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, May 26, 2016

Re-Schedule of 5/31 Public Inquiry Session, Summer School Work, Elementary Handbooks, Secondary Activity Fees, Field Trips, Overarching Goals: 5/24 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.)

With the FY17 budget approved, the Committee moved on to additional regular business and began discussions around goal setting and planning. Two MHS student representatives joined us to provide updates on exams, athletic milestones, and other happenings at the high school, as well as their re-election as representatives to the Committee next year. Graduation will be held on the evening of June 3rd.

Announcements of the Superintendent
Supt. Taymore provided an in-depth look at expectations around summer work for students. Based on Committee questions, she noted that the purpose of summer work is to reinforce skills (not punish), addressed Title I summer services, agreed to bring back to administrators the suggestion that assignments are explicit in their expectations in order for students to take them seriously, and offered that students who take more challenging classes know that summer work will be assigned. * She then invited Bridge Director Jennifer McAllister to present her annual review of Bridge activities and events. Ms. McAllister noted the significant increase in Bridge registrations this year and that she is now using Google docs to share registration and other information with appropriate parties. She was asked whether Melrose Grad Night could share CORI information with the Bridge and Supt. Taymore agreed to explore that possibility. Ms. McAllister was commended for supporting equity across the district relative to providing volunteers for libraries, enrichment activities, etc. She closed by noting that next year’s Trivia Bee will be held on March 26th, 2017.

Educational Programs and Personnel
Regarding the FY16-17 Elementary School Handbook, Supt. Taymore welcomed Hoover Principal Jenny Corduck, Roosevelt Principal Mary Ann Maranto, and Winthrop Principal John Maynard, indicating that principals from our other two elementary schools had personal situations that precluded their attendance and that they apologized for their absence. Ms. Corduck indicated that their work was a significant undertaking, beginning with reorganizing it to move items most likely to be referenced by families to the front and also aligning the organization to the Secondary Handbook so that families would be accustomed to the format as they moved through the system. There were some language changes consistent with attorney recommendations, the homework policy was removed (since it had not been revised in some time and a homework committee was being organized to review it), Google was explained more completely, more links were added, and an Arabic translation statement was included, among other changes noted in the “Changes and Edits” document preceding the revised handbook in the packet. Questions and responses addressed sharing this information with PTO’s at the first fall meeting, potentially maintaining the handbook in one web site location for all elementary schools, the fact that high school students can’t provide translation services, student access to buildings earlier than the normal time during foul weather, and the fact that the ECC handbook is not identical to the Elementary Handbook but is referenced when being updated each year.

Finance and Facilities
A number of weeks ago, and in order to balance the budget, the Committee agreed to approve activity fees at the secondary level. Supt. Taymore subsequently recommended stepping back from that recommendation so that the new Director of Co-Curricular Activities and parents could explore amounts and fee structures more thoroughly. The $15 activity fee for middle school students and a $35 activity fee for high school students expected for FY17 were rescinded.

Policy and Planning
A proposed Field Trip Policy was presented for informational review. Mr. O’Connell indicated that it speaks to the types, duration, and location of field trips. It doesn’t include some language in the current policy around parity or financial impact on students (which we may want to add back in) but does speak to authority for approvals. The goal is to update the policy in accordance with state laws and Supt. Taymore’s previously adopted guidelines. The Supt. noted that current policy negatively affects the approval of some field trips now, she wants to update the current practices, and there are challenges around timing of approval that should balance staff/students’ needs and the Committee’s schedule. She was asked whether changes to the guidelines would include permission slips and she responded in the affirmative. A change log/mark-up document was requested in order to review changes. It was noted that policy should guide the Supt.’s procedures, and the policy classification system is an alpha system for reference.

Announcements of the Chair
A June 4th iRaiders field trip called “Mayhem in Merrimack (NH)” requiring Committee approval was unexpectedly identified yesterday. Supt. Taymore requested that the Committee provide an initial approval for which paperwork and information would be provided at the June 14th meeting for final (retroactive) approval. Comments centered on the excellent integrity of the iRaiders organization, liability issues (none were identified), and that field trip permission slips would be required by Supt. Taymore prior to departure. * The 2017 School Committee calendar was presented and approved. * The Committee’s Overarching Goals were introduced in the context of a goal and action item development timeline. Discussion included an interest (in future years potentially) to have conversations around goals in a less business-oriented/more conversational meeting, encouragement to think about SMART goals as broad and aligned with our role as a Committee, and the potential for revisiting the overarching goals within this year’s process. The Committee approved the overarching goals as re-affirmed on May 12, 2015. * The rolling agenda was presented and is updated frequently based on the amount and depth of work being done in the district. <The updated version is now posted here: http://d1868cr0a5jrv6.cloudfront.net/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/Rolling-Agenda-2016-Sheet1-1.pdf.> * Finally, the Committee was reminded that on May 10th we added a Public Inquiry Session on Configuration of Instructional Programs for May 31st but this morning, the Permanent School Building Committee explained that the complexities around the space needs/configuration exploration and process made it premature for the Committee to meet with the community on that date. They were unanimous and adamant that the meeting be rescheduled to a later date. In order to inform the community as quickly as possible of a reschedule, a vote was requested for this evening. Members supported a meeting that we could all attend, but the importance of community attendance was highlighted. A thorough packet document with virtually all options listed was noted to be valuable and important and there was concern that the community feels that the decision has already been made. Supt. Taymore noted that the primary reason for postponing is precisely because no decision has been made, and at the Permanent School Building Committee meeting, it became clear that there are so many options that they want more detail around all of them in order to provide a solid presentation. Members commented that nighttime is often more difficult to attend than Saturday mornings, that the venue should be the right size for the community, that the 18th is the weekend prior to the last (half day) of school on June 20th and families might already be shifting to summer mode, that if the meeting is held on the 11th there are still two more Committee meetings in June for the community to comment before any initial decisions, and that the Committee would not make any decisive/permanent votes without a full vetting by the Committee and the community (expected after the summer). The decision was made to reschedule the May 31st meeting to June 11th at 9 a.m. Further discussion centered on the community understanding how the process will develop over the next few months with the intention of keeping everyone informed as thoroughly as possible. * One Liaison Report was presented: Ms. DeSelm, on behalf of the Human Rights Commission, invited the Committee and community to attend a workshop on cultural proficiency in the Aldermanic Chamber on June 7th at 7 p.m. with Susan Naimark, which they hope to have televised.

Post-Executive Session
Announcements were made regarding approval of prior Executive Session’s meeting minutes, and agreements with the administrators’ union (Teamsters) and teachers’ union (MEA) regarding the recently approved administrative reorganization.

Meeting packet documents can be found here: http://melrosecityma.iqm2.com/Citizens/FileOpen.aspx?Type=1&ID=2621&Inline=True and the meeting can be watched at http://www.mmtv3.org/index.php?categoryid=28.

The next meeting is the presentation and public inquiry session on Configuration of Instructional programs (related to challenges around the space challenges relative to increasing enrollments). It will be held Saturday, June 11th at 9:00 a.m. (location to be determined). The next regular meeting will be held Tuesday, June 14th at 7:00 p.m. in the Aldermanic Chamber of City Hall.