Margaret Raymond Driscoll is a nine-year Melrose School Committee member who is passionate about excellent teaching and learning for all public school students, and considers it a privilege to collaborate with others who share that passion. You can also follow her on Twitter at @MargaretDrisc. Just to be clear - opinions expressed here do not represent those of the Melrose Public Schools, the Melrose School Committee, or the Massachusetts Association of School Business Officials - they are hers alone.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

City of Melrose Meeting on Public Records Law

On Tuesday, December 11th, City of Melrose department heads along with all members of Melrose boards and commissions were invited to a presentation by Don White, an attorney in Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin’s office. Atty. White offered a review of the Guide to the Massachusetts Public Records Law (http://www.sec.state.ma.us/pre/prepdf/guide.pdf) and answered questions regarding the law. He reviewed what records are public, what the response timeline is, what records are exempt, and what fees may apply. More information can be found on the Secretary’s web site (http://www.sec.state.ma.us/pre/preidx.htm). I thought the presentation included good suggestions on what documents need to be retained and how to do that. Time well spent!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

School Committee Meeting Notes of November 27, 2012

Another great Melrose Home for the Holidays this past weekend! Our businesses support our schools in so many ways – hope you’ll have a chance to check them out and find something in them for the special people on your list.  I was late arriving to the last meeting due to a prior commitment, but watching it on MMTV was a great way to catch up. Check the minutes for the official version, but here are the highlights from my perspective. (Remember – the page numbers in red are those associated with documents from the 11/27 agenda packet in the IQM2 portal on the School Committee page of our web site.)

Consent Agenda

The Committee approved gifts, donations, and competitive grants (pp. 3-5) as well as the Warrants (pp. 6-48).

Finance and Facilities

Dan Sullivan of Sullivan & Rogers, LLC, presented the findings of their “Review of Systems of Internal Controls over Financial Operations and Reporting” (pp. 43-61). You can also find it here: http://www.melroseschools.com/administration/pdfs/Audit_Report_Nov_2012.pdf. * Supt. Taymore presented an assessment of the district’s textbooks, commenting on the status of last year’s textbook inventory, how she is advising staff to review their textbooks (currency, relevancy, and condition), concerns about the math curriculum, and considerations regarding future impacts on materials/associated expense. Her memo is on p. 62 and the inventory (which Supt. Taymore considers a working document) is on pp. 63-173. She indicated that the biggest challenge is meeting the requirements of the new state frameworks, including determination of an appropriate blending of fiction and non-fiction reading. She applauded John McLaughlin for his support of a pilot project that funds Nooks and materials for the 6th grade history exploratory class. She has also asked Business Manager Jay Picone to ensure that when curriculum is ordered, it includes a full range of materials - from those for students with special learning needs to enrichment materials for students who need more challenge. Supt. Taymore also spoke to the fact that textbooks may be heading to more electronic materials, but that a textbook budget will never go away; free books only apply to “dead authors”. In the distant future, teachers will have the ability to create their own textbooks. * The preliminary budget timeline has been released and can be found on p. 174, indicating that voting on fees by the Committee is expected on January 8th with the full budget presented on January 23rd.  The timeline is very fluid and may change according to information requested by the Committee to Supt. Taymore, financial actions by the state, etc. The expectation is that this budget will be clearer to the community at-large, and that principals will be more fully vested in the discussion of their buildings as full cost-centers. (Supt. Taymore said that there are very “rich” discussions happening among principals about things like instructional materials vs. instructional supplies, etc.)

Policy and Planning

MHS Interim Principal Marianne Farrell presented the MHS School Improvement Plan (pp. 175-189) and Winthrop Interim Principal Cynthia Santosuosso presented the Winthrop School Improvement Plan (pp. 190-210). * Tabled Policy #6208: Committee/Superintendent Relations was brought back for discussion with some amendments from the prior meeting (pp. 211-213) and approved (on a first vote). * Mr. Lehman indicated that the Committee’s annual Self-Evaluation document (pp. 214-215) was included in the packets for review and comment, and the actual evaluation would be conducted at the December meeting.

