Brunswick School Board considers revising classroom visit rules

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BRUNSWICK — The School Board is considering a new policy that would loosen classroom observations rules after some parents criticized a new administrative procedure that was enacted Nov. 13.

The formal policy, introduced at the board’s meeting Wednesday night, maintains some of the guidelines from the November procedure, but it also adds an important exception.

“This proposed policy and its regulations are more flexible than the previously outlined requirements for classroom observation,” board member Michelle Small said, “in that exceptions to the one-time-per-month visit for 60 minutes may be made under certain instances such as (a student’s) evaluation, upcoming (Individualized Education Program) meeting, crisis intervention, etc.”

Under the proposed policy, a school principal would use his discretion in assigning the exceptions. A principal would also have the ability to deny parent requests for observations if she determines it “would cause undue disruption in the educational process.”

Parents, guardians or outside observers could then challenge the principal’s decision with Superintendent of Schools Paul Perzanoski, who would have the final say.

The principal may also designate himself or someone else to accompany the parent during a visit “to accommodate follow-up discussion or clarify questions that may arise.”

Small said the policy was recommended by the Policy and Planning Committee, which she chairs. Her board term ends when board member-elect Joy Prescott replaces her on Jan. 7.

At the committee’s Dec. 3 meeting, Small addressed her concerns over the existing procedure, which she considered too rigid. The procedure was established by Perzanoski and explained in a letter sent to parents on Nov. 13.

The procedure, as it still stands now, limits parents to one formal classroom observation a month for no more than 60 minutes. Parents also must be accompanied by a staff member during each visit.

“While the district certainly wants to maintain cooperative and collaborative relationships with parents and community providers, we must preserve and maintain the smooth operations of our schools,” Perzanoski said in the letter.

Perzanoski said later in December that procedures are different from policies in that administrators can decree procedures, while policies must be approved by the School Board.

Ginger Taylor, a co-founder of the Greater Brunswick Special Families group and the parent of an autistic student, is one of the parents critical of the policy.

“When I hear ‘we want to limit parent access to a child,’ to say my red flags go up is a monumental understatement,” Taylor said after attending the last Policy Committee meeting. “When you have a child who has limited verbal ability, they’re at risk because they cannot tell you if there is a problem.”

The new policy must still be reviewed one more time by the board before it can be enacted.

Social time

In other business, School Board Chairman Jim Grant is hoping to make the board more available to the public as it nears decisions on the Master Facilities Plan and the 2013-2014 school budget.

Grant suggested the board hold a quarterly social event that starts an hour before full board meetings. He said the purpose of the social would be to better engage the community.

Board member Matt Corey said he favored the idea, because it could allow for more in-depth conversations with the public than the School Board’s public comment mechanism allows.

Grant said the board will start the quarterly socials next year.

In a separate suggestion, Grant said he also would like to see board members wear lapel pins to indicate their elected positions when they attend other events. He said the board will look further into making that happen.

Dylan Martin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or Follow him on Twitter: @DylanLJMartin.