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………..