Brookline School Committee prepares for next year and recognizes help from outside experts



The Brookline School Committee (BSC) convened virtually via Zoom on Jun. 14 at 6 p.m. to discuss plans for staffing next year, concluding works of the subcommittees and panels and thanking individuals for their work throughout the past year.

The Brookline School Committee (BSC) convened virtually via Zoom on Jun. 14 at 6 p.m. to recognize the hard work of subcommittee members to accommodate the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and discuss the imminent conclusion to the four Expert Advisory Panels.

The BSC recognized the work of Interim Superintendent Dr. James Marini, who will be replaced by incumbent Superintendent Dr. Linus Guillory on July 1, 2021. In addition to Marini’s departure, Deputy Superintendent for Administration and Finance Mary Ellen Normen and Interim Human Resources Director Joe Russo will also be leaving their respective positions at the end of the current fiscal year.

BSC member Susan Wolf Ditkoff said the experts of the Ad Hoc Task Force on Remote Learning and Expert Advisory Panels have been crucial in combating the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and thanked them for their willingness to serve the district.

“Given the magnitude of the challenges, in the April [to] May time frame, we put out a call for experts and we got an overwhelming response from the community. Brookline is truly blessed, not only by the caliber of our residents, but also just their willingness to serve,” Wolf Ditkoff said. “These are people who are top experts in their field and they were on demand for their expertise at exactly this moment in their professional lives.”

Samuel Rippin, a certified public accountant from Boston College, was selected to replace Normen by Marini, Wolf Ditkoff and BSC member Mariah Nobrega. The BSC voted unanimously in favor to hire Rippin as the new Deputy Superintendent for Administration and Finance.

Marini said that Rippin would prioritize his new position and work extensively with schools directly to make the budget benefit the community.

“He wanted to do that so that he would have a deeper understanding of what school budgets are all about: teaching and learning. He thinks about budgets in terms of how the school budget supports the goals, the mission and the values of the school district,” Marini said. “He doesn’t want to make the school department work for the budget; he wants to make the budget work for the schools and for the students.”

The BSC also voted on the future of the School Resource Officer Program, which was presented by BSC Vice Chair David Pearlman from the School Policy Review Subcommittee. The BSC voted unanimously to end the program without a direct replacement yet and this vote will be finalized at the Jun. 15 Select Board Meeting.

Director of School Food Service Public Schools of Brookline, Sasha Palmer provided an update on the program’s initiatives for the summer and the 2021 – 2022 school year.

Palmer said families with students under the age of 18 are encouraged to continue to participate in the program because federal grants are given out for free meals until the end of the 2022 fiscal year.

“We encourage families to continue to participate in the program. We are offering meals throughout the summer. We are not taking a break — we will be operating a summer program,” Palmer said. “We saw increased participation across the board. We saw participation, especially in breakfast, and it was the area that has the most room for improvement. We are always happy to include fresh, healthy, local foods in our breakfast program.”

All four of the Expert Advisory Panels will be terminated over the summer, with Expert Advisory Panel 4: Public Health, Safety and Logistics having their last meeting on July 9. Panel 4 has taken a large role in town safety surrounding COVID-19 and includes local public health experts who are nationally recognized.

Coordinator of School Health Services and Panel 4 member Tricia Laham said Panel 4 has been very important since their formation in early 2020 and the experts have taken so much time to help the district combat so many challenges.

“These experts in their medical fields were extraordinarily busy in their own careers during this pandemic and the fact that they willingly gave so much time, energy, consideration and guidance to our schools is remarkable,” Laham said. “A group of true experts came together to meet, discuss, review and advise in a collaborative, respectful process and you, Panel 4, are a true gift to the Public Schools of Brookline.”

Marini said that the BSC, the various panels and subcommittees and the community have all made his experience as the Superintendent easier throughout his term.

“The anxiety was very high, but once people got to work, they put their own personal needs aside and they focused on their jobs and I saw that day after day. That’s what I really wanted to say to the whole staff,” Marini said. “The organization, response and feedback from the community was what structured our time and I cannot thank you all enough for that.”

To see all of the documents presented and mentioned during the meeting, please click here: