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, April 30, 2015

State Education Legislative Priorities and Update: 4/29

The Massachusetts Association of School Committees’ (MASC) annual Day on the Hill was held yesterday at the State House. Purposes were threefold: * hear from legislative education leadership about budget and regulatory priorities; * listen to MASC’s public policy agenda and legislative priorities (read them here: http://tinyurl.com/qaz8djg); * meet with legislators to advocate for solutions to local and state challenges. The bonus was collaborating with colleagues from around the state and gathering ideas from them with respect to challenges we all face.

Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz, Co-Chair of the Joint Committee on Education
 The work of the Education Committee is just getting underway. Budget priorities that relate to education include Ch. 70, SPED Circuit Breaker, charter reimbursements, homeless student transportation, regional K grants, extended learning time (ELT), and wrap-around services. She said she’s “fighting tooth and nail” for them. Another issue not technically part of the Ed. Comm. but of concern is the Foundation Budget Review Commission (FBRC) results. What does it cost to educate a child in MA? She’s heard “loud and clear” that the budget is not keeping up with costs. Health care costs are squeezing educational investments as are higher poverty, social-emotional, and family health costs. The FBRC is now in the later stages of making specific, actionable, and representative recommendations that reflect the diversity of information from across the state. Early education is a priority. Research and increasing public awareness reflect its positive impact on student outcomes (reduced sped, improved graduation rates, etc.) Another priority is reducing the load of state regulations and reporting. DESE has concerns too and they have a working group on this topic. Legislation is pending. The last priority is keeping an eye on the reforms that have been in the pipeline for the last five years: Common Core, educator evaluation, RETELL, etc., and she’s listening for information on the effectiveness of implementation and outcomes. Question on charter schools: there are 17 bills before the Committee related to charter schools with an “on-going and vivid debate” on caps. She doesn’t see major shifts in the landscape of perspective but she is willing to consider raises to the cap that respect the needs of all students. Charter reimbursement will continue to be a big priority. Question on METCO: The way the democratic process works is that every budget choice has to make its case. One category that isn’t discussed every year is tax expenditures. “In all intellectual honesty,” we have to have a more balanced approach when looking at taxes.

Senator Benjamin Downing of Berkshire, Hampshire, and Franklin Counties and MASC Legislator of the Year
His region consists of small and rural school districts. A “plug” on the policy side: the biggest challenge in his district is demographic trends with a smaller, older, and poorer population trend. How do we get from where we are to where we’d like to be?  What is the process to get a framework for planning among districts? Regionalize? All districts will need to give up something that they don’t want to, and support will be needed from the state to partner districts. His districts need to solve problems like regional transportation, and the state should consider tax breaks, tax incentives, etc. A big issue is that state income tax revenue decreased $450M from 2012 to 2015, and if we take no action, by 2018 the cuts will total $900M with much of the benefit flowing to the top 1% of earners.

Senator Karen Spilka, Chair of the Senate Ways and & Means Committee
Our state leads the nation in education but can always do better (PD, resources, preparing kids for the 21st c., STEM, and entrepreneurial ed.). They continue to look at maximizing dollars/targeting investments to fund schools, and she looks forward to the FBRC report. Legislators need to hear our priorities. Question re: broadband in rural districts to level the playing field: the fact that some geographic areas don’t have broadband is “outrageous.” All district types (rural, urban, etc.) have unique issues but equity is needed.

Representative Jay Kaufman, Chair of Joint Committee on Revenue
They are working on a 2018 ballot initiative to generate revenue related to “fair share.” Looking at the total amount of taxes divided by individuals, the poorest are paying 10% of income while the richest are paying 5%. We have an unfair tax system since, if we want to raise revenue, we increase tax pressure on the middle class and our poorest citizens. This will be an iterative process – we try an idea and it might not work so we’ll need to try another. We constantly hear “we don’t have enough money;” there’s enough money out there - we’re just not getting it. Some of the initial polling indicates we collectively understand the consequences of the “wealthy income divide,” and Wall Street and conservatives are on board with reform.

