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.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

School Buildings, Summer, Kindergarten, Evaluating Teachers, and Individualized Learning

At yesterday’s Citywide PTO meeting (organized monthly by Bridge Coordinator Jennifer McAllister, where representatives from all schools meet to share information and ask questions of the Superintendent), the following issues were discussed:

Buildings: * Twice a year, in order to keep our school buildings as well-maintained as possible, the Supt. hops into DPW Chief John Scenna’s truck and they tour all school buildings (listing – as they go - needed maintenance and setting priorities). They tour once in the spring for summer work and once in the winter for Feb/April vacations; * next building project: renovation of computer lab space at Roosevelt and Lincoln to allow classroom shifts for confirmed/potential Kindergarten classrooms. (Note: classrooms shift because Kindergarten classrooms are generally on the first floor of buildings.); * prep for the MHS Learning Commons project begins in summer, with library print materials being weeded and the balance stored; music practice spaces potentially shifted to the middle school; and moves of an Italian teacher, METCO Director, TV studio, and special ed. classes. Moving earlier than the originally planned December date allows more time for abatement, and also means that schematics and construction drawings can be done earlier. First floor office suites are planned for renovation in Summer, 2016; * Hoover windows and frontage work is scheduled for Summer, 2016; * +/- six bathrooms have been renovated at MHS and the work continues over vacations; * in the long term and in the interest of teaching and learning in an environment that is now considered to be educationally appropriate (not rows of desks, etc.), Supt. Taymore plans to explore how to combine some of the triangular classrooms at the high school.

Summer: * The Campus Kids program will be held at Lincoln this year (alternating yearly with Roosevelt so each can be thoroughly cleaned in an off year); * new this year to Campus Kids is a pilot of skill enrichment (like IXL) as an opt-in program; * Summer Institute is professional development for teachers during the summer and this year’s offerings are extensive, including 2-2day sessions entitled “Googlerama” to support learning around Google for Education. (More here: http://melrosecityma.iqm2.com/Citizens/FileOpen.aspx?Type=1&ID=2409&Inline=True pp. 37-65)

Kindergarten placement: * Supt. Taymore’s practice has never been to call parents of children who did not receive their first-choice school but she has asked her principals to reach out this year since there were more families than ever before who are on wait-lists; * principals will be sending letters inviting incoming families to each school’s spring events; * MPS Administration won’t know how many students will not report in the fall (families move or make other school choices that they forget to report to the MPS) so classes may have fewer students than anticipated, but knowing how many and at which schools is impossible to predict; * if the Lincoln classroom ultimately opens, it will be filled by students who requested Lincoln but did not receive their first choice, followed by new registrants. This classroom will not be opened in order to decrease class sizes in other schools.

Evaluating Teachers: * The district (as part of state regulations on educator evaluation) will begin employing student surveys. In Melrose, it will be one method of helping teachers reflect on their teaching practices and setting goals for enhancing those practices. The state is backing off on using parent surveys and test data as elements of evaluations; * unlike in the past, Supt. Taymore indicated that now “teachers are evaluated 24/7,” including classroom observations, providing artifacts, participating in meetings, professional collaboration, and family outreach.

Individual Learning Plans (ILP’s): Since the education of today involves students assuming much greater responsibility for their own learning, ILP’s are being incorporated into all grades. It helps every child think about longer-term planning. (More here: http://melrosecityma.iqm2.com/Citizens/FileOpen.aspx?Type=1&ID=2409&Inline=True pp. 3-4.)

Events: * The Melrose Education Foundation is holding a birthday barbeque on June 14th (more here: http://www.melroseeducationfoundation.org/); * the Melrose Firefighters are holding a 5k run on June 21st (more here: http://www.mfd5k.com/).