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 13, 2014

Supt. Addresses Joint MS/MHS PTO Families

Last evening, Supt. Taymore addressed questions posed by middle and high school parents at a joint PTO meeting at Melrose High. Here are some quick take-aways:

·      Challenges that have been discovered and are being addressed: increasing level of rigor for those students who need additional challenge (adding AP courses, and MS students enrolling in a high school course); improvement in teaching of content for special needs students who were spending too much time in pull-out classes; more professional development (PD) for teachers (from grant funding and concerted training efforts by Asst. Supt. Adams); ensuring students can fit in all necessary courses while meeting their interests (e.g. expanding virtual and blended learning); curriculum is now fully aligned with frameworks (i.e. what is being taught is what’s supposed to be taught).

·      Challenges that need additional work: MHS conferences (the old fall/spring and nothing in-between model didn’t give parents the info they needed to help students, but the current approach is difficult for parents and teachers to navigate); MS MCAS scores (a “tough nut” across the state, but we need to have higher expectations for students – we’ve increased blocks from 47-57 mins. and increased PD for teachers); Aspen – training is on-going and helping but it’s becoming clear that there are technology issues that need addressing; little flexibility in budget to increase PD/add staff/technology/employ pilot programs that could lead to improved student outcomes due to constraints (state/federal mandates, Melrose is 96% residential, etc.).

·      Why choose MHS?: There are increasing and high-quality options and paths to achievement (AP, visual/blended classes, STEM/GEM/Humanities/Fine Arts Pathways, etc.) based on meeting Common Core standards and attuned to student interests; students aren’t tracked – they will receive high-quality instruction in the same content (just not as deep) depending on whether a class is CP or Honors (so a student could be in CP English and Honors Calculus); 5 global languages – one of the few HS in the state to offer this; large number of athletics, clubs, fine and performing arts opportunities; dual enrollment with colleges (potentially increasing next year); “public school is what life is – different people have to find a way to collaborate.”

·      Summary: Enacting change in a school district is difficult because all staff members must be moving in the same direction at the same time at a quick pace. The administration is working hard at this and so are teachers, paraprofessionals, and other staff members. Parents can support their children and help the district grow by making observations around things like homework, projects, and tests and asking teachers if they have questions, concerns, or see success that they want replicated. Importantly, as a community we must agree that we are not <fill in any other town here>. So who should Melrose be and what does that look like?