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.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Religion in Schools: 50 Years Ago and Today

Yesterday’s Wall Street Journal (p. A11) contained a fascinating op-ed by Houses of Worship columnist Stephen D. Solomon who reminded readers that the 50th anniversary of Abington School District v. Schempp is upon us. He said that in this 1963 Supreme Court case, “the justices ruled that public schools [had] violated…the First Amendment when they sponsored prayer and Bible readings…[indicating that]…the activities were religious exercises, violating the “strict neutrality” that the government must show on religion.” Solomon noted that “the court’s ruling effectively prohibited public schools and their personnel from sponsoring or promoting religious activities…[but]…also emphasized that America is a nation of great religious variety.” Reflecting on the ruling and the opinion rendered by then-Justice Clark, Solomon opined “…the court provided the foundation for including religion in the curriculum in public schools [and] pointed out that objective study about religion was permitted” adding that it “is critically important in helping understand art, music, history and much else in the world…Some [schools] teach world religion courses…to provide students with religious literacy to help them understand and respect many different faiths.” Solomon is thoughtful about schools’ responsibilities though, like whether “a world religions course [is] presented in an objective way or does the teacher tilt the scale toward a particular belief?” but ends with a clear summative opinion: “Large legal principles require wise judges and school administrators to apply them to such potentially contentious matters. But Schempp…points the way – already being followed around the country – to provide objective teaching about religion…without imposing beliefs on schoolchildren.”

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

School Committee Meeting: 6/18/13

We have almost made it to the finish line and our last meeting of the school year was last night. The first thing we did was celebrate the contributions of three retiring MVMMS teachers: Mr. Greer (Tech. Ed.), Ms. Iagulli (Special Education), and Ms. Ahern (Science). Thanks to you all for the amazing work you have done with students!

Supt. Taymore explained that the technology planned for the new science labs will come in under budget, allowing for an unexpected opportunity to perform work that was planned for two-three years from now including: expanding wireless capacity (not only in the science wing but in some other locations in the HS); expanding the wireless to 10GB; upgrading the core switch at the HS; and segregating the MS and HS networks from the city server (increasing speed). These improvements will allow for some additional bring-your-own-device (BYOD) programs including using cell phones during instruction in a focused way.

We added some policies on non-discrimination and equal opportunity for all (students and staff included) in order to be clear about our intent as a school district prior to hiring new staff for the fall. These policies are in sync with Melrose’s “One Community Open to All” approach and declare that we will not tolerate discrimination or unequal hiring/education.

Beginning in July, we will take a systemic approach to revising the district’s Policy Manual. The Manual is the primary way the School Committee sets expectations and provides guidance to the superintendent about how we expect the district to operate. We hope you will follow this process and let us know what you think.

As you know, every year we evaluate the superintendent, and this year’s process will occur in our two July meetings. In August, Supt. Taymore will set her goals for the coming school year.

For more info, please check out the IQM2 portal on the School Committee page of the melroseschools.com web site.

Thank you, thank you, for all you have done and all you continue to do for our students!!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

70th Citizens’ Legislative Seminar

In mid-March, it was my privilege to participate in the Citizens’ Legislative Seminar (CLS) at the MA State House. This two-day event, hosted by Senate President Therese Murray and organized by the amazing Anne Reilly Ziaja, Director of the MA Senate Office of Legislative Education, “aims to better educate the public on how the legislative process actually functions in the Commonwealth.”

A variety of presenters focused on topics like parliamentary procedure in the Senate process, chamber protocol, and how bills are researched by the Senate’s legal office. Our own Senator Katherine Clark spoke thoughtfully and pragmatically about how to advocate for legislation that you would like to see enacted including getting to know your legislators and their staff, knowing the process and rules, recognizing political realities, and being willing to tell your story. Another highlight was participating in a simulated Senate session (presided over by President Murray in the Senate Chamber) on a current bill.

This wonderful opportunity to learn more about the legislative process and how we can all be active participants in advocacy really supports how we can make a positive difference in our communities and the lives of our children and families. To learn more, check out https://malegislature.gov/Engage/EducationalOpportunities or e-mail Anne at Anne.Ziaja@MAsenate.gov.