School Committee recognizes soccer team, discusses internet safety

Jan. 9, 2020 | Dennis Hackett

LONGMEADOW – The Longmeadow School Committee met for a regularly scheduled meeting on Dec. 10 to recognize the Longmeadow High School boys’ soccer team for their recent state championship, discuss student safety online and to discuss this year’s district plan with each school’s principal.

The committee opened the meeting by recognizing the boys’ soccer team for their recent state championship victory over Needham. The coaches came forward to discuss the victory, with the team in attendance.

Head coach Brad Miller discussed what the victory meant for him and how proud he was of his players. He said, “Ultimately it comes down to the players and having a group that is talented, having a group that is willing to work hard and fight for a collective cause with good leadership as well. I just want to say again it’s been a pleasure and honor coaching this team.”

Longmeadow Superintendent of Schools Marty O’Shea also presented each player with certificates and pins to recognize their victory and that they were the sixth ranked boys’ soccer team in the country at one point during the season. School Committee Vice Chair Bronwyn Monahan congratulated the team and said, “This was the first boys’ state championship in school history which is a pretty amazing accomplishment so congratulations to them and we appreciate the coaches’ leadership throughout the year.”

New town manager Lyn Simmons then came forward to formally introduce herself to the school committee for her fist time as town manager. She said, “I don’t have much prepared for tonight, I’m just here to come say hi and that I’m looking forward to working with all of you.”

The next order of business with guests at the meeting was a presentation from Kristen Sealey, a local parent, about digital literacy and how to teach children to safely navigate technology and the internet. During the presentation she explained why she thought it was so important to educate children at each school level internet safety. “Even if you’re good and you have good habits, you can’t stay on top of what is new and dangerous without help. I think if we can share some of the best practices with others and this is one way we can help people find each other,” she said.

Throughout the presentation, the entire school committee thanked Sealey for her efforts to put together her committee on internet safety. Kevin Shea, one of the school committee members said, “It’s so hard as a parent to try to do the right thing and we have our own bad habits, so it’s nice to have a support group to educate them. If we can help them establish good habits when they get to college, they’ll be in a good place.”

Sealey explained that she didn’t want to tell anyone how to parent but she wanted to educate them about social media habits as well. “We don’t want to get in the habit in telling people what to do,” she said, “Having said that, I think when you can say to a group adults this amount of screen time can affect your kids immediately in this specific way, I think that’s really powerful.”

After Sealey’s presentation, the principals from each school came forward to talk about their school improvement plans. O’Shea explained that the school improvement plan lasts from Dec. 1 to Nov. 30 of the following year and this year’s six part plan. The roundtable began with each principal reflecting on the past year.  Then each of the principals discussed how each part of the district plan would affect their school.

Thomas Landers, Longmeadow High School’s principal discussed the process in coming up with three new courses that will focus on hands-on learning and professional experience. “We’re trying to be very purposeful when we’re taking in the spirit of the graduate and trying to figure out how we parlay that into courses and opportunities for our students,” he said.

One issue that Superintendent O’ Shea discussed as part of the plan was students that are repeatedly absent. He said, “We need to be better about identifying who the chronically absent students are and what their performance gaps might be. We have to do a better job of understanding the chronically absent accountability indicator.”

Landers also addressed some of the ways the high school is trying to tackle the mental health issue and how it may relate to attendance. “We’re trying to create silent spaces for students while also giving them spaces to talk and focus on work as well,” he said, “And we’re trying to make smaller groups so you can get to know your teacher, which doesn’t necessarily help with academic issues but it does help with other things.”

The School Committee then unanimously approved the district plan for 2020.

With all of the business with guests settled for the evening, Superintendent O’Shea dove into his report for the meeting. During his report, O’Shea discussed upcoming events in the district, including an upcoming half professional development day in January with a focus on mental health and suicide prevention training for staff.

The meeting then closed when the school committee quickly ran through and approved the consent agenda from Dec. 10 2018 and the FY 2020 grant awards. The finance committee also updated the school committee on the revolving fund budget and the upcoming dates for planning the FY 2021 budget.

The Longmeadow School Committee will host its next meeting Jan. 14.

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