Pat Francomano, MASC President
Yesterday was a terrible day for public education in the Commonwealth with the Holyoke Public Schools taken into receivership and Commissioner Chester appointing himself receiver. Will they be able to handle poverty and other socio-economic issues in Holyoke? District takeovers, charter schools, increasing rules/regulations that the state and DESE impose on us are an intrusion on public education. We need to challenge ourselves and administrators/staff to keep doing good work, strive for innovation, and provide vibrant learning communities to show everyone what public education is all about. The Legislature needs to understand that we can’t succeed in an environment of antagonism. We must let the public and legislature know what great work our districts are doing and provide examples. Ask the Governor and Lieutenant Governor to visit our schools and see our programs.

Representative Alice Peisch, Co-Chair of the Joint Committee on Education
All stakeholders agree on where we want to be with respect to a good education, but how to get there raises conflicts that are difficult to resolve; legislation is designed to reflect where consensus lies and she encourages communication with state legislators. This is a more challenging year than anticipated. In the past, 9C cuts were made when the economy was faltering and are unusual when the economy is doing well. That appears to be mostly due to increasing healthcare costs. They are doing their best to get public schools as much as money as possible, with Circuit Breaker (full at 75%) and Ch. 70 up. METCO, regional transportation, homeless transportation, and other smaller line items are also increased. They will consider the FBRC report that identifies items of underfunding, but where will the money come from? Think about the connection between all funding the state is required to do. The Ed. Committee will start hearings on legislation next week, with 300 bills expected to be heard by the end of June and the rest taken up in the fall. One piece of legislation to call out is related to reporting requirements and mandates; it was reported out favorably last year and is hoped for passage this session. Update on the K grant: it is funded in the House Ways and Means budget at last year’s level. Districts in the state are over 90% full-day K and the Foundation Budget provides funding; we need to transition away from the grant but she realizes it’s not fair to cut it at a time when local budgets were already prepared; it should be fine for the FY16 fiscal year. They are also exploring how federal early education grants will work and hope to receive some funding that way.

(The Melrose School Committee is taking a more pro-active approach to legislative advocacy this year, meeting with Senator Jason Lewis and Representative Paul Brodeur on March 17th with the expectation that we’ll meet with them again later in the year. The state budget must be passed by June 30th. Find the 2015-2016 Spring/Summer Joint Education Committee Hearings Schedule here: http://tinyurl.com/l22l53o. )

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

School Committee Meeting of 4/28

Superintendent Taymore offered her announcements, including: * MHS History Teacher and the “driving force” behind the Melrose Veterans Memory Project Lisa Lord has been recommended as one of the Commonwealth’s Unsung Heroines of 2015 and will be honored on June 17th at the State House (more here: http://tinyurl.com/jw45tg5); * we have maxed out Kindergarten classrooms for next year with 312 students and the Supt. will keep us posted on future registrations and respective resource needs; * Individual Learning Plans (ILP’s) for grades 8-12, and student goal setting for grades K-7, are being implemented next year in order to employ more student-centered education planning ultimately leading to greater college and career readiness.

In the Educational Programs and Personnel Subcommittee, the Committee approved the secondary handbooks (no changes from last year’s handbooks) for the 2015-2016 school year; * Assistant Supt. for Teaching and Learning Margaret Adams spoke to the need for English Language Arts (ELA) materials for grades K-5, explaining that current materials aren’t aligned to the Common Core and the work needed by teachers to align manually is enormous, so she recommends purchase (at $240K) starting with the $60K remaining in the textbook materials bond and then funded at $60K/yr. for three years; *  Dr. Adams brought forward members of the Professional Development (PD) Committee to speak to PD activities, including the 2015 Summer Institute offerings/schedule, evaluative efforts (like teacher surveys) to engage in a continuous cycle of PD improvement, charts for “Core Instructional Practices” (e.g. a “Do-Now” and two-column note-taking), PD standards and how offerings are set to meet those standards, and the 2015-2016 PD Plan (which was approved by the Committee).

The Policy and Planning Subcommittee brought forward Policy JC: Elementary School Assignment and Class Size for consideration and the updates passed unanimously. It will be voted for the second time on 5/12.

