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.

Monday, September 14, 2015

School Opening, Kindergarten, Standardized Testing, and More….

Last Tuesday’s Citywide PTO meeting was the first of the year, and Supt. Taymore spent an hour with the group commenting on the following:

·      Off to a great start but it’s hot! Principals were getting the word out to parents regarding mitigation for students, like rotating them through air conditioned rooms at the middle school and bringing in fans for some elementary schools. Staff members were prepared to assist students as needed.
·      There are still a few unfilled teaching spots in the schools. Most difficult to fill: special ed., math, and science. There is also substantial poaching by other districts so that teachers may accept a position and then be immediately recruited away. Melrose employs a rigorous hiring process that begins with an interview and demonstration lesson (including students and staff). Only then are candidates considered for a position.
·      The district calendar is out. (Find it here: http://melroseschools.com/calendar/.)
·      Kindergarten: 15 rooms containing 318 students with 165 transitioning from the ECC, and we are out of space. 8-9 families are waiting to get their preferred school. Most impacted are Horace Mann and Winthrop. All regular ed. classrooms have one paraprofessional.
·      SAT/ACT: The SAT is losing ground with more students taking the ACT, which used to be the preferred test in the southern vs. northern US. About 60% of students take the SAT and ACT. The revised SAT will be introduced in spring, 2016 and is expected to look more like the PARCC exam, i.e. more authentic assessment. SAT scores across the country are declining and Supt. Taymore indicated that there are three reasons: more students are taking the test, not just the high performers; the writing piece was a requirement, and will now be an option; and the test doesn’t measure what’s taught. (For another read on this: http://tinyurl.com/pp2ahp9.)
·      There is movement at the State House for a one-year moratorium on state standardized testing
·      The Start School Later Working Group will reconvene this fall for another year of work.
·      A bond for technology is expected to go before the Board of Aldermen on 9/21. It would be used to lease hardware (mostly ChromeBooks for students and a more robust device for teachers) with an expected life of five years. The longer term goal is a 3:1 ratio for ChromeBooks.
·      Teachers using Aspen: teachers can create and use their own web sites and don’t need to post info in both places, but they’ve been directed to be explicit on syllabi to re: where things are so that students/parents can find them.
·      Students will soon be issued a Google ID and parents will be notified.

After Supt. Taymore departed, the group discussed the following:

·      PTO, Inc. President Tim Donnelly reviewed the mission of the organization: as a holding company for all PTO’s except the ECC. They consolidate individual PTO reports, submit statements to the accounting firm, file taxes/relevant state forms, and carry liability and directors’ insurance. Each PTO Treasurer should expect a request for their annual budget. The Healthy Melrose Run raised $4000 for PTO, Inc. which was greatly appreciated. Individual PTO assessments will be issued soon and are less this year thanks to this fundraising. This year both Tim and Treasurer Anne Berte plan to retire and will need to be replaced.
·      The summer PTO Summit was a successful forum for PTO reps to get ideas and share challenges and wishes regarding the year ahead.
·      Melrose Cultural Council grants are in the submission process so if PTO’s want to submit, now is the time. There is $9200 available to be issued and schools often apply for things like field trips, for which admin. fees are paid but not buses.
·      A detailed grant chart was prepared by Christina Gagliano, indicating local granting agencies and how to access the grants.

Next meeting is October 13th at 8:45 a.m. in the Supt’s Conference Room.