Announcements of the Chair

The MA Association of School Committees held its annual conference from November 7-10. Ms. Casatelli was our delegate and voted on proposed resolutions. (Final results of that voting and the resulting resolutions can be found here: http://www.masc.org/component/content/article/15-events/473-report-on-actions-taken-at-the-2012-delegate-assembly.) I had the benefit of attending a wide variety of workshops and was able to procure documents/presentations from a number of others (pp. 216-217).

Executive Session

We approved Executive Session minutes from August 14th and September 27th and also talked about a negotiation issue with non-union staff.

Our last meeting of the calendar year is December 11th. Until then, we are grateful for all that you do for our children, particularly at this busy time of the year!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

School Committee Meeting Notes of November 14, 2012

Looks like we’re moving quickly from fall to winter. We’ve already eaten our turkey - which tasted especially good this year with the Red Raiders’ win over the Wakefield Warriors! Playing a little catch-up, so here’s the scoop from the November 14th meeting; check the minutes for the official version, but here are the highlights from my perspective. (Remember – the page numbers in red are those associated with documents from the 11/14 agenda packet in the IQM2 portal on the School Committee page of our web site.)

Announcements of the Superintendent

Supt. Taymore reviewed her final 100-day plan (pp. 3-4), focusing on her four main objectives (Improve Teaching Effectiveness Through Better Use of Student Data; Evaluating Teacher Performance; Common Core Implementation; and Communication and Discourse). * She reviewed her process and timeline for the MHS Principal Search (p. 5), proposed a School Committee – Superintendent retreat (p. 6), and offered an update on the MHS NEASC process and progress (p. 7). * Commenting on decisions regarding next year’s school calendar, Supt. Taymore indicated that she is working in partnership with our union to address the challenges presented by mid-week winter holidays and time needed to adequately prepare for the next phase of the Educator Evaluation tool.

Announcements of the School Committee Chair

Ms. Thorp has reviewed agendas from 2012 and used them to prepare a draft rolling agenda for 2013 (pp. 8-10). * We discussed the fact that the Committee will be moving to entirely electronic documents by our first meeting in December. (All packet documents will be available to the community on Mondays from now on, but since we are going paperless there won’t be printed copies in the Alderman’s Chambers any more. You can access them on-line from your wireless device or bring printed copies from home.) * Our School Committee recording secretary, Ms. Carol Rogers, will be leaving in late November, and Supt. Taymore’s assistant, Mrs. Diane Hogan, will be taking over. * We discussed Victorian Fair expenses and a small expense reimbursement for Committee members (p. 11). * Ms. Thorp indicated that she and Supt. Taymore were working well together and for that reason, she would ask the Committee for consideration regarding retaining her Committee Chair seat for the coming year. (An initial vote will be taken at the December meeting.)

Consent Agenda

We ultimately approved the Minutes of 10/23; the Monthly Budget Summary (pp. 12-17); the Monthly Maintenance Report (pp. 18-36); the Personnel Report (p. 37); a second vote on the By-Laws Amendment (p. 38); and the Warrants (pp. 39-114).

Policy and Planning

School Improvement Plans were presented by Hoover (pp. 115-133), Horace Mann (pp. 134-160), and Roosevelt (pp. 161-176) Principals. * Mr. Lehman offered an update on the 2012 School Committee (p. 177) and presented a proposal for Policy #6208: Committee/Superintendent Relationship (pp. 178-179), discussion on which was postponed until 11/27.

Finance and Facilities

Supt. Taymore announced a pilot program to be implemented at MVMMS with respect to realizing cost off-sets to electricity expenses (pp. 180-209). The program was researched and evaluated by Energy Efficiency Manager Martha Grover and will be overseen by Facilities Manager Max French, DPW Business Manager Ann Waitt, and DPW Director John Scenna. * Supt. Taymore indicated that this year’s budget process will identify each school as a cost center in order to reflect building-based needs more clearly. It will be a level-service budget focused on being educationally appropriate for students.