The Finance and Facilities Subcommittee heard from MHS Principal Farrell as she recommended we continue to participate in the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) process at least through next year while we see the changes they make to their evaluations. Director of Finance and Administrative Affairs Jay Picone spoke to his in-house vs. contracting analysis of special education transportation (finding that in-house is the less expensive option).  Chartwell’s Food Service Director Ken Dolce presented his revenue/expense projections for next year and recommended no increase to school meal prices (which the Committee approved). Supt. Taymore has received the final amount that the city will provide for next year’s budget and has crafted her final draft. The Committee is responsible for passing a balanced budget to send to the Aldermen and (in anticipation of the Joint Meeting of the School Committee and Board of Aldermen on 5/11). We’ll also vote on athletic, elementary music, MHS transcript, and MHS Photography Class fees. Public comment and budget questions will appear on the agenda at the beginning of the meeting for final consideration prior to voting. Finally, rates to rent the Beebe and Ripley School Buildings to the SEEM Collaborative were recommended by administration as unchanged for next year and approved by the Committee.

You can watch this meeting on the MMTV web site or see replays on the Melrose Government Access channel. All related documents are posted on the IQM2 Portal on the School Committee portion of the melroseschools.com site. 

Next meeting is 5/5 at 7:00 in the Aldermanic Chamber and will be televised. It is devoted to final listening, discussion, and vote on fees and the budget. Please send along questions or comments to FY16schoolbudget@melroseschools.com or e-mail the Committee at schoolcommittee@cityofmelrose.org. To find dates and locations of any budget topics, click on http://tinyurl.com/mpa8a6t. To read about the discussions that took place regarding the topics, click on the “Minutes Packet” of the meetings here: http://melrosecityma.iqm2.com/Citizens/calendar.aspx. To read the final draft budget, click on http://tinyurl.com/n88baku.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

School Committee Meeting of 4/14

Ms. Thorp began the meeting by reading a statement indicating that more detail was needed on a February Executive Session agenda item. She apologized for the lack of detail and explained how the documents from that meeting would be appropriately amended.

Supt. Taymore’s announcements included three items: * Melrose teachers have been accepted into the Gateway Project, a year-long program to develop a plan to implement technology and engineering at all grade levels that is run by the National Center for Technology Literacy at the Science Museum, Boston; * the state Kindergarten grant is in jeopardy for next year with a potential impact on Melrose of $140K; * Dr. Michael Thompson will present “The Pressured Student: Helping Your Child Find Success in School and Life” on May 7th at the MVMMS Auditorium and admission is free.

Items on the Consent Agenda showed that: * significant and meaningful donations have been made recently to the schools; * food service is running ahead of budget; * teachers retiring at the end of the school year are beginning to announce their intentions; * the district is meeting budget for FY15.

Recommended changes have been proposed to Policy JC: Elementary School Assignment and Class Size Policy, including a reference to state guidelines, a focus on the importance of class size, a reference to assessing placement decisions yearly based on the respective cohort, the importance of timely registration, and implementation of communication requirements for the Superintendent.

The district’s Five-Year Strategic Instructional Technology Plan was provided and presented. The team developing the plan was made up of 34 administrators; city and school IT staff members; teachers; and parents. The plan addresses current status; technology organizational and staffing; technology infrastructure; action plans; evaluation and assessment for technology; funding; and standards and expectations. The Plan is complemented by the Melrose Technology Planning Committee Executive Summary, which succinctly highlights salient points. Mayor Dolan will request that the Board of Aldermen approve the leasing of computers ($300K) in order to begin transformation of the technology in the district and the city.

FY16 budget discussion centered on technology funding and substitute teaching. Technology positions and increases in software are in the growth budget. Substitute teachers are paid $55/day, virtually the lowest in the region, which is likely a barrier to attracting individuals with more significant education credentials. Next year it is estimated that the district will experience the greatest number of Leaves of Absence in at least four years (29), driven by state regulations/contractual obligations (e.g. paternity leave) as well as the place in life of our staff (maternity leave and eldercare/FMLA leave).

Kindergarten enrollment is now counted at 311 students and the Committee voted to approve the addition of one Kindergarten class so that placements can be made and parents notified. (Notifications will be made by May 1st.) The Superintendent will continue to monitor enrollments and return to the Committee with more information; she may need to recommend an additional classroom. Classroom costs are estimated at $45K for a teacher and $20-$25K for classroom materials/furniture/etc. Location of the approved classroom will be Lincoln or Roosevelt depending on student addresses and the number of students registered. (Physical classroom size is a factor.)

