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, December 14, 2015

Announcements, Late Start, CBE Task Force, Budget Priorities, Self-Evaluation, International Students, and more….

…at last week’s 12/8 School Committee meeting. Here’s a breakdown:

Announcements of the Superintendent
* Class of 2015 graduate Katherine Ilia has been selected by the College Board to receive the Massachusetts AP Scholar Award – one of two only recipients (one male and one female). * Mass Insight has designated eight MHS staff members as Partners in Excellence for their work to improve student outcomes on AP exams. * MHS students led, for the second year, the Hour of Code. (More info on this national movement here: https://hourofcode.com/us). * Thanks to the Melrose Cultural Council, Horace Mann students have created murals depicting a theme of friendship. Open house is on 12/15 from 2:30-4 with all welcome. * Demolition has begun on the MHS Resource Center as it begins transformation into the Learning Commons. All precautions are being taken to keep students and staff safe (e.g. post-school-day work, etc.).

Educational Programs and Personnel
* Late Start vote: after discussion, the Committee voted “To pursue community and staff input on the costs and implementation of a 20 minute shift in all school schedules, with a final decision to be made by June, 2016 for implementation for the 2017-2018 school year.” Members appreciated the value in the research around health and safety for students in starting school later, but noted concerns around equity for all students (including elementary and METCO) and financial implications - especially around rentals, Ed. Stations, etc. * The Committee voted to instruct the Supt. to assemble a Competency Based Education Task Force. (Please consider applying to participate! Details here: http://melroseschools.com/2015/12/competency-based-education-task-force/ and deadline to apply is 12/21.) * Slight changes were suggested for the 2016-2017 school calendar, one of which is an addition of the primary Muslim holiday, which is noted in addition to Jewish and Christian holidays.

Finance and Facilities
* FY17 Budget Guidelines and Priorities were presented and approved. They align the filters through which the Committee might consider expenditures for the coming year using Committee overarching goals and associated comments made during the year. * This agenda item was listed to reflect on a Committee goal, and it was noted that the Budget Timeline had addressed community involvement. * Maximum amounts were set on Student Activity Checking Accounts (of which there are two – MVMMS and MHS) for oversight purposes. These accounts are audited at least every three years by an external auditor and more frequently by an internal auditor. * The Committee had promised (by way of our goals) “to report on areas of the FY17 budget affected by the Technology Plan,” and it was noted that this item would be brought forward in the spring when we discussed the budget.

Policy and Planning
* A summary of members’ Committee self-evaluations was presented and approved, and it will be used as a guiding document for the Committee’s work next year. * Supt. Taymore updated the district Strategy Overview, and Ms. Thorp volunteered to link glossary words within it in order to improve understanding by the Committee and community. (More info here: http://melroseschools.com/school-committee/agendas-and-minutes/strategy-overview-links/.) * An updated policy on International Students was presented for informational review. It adds tuition-paying students to our population and addresses roles and responsibilities around their enrollment.

Announcements of the Chair
* The Committee conducted a preliminary vote for 2016 Chairman and Vice-Chairman (in keeping with our By-Laws, section 3.2), with a final vote scheduled for our 1/12 meeting. I, in partnership with Jessica Dugan, will be honored to serve as next year’s Chair and Vice-Chair respectively. * Work has been done on the School Committee Member Handbook, with much work to do next year prior to its completion. * Ms. Thorp completed the significant work she began on the types of data the Committee can expect to receive from Supt. Taymore in order to abide by our roles. *Members reported on experiences within their liaison roles.

The next Committee meeting will be held on January 12th at 7 p.m. in the Aldermanic Chamber and will be broadcast on MMTV. If you would like to receive e-mails pushed to your inbox with meeting agendas and packet document links, please go to the Committee web site, Meetings (IQM2 page), and subscribe to the RSS feed. If you’d like a preview of next year’s meeting agendas, check out our preliminary rolling agenda at http://d1868cr0a5jrv6.cloudfront.net/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/Rolling-Agenda-2016-First-Draft.pdf.

A more personal note: as this is the time when it’s especially meaningful to look back at the prior year and reflect on its many blessings, please know how grateful I am to all who find ways to support our students, whether it’s by being a PTO member, school council member, task force participant, Bridge member, member of a city board/commission/department, engaged parent, staff member, generous business owner, attendee of music and drama presentations, sports fan, or partner (like MAAV, MEF, the McLaughlin Foundation, Melrose Cultural Council, Rotary, Birth-to-Five, and so many others). While there are many challenges to be addressed, we have seen great strides in Melrose education because of you. As always, it takes a village to raise a child, and I feel so grateful to the people and organizations that make raising and educating children in our beautiful city both supportive and enriching.

Wishing you all the beauty of this season and a happy, healthy 2016!