Collectively we think of this season as one of giving, and our schools are always grateful for all that you give to our children………..

Monday, October 29, 2012

On MHS Science Labs: October 24th, 2012

These were my takeaways:

* If we want our students to receive the kind of science, technology, and engineering education that will make them successful in whatever post-secondary experience they choose, top-notch science labs are fundamental to the inquiry-based teaching and learning required. That is why this project is so important for our students and families.

* Just a few of the improvements that students and staff will experience: natural and artificial lighting that is appropriate for lectures and/or experiments; a separate chemical storage room so teachers can remove only what will be needed for the day’s experiment; computers at lab stations so students can input data in real-time and teachers can gauge how the experiment is progressing; key safety provisions like in-room showers and warm-water eye-baths in case of chemical spillage (an extreme rarity!); handicap-accessible lab stations; flexibility to add furniture/fixtures that could be needed in the future but aren't even invented yet.

* Student safety during the demolition/rebuild is the top priority. There will be CORI checks for all on-site workers. There will be an air-quality clearance before students return to school after February vacation (when demolition will be complete). The sharing of space by middle- and high-schoolers will be coordinated appropriately (and the administration has experience in this area based on the prior middle school demo/rebuild).

The strength of the partnership among Superintendent Taymore, City Planner Denise Gaffey, Interim Principal Marianne Farrell, Science Department Chair Julie Shea, along with the project architect and project managers is clear. They are running under extremely tight deadlines and working with incredible focus and effort in order to improve science, technology, and engineering education at Melrose High School

Friday, October 26, 2012

School Committee Meeting Notes of October 23, 2012

A beautiful day today, and hoping that Sandy decides to skip our neck of the woods next week! Looking back to this past week, we had an information-filled School Committee meeting on Tuesday. Check the minutes for the official version, but below are the highlights from my perspective. (Remember – the page numbers in red are those associated with documents from the 10/23 agenda packet in the IQM2 portal on the School Committee page of our web site.)

Report of the Student Representatives
We said good-bye to our Italian students after a wonderful exchange! Dates to note: 10/28 – MAAV Walk and Candlelight Vigil (http://maav.org/home/maavs-17th-annual-walk-candlelight-vigil/information-on-maav-walk-2012/); 10/29 – Senior Halloween Dance at the KofC; 10/29 – “They Don’t Call it “Dating” Anymore: A Parent’s Guide to Healthy and Unhealthy Relationships” (http://www.melroseschools.com/mhs/pto.cfm); 10/30 – MHS delayed opening; 11/1 – 8th Grade Parent Info Night at MHS Resource Center; 11/1 – MCAS retakes; 11/2 – Q1 closes; 11/8 – MHS blood drive.

Announcements of the Superintendent
Supt. Taymore enthusiastically welcomed Winthrop School Interim Principal Cynthia Santosuosso, an experienced Lincoln School teacher and Head Teacher. With equal enthusiasm she welcomed our new Business Manager, Jay Piccone.

Announcements of the Chair: Ms. Thorp referred to the updated Rolling 3 Month Agenda (p. 3)

Consent Agenda
We ultimately approved the School Committee minutes of 10/9/12 (pp. 4-8), second votes required on Policy #4122: Non-Union Salary Schedules, Repeal of Policy #4213: Professional Staff Salary Schedules, Repeal of Policy #4305: Support Staff Salary Schedule, and Amendment and Renaming of Policy #4304: Support Staff Contracts and Compensation Plans (pp. 9-12); MHS Field Trip Requests to Costa Rica, Denmark, NY (for Spanish Exchange students), and Model UN in Providence (pp. 13-16); and warrants (pp. 17-70).

Policy and Planning
Lincoln Principal Brent Conway and Site Council Co-Chair (and PTO President) Annalise Conti presented their 2013 School Improvement Plan (SIP) (pp. 71-90) after which MVMMS Principal Tom Brow and Site Council Co-Chair Kristen Harvey presented the 2013 MVMMS SIP (pp. 91-117). *Enrollments for the district as of October 1st, as required to be reported to the state, were presented (p. 118). * The School Committee By Laws were changed to support the posting of meeting documents 24 hours in advance of meetings rather than the day of meetings (p. 119).

