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12/4/20 Superintendent & COVID Tracking Update

12/4/20 Superintendent & COVID Tracking Update
Posted on 12/04/2020

Dear Natick Families,

As the holiday season approaches, we generally receive many inquiries regarding the policy on providing gifts to staff members, so I thought I’d share the following information with you.You may or may know that there is a state law requiring all Massachusetts public employees to receive a copy of conflict of interest regulations and to receive mandatory training on this topic and most importantly follow the law. While it is unlikely that teachers receiving tokens of appreciation from students and their families was the impetus for the state government’s emphasis on conflict of interest legalities, it is important that our employees comply with their legal responsibilities.

The purpose of the law and accompanying regulations is to avoid any perception that a public employee might display some type of favoritism due to the influence of a gift.While parents often give gifts to our teachers and assistants at holiday time and/or the end of the year as an expression of gratitude for their hard work, I would appreciate it if parents who choose to do so would adhere to the following guidelines in order to avoid putting our educators in an awkward position:

Massachusetts General Law Chapter 268A and State Ethics Commission rules prohibit all public employees from receiving personal gifts of “substantial value,” which according to the regulations is $50 or more. This includes meals, tickets, services rendered, holiday gifts, etc.

The Ethics Commission recently created an exemption to permit class gifts to teachers. A teacher may accept a gift, or several gifts during the school year, from public school students and/or their parents and guardians, with an aggregated value of up to $150, if the gift is identified only as being from the class, and the identity of the givers and the individual amounts given are not identified to the recipient. Gifts received pursuant to this exemption are not required to be disclosed.

The law and regulations apply to any single, personal gift to a public employee from an individual or group. An employee may accept multiple gifts from different parties as long as each individual gift complies with the regulations.

Contributions for educational supplies, the purchasing of books or curriculum materials for the classroom, or a donation to a PTO or organization such as the Natick Education Foundation in the educator’s name are not subject to the limit.

Natick's families traditionally have been generous to our educators, and all of us in the School Department appreciate all the time, effort, and financial support that you provide. I ask that you please follow these guidelines so that our educators do not need to politely decline a gesture of appreciation.

If you have questions about the law and regulations, please contact your principal or me. We appreciate your attention to this.



COVID-19 UPDATES
Below is the information on cases in Natick Schools, but the state and Governor have made changes to the leveling and metrics system for the state and to that end, the complete data that informs our district dashboard is not yet complete.
There is intense pressure at the state level for us to move all students back into live learning; as we reported to you in August, we cannot fit all students back to live learning with the 6 feet of social distancing. School Committee and I will continue to have public dialogue about full returns to school, and we will collaborate with the Board of Health as well-- as we do weekly, but at this time, with rates rising, we are watching and waiting. We also received preliminary news that winter sports will occur in some fashion, but details are pending. I will be in touch as soon as I know more.
In conjunction with the Natick Board Of Health, the following overview of Virus Thresholds and COVID Closure and Communications Procedures. This is a guiding framework for use in the coming months as we work to keep schools healthy.
For your ease, we will update the NPS COVID dashboard every week with the Board of Health. The Board of Health will work with Dr. Nolin, the superintendent, to make decisions about virus impact to classroom, school and district closures or openings.
The Board of Health has some latitude within aspects of the framework relative to virus clusters (i.e. high rates of nursing home infections should not dictate the closing of schools but would create higher overall community reflection rates). Each Friday, we will also indicate any schools who have quarantined cohorts and overall confirmed cases. However, a three-week window of data for the community as detailed in the above memo will be the indicators used by the Board of Health to decide our open/closure rates. Classes and individuals who must be quarantined will be notified by both our nurses and the Board of Health. Rigorous contact tracing and COVID notice procedures will then ensue.
All individuals directly affected are contacted personally and in writing. Here are our communication procedures. Cases are tracked by the BOH, NPS nursing staff and the Department of Education Mobile Virus Response Unit.
The statewide travel advisory is still in effect.

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