SHIRLEY — The Ayer-Shirley Regional School Committee held its second meeting Aug. 17 at the middle school in Shirley. Planning to meet twice a month, the group rotates between two venues — the middle school and Page-Hilltop Elementary School in Ayer.
According to a synopsis of the proceedings provided by member Patrick Kelly, the committee covered quite a bit of ground.
* Interim Regional Superintendent Mary Beth Hamel updated the committee on how the merged middle school is shaping up for the upcoming school year. To date, the staff has had three professional development days under her leadership and that of the principal and vice principal, she said. “The teams melded together beautifully.”
* More than $30,000 has been committed to new middle school textbooks to support “enhanced curriculum offerings.”
* Teaching staff are on track with the coordination of the program of study.
* Hamel said she’s “impressed” with the work that’s been accomplished and the positive attitude toward the merger “by all involved.”
* New bus routes have been posted on the regional website and the Ayer School District website.
* Hamel is making progress on health insurance plans for district employees. The Teachers Association and the administration jointly hired a consultant to seek out the best health plan option for the new district.
* Transition funds: The $300,000 promised to the new region by the governor, to be plucked from the state’s share of federal American Recovery and Reinvestment funds, has not come through yet, but Kelly said it’s closer. The funds must be applied for through a competitive grant process, but Ayer Superintendent George Frost has called it a paperwork issue, not a problem.
* Hamel has begun the search for a consultant to work with the Regional School Committee on a Strategic Plan for the new district. The recommendation is to create a plan that spans three years that identifies priorities and guides management. The goal is to work on the plan over the next few months so that it’s complete when the district officially launches July 1, 2011.
* As a follow-up to a previous discussion about hiring a technology consultant for the new district, a consultant has been hired to determine what the parameters of the job will be. Working together, the IT team and the consultant will look at the district’s technology needs and present a project plan and costs to the committee.
* Frost presented an update on the Ayer middle-high school building project and projected reimbursement from the Massachusetts School Building Authority. Both Ayer and Shirley districts have submitted all preliminary paperwork the MSBA asked to complete its enrollment study. The next phase is a feasibility study, the cost of which would be rolled into reimbursement — estimated at 67 percent — if the project is approved.
* Hamel proposed a webmaster role for the regional site and the creation of a study committee to work on its design. The committee supported the concept “in full,” Kelly said, and he and member Dan Gleason volunteered.
Over the next 10 months, one of the committee’s top tasks will be adopt a set of policies for the new school district. Hamel proposed a process at the administrative level first in which existing policies from the two independent districts will be merged, updated into a regional format and presented to the committee for approval. The committee agreed, with the proviso that it will receive the new policies one section at a time and that all will be ready to go for day one of the new district.
Starting in September, the committee will meet the first Tuesday of the month in Ayer and the third Wednesday of the month in Shirley.