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.