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, March 26, 2015

School Committee Meeting of 3/17

 Last week’s School Committee meeting featured discussions of the elementary school (with all principals presenting) and special education (presented by Asst. Supt. for Pupil Personnel Services Patti White-Lambright) budgets.  Here are the highlights from my perspective (with my notes in italics):

-       We currently enroll 273 students in Kindergarten. Next year’s enrollment to-date is 305 students which means we have space and materials issues. This increase could be a “bubble” but could also be a trend and we don’t yet know. If it’s a trend and we need to add classrooms/teachers as students progress through the schools, we will need to plan for that.
-       The state-funded Kindergarten grant has been cut for the current fiscal year, and is proposed for elimination in the Governor’s FY16 fiscal year budget. (The K grant funds paraprofessionals who support teachers in K classrooms.)
-       The status-quo budget means adding two classroom teachers (at Lincoln and Winthrop), an Academic Interventionist, and another ELL coordinator.
-       The growth budget reflects thinking beyond where we are now and getting to the next educational level for students. It includes adding 1.5 Library Media Specialists, a Social Worker, an Academic Facilitator, an Instructional Coach, a Director of Instructional Technology, and an Inclusion Facilitator.
-       The ELA curriculum is outdated and not aligned with the frameworks, and also needs to be addressed.
-       Ideally, there would be an Instructional Coach in every building. They are well-versed in content and can provide support for content delivery (i.e. an instructional coach can help a teacher perform better teaching by having deep content knowledge as well as understanding the practice of teaching the teacher – kind of like having a prior soccer player coach soccer – the coach must know how to play, as well as delivering understanding of the skills, strategies, and techniques to play effectively).
-       For special education, we currently enroll 549 pre-K through age 22 students in-district, 31 Melrose residents who don’t attend the Melrose schools but receive services in-district (mostly young students), and 38 out-of-district students for a total of 618 students.
-       The largest segment of the special education budget is for students placed out-of-district, and those tuitions continue to increase.
-       The special education budget doesn’t exist by itself, but has elements embedded in many other parts of the budget.
-       Challenges include the extent of social/emotional needs; and the increase in the number of students who need hospitalization, are on the autism spectrum, and are homeless.
-       General education is the first resource for all students, including special education students.

The March 24th meeting was a regular School Committee meeting, with March 31st being the next budget meeting. Please don’t forget to send your budget questions to fy16schoolbudget@melroseschools.com!