Educational Programs and Personnel
METCO Director Doreen Ward offered an update on student enrollment, successes, and challenges of the program in Melrose (pp. 120-125). * Athletic Director Pat Ruggiero presented a review of the athletics program, including participation numbers by sport and season, status of fields, and concussion statistics as reported to the state (pp. 126-128).

Finance and Facilities
City of Melrose Chief Information Officer Jorge Pazos reviewed his MPS Technology Overview, including staffing, projects, challenges (with recommendations), and a district computer inventory (pp. 129-137). * Ms. Casatelli announced that the School Committee would begin a Facebook page soon.

As the weather folks speculate on Sandy, hope you are able to get out and enjoy tomorrow’s fall beauty and spend some time with the special people in your life. And thanks (as always) for sharing your time and talents with some of the special people in our lives – our fantastic students.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

School Committee Meeting Notes of October 9, 2012

As we take a break from raking (while hoping the wind blows those leaves away so we can just store the rake?) we heard about some excellent work being done by Supt. Taymore and our administrative team. They are drilling down on MCAS data and determining how to employ high quality professional development and other resources to achieve improvement for all students. You’ll get extra credit (and a lot of knowledge!) by taking a look at the presentations to see what they’re doing. (Just an fyi…we’re hopping on the city bandwagon with respect to agendas and documents. To access them, click on the School Committee page of the schools’ web site and then click “IQM2 Meeting Portal”. Find and click on the appropriate meeting, then click “Agenda Packet”. You will have called up a PDF containing all the documents discussed at the meeting. Notes below will include the respective page number of the PDF in red.)


We recognized and expressed appreciation to Mr. Burt Buchman for his prior service to the Melrose School Committee. (He currently serves in Tyngsborough.) He is receiving the Massachusetts Association of School Committees’ (MASC) Lifetime Achievement Award next month.

Report of the Student Representatives

Students Madeleine Frasca and Amanda Sampson welcomed our Italian exchange students, invited the community to attend the annual MHS Scholarship Fund Pancake Breakfast on 10/20 sponsored by Johnnie's Foodmaster (link here: http://www.melroseschools.com/mhs/pdfs/Microsoft%20Word%20-%20MHS%20pancake%20breakfast%20flyer%202012.pdf), and also invited the community to attend a 10/29 workshop entitled “They Don’t Call it Dating Anymore: A Parent’s Guide to Healthy and Unhealthy Teen Dating Relationships” (link here: http://www.melroseschools.com/mhs/pto.cfm).

Announcements of the Superintendent

Supt. Taymore indicated that she had interviewed two candidates for the Winthrop Interim Principalship and hoped to have a decision prior to week’s end. * She was delighted to announce that the MA School Building Authority (SBA) approved Melrose’s request for a $3.1M grant to renovate/rebuild our science labs. She is hosting a forum on 10/24 to share more information (logistics and agenda here: http://www.melroseschools.com/mhs/pdfs/Agenda%20for%20Science%20Renovations%20Parent%20Mtg%20Oct%2024.pdf). * Don’t forget to check out Curriculum Director Dr. Adams’ blog posts on Melrose Patch!

Announcements of the School Committee Chair

Ms. Casatelli will represent the School Committee at the annual MASC conference in November (pp. 3-4). Resolutions under consideration are on pp. 5-7. * As noted above, Committee document delivery is changing and we voted to go all-electronic beginning in December. We also voted to post documents for the community’s review on Monday instead of Tuesday (p. 8). * Finally, we addressed documents provided to the Attorney General’s Office regarding an Open Meeting Law complaint filed by SC member Ms. Kourkoumelis (p. 9).

Consent Agenda

We ultimately approved the School Committee minutes of 9/27/12 (pp. 10-15), Monthly Budget Summary (pp. 16-21), Personnel Report (p. 22), Cafeteria Report (p. 23), and Warrants (pp. 24-69).

