Mahar Regional High School Principal Scott Hemlin gave a presentation at the Mahar School Committee meeting Monday night to update them on safety procedures at the school.  At right is Orange Selectman Kathy Reinig. Photo by Ashley Arseneau

Mahar School Committee begins its review of upcoming budget process

ORANGE — The Mahar School Committee reviewed the timeline for the budget process for this year at their Monday night meeting.

The timeline presented states that through December, the school’s administration will be undergoing budget preparation including such tasks as budget calendar development, salary projections, setting budget priorities related to the new strategic plan, reviewing the capital plan, and giving guidance to principals and directors on budget development and inclusion of the district’s goals and staff input.

Starting in January budget estimates and projects will be finalized for each district, including Mahar. Further budget preparation will be carried out by the administrative staff. Also, developments in the planning of the budget will be presented to each school committee with formal budget presentations to the school committees taking place in February to gain tentative approval. Budget hearings for each district are scheduled to be held in March. The administrative staff will present the budget.

Presentations

A safety presentation was given by Mahar Regional High School Principal Scott Hemlin to update committee members about the safety procedures and policies in place to protect the students and staff members at the school.

Hemlin highlighted the glass on the library skylight, the cafeteria, and many of the doors around the school being coated with a special film that tints the glass, making it hard to see through. This is done to protect students from anyone trying to look in on them. The glass around the entryway doors are also coated with a film that makes it tougher to penetrate and will slow down anyone trying to break through.

Also discussed by the principal was screening that will be given to freshman to identify at-risk behaviors for drug use.

Rebecca Phillips, director of pupil personnel, gave a presentation to update the committee on the special education program. Paraprofessionals have undergone a great deal of professional development including a summer retreat before the school year began. She said that the training taught them how to better understand students with disabilities. This training will be done again next summer, she hopes, and will also be grant funded.

Other training that Mahar teachers have received is when and how to use restraints and seclusion on a student. She said that the regulation will soon change and the staff will be trained fully for the new requirements within a month of the change.

Phillips also mentioned a program that was run at the school over the summer for students at risk of dropping out or who needed to make up credits. She said the students responded positively and are given a better chance of graduating.

Voting Matters

Items approved by the school committee included student trips to Spain and Alaska, and a stipend for the middle school JETS engineering club advisor. Items that were passed during a first vote were the budget transfer policy, community use of the grounds during school hours policy, the restraint policy, and the wellness policy.

Subcommittee Reports

The New Salem School district will be hosting a seminar on Jan. 14 to educate the public about standardized testing.

The policy and procedure subcommittee has been offered policy management services by the Massachusetts Association of School Committees. The service will include better organization of policy books and reminders of when to update policies. MASC offered a deal to let Mahar, the Orange Elementary, and Petersham districts all use the service at the price of one district, at $12,000.

The finance and facilities committee announced that the new lights in the library have already provided $1,400 in electricity savings after a month.

Superintendent’s report

Superintendent Tari Thomas said that preliminary results for the PARCC testing are due out this week. Also, school committee walkthroughs of the school will begin later this month.

Thomas announced that C.J. Christiansen has been awarded the superintendent’s award. She said that Christiansen is president of the senior class, a member of the fish and game club, has participated in the school musical since he was in the fourth grade, and has achieved many things in general in his time at Mahar.

Mahar saw 31 of its students receive the John and Abigail Adams scholarship this year. The scholarship is awarded for high achievement on the MCAS testing and provides four years of free tuition at any state university or community college.

Thomas also noted that a draft of the new teacher evaluation system will be presented at the next meeting.

“The teachers really like this so far,” said school committee chair Peter Cross.

Next meeting

The next meeting of the Mahar school committee will be on Tuesday, Dec. 1, at 6:30 p.m.

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