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Anti-bullying Measures Discussed by School Officials

Pro-social behavior and anti-bullying were the main discussions of the November 19 Mendon Upton Regional School Committee Meeting. After a presentation by Miscoe Hill students involved in the Friends of Rachel Club and the Student Council, Superintendent Dr. Joseph Maruszczak segued into a presentation about the steps the district has taken since the anti-bullying law went into effect. "We have made great efforts [in anti-bullying] in the past two years, but there are still areas of need in the district," said Maruszczak.

Maruszczak reminded the Committee that a formal anti-bullying policy was adopted in 2010, clearly prohibiting bullying and retaliation, spelling out reporting procedures and responses. He said that there has been an increase in professional development for the staff, students, and parents over the past few years including annual staff training in bullying and cyber bullying and bringing in outside speakers from the Worcester County DA's office and from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE).

Maruszczak and Clough Principal Janice Gallagher mentioned some of the district's activities and programs that promote pro-social behaviors such as lunch bunches, peer leadership groups, and second step, a weekly lesson plan taught in school on acceptance and diversity. Maruszczak said one of the challenges that the district faces is in the area of diversity. "We are racially not a diverse community." "This needs to be a focal area and part of our new Strategic Plan," he said.

During the meeting Maruszczak also introduced former MURSD parents Tom Dorney and his wife Margrete Miner, informing the Committee that the two have given the district valuable feedback on these areas. Dorney and Miner have two daughters who were adopted from China, one who is now in college, and one who currently attends Blackstone Valley Technical High School. Dorney said that because the girls were "somewhat distinguishable" within their group, there were occasions where they experienced a "lack of respect," or "were made to feel different," said Dorney.

Dorney and Miner, educators themselves, said they contacted Maruszczak because they felt that it was important that the district continue to develop an atmosphere of respect for diversity. "I worry about all the children who do go to school and suffer," said Miner. School Committee Chairperson Kathleen Drennan thanked Dorney and Miner for their feedback and said that she hoped they would continue to be a resource for the district.

In other news, Director of Student Support Services Dennis Todd informed the Committee that the district is due for their DESE Coordinated Program Review. The review, which happens every six years, will include an on-site visit on December 10 where they will be reviewing the special education, civil rights, and English learner programs. Todd said that the review will include interviews, record reviews, and classroom observations. A final report will be issued in early Spring, and Todd was asked by Drennan to come to a meeting to present the results.

The School Committee formally recertified the FY13, or current school year, budget. The recertified budget included a $164,000 increase in the original certified budget due to an increase in Chapter 70 and transportation funds that they found out about "post July 1." Maruszczak said that the $164,000 was used primarily for staffing, including the addition of a 4th grade teacher at Clough, a 5th and 6th grade teacher at Miscoe, and increasing staffing in the elective areas at Nipmuc. The School Committee unanimously voted to recertify the FY13 budget at $27,998,260.


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