The next steps in the budget process are the Public Hearing on the FY16 Budget on 4/28, and final deliberation and votes on 5/5 in order to accommodate the state-required Joint Meeting of the School Committee and Board of Aldermen on 5/11.

Find all documents at http://melrosecityma.iqm2.com/Citizens/Detail_Meeting.aspx?ID=1529 or watch the meeting on MMTV as your schedule allows. You can also follow our budget process on the Budget page of the School Committee section of the melroseschools.com web site.

Have a great school vacation week everyone!

Friday, April 17, 2015

Curriculum Materials Working Group on April 14th

The Curriculum Materials Working Group, spearheaded by Asst. Supt. of Teaching and Learning Dr. Margaret Adams, convenes during the school year to review and evaluate curriculum materials and practices. The 4/14 meeting was centered on two areas: Foreign Language and Science. (My explanations are in italics.)

Director of Foreign Language Dr. Kim Talbot and French teacher Mr. Jon Morisseau began the discussion by indicating that staff work involved collaboration between and among the different language teaching teams. They spoke to the efficacy of the 4th year Italian and Spanish language materials, including the fact that much of the text doesn’t have to be completed in a linear fashion – it’s open to skipping around. (French is still somewhat linear but may change later.) Regarding curriculum work, they indicated that Foreign Language staff had completed strong foundational work in curriculum mapping (the design for the topics of study in a subject, including content, skills, teaching and learning processes, and assessments) and pacing guides (a calendar that details when topics are taught and assessed). They are well into the next step, which is creating Understanding by Design (UbD) Units (by breaking down the desired results from teaching a topic, including the knowledge and skills to be acquired, how students will show what they learn, and the actual learning activities). In conjunction with that work, they are exploring things like whether the “essential questions” that are asked around each topic should carry across languages or whether they are unique to each one. Teachers are trying to “flip” more work (learning at home and practicing at school so teachers can see where students struggle and then help them) by employing software like Quizlet and ePals. In the area of what students learn, they are embedding more cultural elements and real-life themes into the material. Work will continue over the summer. A more purposeful approach to the speaking element of foreign language learning will be a focus next year, especially using “responsive speaking” at the upper levels, which employs PTO-funded voice recorders. Dr. Talbot reported that 93% of students at MHS now study foreign language, up from 70% a short time ago. Check out course information and read the Foreign Language blog here: http://melroseschools.com/school-departments/global-languages/ and follow the department on Twitter at @MelroseFL.

Director of Science, Business, and Technology Julie Shea spoke to the changing of state science standards, indicating that there are currently guidelines for the elementary grades and drafts for secondary. There will be more emphasis on scientific and engineering practices, and the shift is a two-three year process since the standards must be tested. Not all courses (like Anatomy and Physiology) have state standards. The AP exams are more “big idea” focused. One noted change; in the past, content topics for elementary students could be completed in a window of time (like grades three through five) resulting in students from different schools potentially studying those topics at different times. In the future, the topics will be designated for a specific grade so if a student moves, he/she can go into a new school with the same foundational content knowledge as the students already in the building. Staff is using Google as a platform to develop and discuss topics, like doing labs together and sharing information and ideas about them. “Open source materials” (materials available to anyone) will be used more often in classrooms to supplement and support textbook material. Computer Aided Design (CAD) course software has been expanded from AutoCAD to Revit and Inventor, allowing students to spend the first year doing actual drawing and working on the computer, then delving deeper into the software in years two through four. There is more staff focus around supporting ELL students (e.g. making sure that translation dictionaries are not general in nature, but are specially designed for science words and phrases since they aren’t directly translatable) and special education students (e.g. applying strategies from the District Curriculum Accommodation Plan in a more focused way). Read content topics and course syllabi here: http://melroseschools.com/school-departments/science-and-technology/ and follow the department on Twitter at @MelroseSTE.

