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.

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!