Educational Programs and Personnel

Dr. Margaret Adams presented the 2012-2013 Professional Development Plan (pp. 70-73). After the introduction, it addresses the focus of professional development (also known as training for teachers and all staff members), how it will be implemented, and the “Connections to Melrose Public Schools Strategic Plan”. In order to determine the effectiveness of professional development, administrators will use a variety of assessments (surveys, seeing how the training is put into action in classrooms, etc.) so necessary modifications can be made to enact a continuous system of improving training opportunities. * Spring, 2012 MCAS results (pp. 74-134 or here: http://www.melroseschools.com/administration/pdfs/MCAS%20Spring%202012%20Results%20October%209th%20Presentation.pdf) were carefully analyzed by the leadership team and findings by content area and grade were presented, including strengths and challenges. Action plans were also presented which will reveal themselves in continuing professional development choices, future budget recommendations, MVMMS and MHS course development and sequencing proposals, etc. * Updated, standards-based Grade 1-5 report cards were presented that clearly describe how students’ skills will be assessed (pp. 135-144). Note particularly the purpose of assessing students in this way, how the report cards will change, and what process was used to inform the changes (pp. 145-146).

Policy and Planning

ECC and Kindergarten enrollments were presented (p. 147). Supt. Taymore noted that the number of kindergarten classrooms is appropriate for the number of students (up from 245 last year to 272 this year). * In order to set appropriate salary expectations for staff, we added Policy #4122: Salary Schedules (p. 148), repealed Policy #4213: Professional Staff Salary Schedules (p. 149) and #4305: Support Staff Salary Schedules (p. 150), and amended/renamed Policy #4304: Support Staff Contracts and Compensation Plans (p. 151).

Well, apparently the leaves remain and the rake must reappear, so as we all carry on, please know how much we value the time you take from your busy lives to help a child. Although the leaves will soon be gone, your impact will last a lifetime………

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Did You See the 10/4/12 Common Core Presentation?


Some thoughts on why this presentation is so informative and useful:

1.  It reminds us as parents that schooling today has significantly evolved since our school days. (The workplace of today sure has evolved from the workplace back-in-the-day, right? Has your child ever actually seen a floppy disk?)

2. It makes clear the need for students to be able to do and show specific skills and abilities in order to perform increasingly challenging work - it's not just about getting a grade anymore....

3. It ties school- and home-based learning to real-world activities and accomplishment. (Challenge: can you answer the questions posed in the presentation?)

4. It provides concrete and specific examples of how we can support learning at home. (We're all in this together!)

Great presentation by Melrose Administrators and wonderful partnership among the schools, city, and the Melrose Education Coalition. Thanks to you all!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

School Committee Meeting Notes of September 27, 2012

We’re well into October and the month is flying by! So many great things happening – sports, band, and of course academics. Our School Committee meeting of September 27th covered a lot of great things too – a very substantive session.  For the official version, please check the meeting minutes, but here are the highlights from my perspective. (Remember that the items in red are documents located on the Agendas page on the SC section of the MPS web site.)

Senator Katherine Clark (joined by Representative Paul Brodeur and bill supporter Amy O’Leary of Strategies for Children)

Senator Clark, co-sponsor of H. 4243: “An Act Relative to Third-Grade Reading Proficiency”, announced that the bill had been signed by Gov. Patrick the previous day. She indicated that 39% of MA third graders read below grade level, and that 50% of third-grade students in 100 communities read below grade level. The bill establishes an early literacy panel to support improvement in this area. For more information, click here: http://www.mass.gov/governor/pressoffice/pressreleases/2012/2012926-close-achievement-gap.html.

Report of the Student Representatives
MHS students welcomed Spanish exchange students, and indicated that the Guidance Dept. was hosting a College Fair on October 9th (with 50 colleges expected to participate).

