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, December 11, 2014

City Wide PTO: 12/9/14

Tuesday morning’s City Wide PTO meeting began with the Superintendent’s report, and she spoke to issues as requested by members and placed on the day’s agenda. She provided a copy of the 12/8 letter to elementary parents that spoke to Ethics Commission regulations around gift giving to teachers. (Please see the principal if you have questions.) Gifting can be done in different ways, individually to a teacher, as a class gift to a teacher, or as a gift to the school. She is working with the Melrose City Solicitor to develop language around gifting, since school gifts must be accepted by the School Committee. Class or school gifts (not individual gifts) are the property of the school, not the teacher.

Next, Supt. Taymore addressed policy and practice regarding holidays and observances. She provided a copy of the Committee’s new policy (Policy IMD, posted in the District Policy Manual in the Committee portion of the school web site). She then addressed a question around middle school dances, indicating they are not school functions. Flyers distributed regarding the dances are no different from other flyers representing non-profit organizations and events – she approves most of those while declining to approve for-profit flyers for distribution to students.

Supt. Taymore then provided an Aspen update. Teachers are 90% trained in the “Pages” portion of the software, where there is a place for homework, etc. (If teachers already have web sites set up for students, they just need to link to them from Aspen rather than create an entirely new page.) It is intended that Pages will take the place of elementary newsletters since the newsletters are so time-consuming to create. All schools except for Horace Mann have an Aspen mentor to support teacher training and coaching in buildings. The ECC doesn’t use Aspen because student names aren’t in the system, but teachers there are doing an excellent job communicating individually. It is expected that technical issues around grading (e.g. a grade like 85% might be entered by a teacher, but Aspen could convert it to 100% so it is misrepresented for parents/students) will be addressed by Aspen technicians in January (who are likely finding this problem in other districts too).

Finally, Supt. Taymore addressed questions about communication in the district. She explained that it is a theme for the staff this year. Parents want consistent information about topics coming from all schools, e.g. if a teacher will be out for an extended period, please indicate what will happen, when, etc. The district works to balance confidentiality vs. helping parents understand how to support their child during a transition time and the Supt. will talk about this with the Leadership Team. The other theme for the year is cultural proficiency as we have a population that is growing in diversity. Administrators are working with teachers to support the embedding of thoughtfulness and proficiency in daily teaching, including lessons, materials, and current events (e.g. how do teachers respond to student/class questions about Ferguson?). There are strict laws (and moral responsibility) around non-discrimination including race, but also religion, economics, sexual orientation, gender identity, etc. (Note: to see Committee Non-Discrimination Policy, please look in the Policy Manual for policies AC and ACA.)

After Supt. Taymore’s departure, members offered communication suggestions for the School Committee, including making more use of Facebook (for things like results of the school funding survey, notice of upcoming meetings and agendas, what kinds of things can parents impact like the Fine Arts Director, etc.). They said that the changes to last year’s budget process were helpful, and they would like even more information and understanding this year.

Calendar notes: The ECC is working to fund a new playground, jump-started by a $10K grant from the city. (Their goal is to raise $30K by 4/15/15.) Community Reading Day is scheduled for 3/4/15. Trivia Bee is 3/28/15.