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 14, 2016

School Spotlight, MVMMS School Choice, Norms, AD Retirement, New Staff, MHS Class Funds, Subcommittee Assignments, MHS Coffee Invites and more!

Our first Committee meeting of the year was held this past Tuesday, January 12th. We were delighted to welcome new members Liz DeSelm and Ed O’Connell to the Committee.

The meeting kicked off with our School Spotlight segment, featuring national Blue Ribbon winner Lincoln School. Staff members Ed Keenan, Jessica Patti, and Michael Oginski spoke to the award’s lengthy and substantive application process, the dedication of staff members who employed many evening and weekend hours to complete it, the reaction of staff upon learning of the award, and its presentation in Washington, D.C. Principal Allison Donovan noted that Lincoln is a school of 405 students speaking 24 languages, of whom 40% are designated by the state as “high needs.” Less than 1% of the nation’s schools earn this prestigious award.

Announcements of the Superintendent: Supt. Taymore announced an interest by MVMMS Principal Conway in exploring school choice in FY17, and the Committee voted to hold a public hearing on the matter on 2/9. The Supt. announced the significant work done by Horace Mann staff that resulted in improvement of their state academic standing from a Level 3 to a Level 2 school. She spoke to the district’s hosting of colleagues from England for their study of our high-quality science practices; the Museum of Science Gateway Partnership (that provides the district with enhancements in science teaching and learning); the rollout of technology purchased in the fall to support infrastructure, staff needs, and student work; receipt of an $8K grant from the state to continue quality work for high needs students being done at Horace Mann; and the addition to the Competency Based Education Task Force of early childhood representatives. Supt. Taymore also announced an MHS pilot program to address the teaching/learning and cost concerns around substitute coverage, where two experienced Melrose subs (who are known to students and staff and understand our academic expectations) will be consistently stationed in the cafeteria vs. classroom coverage.

Guest presenter Dorothy Presser from the Mass. Assoc. of School Committees (MASC) walked us through some basics on the importance, design, and implementation of norms. We then discussed our current document with members expressing an interest in simplifying them and making them more concise. It was also suggested that members sign them (a best practice according to Ms. Presser) in order for us to show our commitment to them. Proposals will be available for consideration at the next meeting.

Consent Agenda: Field trips coming up: 8th grade to NYC again in June; Italian exchange next year; small number of track team members to Providence for a meet on Friday. Many maintenance projects were completed by DPW; the Personnel Report noted that the Athletic Director/Director of Health and Wellness Pat Ruggiero plans to retire at year-end (with other personnel issues all related to staff leaves of absence); bills were approved for payment; and the budget summary was reviewed and approved.

Subcommittees: A new staff member will be hired in the area of Special Education at Lincoln School. The Classes of 2011-2013 are being contacted and offered the opportunity to close out their accounts by April, 2016 (necessary based on state regulation); otherwise the funds will be used in the district.  An International Students Policy was presented for review and approval. (It recognizes the difference between cultural exchange students sponsored by an approved organization like Rotary, cultural exchange students here as part of an MHS program, and tuition-paying students sponsored by an international education organization.)

Announcements of the Chair: Committee subcommittee assignments were noted as well as a new seating chart. Ms. Dugan reported that MHS is very excited to host an upcoming series of coffees for parents. She also noted that staff is currently working very thoughtfully on planning the best possible academic transition from 8th-9th grade possible for students. I noted that City Wide PTO was held Tuesday morning. (Notes in a previous blog post.)

Next meeting is January 26th in the Aldermanic Chamber of City Hall at 7:00 p.m. We will hear Supt. Taymore’s 2017 Budget Message, learn about tuition-paying foreign students at MHS, wrap up discussions around our norms, and address other responsibilities. Hope you can tune in!