Announcements of the Superintendent
Supt. Taymore offered a progress report on her 100 Day Plan (100 Day Plan Sept 29). <If you want to know what your superintendent has been doing every day, it’s right here!> She also introduced her New Superintendent Induction Coach, Rosemary DiTullio. * Supt. Taymore announced that Winthrop Interim Principal Bob Arsenault is stepping down for personal reasons and that the position will be posted internally. (Parents were notified immediately.) * She indicated that she is searching for a new Business Manager and that the Committee would be considering a contract in Executive Session. (We reported out that we had approved a contract.) * School, subject, and proficiency gap/growth MCAS results were presented (MCAS Data), indicating whether schools were above target, on target, no change, improved below target, or declined.

Announcements of the Chair
Ms. Thorp presented the tentative School Committee meeting schedule for 2013 (2013 SC Calendar), which was approved with the understanding that we may revisit it if Thursdays seem like they may be a better fit later next year. * Open Meeting Law Training was recorded and DVD’s have been made and forwarded to principals. Supt. Taymore has a copy available should anyone like to view it.

Consent Agenda
Ultimately approved were the School Committee Minutes of 9/11/12, a second vote on Committee By Laws (By Laws Amendment), and Warrants.

Educational Programs and Personnel
Guidance Dept. Chair John Buxton presented a three-fold review including the Class of 2012 Update, Standardized Test Review, and Middle School to High School Retention (MHS Update).  He stressed the importance of finding the best post-secondary match for graduating students. * Responding to a prior Committee request, Mr. Zammuto presented an FY12 vs. FY13 comparison of staff attrition. With start dates on or after 7/1/11 (FY12), the district had 47 new hires compared with 51 in FY13, an increase of four new hires this year. (A full list of those changes along with a listing of most MPS personnel can be found at Administrative and Teaching Staffing).

Policy and Planning
Asst. Supt. of PPS Patti White-Lambright presented an update to our Strategic Plan (Strategic Plan – Year 3 – 2012).

Finance and Facilities
Ms. Casatelli distributed a School Committee blog proposal for consideration later in October.  * We voted in favor (and with appreciation), gifts and donations by generous members of our community (Acceptance of Donations Memo). * A memo was presented that reviewed financial details of the newly purchased health curriculum as well as monies incurred for the Victorian Fair School Dept. booth manned by Committee members (Health Curriculum and Victorian Fair).

Stay tuned – I’m catching up on Committee updates! While that’s happening, thank you - thank you (as always!) for all the time and energy you devote to our students. Together we really can make a difference!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

5th Annual Window Art Walk!

Looking for one more reason to enjoy our beautiful downtown? Starting yesterday, October 13th through Saturday, October 27th, a variety of participating Melrose merchants are displaying original works by local artists including our terrific Melrose High School art students. For more information click here: http://www.melrosearts.com/2012_window_art_walk.html and remember to take an extra minute to experience a living museum right in our own backyard!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Open Meeting Law Presentation of September 24, 2012

Last Monday, members of all boards and commissions in the City of Melrose were invited to attend an Open Meeting Law presentation provided by Massachusetts Association of School Committees’ Field Representative Jim Hardy. (For a list of Melrose Boards and Commissions, click here: http://www.cityofmelrose.org/boards_commissions.cfm.) Jim focused on the definitions of Open Meeting Law terms, and what should and should not happen before, during, and after an open meeting. He then reviewed what should and should not happen in an Executive Session, and how the Attorney General’s Office enforces violations of Open Meeting Law. The information was an excellent reminder about how our public groups need to appropriately convene, discuss respective topics, and record/issue minutes. For more information on this topic, you may want to check out http://www.mass.gov/ago/government-resources/open-meeting-law/. To view the presentation click here: http://www.melroseschools.com/administration/pdfs/2012-2013%20OML%20Presentation.pdf.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

School Committee Meeting Notes of September 11th, 2012

Another beautiful fall day – great for anything outdoors! Hope your busy schedules allow for a quick walk at lunch or a stop at the playground with your little ones. Remember – my opinion only here, and documents in red can be found on the melroseschools web site……

Report of the Student Representatives
MHS Freshman Orientation was held at the beginning of the day on August 28th, with a separate, newly added “Welcome to Melrose High School” breakfast for new students and teachers. MHS is hosting the NESBA band competition on Saturday, September 29th at the MHS football field – 5:00 start with MHS going off at 7ish – come cheer them on!

