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, February 29, 2016

Educator Evaluations, Campus Kids Fees, FY17 Budget Proposal, MVMMS School Choice, Legislative Resolutions, and More: 2/23 School Committee Meeting

(Reminder: official minutes of the Melrose School Committee can be found on the melroseschools.com web site following approval by the Committee. My notes are below, and edits and errors are mine alone.)

 At last Tuesday’s School Committee meeting, the Superintendent began her report with an analysis of the Melrose piece of DESE’s annual Educator Evaluation Report. (308 Melrose educators were evaluated last year, including 24 administrators and 262 teachers. Of the teachers, 177 were professional status, and 85 were non-professional status. Her notes included the fact that districts can’t be compared with each other to determine whether one district has teachers who are more proficient; the evaluation cycle is one of “continuous self-reflection, goal-setting, and growth”; DESE’s regulations require an educator to be proficient in all four measurement standards to be considered proficient – if they are not proficient in even one standard (for which they potentially haven’t received training yet, e.g. data analysis) they would receive a needs improvement rating); 32% of teachers have taught in Melrose for three years or less, and many have recently graduated and are developing their skills; evaluation of long-term subs is required and 20-25 of evaluations could fall into that category; the union is a partner in the evaluation system; the bar is set high, but even exemplary educators receive the training and support they need to improve.) She also spoke to the fact that School Improvement Plans have been updated and posted to school web sites, and that there will be a 5th grade spelling bee held at Memorial Hall on Monday, March 7th at 7 p.m.

Campus Kids fees were approved with a 5% increase (in the interest of covering direct costs and at least the electricity portion of indirect costs).

Supt. Taymore presented her proposed FY17 budget:

·      Six new positions were proposed: an elementary art/music specialist to accommodate enrollment increases; a Special Education teacher and paraprofessional who specialize in Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) at Lincoln; a Grade 5 teacher at Winthrop; a Library Media Technology Specialist to oversee, facilitate, and support students in the MHS Learning Commons while the current Library Media/Academic Facilitator are teaching/co-teaching classes; .5 ELL teacher at Roosevelt; .2 Occupational Therapist at the ECC; and a Social Worker to address social/emotional/behavioral needs.
·      Contracted services proposed increases are for the high school’s Mass Insight program (for AP support) that is no longer funded by a grant; athletic transportation; Special Education services; legal fees for open cases; software licenses; professional development for teachers; and middle school subscriptions, funds for handbooks/agendas, etc.
·      Instructional Materials are requested for the elementary reading curriculum, secondary level textbooks, and athletics supplies.
·      Equipment and technology needs include a classroom Smartboard, consumable tech costs, Scantron/data analysis support, and portable projectors and bulbs at the secondary level.
·      The use of one-time monies (structural deficit) will continue, with the city’s total contribution expected to include initial monies available at the beginning of the fiscal year combined with monies expected to come to the city in the fall (and approved for transfer to the schools by the Board of Aldermen), as has been the practice in the past.

(Note: since the 2/23 meeting, Supt. Taymore has posted a revised draft budget. The document will continue to evolve throughout the budget process as more information becomes known.)

The Committee voted to approve School Choice at MVMMS for next year, allowing ten seats in 6th grade and ten seats in 7th grade. The Committee performed the Supt’s Mid-Cycle Goals Review, assessing progress on her goals, using the evidence she provided, and making a variety of suggestions for continuing to effectively execute those goals. (Her yearly evaluation is scheduled for late spring.)

A new Rolling Agenda was provided for the Committee and community to see what agenda items are coming up for the year.

In the area of advocacy, the Committee voted to approve the Suburban Coalition Resolution calling for “the Massachusetts Legislature and the Governor of Massachusetts to fully fund and adopt the recommendations of the Foundation Budget Review Commission in the immediate future.” In addition, the Committee voted to approve a letter requesting that the legislature maintain the cap on charter schools, noting: “Until charter schools are required to be as publicly accountable as traditional public schools, until they are required to meet the needs of all students, and until an equitable funding formula is created, there should be no lifting of the charter school cap.”

Before our next regularly scheduled meeting, we’ll hold a budget meeting on Saturday, March 5th at 8:00 a.m. in the Aldermanic Chamber of City Hall. At that time, administrators will provide overviews of their sections of the proposed FY17 budget. The meeting is anticipated to be taped (with live viewing TBD.)