Citywide PTO Meeting on April 14th

Supt. Taymore opened the discussion by speaking to the issue of elementary science fairs. She said the group she's organized to review the fairs has been thoughtful about tying them to the curriculum and making them project-based. They considered the “must-do’s” (what students should do with a teacher) vs. “may-do’s” (elements of the inquiry that goes beyond that). The plan will encompass all students regardless of the level of parental involvement. Under consideration is a school-based fair (a showcasing) and then a city-wide competition (for students who want that opportunity). She said the parents in the group felt positive about the discussion. In the Citywide meeting, it was suggested that students have the opportunity to see the rubric before-hand so they can work to meet its expectations.

The Superintendent next addressed spring parent-teacher conferences and talked about whether they should really be showcases for student work. At the secondary level, should they include students in order for them to be more meaningful? More info to come in this area.

The FY16 budget topic was discussed, including the city and schools working together to determine a workable amount for a balanced school budget, and the challenge of the increasing Kindergarten enrollment numbers. It was noted that our school district is making good progress and homebuyers are noticing. Supt. Taymore explained that in the Kindergarten registration process, having a sibling in the school is a priority but not a guarantee. She mentioned the NESDEC enrollment study coming up (ref. my prior blog post), and also spoke to the fact that the Lincoln and Roosevelt computer labs will likely be converted to classrooms (keeping in mind that all Kindergarten rooms must be on the first floor of buildings). If NESDEC indicates that we are looking at a trend of increasing enrollments, then the School Building Committee will reconvene to address this issue. Of great concern is the expense of adding Kindergarten classrooms ($45K+ for a teacher and $20-25K for furniture/materials/etc.).

The state Kindergarten grant (which funds non-special education Kindergarten paraprofessionals) is not guaranteed next year, but many good school districts do not use paras in Kindergarten classrooms. One reason to have them is to qualify for National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) accreditation that we may want to rethink. We are entering a partnership with Salem State’s five-year teacher program, and the University may look to provide us with paras as a part of the program. There is also increasing interest by pre-practicum students from different colleges wanting to do their work in Melrose.

Other notes: The MHS Learning Commons work is slated to begin at the holiday break in 2015 and finish by September of 2016; the group organizing around the late-start concept is finalizing membership with results due in June; the Healthy Melrose 5K run kicks off the Healthy Melrose Fair on May 2nd and is looking for volunteers (with community service hours are available to students); Dr. Michael Thompson will present “The Pressured Student” on May 7th from 7-8:30 p.m. at the MVMMS Auditorium.

Monday, April 13, 2015

School Committee Meeting of 4/7

A variety of topics on last Tuesday’s agenda! Here are the highlights from my perspective:

Athletics Director Pat Ruggiero began the meeting with a brief overview of athletics (noting that participation levels are increasing), including recommending that athletic fees remain stable next year. Fees now cover 43% of the athletic budget. The district has explored going to an on-line fee payment system, but has stayed with payment by check (and when necessary, by cash) because there is a cost for paying on-line. Venue rental fees look to remain constant. The district constantly monitors athletic transportation since every bus run costs $330. This past year, the district absorbed the costs for girls’ lacrosse and girls’ hockey (for which the city had provided set-up funds in the prior year). The football line item increased by the cost of helmet reconditioning that had been omitted from the prior year’s budget. We currently employ one trainer and that’s a challenge since there are often games/meets on the same day in different city venues.

Fine and Performing Arts Director Deb DiFruschia spoke to her budget, recommending that elementary music fees remain the same next year. She talked about the many positive elements of the arts in the MPS and the strength of the program, including having both string and chorus practice rooms, having risers for chorus, having quality equipment, and adding many course options to the secondary program next year. Ms. DiFruschia noted challenges like some inequities among elementary schools in teaching specialty (strings/band instruments) and curriculum (which she is working with staff to address), and the current inability to offer scaffolding of some secondary program options (e.g. with 83 chorus members, wanting to offer beginning, intermediate, and advanced course offerings).  She also said that some elementary parents would like a before- or after-school instrumental music option, so she is looking to pilot a program next year. She presented a Powerpoint to the MHS PTO last week that will be posted to our web site, and she’ll come back to the Committee, potentially in June, to provide a more succinct vision for the arts in the district.