Announcements of the Superintendent
Interviews were completed for a new Business Manager with the expectation of a recommendation on 9/27. * Supt. Taymore provided training on September 14th to teachers on SMART goals, with the deadline for this process on November 1st (MOA Timelines).

Announcements of the Chair
Ms. Thorp indicated that the School Committee booth at the Victorian Fair was a success and that written comments gathered there had been forwarded to Supt. Taymore. Citywide Open Meeting Law Training is scheduled for September 24th and our next meeting is on September 27th.

Consent Agenda
We ultimately approved the School Committee Minutes of August 28, 2012; the Personnel Report (Personnel Report FY13-September); the Monthly Budget Summary (FY2013 Monthly Update-August); second vote on Amendment to Policy 4201 - Professional Staff Positions; second vote on new Policy 4202 - Professional Staff Hiring/Posting of Positions; second vote on repeal of Policy 2114 – Interview Search Committee for Central Office Administrators; second vote on repeal of Policy 2201 – Business Manager; second vote on repeal of Policy 2202 – Special Education and Pupil Services Director; second vote on repeal of Policy 2301 – Interview Search Committee for Principals;  second vote on repeal of Policy 4202.02 – Posting of Vacancies; and approval of Warrants (Warrants 8-30-12).

Educational Programs and Personnel
Supt. Taymore explained that she has been working with Bridge Director Emily Rubenstein regarding assembling a group of library experts to define an ELMS job description for today’s educational needs and offer other counsel. She also indicated that school library volunteers would not experience any change to the library program compared with past years, and that one of the volunteers had graciously arranged for library software training that would include the coordinators as well as some teachers. * In anticipation of the next meeting’s presentation of MCAS results, Supt. Taymore offered a presentation on No Child Left Behind (NCLB) accountability changes (NCLB Accountability Changes). * The MHS presentation originally scheduled was moved to the next meeting as the Guidance Dept. has been focused on working with students at the beginning of the school year.

Policy and Planning
Mr. Lehman offered a recommended update to our By-Laws (By Laws Amendment – DBL – 20120 from 9/13).

Finance and Facilities
Supt. Taymore announced that she is contracting with a local accounting firm to review the district’s system of internal controls (Systemic Review of Internal Controls). She indicated that she did not believe there was any malfeasance, but that particularly at this time (with her entry into the district and the change-over of Business Managers), it would be very useful for us as a school community to examine our financial practice and make any updates that are deemed appropriate. An article in this morning’s Globe North speaks to this decision: http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/2012/09/26/melrose-school-audit-will-look-financial-human-resource-practices/9w1drOdV5ffounwizRPuJI/story.html.

I’ll work on getting back to my (temporarily disrupted!) routine of publishing updates shortly after meetings. As always, your kindnesses to students are so very much appreciated and help our district more than you know!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Welcome to my blog!

Dear Readers,

As you may know, for the past four years I have written notes after Melrose School Committee meetings and e-mailed them to folks who I suspect have a keen interest in the goings-on of the discussions held by the Committee. That has been done with two objectives in mind. First, it has hopefully been a way for people to stay more connected with current topics and the resulting decisions that impact our schools within the roles and responsibilities of the School Committee (and always as my opinion only - not as a representative of the Melrose Public Schools or our School Committee). Second, it has been a way for me to process the discussions and (again, hopefully!) improve my level of service to the community. Since maintaining e-mail addresses is getting cumbersome and the fact that jumping into the blog world would allow additional folks to read the notes if they wish, well, here we go! Other kinds of posts are planned too - maybe on educational events around the city or recent articles on education. I hope you find this blog interesting and useful, and I look forward to continuing to serve the City of Melrose as a School Committee member, parent, and friend.


