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.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Annual Reporting, Staffing, Science Fairs, Competency-Based Learning, Odds and Ends

At last Tuesday’s City Wide PTO meeting, Supt. Taymore spent over an hour with the group speaking to a number of issues in the district. Here are the highlights from my perspective:

Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) Annual Report
By September 30th of each year the district (like all in the state) is required to submit a comprehensive financial report to DESE for the prior year. The school budget in Melrose does not include employee benefits (equal to about a third of total salary expense) or maintenance. The report was submitted on time and in full. An audit of the report is conducted annually and is usually presented in the March timeframe.

Longevity of teaching staff is cyclical, and we are currently in a cycle of teachers who are relatively early in their careers. Turnover in the world of teaching is changing to become more like private industry; teachers change jobs much more frequently (vs. staying in one district for their entire career), they may relocate due to relocation of a working spouse, or they may decide to take time off to raise a family. In Melrose, the reasons for turnover are split pretty evenly among retirements, leaving for a larger salary, and relocations. Melrose has developed excellent professional development and in some cases, teachers are “poached” because they have developed knowledge and skills sought by other districts. Upcoming professional development includes training in science work, the new elementary reading series, Google, social studies curricula (stemming from the Social Studies review cycle completed earlier in the year), and special education for regular education teachers.

Science Fairs
Supt. Taymore has been working with a group of parents and administrators to make elementary science fairs more applicable to today’s model of education. There was much discussion around ensuring that all students had the opportunity to participate (regardless of their parent’s ability to help). The new model will be a “science conference” and there will be two elements. All elementary students must participate in the first element, and it’s tied to the curriculum and best teaching and learning practices. They will be given the option to then craft an independent project. Students will present in the afternoon and will be judged by other students using a consistent rubric. Adults will be invited to see the work in the evening. There will be no prizes. Timeframe is May/June. Hoover Principal Jenny Corduck is developing a Powerpoint presentation to explain the concept in more detail.

Competency-Based Learning
The Supt. reviewed much of the information presented at the 10/6 School Committee meeting and reminded the group that this concept has “taken hold” in the higher education world. She indicated that the district has come a long way in measuring student ability by assessing standards and this is the next logical step.

Odds & Ends
·      Bids for the Learning Commons are in, and it looks like the project may begin 4-6 weeks earlier than originally projected. Should it come in under budget the “first alternate” for work is a “maker space,” which would allow for the hands-on creation of projects (like a marshmallow cannon to explore physics concepts). It incorporates the arts into STEM (to make STEAM), and would include technology like a 3D printer.
·      The German and French students are overlapping their visits with Melrose hosts this year. MHS and MVMMS are one of the few secondary campuses in the state to offer five languages – especially at the two individual levels.
·      School choice will be discussed at the evening’s Committee meeting. We’ll be considering offering ten openings each at the freshman and sophomore levels and five at the junior level. We receive $5K for each student from the sending district and in the past have used it for MHS staff.
·      We will educate two Brazilian students beginning in January based on our participation in the Educatius program.
·      We are educating no kindergarten-level METCO students this year since the Melrose population was so significant that we had no more room.
*       City Wide members continue to work with the Chamber to determine actions we can take to respect the kindness the businesses show the schools without overburdening them.