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.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

3/5 Saturday Budget Session: Curriculum/Instruction & Elementary

(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.)

The sunny morning of March 5th found Melrose education leaders at City Hall’s Aldermanic Chamber before the Committee speaking to their budget requests for FY17. It was an opportunity for the community to hear directly from our leaders about their needs and requests related to improving student achievement.

Curriculum and Instruction: begins on p. 45

Dr. Adams: Difficult choices need to be made in the area of curriculum materials. Melrose will meet its second payment (of three) of $88K for the elementary reading materials called Reading Street. However, no social studies materials (recommended by the Social Studies Program Review), or science materials that would begin to align the district with the new science frameworks are included. There is also no line item to set us on a cyclical path for replacement materials in all content areas. (Previous comment from Supt. Taymore: curriculum materials should be replaced about every seven years.) A needed Scantron data collection machine and testing materials are added to the budget this year.  Course reimbursements for teachers (who are contractually able to access and increase their knowledge) continue as do mentoring memberships. A .5 teacher for ELL (since we currently have 120 ELL students including 64 students at Lincoln and 24+ at Roosevelt) is added. We would likely be cited by DESE if we don’t employ this new teacher.

Notes based on questions to Dr. Adams: * Partnerships with Salem State allow for low cost or free professional development (PD); * staff is still developing technology skills but the use of technology is increasing; * memberships allow teachers the opportunity to bring what they’ve learned back to the district and share it; * Melrose has done a huge amount of PD and has opened that option up to other districts (and it’s good for teachers to hear another voice); * the ten SEEM districts are using Election Day for PD, and teachers can travel to different sites where different learning options will be offered; * our pay scale is not the most competitive, but many opportunities for PD allow teachers to move based on the contract’s lane schedule providing a financial benefit.

Elementary: begins on p. 14

Elementary Principals: The goal is to maintain what we have and meet our financial obligations. Curriculum materials that are consumables must be replaced and a new cohort of K students will need materials. One question is how to fully reap the benefits of the new technology without Library Media or Academic Facilitator services. The Instructional Coaches have done 70 sessions of PD, just at the elementary level. In terms of staffing, we’ll need to add a 5th grade at Winthrop (housed in the computer lab which is a smaller space). At Lincoln this year there are 19 classrooms so classes need to be divided and recombined into 27-30 students in PE/art/music since there aren’t enough teachers for a smaller class size (and paras are very helpful in the buildings because they can accompany classes to the specials during teachers’ Common Planning Time).
ELL services continue to be a challenge.

Notes based on questions to the Principals: If possible, the district tries to buy curriculum materials ahead (for the coming year); * additional administrative help is needed in buildings – especially Roosevelt and Lincoln which both house 400+ students; * if K’s are added, they may have to go to HM or Hoover, moving art/music; * NAEYC Accreditation is held for K’s at all the elementary schools and is needed to qualify for the K grant so it’s a good investment; * consumables are purchased by the district and not parents (as often happened in the past); * K tours were very popular this year, often with over 60 people per tour; * one way teachers support Social Emotional Learning is by employing classroom routines that the students know and use, and building the independence of students is a challenge at the beginning of the year but once employed effectively, also helps classroom workability; * there is one Integrated K in each building with 18 students vs. 25; * there is no social worker for elementary built into the budget; * as a country, schools are seeing more students enter with behavioral health needs like anxiety, trauma, and refugee situations and ultimately without a social worker, there may come a time when we have to outplace some students.

Coming up: More on the 3/5 session including Secondary, Athletics, Special Education, Technology, and Administration!