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Wellness Policy, Superintendent Search Reviewed by School Committee

Opening of school, high school building project and budget also discussed.

  • Interim superintendent Dr. Christopher Martes was formerly introduced in his first School Committee meeting in Norton. “He’s quite visible,” remarked chairperson Andrew Mackie. “We miss Dr. Ansay, but we’re happy you’re here.”
  • Martes gave the opening of school report. He noted that there are 2,636 students attending Norton schools. Last year there were 2,676.

-346 at L.G. Nourse Elementary

-416 at Henri A. Yelle Elementary

-498 at J.C. Solmonese Elementary

-659 at Norton Middle School

-717 at Norton High School

There are 57 out-of-district students, while 20 Norton students are homeschooled. The target date is Oct. 1.

  • Yelle principal Lisa Farrell gave a report on how the first few days of school went for her staff and students as well. With 211 students in the fifth grade, and 205 in the fourth, there were no major incidents to report.

So far, there have been no bus route complaints. There have, however, been three bullying incidents on the bus that she investigated. Farrell said that she spends one to two and a half hours investigating any report of bullying. Also concerning buses, Farrell will be cracking down on approving bus passes, explaining that parents will be given a couple of freebies for daycare issues or emergencies. Otherwise, students must be picked up on time or ride their own bus as usual.

The committee asked if Farrell she had all the staff resources she needed. While noting her staff does a great job helping out, an assistant principal would be ideal.

“All these ladies behind me have become a lot of things to a lot of students,” she said.

The Committee asked Barry Nectow, director of operations and finances, to keep a lookout for available funding for the position in the future.

  • Former School Committee member Tom Golota gave a report on how the high school building project is coming along. A lot of work has begun on the inside as well.

“Once the structure came, a lot happened fast,” he said.

While work is being done in the area, the cafeteria will not be serving hot meals. Instead, sandwiches are being made at Yelle and brought via van to the high school. So far, there have been no complaints on the food.

About $945k has been earmarked for contingency fees, and 200 to 300k has been used to properly fix the roof. More was used for items like chairs and desks. This leaves about $555k left for contingency fees.

Work is still scheduled to be finished by December of 2013, though the Committee recognizes that there is a possibility of glitches that may need to be worked out in the months that follow.

  • Nectow noted that the budget is in good shape. “Over the summer I got nervous about tuitions,” he said. “Tuitions change daily and for a while they went up. Now they are coming down.”
  • The School Committee is in the early stages of forming a superintendent search plan. Members Beth McManus and Marge Werner will again head up the search committee, but first will figure out how many people should join them and what kind of experience they will be looking for in the new superintendent. An ad may be put out for the position as early as October.
  • The Committee approved the contracts for BBE Elevator and KLC Champions.
  • Martes was appointed to the Bi-County Collaborative Board.
  • Discussion on Town Meeting warrants were tabled due to information that has yet to be relayed to the Committee.
  • The Committee reviewed the controversial wellness policy they previously approved in June, which banned bake sales and fundraisers from happening from a half hour before school starts to 30 minutes after the last bell rings. This complied with early legislation that was later changed. Farrell said these fundraisers can make up to $10k. While the idea was to comply with state regulations, members of the Committee speculated whether they voted on the policy prematurely.

“I think we voted under incomplete information,” Savas said.

The policy also bans soft drinks containing caloric sweeteners and flavored milk while limiting sodium, calorie, fat and sugar intake.

“These are clumsy attempts by the state,” Mackie said. “But it will ultimately reach a point where it makes sense.”

"I think our job is to educate. And if we educate portion control and keep gym classes in schools, then we've done our jobs," McManus said. "I believe the rest of it falls with doctors, students and parents."

The policy will be reviewed further and revised.

  • Personnel changes were announced.

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