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Meeting Recap: Stratham School Board - May 18, 2022

Updated: May 20, 2022 sound quality wasn’t always the best Public Input Julie Lacasse addressed the board with concern over Andres Mejia‘s comment at the Exeter Elementary meeting about being excited to be at the elementary level representing as a bisexual. The comment was concerning to many parents. She asked that the board please take into account parental rights. Meaghan Parrish also gave public input agreeing with Lacasse that any topics of sexuality was inappropriate at the K-5 level and should be addressed in the home. She asked that Mejia clarify his role and give limitations to topics that he may present or discuss with students. Mejia began his input by clarifying that he wouldn’t be working directly with students and that he would be mainly a resource to teachers and staff.

  • A resource for professional development and how he can best support situations of homophobic, trans phobic, sexist and any racist situations that may come up.

  • He won’t be holding focus groups or presentations to students, but said that he would be present to read to students or participate just as a parent would.

Mejia did say he misspoke at the last meeting (Exeter) and should have said that he was part of the LGBTQ community instead. There isn’t any way of knowing someone is LGBTQ but you have stickers (rainbow) to signal to students that they are welcome and it’s a safe space (he held up his ID lanyard to illustrate where the stickers would be).

  • He doesn’t have any planned agenda or curriculum. He will primarily be listening and working with the community to tailor his role from any challenges that come up.

Erik Herring (board member) asked the following about Mejia’s role:

  • What is the professional development and how does it work? What kind of certification does that entail?

Esther Asbelle answered: Educators set their own professional goals, and some of them may have DEI goals. They may put that in their portfolio as certification, you don’t have to but they may choose to.

Herring then asked about Mejia’s personal philosophy as he did the listening sessions, as he has been inspired by the ideal color blind society. “Do you believe you have these listening sessions in a colorblind society and is that something you aspire to?” Meija replied that a color blind society would be ideal, but the reality is there is discrimination every day. He gave examples, like what happened over the weekend (Buffalo shooting). He reported that you see discrimination at the elementary level, like when white students tell black students that they can’t be friends with them because they are black or when a student says that the only good thing about Chinese people is Chinese food at the age of 6. Scrafford (board member) asked whether he would be having listening sessions with parents at the elementary level and whether the listening sessions would be segregated by grade level. Meija replied that he would be open to what the community needs.

Presentation on Student Led Conferences The meeting moved onto a presentation from teachers about student led conferences. This is new to the district and they were did not how student led conferences were difficult over zoom in the fall. Most of the feedback and the teachers were excited about the way the conferences went this spring. They were overwhelmed with how joyful students were with showing their work and having their parents in the classroom with them.

Superintendent Report Mollie Okeefe reported on financials and said there was a $19,342 increase since last month. Some additional costs include improvements to the firewall and teaching supplies Asbell reported about hires in the district, administrative contracts and re-certifications. She also reported that they brought back the Covid communication team since there is an increase in cases within the community. Erin Garcia de Paredes (board member) said that The Covid communication committee began meeting again this week. The communication team does not make decisions, but determines how to communicate them. She said that the district will send emails from their principal and or superintendent soon strongly recommending to students that they mask and please stay home if sick. Teacher and student attendance has been an issue and if there is a lack of teacher attendance at a certain ratio the school will have to close and will go into summer break. Remote days are not an option.

  • Herring asked what determined when schools would have to be closed. Asbell remarked that it depended on numbers, as a certain number of adults have to be in the building based on the number of children.

Board Reports Herring gave his superintendent Committee report, saying he could go into more detail in non-public. The committee is meeting May 19th to go over a synthesis report of the survey input from administrators and staff.

There were no updates to the other boards.

SMS Administrative Report The Principal's report included the interview process of a few open positions and moving forward to fill them (math and literacy specialist and case manager), as well as the Spring Fling event happening Friday night for SMS families (for all students and families K-5, not a drop off event). They are taking donations for Ukraine and have a bin available, as well as accepting cash donations. Scrafford asked about the social climate survey that had been sent out and Asbell reported that they will be sending it out again in the fall since participation was so low .Scrafford asked if they could edit it since there were no places to put their own answers and it was rather long. Asbell reported that it is a national survey, so they cannot edit it.

New Business Asbell recommended that the board give hiring rights to the superintendent rather than having the board review any candidates for open positions due to time restrictions in the summer, recommending that they give hiring rates from May 26 through August 30th. This is typically done every year.

  • Ken Otto replied that he was struggling with the concept of an open ended hiring process and not going through the traditional protocols. Asbell clarified that these wouldn’t be new added positions on top of the allocated budget, and they still would go through the traditional interview process with administrators.

Motion to give superintendent hiring rights 5/19 - 8/31 passed 5-0.

Herring asked about hearing more about where fifth graders are in their grade level competencies to make sure that they are prepared for middle school given last month's presentation from teachers. Would like to see the baseline of where they should be before moving on to next steps.

  • Over the summer that data would be compiled and put into a report, to be delivered October 2022.

Meeting ended by making a motion to go into non public.

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