Westborough High gearing up for NEASC evaluation
Westborough – Over the next two and a half years, Westborough High School will be preparing for a critical evaluation that will be administered by the New England Associations of Schools and Colleges (NEASC). At the School Committee’s Jan. 5 meeting, a steering committee created to work on this project provided a status update.
Every ten years schools and colleges go through the accreditation process, which takes an intense look at virtually every aspect of a school. Input is requested from not only teachers, the High School’s principal John Smith said, but also from other school personnel, parents and members of the community.
For the time leading up to the study, the steering committee will oversee a self-study with the goal of establishing a “core values” document that will detail what the school beliefs are and plans to implement “21st-century learning skills,” Smith said.
In 2013, a team of teachers and administrators from other districts will come to Westborough and over a three-day period, conduct a full evaluation. That team will then write a report that will cite any commendations and recommendations that they have for the school as it goes forward.
The NEASC executive board then gives the school a grade, Smith said. Some other school districts, he added, end up with warnings or probations, which they actually welcome because they can use that information to help convince their communities that changes need to be made. Smith said he and the other administrators feel that Westborough will do fine and that their evaluation will be an affirmation of the very good work that is already being done at the school.
In other business, the board voted to approve a price increase for the full-day kindergarten and pre-school programs. Dr. Daniel Mayer, the district’s Assistant Superintendent, told the board that administrators were recommending “slight” increases – an additional $200 for the full day kindergarten, bringing it up to $3,200; an additional $100 for the three day pre-school program which would then cost $1,600; and an additional $150 for the four day program, resulting in a final cost of $2,150.
“We feel these [programs] are substantially underpriced for the market,” he said, adding that “we realize that these are still difficult economic times.”
Board member Karen Henderson agreed, saying, “We’re always hesitant to raise fees for parents. It’s necessary for us to do this. A lot of things will be difficult this year when it comes to the budget.”
The board voted unanimously to approve the changes.
Mayer said that administrators are also recommending offering free full-day kindergarten to those children who have been deemed by the district to be at a financial disadvantage. It is very clear, he said, that many of these students do not sign up for the full-day program because of the cost. As a result, they “arrive behind and fall further behind” when they enter first grade. Having them enter a full-day program would not only benefit them but also the district in the future, because the school would not have to provide as many support services in the later grades.
Approximately 5 percent of the district’s families qualify for the free lunch program. Mayer estimated that 10 kindergarten children would qualify for the free full-day kindergarten program.
The board decided to wait until its Jan. 19 meeting to take a vote as two members, Steve Doret and Bruce Tretter, were not present.
Superintendent Marianne O’Connor also addressed the board, to talk about the Westborough Education Foundation, which helps to raise funds for the district’s schools. There was a critical need for new members, she said, to ensure that the program, which raises anywhere from $15,000 to 20,000 a year, would be able to continue. Any member of the community is welcome to join this group. More information can be found on the district’s website, www.westborough. ma.schoolwebpages.com.
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