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.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

City Wide PTO - 11/12/13

Here are notes from the monthly City Wide PTO meeting, coordinated by Bridge Director Jennifer McAllister and including representatives from each school building along with Superintendent Taymore.

Questions remain about the use of ASPEN:  All teachers will be using ASPEN but in varying ways at the different levels, and the district is committed (by virtue of good practice as well as the contract) to ensure that all staff is trained. IT Director Jorge Pazos is scheduling and executing the trainings. Elementary teachers are now using it to take attendance. Middle School teachers have had the most experience with it are using more components more completely, but are sometimes limited by the need for more computer memory. (Mr. Pazos has ordered the memory cards and is building a schedule to install them. Completion of this project was expected in the summer, but bringing the science labs on-line pushed the plan back.) High School teachers’ experience is mixed, but they are being uniformly trained. It is expected that all secondary teachers will consistently use the attendance and homework/website components as well as end-of-quarter grade book posting. If parents have concerns, they should contact the department chairs.

Middle School course-level placements and courses: It used to be that 4th grade MCAS scores would predict 6th grade placements but that has changed such that placement criteria includes teacher recommendations, end-of-year assessments, and course grades. The goal is to ensure that students coming from all elementary schools have the same fundamental skills so that placement can be made accurately and fairly. The MS Program of Studies is being reviewed and evaluated to ensure that programming will meet the needs of all students. (Our great new Academic Facilitator, Mr. Cristiano, who supports virtual and blended learning, is incorporating courses for students who need some remediation, those who need challenge, and those who have scheduling challenges since a wide variety of programming to meet individual needs can be implemented in this way.)

Open Houses are being held across the district: HS was 11/12 and K open houses will be held at the elementary schools during November. The MS’s event is scheduled but planning is not yet completed.

How can the district community access the excellent information provided by the Superintendent on a regular basis? After the first of the year, the Superintendent and School Committee will re-explore the Communication Plan. Everyone sees the great value in understanding what changes are happening and why, but there is little time and we have few resources to help get the message out. Suggestions are welcomed and can be forwarded to the Superintendent.

Fine and Performing Arts Coordinators have been hired: Meredith McGowan and Kim Piper respectively, and the Superintendent spoke to their excellent qualifications and contagious enthusiasm.

Melrose Grad Night - an overnight "lock-in" event to keep graduating students safe on one of the most dangerous nights in a teen's life. It will be held at the MS/HS campus on May 30, 2014. Help keep a teen safe - check out www.melrosegradnight.org!

Upcoming events:
*  iRaiders Kitchen Tour on Sunday, November 17th
* School Budgeting Forum, December 3rd  at 7:00 p.m. at Roosevelt School - if you have questions about how school budgeting works, send them to Brigid Alverson @ balverson@cityofmelrose.org
*  Melrose Education Foundation grants are due 11/29 and forms are at www.melroseeducationfoundation.org.
*  Messina Grants are in process / more info at MelroseMFA@gmail.com