LOWELL – The school committee on Wednesday passed a motion to seek opportunities to send district staff on an educational visit to Cambodia.
The motion, tabled by committee member Dominik Lay, asks Superintendent of Schools Joel Boyd to “convene an ad hoc scoping committee of various internal and external stakeholders to study the feasibility and funding of an educational tour of Cambodia for children. Lowell Public Schools (LPS) teachers, administrators and support staff to experience Cambodia’s culture and traditions firsthand when COVID-19 safety protocols allow. “
Lay said that in recent years some Lowell teachers have been able to take a grant-funded trip to Cambodia, “and the response to that tour has been overwhelming.”
Rita McLaughlin, a music teacher at Murkland Elementary School who has twice visited Southeast Asia for educational reasons, spoke in favor of the motion.
She said her first trip was to Vietnam and Cambodia in 2008 through a partnership between LPS and Primary Source, a non-profit organization based in Watertown. The second time was Lay’s referenced trip to Cambodia in 2016, made possible by Middlesex Community College through a Fulbright scholarship, McLaughlin said.
The tours were eye-opening, she said, and helped her find quality resources that allowed her to confidently teach Southeast Asian music to her students. On the second trip, at the request of a student who now dances with the Angkor Dance Troupe, McLaughlin said she took lessons in the traditional Cambodian coconut dance, which her students have since taken. executed. She said she also shared these resources with other teachers for the benefit of their students.
Lay said three other teachers also wrote in support of the motion. He read aloud one of those letters from Janet Koza, who teaches sixth grade math and science at Stoklosa College and was on the 2016 trip.
In his letter, Koza said the trip was life changing and allowed him to experience the history and culture of the country, from the beauty of Angkor Wat to the horrors of the prisons run by the Khmer Rouge.
“These rich experiences strongly influenced my appreciation not only for the Cambodian people and culture, but also helped me realize that the diverse cultures of all of our citizens of Lowell contribute greatly to what makes Lowell City special,” Koza wrote. “My sensitivity to the cultures I serve was reinforced by my experience and informed my daily teaching. “
In other matters, the committee:
• Approved a motion from Mayor John Leahy asking Boyd to study the feasibility of installing new water refill stations in each school.
• Approved a motion from Leahy asking for clarification on the purchase of IT insurance by staff members; Academic Director Robin Desmond responded that insurance is optional and those who choose not to have it will receive refurbished computers in case a replacement is needed.
• Sent a report on efforts to advance diversity, equity and inclusion to the Equity and Access subcommittee for further discussion.
• Received a report on the summer apprenticeship programs, which served 4,779 students in 25 schools and many community partners.
• Received a report on the condition of windows, blinds and screens in school buildings.
• Approval of a transfer totaling $ 112,353 for various positions in the schools of Stoklosa and Murkland.
• Approved an adjustment to the school calendar that cancels school on September 21 due to the use of some schools as polling stations in the city’s preliminary elections and adds a day at the end of the school year in June.