School news in brief: new school committee chair; reopening, equity and inclusion updates

Jen Benham (photo by Joshua Ross)
Jen Benham (photo by Joshua Ross)
By Carol Britton Meyer and Joshua Ross

During this week's annual School Committee reorganization heading into the new school year, Kerry Ni was elected as chair; Carlos DaSilva, vice chair; and Libby Lewiecki, secretary. Ni and Lewiecki have been on the committee since 2018, and DaSilva since 2016.  The School Committee also welcomed newly elected member, Jen Benham.

Kerry Ni, new chair of the School Committee (photo by Kerry Riordan)

During a Recovery Response Advisory Committee update, the news was shared that updated learning plans are due to Massachusetts Commissioner of Education Jeffrey C. Riley by early August. The three school reopening options are remote or in-person learning or a combination of the two. Family and staff surveys are in the works. School officials are waiting for guidance from the state regarding  school transportation, athletics, and Personal Protection Equipment requirements, to name a few.  Input from parents, teachers, and students is being considered as plans move forward for the reopening of school, in whatever form it might take.

Asst. Supt. of Schools Jamie LaBillois provided an update on the Equity & Inclusion Working Group. The initial goal was to develop a plan by June 2020, but due to COVID-19, the date got pushed back. Among the many initiatives are ensuring that each classroom library includes a variety of stories representing people of different cultures. Also, the sophomore English curriculum is being audited to ensure the required readings reflect diversity.

The HPS vision of equity developed by the working group states that "regardless of student background, experience, and knowledge, Hingham Public Schools students will be provided with opportunities and resources to develop socially, emotionally, and academically in a safe, supportive, enriching, and bias-free environment." Watch for further updates.

On a related subject, over the past several months, the Policy Subcommittee has been working with Supt. of Schools Paul Austin and the Massachusetts Association of School Committees to update the Hingham Public Schools Policy Manual to ensure it includes all legally required policies as well as policies reflecting best practices. Proposed Section J contains all policies related to students, including Equal Educational Opportunities, Attendance Areas, Entrance Age, Homeless Students, Educational Opportunities for Military Children, Educational Opportunities for Children in Foster Care, Student Dress Code, Bullying Prevention, Student Complaints & Grievances, Interscholastic Athletics and Communicable Diseases, among others. Current student policies are contained in Section 6 of the HPS Policy Manual.

"In proposed Section J, we kept some of our policies, updated the language in some, and others are brand new, either because they are legally required or reflect best educational practices," Ni told the Hingham Anchor.  To access the policy manual, visit

On July 8, the School Committee completed the second read of Section J but did not vote on it pending additional feedback from teachers, administrators, and the community.

"We may do a third read, and possibly vote, at our July 27 meeting, depending on that feedback," Ni said. "Otherwise, we will vote at a later meeting."

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