Mashpee School Committee

STEM teacher Katie Martin presents the work she and her students have been doing with monarch butterflies during a Mashpee School Committee business meeting on October 16.

Confusion among Mashpee School Committee members over goals arose at their Wednesday, October 16 meeting at Quashnet Elementary School.

A number of members thought the goals being discussed would take effect as soon as possible, therefore representing current work the committee was already doing, whereas others thought they were creating long-term goals for the future.

In the summer, the committee went on a retreat and discussed goals, including educational equity, innovation and creating a welcoming environment.

At Wednesday’s meeting, however, questions came forward as to when those goals would take effect.

Nicole Bartlett, vice chairman, said that it seemed problematic to create goals for a committee in which several of its members would be gone by the end of the year, as they serve three-year terms.

“I would never try to do this at this setting,” Ms. Bartlett said. “I think it’s problematic to set long-term goals.”

Chairman Geoffrey Gorman said he did not understand why the committee would not set long-term goals and said he wanted to be “forward-thinking.” He said that the committee missed its window to decide its goals for the current fiscal year, as it is already mid-October. He was also worried about making goals that were similar to the superintendent’s.

“My hope was that we would create our own goals,” Mr. Gorman said. “I don’t understand the pushback.”

Ms. Bartlett wants to get the goals established to “roll out” immediately.

“The consensus is that we want to start them now,” Mr. Gorman said. “I have no problem with that.”

Superintendent Patricia DeBoer suggested that the committee could go on another retreat to talk more and get on the same page.

The committee members ultimately decided they would look over the goals again, give input and confirm when they would take effect.

Near the beginning of the meeting, STEM teacher Katie Martin presented the work she and her students have been doing with monarch butterflies.

As part of a new section on the agenda called Coombs School Share Out, Principal Paul LaBelle introduced Ms. Martin and her students’ projects.

“Not only do we have an awesome science program, but we are making young ambassadors in conservation,” Mr. LaBelle said.

Ms. Martin attended a program a couple of years ago at Waquoit Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve for science teachers to learn about the monarch butterfly and how to develop native pollinator habitats at their schools. She learned how to make a homemade monarch cage and how to row and till a landscape to plant milkweed.

Ms. Martin and her students have been studying monarch butterflies and the chrysalis phase of the caterpillar. The class has created scientific diagrams and discussed their observations, Mr. LaBelle said. They also have planted a garden of milkweed near the playground of the Coombs School in order to study and help the species.

“I really had to think outside of the box on how to teach these very high-level concepts to younger children,” Ms. Martin said.

She showed a slideshow of different projects her students completed and had a student help present and answer different questions about the butterflies.

“That was amazing. That might be my favorite part of any school committee we’ve ever had,” Ms. Bartlett said. “It’s an incredible example of connecting the school, and the kids, and the community. It’s amazing. I just want to bottle it and spread it everywhere.”

Committee members also discussed decreases in enrollment. In the last five years, enrollment has gone down about 4 percent, Mr. Gorman said in the meeting.

The total number of students at Mashpee Public Schools as of September 2019 is 1,594, Ms. DeBoer said. Last year the number was 1,626, according to the meeting agenda.

Ms. DeBoer also said this is a Cape-wide problem, and different ways to attract more families to live on the Cape should be discussed.

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