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School Committee Begins Planning for New Superintendent Search. . . School Employees Concerned about Changes to Health Insurance Co-Pay

Despite the fact that Superintendent of Schools Joseph Mastrocola has not signed a contract with the Peabody school district, there was a lengthy discussion on the possibility of needing to initiate either an accelerated search for a full-time superintendent or an interim superintendent search in the very near future at the Feb. 28 Groton-Dunstable school committee meeting. Concerns of the school committee members ranged from getting the right person from a pool of qualified candidates, to not wanting to feel too rushed, to gathering enough community input.

Arthur Bettencourt of NESDEC (New England School Development Council) discussed timelines and details on various superintendent search options, including a two-year warranty period. He stated "There's not really a good or a bad time to do a search." Recent interim superintendents have been hired in the Billerica, Leominster, and Scituate public school systems and Bettencourt commented, "It's a good alternative if you want to give yourself time."

A sample advertisement for the potential position was included in Bettencourt's presentation. Focus groups and a candidate screening process would be involved in a search process. School committee member Jon Sjoberg said that six focus groups were held in the last superintendent search process. A special meeting of school committee members to further discuss considerations will likely be held early next week and will be advertised at least 48 hours prior in accordance with public meeting laws.

Level Budget for FY13; Health Insurance Increases

A level budget of $34,891,906 for FY 2013 was presented and approved. This amount is the same as for FY2012 and less than the amount for FY2011, although class sizes district-wide have been lowered and positions have been added. Details of the budget are online at http://gdrsd.org.

During the "Questions and Comments from the Public" segment of the meeting, GDRSD employees spoke about proposed increases to health insurance premiums. Lynn Mueller, head of the paraprofessional organization within the school district, said increases would affect 35 percent of GDRSD employees; the proportion of paraprofessionals affected would be 75 percent. She spoke of the importance of teachers as mentors and role models in the community.

Clare O'Neill, middle school teacher, followed up with comments on teachers' collaboration with the district to enter GIC (Group Insurance Commission). Teachers are also members of the PEC (Public Employee Committee). GDRSD teachers entered GIC believing that an 85%/15% split for insurance coverage was fair, but PEC members are now encouraged to accept a 75%/25% split. In addition, co-pays have doubled, and there is a new GIC-instituted deductible of $250 per person per year. Ms. O'Neill called the move to join the GIC, "A major concession on the part of public employees and continues to save the taxpayers thousands of dollars every year." (Note: The school committee made a steadfast commitment to bargain in good faith with employee unions and does not make public statements about proposals which are the subject of active negotiations.)

Dr. Christina Scott, appointed as the new executive director of the Merrimack Special Ed Collaborative Interim Management Team, will start on March 1 and will be available to brief the school committee on the governance model and any other policies or concerns.

Committee meetings on future use of Prescott School continue, and although a summer move would be preferred, the earliest move date could be planned for winter 2012. Advisory committee chair Berta Erickson stated, "The bottom line with the selectmen and town manager is that, of course, they'll try to work with and accommodate us."

Committee member Alice Manugian presented a request for a stabilization fund which would be outside of the district's operating budget. A placeholder article for this request is on the warrant for spring town meeting. It will be discussed in more detail at the March 10 school committee meeting.

Field trip proposals were presented by varsity baseball head coach and health teacher Matt LeBlanc (Cape trip), and Derek Asadoorian (varsity softball coach - Cape trip). Coach Rick Arena (Falmouth Lacrosse trip) was not in attendance, but all three field trips were approved.

NVTHS Spaghetti Dinner Fundraiser for Chamber Chorus

Groton resident Kevin McKenzie, chairman of Nashoba Tech school committee, announced that Nashoba Tech will sponsor a spaghetti dinner fundraiser to support GDRHS Chamber Chorus's trip to 2012 Summer Olympic Games. Chefs-in-training from Nashoba Tech's culinary arts program, along with Groton-Dunstable students, will prepare and serve the dinner Thursday, March 22 at Nashoba Tech's cafeteria from 6-8 p.m. as part of "Year of Giving" program.

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