Kindergarten enrollments are significantly higher this year than in years past, with current registrations at 309 (compared to an FY15 enrollment of 275). Committee policy indicates we must notify parents by April vacation of their child’s fall placement, but it was voted to allow the Supt. some flexibility in order to notify parents as soon as she has more info. (A letter has since been sent indicating a May 1st notification mailing.) There was discussion around prioritizing late registrants, class size, and other placement criteria. The city is hiring the New England School Development Council (NESDEC) to perform an enrollment study and projection in conjunction with the city’s Master Plan which should help determine whether this year's enrollment figure is a bubble or a trend. On 4/14 the Committee will discuss whether to approve one or more additional Kindergarten classrooms for next year. Cost is about $45K per teacher and $20-25K/classroom (furniture, materials, etc.). The state Kindergarten grant (used to fund paraprofessionals) has been cut from preliminary FY16 state budgets in the amount (for Melrose) of $140K.

The Committee voted to “Approve the Melrose High School Learning Commons renovation project as proposed by Melrose Director of the Office of Planning and Community Development Denise Gaffey based on its substantive educational value to students in the near- and long-term; and recommend said project to the Board of Aldermen for their financial consideration.”

Next meeting is Tuesday, 4/14/15 at 7 p.m. in the Aldermanic Chamber, featuring the Technology Audit and Plan presentation. Hope you can catch it either on MMTV or in person!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

School Committee Meeting of 3/31

We started last week’s meeting with discussion and approval of Chair Thorp confirming that a posting of Executive Session from a prior meeting didn’t have the detail that the Attorney General’s Office requires, and she apologized. The Committee voted to revise and release the posting and minutes consistent with those requirements.

Middle School Principal Brent Conway and Assistant Principal Jamie Parsons addressed questions relative to the FY16 Middle School budget. Mr. Conway spoke to the need to maintain the building, which is now eight years old, and associated general equipment needs (science lab and performing arts items specifically). Department Directors worked with administrators to reflect true needs for the school in this budget. He also spoke to requested positions, including the fact that we want to provide as many opportunities as possible for students (e.g. we have two beautiful art rooms but only one art teacher). In scheduling at the secondary level, course selection drives staffing so we try to adapt, sometimes using a part-time staff member and/or sharing a staff member with the high school. In the area of ELA, we need materials outside of what the PTO has been generous enough to offer. There have been shifts of some line items and also implementation of some items that weren't reflected in prior-year subscriptions lines (like BrainPop).

High School Principal Marianne Farrell and Assistant Principals Stephen Fogarty and Jason Merrill spoke to the FY16 High School budget. Offerings in the fine arts are reflected in staffing and materials needs. The Dues line increased due to Melrose taking over the Mass Insight grant. The Pathways were reviewed, and Principal Farrell noted that they are evolving, with the newer Pathways seeing additional interest and administrators working to add course opportunities (e.g. in Business and Fine Arts) that support greater success in completing them. Facility improvements (like the proposed Learning Commons) can support increased excitement around, and employment of, technology and 21st century learning. We want to move from a very traditional learning environment to a broader base of opportunity for students. Supt. Taymore indicated that we have to stop thinking that the typical high school student takes five core subjects and two electives and on and on. High school staff want to hear the phrase “bust down the walls” more often, employing on-line and blended learning, partnerships with UMass Boston and Bunker Hill, and other program ideas. You can now test out of French I and instead enter French II – so we’re looking at more course acceleration. We’re looking at different kinds of scheduling to eliminate many restrictions so students can create more personalized planning. The administration will learn as they go to try to improve opportunities for students. (Ms. Dugan opined that dollars are maximized by doing this kind of thing, but we need to have a real conversation beyond maximizing dollars and what is needed to do what we value in a way that is responsive and responsible.) Continuing to participate in the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) accreditation process was raised as a question, specifically around the expense ($3600 when out-of-cycle and $25K when in-cycle) without the value that may have been seen in the past. (Administrators are expected to come back with more information prior to the end of the budget cycle.) It was recommended that fees for transcripts and the photography course remain stable next year.

The Committee approved a pilot program to enroll up to ten students (combined) from Educatius and Vermont Academy in the Fy16 year. Melrose High is an attractive school to these students since the quality of education is high, Boston is in close proximity and public transportation is abundant, and students may have an interest in attending Boston-based colleges and universities in the future.

