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.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

FY17 Budget Message, Foreign Students, Business Manager, Communication, Committee Activities, and More…

The School Committee met Tuesday night and reviewed a wide variety of topics. Most importantly, we began with a moment of silence in memory of MHS student Rob Davey who tragically died last week. Our hearts go out to his family, friends, and the MHS staff who cared so much about him.

In the Announcements of the Superintendent, we first reviewed the SEEM Annual Report. (Many of our special education students attend SEEM schools, and two former Melrose buildings are rented to them.) Supt. Taymore announced the resignation of Director of Finance and Administrative Affairs Jay Picone, effective in late April. She also noted that two Melrose educators, Tom Scudder and Josh Cristiano, have been asked to present at the Mass. Computer Using Educators conference. Finally, she indicated that a newly revised chain of command has been crafted and is on the web site under the student link, with the intention of “…guid[ing] anyone with a specific question to the correct source…[so that]…questions and concerns can be addressed promptly by the specific person who has direct responsibility…”

MHS Principal Farrell and Assistant Principal Fogarty shared that three students from Brazil are joining our student body until June. They are living with Melrose families and are very excited to be a part of our school family. Also in the area of Educational Programs and Personnel, Ms. Kourkoumelis offered the subcommittee’s beginning of year report.

In Finance and Facilities, the Mid-year Budget Update was provided, and Director of Finance Picone explained that he did not expect end-of-year budget overages as of this time. Legal bills that will come before the Committee in February for approval were summarized (as a point of information), broken down by type of expense and month. Supt. Taymore spoke to her interest in training staff on improving their communications, and has retained a consultant to perform that training, funding his work through some unexpected computer refunds from the state. (He has, and will continue to, help the district craft communications to the community that keep us informed in a more comprehensive and timely manner.) Finally, the Supt. provided her FY17 Budget Message, in which she outlined budget priorities in the areas of staffing, contractual obligations, curriculum resources, technology, professional development, transportation, and budget flexibility. She then outlined challenges in the areas of state and federal funding; city revenues; health insurance; enrollment changes; special education reimbursements from the state, programs, and services; English as a Second Language programming, training, and resources; state and federal mandates; anticipated curriculum changes (e.g. science and social-emotional learning); contractual obligations; and concerns about unknown possibilities (e.g. MCAS 2.0, data reporting requirements, etc.).

Two dates were added to the budget calendar: On Saturday, March 5th from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., administrators will present their budgets and explain their recommendations. On Tuesday, March 15th at 7:00, the Committee will convene a Budget Forum in which Supt. Taymore will address questions from the community about her recommended budget. Stay tuned for location info!

If you want to know the topics anticipated for future Committee meetings, please read the newly updated rolling agenda. Committee norms were discussed, and we expect to finalize them at our next meeting. Liaison assignments were announced, and reports were heard regarding the Competency Based Education Task Force, State Advocacy, and the Melrose Master Plan (Melrose Forward), which will hold a public forum on February 10th at 7:00 at the Milano Center (with all welcome!).

Next meeting is Tuesday, February 9th at 7:00 in the Aldermanic Chamber of City Hall. The agenda and packet documents will be posted on Friday, February 5th. Anticipated topics at this time include a public hearing on school choice at Melrose Middle School, Campus Kids fees, and a technology update.