Brookline School Committee highlights efforts throughout community and introduces policies



The Brookline School Committee (BSC) convened virtually via Zoom on March 24 at 6 p.m. to discuss recent efforts throughout the district, listen to community members on raised issues and discuss new potential policies that could be adopted soon.

The Brookline School Committee (BSC) convened virtually via Zoom on March 24 at 6 p.m. to provide updates on various community efforts and discuss reforms to vote on.

Superintendent Dr. Linus Guillory presented the Superintendent’s Report which provided updates on COVID-19 statistics, recent efforts by the Offices of Equity & Human Resources and community engagement in the Public Schools of Brookline (PSB).

Guillory also presented the Spotlight on Excellence Award to 1st grade teacher at the Baker School Laura Richardson for receiving the Presidential Award for Excellence in Math and Science Teaching and to Pierce Partners Making Connections, a group of Black and Latinx students at the Pierce school providing academic support to one another.

Members of the Brookline Educators Union (BEU) spoke during the docketed public comment session. Mark Goldner, a science teacher at the Heath School, said the BSC should work with the BEU to establish fair grievance rights and retainment of PSB staff.

“We must work together for the good of our students and your children. Each time an employee feels exploited, taken advantage of or treated unfairly, morale is further eroded,” Goldner said. “Brookline already has one of the lowest teacher retention rates among districts in Massachusetts. Is this really the time to play hardball with educators, erode morale and play power games with the union over the grievance process?”

During public comment, students presented on issues they want to see addressed by the BSC. Several students asked for “Meatless Mondays” and more vegetarian and vegan options in the district’s cafeterias.

Freshman Ezra Kleinbaum said the environmental footprint of meat products correlates directly with the sustainability lessons the district wants to teach students.

“Meat is incredibly bad for the environment. When it comes to food, we know that meat, poultry and fish have the largest footprint,” Kleinbaum said. “If we really want to address climate change within our schools with sustainable habits, we must reduce the amount of meat, poultry and fish we use in our cafeterias.”

Junior Asher Ferreira said the BSC needs to represent Metropolitan Council for Educational Opportunity (METCO) students and parents by changing BSC election guidelines and allowing a METCO representative onto the BSC.

“The lack of METCO representation exacerbates existing problems on equity. [We] are asking that the school committee considers the possibility of changing the requirements for elections as well as the possibility of adding a METCO parent representative to the school committee. Both of these are essential,” Ferreira said.

PSB K-12 school principals presented on their School Improvement Plans (SIPs) that outline goals regarding cultural responsiveness, academic engagement progress monitoring, a new school schedule that reflects school values and emphasizing the importance of providing an equitable education for all students.

Heath School principal Asa Sevelius said the school is working with educators to understand how to better serve students with disabilities and BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and people of color) students.

“We are in the process of understanding how our work as educators impacts our students and how we need to adjust our practice so that all of our students, including students with disabilities and our BIPOC students, can have the most equitable learning outcomes and social outcomes as possible,” Sevelius said.

Deputy Superintendent of Student Services Casey Ngo-Miller shared a report on the district’s special education programs and said it found disparities in special education enrollments by race and socioeconomic status.

“Our Black and African American students are twice as likely to be found eligible for special education. Our Latinx and Hispanic students are almost twice as likely to be found eligible for special education. Our Asian Americans and Pacific Islander (AAPI) students are only half as likely, which we know is not reflective of our overall student population,” Ngo-Miller said. “They also found that students of lower socioeconomic status are twice as likely to be found eligible for special education.”

Guillory and BSC member Mariah Nobrega provided an update on the preliminary 2023 Fiscal Year budget and general student enrollment. Guillory said PSB is expecting a full recovery in student enrollment for the upcoming school year.

“We are expecting full and complete recovery in enrollment across all schools for the next school year. The COVID-19 pandemic drastically lowered our projected enrollment, but that should be fine and normal for next year so we are looking forward to that,” Guillory said.

BSC Vice Chair David Pearlman introduced the six docketed school committee actions.

The BSC deferred voting on the proposed PSB Sustainability Policy, PSB Pesticides Policy and the PSB Physical Restraint Policy. Members also discussed having a METCO representative present at all future meetings, however because of potential legal and fiscal constraints, they could not make a motion to vote. BSC member Valerie Frias said seeking further clarification and information regarding these legal constraints should be a priority.

Last meeting, the BSC displayed the first draft of a statement regarding recent racial, homophobic and anti-semitic incidents at the high school, but deferred a final reading and draft until the next meeting.

The last agenda item was a discussion on a possible vote to establish a BSC Equity Subcommittee, however because of questions raised by BSC members Helen Charlupski and Jennifer Monopoli regarding the intent and structure of the Subcommittee, the BSC postponed the vote until the next meeting on April 7.