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, April 14, 2016

Kindergarten Capacity, FY17 Meal Prices and Education Stations Fees, Budget, Business Management, and More: 4/12 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.)

Melrose Middle Schoolers kicked off the meeting for our monthly “School Spotlights” segment, speaking eloquently about their whole-school reading of Seedfolks (and resulting ELA work), along with a project-based learning approach to medieval manors including a “Gallery Walk” for students to view other students’ approaches to constructing a viable and sustainable manor.

The high school student representatives spoke to the many activities in progress or anticipated at MHS, including athletics, upcoming AP exams, Celebrate the Arts! showcase of visual and performing arts by all levels of Melrose students (tonight – 4/14!), and the upcoming performances of Les Miserables (tix here: https://melrosedrama.wordpress.com/.)

Under her Announcements, the Superintendent invited French teacher/French exchange program leader Mr. Morisseau to present a book received in friendship from the mayor of exchange location Saint-Witz to Mayor Dolan, inscribed with a personal greeting. She spoke to her unification of many Melrose logos into the Melrose “M” as an encircled block letter (as it appears on the football field, MHS front doors, etc.). In addition, she provided warm thanks to Ms. Annette MacPherson, Kindergarten registrar, for her tireless efforts to place incoming K students at their first choice school while balancing the many other complex elements of school placement (like ELL and special education services, geographic proximity, physical classroom sizes, sibling enrollment, etc.).

Educational Programs and Personnel
·               Dr. Adams, in concert with the elementary principals, presented their Kindergarten capacity study, recommended addition of two K’s at Lincoln and Roosevelt for FY17. There is no ideal situation for next year, but Principals Donovan and Maranto believe they will be able to provide incoming students with the same high quality educational services we’ve all come to expect, with the additional support of special education personnel in their buildings. Supt. Taymore made it clear that the buildings will be virtually out of classroom space after the incorporation of these classrooms.
·               The Secondary School Code of Conduct was presented, with changes noted in the areas of privacy, information security, digital citizenship, use of devices, and restorative justice.
·               The changes preliminarily voted on start times for the FY18 school year were affirmed. The district will now more deeply explore the details, like building access during the earlier morning hours to ensure students’ health and safety.

Finance and Facilities
·               Mr. Ken Dolce, Director of Food Service on behalf of our vendor, Chartwells, spoke to the need to increase school meal prices (breakfast and lunch) by ten cents in the FY17 school year (which was approved).
·               Discussion began around FY17 fees for Education Stations; with Dr. Josephson presenting competitive market pricing and potential percentage/dollar increases. That discussion will continue at the next meeting.
·               Based on new state regulations, the Committee transferred dormant graduating class monies (for those not already making arrangement for fund dispersal) into the High School Student Activity Account “for the benefit of all Melrose High School students.”
·               Supt. Taymore announced that the search for a new Director of Finance (given the resignation of Jay Picone effective later this month) has not been fruitful, and recommended employing the services of an accounting organization with whom we currently work to take on the critical duties that ensure continued smooth business operations. The Committee transferred the balance of Mr. Picone’s annual salary into a different category in order to effect this recommendation.
·               Melrose Chief Financial Officer Patrick Dello Russo presented a review of the disappointing financial situation faced by Melrose in that federal and state payments have declined precipitously while our city’s needs continue to grow. It was suggested that everyone carefully review the City’s Visual Budget (found here: http://www.cityofmelrose.org/mvb/). He spoke to the importance of maintaining the most favorable bond rating possible as a critical element of supporting a sound fiscal system. In addition, he noted the fact that Charter School financing regulations allow (this year alone) $2.7M of tuition assessments with only $.2M reimbursement for a net loss of $2.5M, of which the gain of even a portion could be invested in our city. Mayor Dolan commented that city officials are discussing health insurance opt-outs for employees as an option that may be mutually beneficial. He also noted that it is likely that we could lose some school positions, but that would be the last possible avenue for savings.

The Committee voted to add a meeting on Tuesday, May 17th (at 7:00 in the Aldermanic Chamber) in order to complete budget deliberations. (Please note that we will hold our Public Hearing on the budget – as mandated by law – on Tuesday, May 10th at 7:00.) We reviewed the recent MA Senate passage of the RISE Act (“enhancing reform, innovation, and success in education) and it was agreed that we would consider a letter in support of the bill’s basic tenets for consideration by the MA House of Representatives (should they choose to take up this issue) on 4/26. We expressed appreciation to Mr. Picone for his service to students and staff as well as the Committee, and wished him well in his future endeavors.

Next meeting: April 26th at 7:00 p.m. in the Aldermanic Chamber.

Have a great April vacation!