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.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

MHS Students, Summer, ECC/K Placement, Construction, Financial Audit, Budget, New Meetings, and More: 5/10 School Committee

(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 High School students and staff were featured in the Committee’s monthly School Spotlight meeting segment, and two groups came forward. First, representatives from National Honor Society spoke to individual and group service projects, including the significant investment in community service time these projects required. Second, Library Media Specialist Tom Scudder, Academic Facilitator Josh Cristiano (find him at @mpsflipped), Teacher Susan McBride, and student Brian Mercer presented their project based learning work around starting a food truck business. The project was a blended learning effort, meaning time in class as well as time on-line outside of the classroom. It used a “Shark Tank” TV show-type model. The educators reported that this kind of teaching is a “pretty drastic change” for teachers and that more planning is needed compared with teaching a more traditional unit. Brian noted that he and his classmates liked the real-world aspect of the project, which for his group became a breakfast food truck based on one of his favorite breakfast spots, requiring learning about start-up financing, permitting, menu planning, etc. (The MHS portion of the meeting is from 6:20-40:50 on the video.)

As last year, MHS will not run summer recovery courses as they are too costly, but they are providing sources for students to find what they need. Middle school students who fail an ELA or math class are eligible for the MVMMS Skill Building class, offered for six weeks, an hour per day, from 6/27-8/4 for $250. Students looking for a camp experience close to home can opt for the Students Without Borders enrichment program (more here: http://mvmms.melroseschools.com/2016/05/students-without-borders-summer-program/#sthash.OxrwwiUT.dpbs).

Kindergarten class sizes were presented for all elementary schools, with 99% of parents receiving their first choice of school. ECC enrollments were also presented, and there will be some variation in programming this year based on parent requests. Those changes will require some movement of classrooms, and DPW is “ready to go,” while a parent who is an interior designer will be offering teachers professional development around using classroom space more effectively. There are currently 41 tuition based and seven IEP openings. ECC educators have collaborated to publish an article around one element of their teaching and learning, and it can be found at http://rightquestion.org/blog/blogthree-and-four-year-old-students-learning-to-ask-their-own-questions/.

Language that is easier to read and understand for the Secondary School Code of Conduct was presented and approved.

City planner Denise Gaffey offered an update on construction at the MHS Learning Commons and entryway/window installation work at Hoover. She noted that work on the Learning Commons project is currently ahead of schedule and walls are up so that the different spaces can now be visualized. The project has benefited from quality collaboration between staff and the construction folks. Furniture delivery is schedule for August 1st and technology will be installed following furniture placement. Completion is scheduled for August 19th. Phase II of the project (the Student Services suite) will be able to begin a month earlier than expected. At Hoover, the pre-construction phase is expected to begin on May 20th and after school is out, DPW will be prepared to shift the contents of classrooms to make way for construction work. The timeline is very tight but completion is expected prior to the start of school.

Supt. Taymore presented her final balanced budget, noting that there are concerns around potential state mandates that may require funding, professional development is “stretched” now, but that she has tried to present a level-service budget. The Committee voted to approve two categories of expenses: salaries and non-salaries.

The Committee approved transferring Class of 2013 monies to them following their request and in conjunction with state regulations around Student Activity Accounts.

The District Financial Audit for FY15 was presented, and there were no negative findings.

The Committee voted to add a session on May 31st (time and location TBD) to hear from the community about the anticipated May 24th presentation by Supt. Taymore regarding how to address increasing enrollments and resulting space challenges for the coming years. Regular meetings were also added on Tuesday, August 30th and Tuesday, October 18th given that only one meeting had been scheduled for those months as calendars were explored and more fully developed.

Remember that all packet documents are online at http://melrosecityma.iqm2.com/Citizens/calendar.aspx and meeting video is at mmtv3.org under “Government Meetings.”

Next meeting is Tuesday, May 17th at 7:00 when we will hear from Supt. Taymore about her updated Strategy Overview, and also anticipate voting on the FY17 budget in preparation for presentation to the Board of Aldermen on May 19th.