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.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Crazy 8’s, Override Impact, Policy Implementation, Parent University, and More…

This week’s City Wide PTO covered some pretty wide-ranging topics!

·               Instructional Coach Paula Jones talked about a free program for elementary students called Crazy 8’s Club that she’s supporting. According to the web site (bedtimemath.org) it is “…not a serious, competitive-worksheet club, but a club where you explore numbers by building things, making music, and making a mess.” Volunteers run the clubs, setting the day/time (before or after school). Prep is user-friendly with lesson planning taking about 30 minutes for a total commitment of about 1.5 hours/week. The cost for the program is free to students, with a $50 materials fee that is covered in principals’ budgets. The Horace Mann club is up and running, with Roosevelt starting this week. Volunteers are needed at Lincoln and Hoover. If you are interested, please talk to your principal!
·               Given that voters did not approve the override, there are negative consequences to the schools. Here are a few we talked about:
o   There will remain 35+ students in many art/music classes at the elementary level.
o   Some high school classes will continue to contain 30+ students (especially challenging in art classes where materials take up significant space).
o   A great deal of technology has been purchased to support teaching and learning but there is no administrator (Director of Instructional Technology) to help teachers use it in the classroom, support its use in library media centers, or manage the networking/systems.
o   The average life of textbooks and materials is five-six years but we don’t have a continuous replacement cycle, so we’ll have to find that money in the budget or extend the life of materials.
o   The School Committee builds a budget each year for which $750K is not yet guaranteed to the City, and the Aldermen approve that practice and the budget. We know by October whether the money will come (and in past years, it has come). Elected officials know that not including that amount would decimate school staffing (since 86% of the budget is salaries), so the practice continues although it’s agreed that it is not fiscally sound. The override would have allowed the budget to guarantee the $750K when the budget is passed, and then when funding comes in October, it could be used for other city services, like maintenance to municipals buildings, etc. (Now, those projects are left undone and other city services receive less support.)
·               A question was posed around how policies are determined and communicated, in general, and as related to the lice policy. Discussion centered around policy being a function of the School Committee and the fact that there are three ways that policy gets determined: changes to state/federal law; challenges brought to the attention of the Committee by the Superintendent or the community where policy can guide the Supt., or as part of a regular policy review. The Superintendent develops administrative guidelines and/or procedures either as a response to policy or as a best practice. (All policies and administrative guidelines are on the school web site.) In the case of the lice protocols, the applicable policy relates to wellness (ADF) as well as the Student Handbook. (Since the Committee approves the Handbook, it’s considered policy.) This year a page of changes to the Handbook was not developed and presented at the time of the Handbook’s approval and the Committee agreed that it should be presented next year. City Wide PTO members also recommended bolding changes in the Handbook for easy designation by parents. It’s the responsibility of the parent to read the Handbook and understand it prior to signing the form indicating such, but the district should ensure that changes are easy to find. Regarding lice, the protocols are based on new regulations from the state (“no-nit policy”) and are now consistent among elementary schools, with notification going to parents if three cases are detected in the same grade at a school.
·               Parent University is November 14th from 8-12 at MVMMS and features a wide variety of sessions, free to parents and community members. More info at http://melroseedfoundation.org/2015/10/12/save-the-date-melrose-parent-university-sat-nov-14-2015/. (….submitting a shameless plug for the Inside MHS session, where I get to sit on the panel and hear what you think about MHS and you get to be a student-for-an-hour while learning more about MHS offerings. )
·               An MHS career fair is in the organization stage. It will be designed to help primarily 10th and 11th graders learn about careers so they will have more information as they begin the college search process. Bridge Director Jenn McAlister will get involved to help find residents in different fields and request their participation in this event. For more information, contact Jenn at the Bridge office in Melrose Public Schools.
·               The iRaiders Annual Kitchen Tour is scheduled for this Sunday, November 15th. To learn more about the iRaiders, check out their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/IRaiders-124984927631595/timeline. More info on the Kitchen Tour here: http://www.cityofmelrose.org/2015/11/12/check-out-the-iraiders-kitchen-tour-on-november-15/.
·               Mark your calendars for November 20th-22nd and plan to catch our talented middle schoolers perform Elf Jr.! More info here: https://melrosedrama.wordpress.com/shows/mvmms-fall-musical-15/
·               Thinking spring already? Graduation is planned for June 3rd, 2016.
·               Next meeting is December 8th at 8:45 a.m.