School Committee Meeting Notes of August 28, 2012

The cooler weather is more than hinting at fall - hope your school year is off to an excellent start! Reference documents are noted in red – just open the zipped file on the web site.

Announcements of the Superintendent

Superintendent Taymore offered her Entry Plan (Entry Plan) and her 100 Day Plan (100 Day Plan Progress Report). The Entry Plan reports her process, along with the documents she’s used and the meeting she’s held to inform her understanding of the district. The 100 Day Plan Progress Report details the work she has already done to improve teacher evaluation, Common Core implementation, and communication/discourse. * She announced that school opened very successfully. She indicated that administrators had participated in two full-day sessions of training on the new educator evaluation instrument, adding that the MEA (Melrose Education Association, known less formally as the teachers’ union) would vote the next day on the district/union agreement (or Memorandum of Agreement) regarding the instrument.

Announcements of the Chair

Ms. Thorp reported that the city would sponsor a meeting for all boards and commissions regarding the Open Meeting Law on September 24th at 7:00 in the MHS cafeteria. The MAAV walk is October 28th and the School Committee will sponsor its annual team. We voted to increase the salary of Asst. Supt. of PPS Patti White-Lambright for this year, falling in line with the district salary grid established earlier this year. You can read more in this document: Setting of Salaries. * Superintendent Taymore’s goal planning process was reviewed (Superintendent Evaluation, Superintendent Evaluation 2, and Superintendent Evaluation and Process 1), and we agreed on her 2012-2013 proposed goals. * In addition, she was appointed as the district representative to SEEM (our special education collaborative). * A proposal was presented to move the Melrose School Committee meetings from Tuesdays to Thursdays beginning in January, 2013 (Proposal to Change SC Meeting Dates). We agreed to think about it and put it on the agenda in late winter/spring (before individuals consider running for School Committee so they can factor meeting times into their decision).

Consent Agenda

We ultimately approved the School Committee minutes of August 14, 2012 and August 16, 2012; the Personnel Report; the second vote on Policies 5701: Student Health Services, 5701.01: Administration of Prescription Medications, and 6503: Executive Session; the revised appointment of Attendance Officers; and the Warrants.

Educational Programs and Personnel

Superintendent Taymore presented her current organizational chart (District Org Chart) and will add the Bridge Director (who reports to the supt.) to the chart. She indicated that a Human Resources Handbook was needed (and will be addressed), that her staff is working to create a job description repository, and that the posting of district vacancies is redundant and outdated (and will also be addressed). * Supt. Taymore also explained the need for additional special education staffing at MHS due to shifting enrollments and curriculum sequencing changes. (More in this document: Staffing Request.) The addition will be made by taking advantage of cost savings in other special ed. services and will not require additional funding.

Policy and Planning

The Committee initially approved a series of policy changes that align the hiring of Central Office Administrators and Principals more closely to state law, Massachusetts Association of School Committee (MASC) protocol, and general best practice. Supt. Taymore fully supports these changes. They include an amendment of Policy 4201: Professional Staff Positions; adoption of new Policy 4202: Professional Staff Hiring/Posting of Positions; and repeal of policies 2114: Interview Search Committee for Central Office Administrators, 2201: Business Manager, 2202: Special Education Administrator, 2301: Interview Search Committee for Principals, and 4202.02: Posting of Vacancies. 

Finance and Facilities

Business Manager Greg Zammuto commented on the number of our crossing guards and the safety precautions being taken to protect students as they arrive at and depart from school properties. He reminded parents that there is no drop-off/pick-up in either the middle school or high school parking lot. He also presented a Facilities Update that provides information on the maintenance work performed in schools over the summer.

If you have a chance, the start of this school year is a great time to read up on how the Common Core implementation (noted in the Supt’s Progress Report discussion above) will continue to improve the teaching and learning happening in your child(ren)’s classroom(s). Curriculum Director Margaret Adams has some great links on her welcome page (http://www.melroseschools.com/curriculum2/welcome.cfm)  – just scroll to the bottom. Thank you all for a safe and supportive start to the year, and for the many wonderful things you do to help children!