WSSD Board Meeting Notes, April 26th

The Wallingford-Swarthmore School Board met on Monday, April 26th. The video is available on Youtube, and the agenda is available on the district website.

Student Representative Report

April 22nd was Earth Day and the elementary schools had clean-ups (though NPE was not mentioned). SRS cleaned up Little Crum Creek and WES cleaned up Furness and the school grounds. SRS also had an Arbor Day craft and scavenger hunt with the Scott Arboretum. WES is collecting gently used shoes in the lobby as their spring citizenship project.

Elementary schools are preparing for PSSA’s.

Strath Haven is planning for NHS spirit week. Many upcoming events are planned for the senior class.

Board Announcements

The board announced the resignation of Dr. Michele Downie and read her resignation letter. Unfortunately this means that both of the school board members from Garden City elected in the past four years have resigned before the end of their terms. This continues a historical trend of little representation from the lower income areas of the school district on the school board. Regardless of results from elections this year there will be no elected school board members from either Garden City or South Media (or of color) for at least the next two years. The state of Pennsylvania needs to have a broader conversation about how it expects uncompensated representation on public boards by members of lower income communities as it seems obvious the current situation is not tenable (Garden City is also seeking its third commissioner in 2 years).

The board will probably announce procedures for appointing a replacement for Dr. Downie at the next school board meeting. They will have a month to approve a replacement.

Focus Topics

There were two focus topics: Class of 2021 Senior Events and Covid 19 and Mental Health.

The class of 2021 senior events will be taking place in person. The presentation was aimed at those that were already aware of these events so it is hard for me to comment extensively. There will be a senior awards night on May 27th and a senior ball where vaccination and testing will be used to allow this in-person event. Graduation will be outside unless the weather is bad. If so, graduation will be split in half inside and the car parade will be moved to the following day. Dr. Huff reminded seniors that case rates in DelCo remain high and to remain careful so they can participate in the upcoming senior events at school.

The second presentation covered Covid 19 and student mental health. This presentation was aimed at parents, and I encourage you to watch it yourself online (starts around 17:30). I can not do it justice in notes.

Audience Comments

There were two audience comments. I was unable to discern the purpose of the first. The second was by a resident claiming that the school district was not protecting a victim of an unspecified assault from the perpetrator who continues to take part in district activities.

Policy Changes

The board received suggestions for policy changes from the policy news network and Superintendent Palmer is trying to clean up policies to reflect practice before the new superintendent arrives. These policies will be introduced at three board meetings before being adopted, so changes are possible. Only one (food services) raises immediate objections from skimming them. Here is a summary of changes:

  • Curriculum – small changes in terminology
  • Sudden cardiac arrest – recommended new policy regarding safety for athletes
  • Extracurricular activities by students educated at home – allows home educated students to participate in JROTC
  • Homeless students – rewritten to be up to date with mandates
  • Student welfare – multiple changes regarding staff responsibilities due to changes in practice during Covid
  • Federal fiscal compliance – minor changes to account for operating during emergencies like Covid
  • School calendar – changes to reflect guidance from the state relating to instruction days and hours and how to respond to emergencies
  • Emergency preparedness and response – new policy to reflect the drills the school is currently required to engage in (and already does).
  • Relations with law enforcement – added a section on police training to reflect current practice.
  • Child abuse – minor changes to comply with law
  • Food service – changes in meals for students that don’t qualify for free or reduced meal prices. I have already written to the board objecting to this policy as it punishes children (by serving alternative, i.e. worse, meals) as leverage to get parents to pay their outstanding balance. The policy changes are described at the agenda link above (this is policy 808).
  • Transportation policies – Three policies rearranged from two previous ones and updated to comply with law.
  • Maintaining professional adult/student boundaries – This is a new policy, which leads to questions as to why this policy didn’t exist before and has something happened to prompt its inclusion now?

Other business

The board passed the minutes, personnel, curriculum and financial issues without any significant issues. They did go into executive session to discuss a tax assessment appeal but then passed it unanimously without further public comment.

Categories: Government, WSSD