As promised, some things that struck me as particularly meaningful.......
* Most if not all districts are struggling with the problems caused by unfunded mandates (in other words, practices that state law says we have to perform, but for which they don't provide 100% funding). Districts can and should work with legislators to explain the challenges and help them propose solutions; finding time is tough.
* Districts have to make every single dollar do the work of many dollars. Data from a wide variety of sources must be gathered to thoughtfully design how resources are used to support giving our students the best education possible. Can districts partner for more purchasing power? Can technology be implemented to manage paperwork processes to redirect money for things like teaching and textbooks? Is there a way to start any special education programs so students can stay in the district?
* Plan, set goals, implement objectives and actions, use data to measure effectiveness; then repeat, repeat, repeat...........
* We are in a new era of communication and schools struggle to find the manpower, time, and money to understand and build communication mechanisms and systems that are prevalent in private industry. How do districts engage a community with social media (mechanism)? How do community members get to tell what they are thinking (system)? What are the communication priorities and what are the choices that must be made between and among communication investments and teaching students?
* Bullying is serious and it is a community-wide challenge - not just schools, not just homes, not just the time in-between. Two keys: using evidence-based programs and information, and like they say on the T, "if you see something, say something."
* Parent involvement is critical to helping students. Parents want to be involved. Schools want parents involved. Finding on-going ways for every single parent to know they are wanted and welcomed as educational partners is particularly important given the rapid pace of change in how teachers teach and how students learn. It's way different from when you and I went to school :)
* There are so many hard-working, talented, and kind educators, parents, legislators, volunteers, community members - and most important - students, who are willing to give of their time, talent, and treasure to improve education in the Commonwealth and around the country. Although we face constant challenge, it's important to remember to celebrate the successes - and right now I bet you can picture the face of a student who finally figured out that confounding math problem or could eloquently explain the simplicity and beauty of the Gettysburg Address. That's the goal we all share.
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.