The City of Gardner MA School Committee met on Monday June 13, 2022Biggest News at End

Due to the absence of Mayor Nicholson, the meeting was chaired by Vice Chair Jennifer Pelavin. None of the warrant articles listed on the agenda were taken up and the Executive Session listed was not held.

Gino is Honored

During the Superintendent Recognition segment, student representative Gino Divitto was recognized by Mark Pellegrino.”I would like to recognize Gino Divitto.” He then presented him with a plaque for outstanding service to the Gardner Public Schools.

Divitto received positive comments from many of the members in their final comments at the end of the meeting. He is now a Gardner High graduate and will be attending college in the fall.

Now Wait a Minute, Minutes!

Shannon Ward-Leighton stated that the minutes noted that John Lafrenniere was absent, however she says “he was in fact present.” Chair Pelavin did not immediately thank Ward-Leighton for noticing this. Instead she stated, you’ll have to handle that at the subcommittee meeting, to amend minutes.” In a previous article, Gardner Magazine compared School Committee Meeting minutes with actual transcripts and found considerable inaccuracies. Mayor Nicholson has stated the problem will be corrected.

Other School Items

The Superintendent gave a Covid 19 update, stating that there were 3 cases consisting of 3 students and 0 staff. Testing will not continue next year. Mark Pellegrino stated, “and I’m ready to end Covid, so yeah.” He also stated that Kindergarten registration is expected to be between 170 to 200 total. Student meal pricing will be up next year to $2.50 for breakfast and $4.00 for lunch – the item was passed unanimously by the School Committee. The School Committee will be touring the new Gardner Elementary School on June 27th.

Gardner MA Superintendent of Schools Mark Pellegrino

Superintendent evaluation

Most members submitted evaluations stating significant progress towards goals or met goals and in regards to different standards: proficient and exemplary. Anne Hurst commented, “Dr. Pellegrino has been consistently leading the District in a positive direction and I think it’s well-reflected in the evaluation, so we also would need to vote on his raise.”

The evaluation passed unanimously and so did a 5% raise per contract. However, the Superintendent commented after the vote, ““Thank you.  I appreciate you recognizing the hard work that my office does.  I want to be really clear that any of the work that I do, if it wasn’t for ….all my whole team we would not be moving in the direction that we’re moving.   I don’t accept a raise that is higher than my staff, so I will only be accepting the 2 percent raise that my staff is getting. “

Final Comments of the School Committee

Shannon Ward Leighton

Shannon Ward – Leighton “ Just to echo what Dr. Pellegrino said, I think we can’t really thank the people enough in this district…. My eyes have been incredibly opened this year as to how things operate.   Normally I stay positive with my comments, but I think I want to bring something up.  This has been a really terrible year for teachers, and in many ways.  And I obviously can’t remove my bias as an educator from that, this past month particularly, ….to see the things that have happened across the country. We are really lucky here to have the people that we do.  I am lucky to have the teachers for my daughters that we do, and, the only thing I can think of is just thank you to Gardner’s teachers, for keeping our kids safe, keeping our kids happy as much as they can, I’m sorry, I won’t get emotional, it’s not like that in other districts.   It’s not.  And just um, I’m going to give a special shout out to Miss Cannell and Miss Nordstrom at the Middle School from Sophie and Miss Chicoine at the Elementary School and just thank everyone in this District for what you do…you’re doing amazing work for children.  And thank you everyone here for being so welcoming to me this year, for this school year and letting me cut my teeth during a difficult time.”

Anne Hurst

Anne Hurst, “First I wanted to thank Gino again.  I ‘ve always felt it so important to have a student voice here, and he’s been great and I asked him if he heard us  yelling ‘Go Gino’ at graduation. ..Just to kinda of echo was Shannon was saying too: at graduation the speeches were inspiring. The young woman who didn’t start out  in this district and ended up here. And her words just meant so much. And to see the amount of kids with awards and, I’m sorry, losing my words again, and then tonight at the Middle School to see all those kids and how happy they are to be going on to High School.  The people who are negative and the recent Facebook stuff that’s negative, it doesn’t reflect what is actually happening here, and all you have to do is just be at any one of these events, talk to anybody, and you will find out a totally different story.  And I am thankful to Dr. Pellegrino for getting things moving forward that I have been advocating for, for many, many years, for inclusion and social-emotional learning, and I just appreciate everybody here in this District.  And Gino, good luck what ever it is you’re heading off to and whatever you may find.”

Gino Divito

Gino Divito, “ I wanted to thank everybody for this, first of all.  I wasn’t expecting this at all.  It’s also been a pleasure being on this, for this year.  Back in sophomore year before Covid, I had a friend who did this as well and I was just like, ‘ I wanna do that when I’m a senior,’ so I asked him…is this still a thing?  And I’m glad I did because I learned a lot of skills about how like a Board and how teams operate. So I’ll be able to carry that at college and beyond. I’m grateful for that.  Definitely glad to have been part of the District for the last 12 years, ‘cause the thing is, like, the more involved  you are the better it is. Like I’m involved in probably too many things, but I’m involved enough and everything you do, there is something to be taught with it, so…thank you.”  Dr. Pellegrino asked Gino, “What are your plans for next  year, do you want to share them with the board?” Gino Divito, “I’m going to Nichols College in Dudley to study sports management and sports marketing.”

