. I expect to make an offer to enter into contract negotiations with the preferred candidate by the middle of February and announce our new Masconomet Middle School Principal after February Vacation Week.

Sincerely,

Mike Harvey

Superintendent

Superintendent’s Recommended FY21 Operating Budget

Dear Friends,

At the January 22nd School Committee Meeting, I presented the Fiscal Year 2021 (FY21) Superintendent’s Budget Recommendation. The FY21 Superintendent’s Recommended Budget is the result of nearly four month’s work that began in October of 2019. It includes input from the District’s teachers, department heads, building principals and central office leadership. Last night’s presentation of the FY21 Superintendent’s Recommended Budget begins the second phase of our budget development process, which will conclude with the School Committee adopting its version of the FY21 Budget on March 11, 2020. 

I would like to thank Assistant Superintendent Jeff Sands for his work this year in thoroughly re-developing the District’s Budget Documents.  I think you will agree that these materials provide the public with a greater level of detail and transparency regarding the District’s finances. 

The Superintendent’s Recommended Budget includes a total Operating Budget of $34,689,267 or an increase of $1,894,098 or 5.5% over the current year.  This increase is made up of the funding required to maintain “level services,” or the continuation of the current services, programs and operations of the District in the amount of $1,662,072, and an investment in critical priorities that are necessary for the continued success of the District in the amount of $232,036. 

As has been the case in recent years, the main drivers behind the level service increases to the FY21 Budget continue to be staff salaries ($738,593, 3.4% increase over FY20), staff and retiree health insurance costs ($343,811, 7.7% increase over FY20), tuition for students educated in out-of-district placements ($270,120, 11.3% increase over FY20) and the District’s required contribution to the Essex County Retirement System ($97,026, 9.5% increase over FY20).  Together these four items comprise $1,449,550 of the total increase. 

Major components of the investments to critical priorities include funding to add late bus transportation to allow student access to after school help sessions, clubs and activities ($64,800), additional Chromebook Carts to increase the availability of technology resources for Middle School Students ($42,150), and funding to ensure the adequate cleaning of the schools’ cafeteria spaces ($29,136).  

Over the course of the next seven weeks, the School Committee will dedicate a substantial portion of each of their regular meetings to reviewing and discussing different aspects of the FY21 Operating Budget.  As part of this process, the School Committee has scheduled two public hearings on March 4 and March 11 to gather feedback from the community on the proposed budget.  The full calendar of School Committee Budget Development Meetings is available below.  Future School Committee Meeting Agendas will be posted to the District Website. I encourage you to familiarize yourself with the Proposed FY21 Budget, follow the School Committee’s discussions through attending School Committee Meetings or watching on Boxford Cable Access TV and to participate in the public hearings to lend your thoughts to the FY21 Masconomet District Operating Budget.

Sincerely,

Mike Harvey

Superintendent

The Future is Already Here

“The future is already here – it’s just not very evenly distributed.” 

                                                            –William Gibson

Nowhere is this quote truer than when examining the incredible changes we’ve seen in our lifetimes in the areas of science and technology, communications, and mass media and the relatively little change that has occurred in our education systems over the same time period. 

In the past 250 years, our economy and culture has experienced a rapid series of changes, which can be summarized as “Four Industrial Revolutions.”  Essentially, our ability to develop more sophisticated machines over time to complete increasingly complex tasks has changed our society from one primarily based on agriculture to our modern, diversified economy. 

One of the few areas of our society that hasn’t been drastically changed is our system for educating our children. Our current education system, a product of the “Second Industrial Revolution,”  was developed to train illiterate farmers to become semi-literate factory workers.  Many of the structures that we practice today in our schools were implemented to help achieve this goal.  The organization of the curriculum into discrete subjects, the division of the school day into fixed periods, and the sorting of students by their age into grades are all examples of a system organized to produce workers who were ready for the assembly line.  In this school system, the transmission of information from teacher to student was a key component.  Success in this system was measured by how much information a student could memorize and repeat.

We know now that the changes brought about by the 3rd and 4th Industrial Revolutions have made many of the skills stressed in our education system obsolete.  The rise of the internet has changed the nature of information from scarcity to over-abundance.  We now hold more computing power in our smartphones than was used by NASA to land astronauts on the moon.  We can also find the answer to almost any question we may have by asking Siri, Google or Alexa.  Information is now essentially “free,” thereby reducing our reliance on the need to memorize and recall facts.  These new times will certainly call for the mastery of a different set of skills by our students. 

Over the past few months, I’ve asked the faculty of the Masconomet Regional School District to think about what learning and school should look like in order to best prepare students to be successful in this future.  During last month’s professional development time, the faculty explored the question: “What knowledge, skills and dispositions do our students need to master in order to be successful in the future?” 

As the District’s Leadership Team and I reviewed the results of this work, we wondered how parents and other members of the Masconomet Community might respond to this question.  Rather than just speculating, we decided to ask you directly.  Please complete the brief (one question) survey below, so we can gather your feedback on what you feel is important for students to know and be able to do as a result of their Masconomet Education.  The survey will be open until Monday December 2nd.  Once the survey window closes, we will publish the community’s survey results along with the faculty’s responses.  Your feedback will help us to design a school system to best prepare students for whatever comes next.

Thanks,

Mike Harvey

P.S.: For more information on some of the amazing changes that are happening in schools across the country, please look at the Innovation Playlist from Ted Dintersmith.

Welcome to the 2019-2020 School Year!

Dear Friends,

Welcome to the 2019-2020 School Year.  We’re excited for students to return to school.  Our Orientation Program for students entering grades seven and nine will take place on Thursday, August 29th.  All students will report to school on Tuesday, September 3rd.  September 3rd will be an early dismissal at 12:20 for all students.  Please visit the Masconomet District’s Website for a full version of the District’s 2019-2020 Calendar.

I would like to thank the entire Masconomet Community for the incredibly warm reception I have received over the past two months.  I couldn’t have asked for a better transition into the role of Superintendent.  Since July 1st, I’ve met with over 70 members of the Masconomet Community, including parents, teachers, support staff, administrators, school committee members and town officials to learn all about the Masconomet Regional School District.  Through this fall, I will continue this process of learning what people love about Masconomet and what they think we could be doing better.  If you’d like to be a part of the inteview process, please feel free to contact me at mharvey@masconomet.org

I plan on using these interviews, along with a review of the District’s foundational documents and observations of classrooms, to complete a “State of the Schools” Report, which I will present to the School Committee and Masconomet Community in December.  This document will become the basis for developing a Strategic Blueprint Document that will provide a roadmap for achieving the aspirations outlined in the District’s Vision 2025 document

Finally, I would like to welcome two new members of the District Leadership Team.  Jeff Sands has joined the District in the role of Assistant Superintendent for Operations and Finance.  Jeff joins us after six years as the Assistant Superintendent for Administration and Finance at the Hamilton-Wenahm regional School District.  I would also like to introduce Jim Dillon as the Interim Principal of Masconomet Middle School.  Many of you have already gotten to know Jim as an 8th Grade Science Teacher at Masconomet.  I’m excited to have both Jeff and Jim join the Leadership Team!

Please make sure you have the most up to date information regarding the Masconomet School District by visiting our website: www.masconomet.org or by following me on Twitter: @mascosuper.  Have a great school year!

Sincerely,

Michael M. Harvey, Ed.D.

Superintendent

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