Assistant Superintendent for Teaching and Learning Dr. Margaret Adams spoke to English Language Learning, Title I, Curriculum, and Professional Development. In the area of English learning, our population has increased to 111 students and we need three full-time teachers, but we could use the same staffing levels as we have now (two full-time teachers) and till approach full compliance re: servicing all students in all grades (which is common in many districts given the challenges that we all face). Sometimes state guides and compliance measurements are in conflict, so we focus on providing the best possible education in the areas of reading, writing, and thinking in order to reach true fluency.

Regarding Title I, Horace Mann no longer qualifies for a Title I tutor, so an Academic Interventionist is included in the Horace Mann budget.

In Curriculum, three Instructional Coaches are recommended (increased from two) to support new teachers, enhance the teaching of veteran educators, map curriculum, etc. The Coaches need to support more work in the areas of Science  and Social Studies. Curriculum materials have been addressed significantly by the bond, but we need an aggressive line item for remaining needs as well as for an on-going replacement cycle. ELA has alignment needs around Common Core, particularly in that the materials need to be more rigorous. The current price tag is around $236K and may be able to be paid over time with a boost from the little money left from the bond. We need to ensure that all elementary schools have commonality around curriculum and associated materials. To paraphrase Supt. Taymore, we are in the learning business and we can never get out of the hole of providing new materials. A best practice is a curriculum review process, and Dr. Adams is now leading that effort for Social Studies in partnership with Social Studies Director Bryan Corrigan, with a report due to the Committee in late June. The teachers have worked hard to develop scope and sequence since that subject had no framework from the state. The Social Studies Dept. has doubled electives at MHS in the past two years. Melrose staff members are contributing to all these efforts, and there is so much work that they could be in meetings six days a week according to Supt. Taymore, including doing things like contributing to data teams, interview committees, curriculum study groups, etc.

A Professional Development (PD) plan will be presented at the end of the month for approval by the Committee, and a Tech Plan will be presented on April 14th. Needs continue around the new science curriculum standards with a two-year phase-in plan and requisite training. Mentor funding is included in the PD plan. Teachers are rating PD as better than in the past, and what they want most is more PD. Dr. Adams spoke to how quickly the field of education is changing and how we need to keep up.

A revised budget timeline was presented, and Supt. Taymore addressed a question regarding fees and how they work within the context of the budget.

Next meeting is April 7th and includes presentation from Athletics and Fine & Performing Arts Departments as well as an Enrollment Update.

Monday, April 6, 2015

What is MHS TV and what do they do?

Last week, Mr. Anthony DiBenedetto, MHS teacher in the Science, Business, and Technology Department, provided a summary sheet with some interesting information on his programming to members of the Board of Aldermen who had the opportunity to tour the Resource Center and surrounding classrooms. He noted, “The students who are involved in video production at Melrose High School continuously produce creative and innovative video projects. They are also responsible for capturing the life of the school community by recording events like graduation, sports, concerts, assemblies, and community service." He added "Currently the video production program at Melrose High School only covers “field production.” This is where cameras are used to record outside of a studio, and the footage is edited later. The proposed renovation would make it possible to cover the other major type of video production, “studio production.” This would allow students to produce live programs including news broadcasts, talk shows, morning announcements and more.”

Mr. DiBenedetto listed recent awards as:
-       1st Place: 2014 Mass DOT Safe Streets, Smart Trips
-       Honorable Mention: 2014 Mass DOT Safe Streets, Smart Trips
-       1st Place: 2013-2014 High School Burn Awareness YouTube Contest
-       Honorable Mentions (x3): 2013-2014 High School Burn Awareness
-       Finalist: 2013-2014 Middlesex District Attorney PSA Contest
-       Finalist: 2012-2013 Middlesex District Attorney PSA Contest

He noted these statistics for the time period September 2012 – March 2015:
-       758 Videos
-       396 Subscribers
-       227,315+ Views
-       499,938+ Minutes Watched

      For more information or to see what you are missing at MHS-TV (school events, public service announcements, short films, and more), check out YouTube.com/MelroseHighTV. If you have questions about classes or the work they are doing, contact Mr. DiBenedetto at adibenedetto@melroseschools.com or 781-462-3232.