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, March 17, 2016

Kindergarten, MHS Program of Studies, ECC Fees, FY17 Budget, and More: 3/8 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.)

Here’s a quick summary:

·               Middle School and High School representatives shared news-you-can-use information from their schools.
·               Supt. Taymore provided information on this year’s Kindergarten enrollment projections (at about 295 with registrations, continuing through the summer, and with five students requesting early entry to K). Classroom availability is being explored in earnest, with consideration being given to Hoover and/or Horace Mann schools rather than Lincoln and Roosevelt (since the latter two already have enrollments of over 400 students). Average regular ed class sizes in K may increase from 22 students to closer to 25. Costs include teacher(s), para(s), space, furniture, and potentially curriculum materials (if classrooms don’t already have them). Supt. Taymore doesn’t expect to announce school assignments until sometime in May. 
·               Winthrop School students along with Principal John Maynard talked about the interesting work they are doing, and shared with the audience (by way of a video) their new school song.
·               MHS Principal Marianne Farrell presented next year’s course offerings proposed in the Program of Studies. In English, they include African American Studies, Thinking About Thinking: An Introduction to Philosophy, Shakespeare Studies, and Screenwriting. Social Studies offers AP US History in different configurations as well as AP US Government and Politics. In Foreign Language, a higher-level Spanish course offered completely in the Spanish language is new, and is a dual enrollment opportunity with Salem State. In Science, students can elect AP Computer Science, Robotics, or Furniture Construction (the last thanks to alignment of the HS and MS schedules allowing access to certified staff and MS Tech Ed space). Visual Arts is offering Advanced Painting. By virtue of being named an AP Capstone School (similar to International Baccalaureate (IB)), MHS can offer an AP path for students that grants them an AP diploma (expected to add appeal to transcripts for college and certification programs). <Note: proposed elective classes and currently offered elective classes may or may not run depending on the enrollment; if class sizes are too small they are too costly to run, and they change from year to year depending on student interest as reflected in enrollments numbers.> In the course of discussion, Supt. Taymore indicated that construction of the Maker Space on the first floor (in the art wing) is two months ahead of schedule and they are starting work there in two weeks. The district can’t afford to outfit the space, so they are applying for grants, including one for a 3D printer.
·               ECC fees were discussed with a proposed increase of 5% (which includes absorption of utility costs in addition to direct costs). Concerns were raised about the other indirect costs, and discussion ensued around covering more of the costs without making increases exorbitant. The Committee agreed to revisit the discussion on 3/22.
·               Mayor Dolan provided information on the FY17 budget from a city perspective, noting that Melrose receives only 30% of its budget from the state. He discussed concerns around health insurance for employees and a wide variety of other challenges faced by the city. Ms. Casatelli invited the community to follow the budget process and weigh in.
·               Committee members provided liaison reports. The Competency Based Task Force met and includes a wide variety of very knowledgeable and dedicated people who are diligently working to explore this issue. Citywide PTO met the morning of 3/8 and Supt. Taymore spoke to the budget as well as the current photo protocol designed to protect children. (She advised PTO’s to request a separate sign-off by parents on-site at PTO events since the school day policy doesn’t apply.) The Joint Committee on Education met on 3/7 to hear testimony on a variety of education bills, including possible repeal of Common Core standards and raising the cap on Charter Schools.

Note: The FY17 budget process continues with the 3/15 Public Information Session, budget deliberations at coming meetings, the Public Hearing on 4/26, and anticipated vote on 5/10.