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, May 3, 2016

Middle School Program of Studies, Administrative Re-org, FY17 PD Plan, Revised Budget, Fees, Advocacy: 4/26 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.)

We covered a lot of ground last Tuesday, laying the groundwork for presentation of the Superintendent’s final draft budget on 5/10.

Announcements of the Superintendent
Supt. Taymore provided information on specialized learning opportunities for students and teachers. Two students will engage in a Marine Science Training and Internship program in conjunction with UConn. Hoover teacher Ms. Iuliano was one of two MA teachers accepted to attend the Mickelson ExxonMobil Teachers Academy, a weeklong summer program for 3rd through 5th grade teachers to support the pursuit of careers in science and math. Roosevelt 5th grade teacher Ms. Hogan is one of 28 teachers in the US accepted to attend “Real World Science,” a weeklong exploration of wartime innovations and the skills necessary to generate them, and then applying them to our world today. (Congratulations to all!)

Educational Programs and Personnel
·               Secondary school handbook: Supt. Taymore was asked to reexamine disciplinary due process (Ch. 222) language to ensure that it is “clear, explicit, and understandable for families and students.” She will bring forward any recommended changes at the next meeting.
·               FY17 Middle School Program of Studies: Highlights include adding reading/literature classes at 7th and 8th grade, rotating by trimester;  language around science core content classes is improved (more consistent with Next Generation Science Standards); engineering/design language course changes; challenge classes have more specificity in descriptions. In the past, very few courses were elected but now students will have the opportunity to request their non-core classes (not selection like MHS, but request based on class availability), and students can discuss with parents first, then students input requests on Chromebooks at school. Almost all 8th graders take a civics class, almost all 7th graders take physics class, almost all 6th graders take engineering class. Languages: 6th grade = trimester long class every other day to explore what having a language would be like (assigned randomly) and limited due to staffing; 7th graders select a language and attend every other day for the year, generally committing to that language for 8th grade (attending every day); they enter HS at Level 2 (which is unusual for middle schools in the state); this year can offer 5th option (Latin) to 7th and 8th graders which is highly unusual for middle-schoolers. French and Spanish are most commonly selected languages. For performing arts classes, students can usually only select one because they are often scheduled at the same time, although teachers try to work out a unique plan if possible.
·               FY17 Professional Development Plan: The plan continues to evolve as curriculum and needs change. The PD Committee extensively reviews exit surveys for programs to ensure that they are useful to staff and to inform future PD programs. More PD is always better than less, as there is a direct correlation to student outcomes. Future considerations include implementation of the state’s new Science Frameworks and Draft Digital Literacy and Computer Science Curriculum Frameworks; district content area curriculum reviews; investment in district technology; ensuring continuation of critically important coaching and mentoring of teachers; and the unique training needs of specialists (art, music, PE, guidance, psychologists, school adjustment counselors, therapists, etc.).
·               Administrative Re-organization: In order to realize cost savings, the district will reorganize the Gr. 6-12 content areas, shrinking the Director positions from seven to four which will now include STEM (Science, Math, and Applied Science), Humanities (ELA and Social Studies), Global Education and Arts (Global Language, Art, and Music), and Co-Curricular (the AD/clubs+activities director as well as Health/Wellness/PE). Teacher leaders will be named in sub-director positions (subject to collective bargaining) in order to perform supporting duties while developing their leadership skills.

Finance and Facilities
·               An Education Stations fees increase of 8% was approved.
·               Athletic fees were raised and include some tier changes. Costs like transportation, venue rental, and mandated equipment reconditioning have negatively impacted expenses. FY17 fees are: Tier I (cross country and outdoor track) - $200; Tier II (golf, soccer, tennis, lacrosse, field hockey, basketball, softball, baseball, volleyball) - $300; Tier III (swim, gymnastics, indoor track, wrestling) - $385; Tier IV (football) - $450; Tier V (ice hockey) - $600.
·               Stipends for clubs and activities are a recurring budget line and in recognition of this fact, an annual school-wide activity fee is being piloted in FY17 for middle school ($15) and high school ($35). This pilot will be examined prior to passage of the FY18 budget.
·               The Committee agreed to pre-pay some FY17 expenses by using more School Choice monies (that had not originally been applied since the district didn’t know if expansion of the School Choice program would continue successfully  - but it has). Pre-payments include elementary ELA Reading Street curriculum materials ($88K), kindergarten materials ($25K), and Mass Insight AP funding ($15K) for a total of $128K, which can then be subtracted from the FY17 draft budget request.
·               Draft 3 of the FY17 budget has been posted. With increased revenues, pre-payment of expenses, and budget cuts, the difference between what the city is able to provide and what the schools consider a level-serviced budget is just under $178K.

Announcements of the Chair
·               Evaluation of Supt. Taymore will occur in June and requisite documents will be provided at that time.
·               The Committee voted to send a letter of advocacy around MA Senate passage of the RISEAct: An Act Enhancing Reform, Innovation and Success in Education), encouraging the House to take it up and consider it for passage.
·               A new rolling agenda was provided.

Remember that all packet documents for this meeting are on-line and video is available at mmtv3.org under Government Meetings.

Next Meeting: Tuesday, May 10th at 7:00 in the Aldermanic Chamber. Expected for discussion – ECC and K placement, summer program plans, facilities construction update, the FY15 district financial audit, and discussion of the final draft of the FY17 budget. Packet documents are expected to be posted this Friday, May 6th.