Robert Swartz

Robert Swartz, “Well, June 8th, I attended the D.A.R.E. graduation at the Middle School.  That was quite an event.  It really was.  And it has an extra meaning too, as John Lawrence who has been our School Resource Officer for the past 22 years….I recall and incident, probably before all of you. This was probably in his 4th or 5th year.  And I don’t know if many of you know, he was also in the Reserves, the Navy Reserve, I believe. And, it was that time in his career, police career, he was thinking about giving up being a Resource Officer ‘cause he just didn’t think it was that important.  Well, all the kids in the School District heard about what he was thinking about, and they wrote letters and sent him cards, told him how important he was to them, for their safety.  Well, 22  years later he’s now retiring, I think around January or February, so I wish John Lawrence well.  He’s done a great job for us.  So that takes care of the D.A.R.E. program.  And he was the prime instructor for the D.A.R.E. program, all of these  years. So, he’s quite a character when he’s hosting the graduation, he really is, but he gets it done….As I said earlier in the evening, I attended the GHS awards night, and it was an amazing thing as I mentioned it to my son, ‘cause I attended my granddaughter’s graduation at North Middlesex, and I just mentioned to my son that the little City of Gardner presented to the students that were graduating 600 thousand dollars in awards, he almost choked when I told him. But, we have a grateful community and they certainly , all those great people take care of our graduation, graduates, I thank them for that. I attended the GHS and the GALT graduations and I really enjoyed the GALT, even though there were only 14, but they have worked so hard to achieve their graduation.  That’s why I really liked attending. Although the GHS was great, it was good, it was large, but I like GALT too.   And as Anne Hurst said, most of us attended the great ‘?’….promotion which is rather odd, but it was quite interesting, of about 180 students I believe, something like that, going into the 8th grade, but they’re going in to the High School.  That was their theme, we’re going to the high school. That’s all I have, thank you.”

John Lafreniere

John Lafreniere, “ I want to also say thanks to Officer Lawrence for all the things he’s done for the district over the years.  He’s fantastic to have here.  Good luck to Gino. It was nice having you here., working with you.  Also, thank Dr. Pellegrino for another job well done, reflected in the evaluation. I think this is my 19th year on the School Committee, and I have to say, with what  you’ve had to deal with over these past few years, and how well you’ve done,… thank you very much.  Done a great job, worth every bit of the raise that you’re getting, if not more.  I know you have a great team behind you, helps you and gets the district where they are, I appreciate that, I appreciate them just as much, and also as a leader you’re also there to support them, for their needs. So, that shows what a great leader you are.”

Rachael Cormier

Rachel Cormier, “You know, a year ago when we talked about going in to the school year, I had a hard time, like, envisioning how it was going to go after going through all the changes with Covid, and I was very apprehensive, and I just want to acknowledge the staff and the teachers and everybody in central office that made this work incredibly well for our kids.  I think going to a lot of the end-of-school programs at the various schools seeing how happy and excited these kids were to have a normal year and have something to celebrate made everything worth it.  There were headaches, there were struggles, there were tears, through the whole process, but seeing that they had a good year made it all worth it and I’m really appreciative of the staff and teachers for doing that…Gino, thank you, I know everybody else has said it, but your dedication to being here was great all the time, always having something to provide.  I don’t always follow the sports, but I knew once a month that I was going to get an update, so I appreciate that, thank you.  And that’s all, looking forward to another good school year coming up and that brand new school.”     

Jennifer Pelavin

Jennifer Pelavin, “ And I just wanted to say, to thank all of the staff, everyone who works for Gardner Public Schools, it’s amazing.  I always love when we get to this point, ‘cause it’s amazing to kinda look back and see tomorrow’s the last day for the students.  And I did wanna mention that as you all saw in the update from Mr. Martin that the DIBL score which is the reading aptitude testing, that it’s some of the best DIBL’s scores they’ve had, correct?”  Mark Pellegrino stated, “ever”  K through grade 2 had growth that, we have never,  just not seen that level of growth. Usually, at the end of the year we were hitting about 60 percent, this year through grade 1 there were over 80 percent.   In grade 2, they were just a little under 80 percent.  So those kind of growth scores we just haven’t seen before, and I think that speaks a lot to Mr. Martin’s leadership and that team, ….following through and really working together as a team to develop lesson plans that are effective. 

The Biggest News: Efforts in the Gardner School System to improve academic performance are showing their value in documented results such as the big bump in 1st and 2nd grade reading scores documented by Vice Chair Pelavin and Superintendent Pellegrino in the above exchange.