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, April 8, 2014

Citywide PTO - 4/8/14

A very full agenda for today's meeting, with Supt. Taymore offering her thoughts on a variety of topics. Here's my take on the morning:

Principal searches:
* Key responsibilities of principals are evolving from past expectations. The job now consists of three main areas: instructional leader (to improve academic output), operational, and managerial. There is also a cultural component (fostering a respectful, collaborative, professional workplace). They are in classrooms all the time.
* The Middle School search has gone quickly in order to secure the most highly qualified candidate as soon as possible since we are competing with other districts for the best and this is a challenging position to fill. The community is encouraged to attend the meet-and-greets (4/10 for the 2nd candidate and either 4/14 or 4/15 for the third since the 14th is Passover). 
* The Roosevelt search will begin right after vacation.

Learning Walkthroughs...
...are a key piece of what administrators now do. There is a state protocol (http://www.doe.mass.edu/apa/dart/walk/ImplementationGuide.pdf) that helps teams of observers explore instruction. The team plans a "focus of inquiry"(i.e. something to look for in the few minutes of observing a classroom) and then later, the team can give two kinds of feedback: positive ("I saw students doing ___") and "quick wins" ("something you could try right away is ______"). It's being piloted in our schools now and will become more formalized in the fall. It supports constant improvement in the classroom.

Technology and PARCC:
Technology has shifted from a "want to have" to an operational cost that requires planning and investment. (For example, today, a new segment of our school data went live with the Dept. of Elem. and Secondary Education. That means that our computers can work with state information, and do district manipulations of test scores so administrators can be looking at the data constantly and identifying areas in which students need more help, etc.  Supt. Taymore is working with the City on bonding equipment to increase district technology purchases.

Previously at Citywide...
... PTO's has asked the Supt. how they could help with district efforts to support students. She reported that one idea is to have PTO's think about whether they would consider the purchase of a cart of Chromebooks. This technology would address needs for education throughout each day and also for PARCC. (Laptops aren't necessary for these types of efforts, and iPads change so quickly that we might not get a long enough return on the investment.) One cart with 30 Chromebooks would cost about $10,500. The city would do the actual purchasing in order to follow state regulations. If PTO's were interested in this kind of investment, the Chromebooks could be in classrooms by the beginning of November.

Final take-aways:
* There will be a wrap-up (for now) of the district's FY15 budget discussion at tonight's School Committee meeting, with a review of priorities should additional funding become available.
* Upcoming events: MHS's The Pajama Game (performances this Thurs., Fri., and Sat.); the ever-popular Celebrate the Arts display of fine and performing arts on 4/17 sponsored by the Victoria McLaughlin Foundation (who fund many MVMMS activities and its library), and the upcoming Melrose Education Foundation fundraiser in collaboration with Pepperberry (around Mother's Day) to support their spring round of mini-grants.