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.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

MA Board of Education: June 28, 2016

Agenda and documents here: http://www.doe.mass.edu/boe/docs/FY2016/2016-06/default.html

Opening comments by Chair Sagan
·               Asking for interest in retreat this summer.
·               Charter School Authorizers contacted Sagan and asked about value of charters in our area, how board prepared to make charter decisions, and functioning of Board subcommittee.
·               Last night’s meeting: apologies for actions and responses; returning to facilitation practice (open meeting law requirements). Higher bar in change in regulation. Ed Doherty to put impact ratings on agenda. (May require several meetings.) McKenna: when we hear from MASC and MASS, need to understand why the Board does something and we need to hear them. We have a process/need to follow. If this needs public comment, will take two meetings. Not deaf to this issue.

·               Ed Eval system: he’s “not tone deaf” and will continue to work with MASS and others. Conviction: an eval system that doesn’t pay attention to what students are getting out of schooling is one that “misses the mark”. Continuing to explore other “architectures” that allow students to show they are getting what they need. MTA on the record supporting assessments tied to learning standards (so it didn’t emerge from his office). How to provide system that provides feedback to teachers? Provided assurance that he’ll continue to work on this.
·               Noted MA Teacher of the Year Award event (including other honorees).
·               Aggressive process re: accountability and assistance with respect to ESSA. Rec’d over 2300 comments. Have had numerous meetings. The Rennie Center will be holding a meeting on this issue also.
·               In process of putting together History and Social Science Work Group (charged with reviewing history/social science/civics) – close to finalizing.
·               On June 13th: Discipline Report. Working with those schools regarding reliance on suspension and/or expulsion. (Are the rates appropriate?) In one school, the #1 reason for suspension is “cutting class.” Doesn’t want to underplay administrators’ responsibility for a safe and orderly building. Disproportionate impact on students of color, males, and students with disabilities.
·               Notification of other documents in packet.

Progress Reports on Level 5 Districts:
·               Lawrence
o   665 students graduated this spring (rates up from 52.3 to 71.8 from 2011-2015.
o   Dropout rate down from 8.6% to 4.5% for the same years.
o   Some improvements in ELA (up 4%, math up 28% too 44.5% and science up from 13% to 25%.
o   Active employees living in Lawrence: 378 to 628 so residents are part of turnaround (“home grown talent”).
o   Work around summer learning with outside partners to create document for parents re: summer programming opportunities.
o   Breakfast in the Classroom/Summer Meals Program growing. (Food scarcity is a problem in Lawrence.) Breakfast especially important.
o   Family Resource Center ensuring parent engagement.
o   Next: district contracts, SPED Task Force, HS Redesign, Best Practice Conclave, etc.
·               Holyoke
o   Established core values and vision based on community input (e.g. additional opportunities like college credit, technical ed, etc.). Matching education with district’s unique needs. Pride in Holyoke is an important asset.
o   Five priorities have crystalized; they are next evolution of turn-around plan
§  Quality instruction (ext. student day, accel. Academy, new eval system).
§  Personalized pathways (2ndary redesign, expansion of early ed dual language program, MS personalized pathway).
§  Engaged students/families/communities (monthly meetings, summer community walks, tech infusion).
§  Effective/thriving workforce ($1+ investment in prof. comp. system, recruiting initiative, launch of Holyoke Univ. and Teacher Cabinet).
§  System of empowered schools (dev. Of school based strategic plans, central office redesign reallocates $700K to schools).
o   Significant changes in individual schools (hours, more PD, inclusion, curric. mat’ls, teacher and student devices, more enrichment partners).
o   Reflections: core instruction critical, SEL important, balance between autonomy and accountability, be clear/aspirational, family stories important, families want choice and options.
·               Southbridge
o   Initial reflections: “tough love needed, but a hug first” given period of turmoil/turnover. Surprising: suffering from neglect (broken relationships); clear divide along race/socioeconomic lines; lack of expectations and accountability; lack of systems (data, student supports, financial, SPED, ELL), climate of schools range.
o   Accomplishments: personnel, partnerships, addressing academic frustrating (PD), restorative justice training, technology, purchasing. Planning dual language, tech roll-outs, revamped summer learning, revamped MS programming, launching CBE initiative, new assessment system to drive teaching and learning, Tripod Survey (climate and culture), SPED audit, financial audit through MASBO, new leadership team, turnaround plan completion and release.
o   Next steps: recruiting, tech and data management, SEL, new teacher induction and full staff PD.

Level 5 Schools: End-of-Year Reports
Five Level 5 schools. Turnover of leadership at Dever and working with Blueprint (the receiver) on that. “Each school has a story.” Student behavior is an issue but retention of student population is important with SEL supports to meet student needs. Deep involvement with principal selections at schools this year. Work with Blueprint this year: look at data. Creating culture where students and families feel important. Cross-cutting themes: curriculum and instruction (innovative practices in alignment and assessment); personalized learning at Dever; Partner Schools intervention block improvements; parent engagement (Morgan and UP Academy) + Holland needs more work on parents as partners, teacher leadership (Parker and Morgan). Next: specialized PD, SEL, etc. depending on specific schools’ needs. Members speak emphatically about the significant lack of improvement issues (specifically at Dever).

Digital Literacy and Computer Science Standards
Peyser: “momentous moment;” MA is at forefront of this topic; need to explore including digital and computer science in MASS Core. (Passed unanimously by Board.)

Update on Next-Gen MCAS and Review of ELA and Math Standards
Wulfson: entered into contact negotiations with Measured Progress and in talks with PARCC Consortium for test items; on schedule for those. In-house discussions continue and Assessment Committee as sounding board. Time sensitivity around computer-based testing since goal is 2019 so working to build phased-in approach. Next spring –computer based testing in Grades 4 and 8, others will be voluntary. (HS off the table because of legacy testing. Hardware requirements going out to get sense of districts that may not have resources to employ them. There will be an opportunity for waivers if districts can’t make resource deadlines. In process of organizing Content Review Panels (responsible for reviewing test items and consistent with grade levels and curriculum standards). Has new project newsletter. Working on presentation re: curriculum assessments for availability to School Committees. ELA/math frameworks: July 7th meeting regarding rolling out information. In Sept., will come back to Board with proposed changes but won’t be ready with final recommendations.

Commissioner’s Performance Evaluation
Committee met in fall of 2015 to create performance criteria: facilitation of student growth and achievement (30%), manage DESE (25%), external communication (25%), support and communicate with Board (20%). Comments that the job is difficult. Congrats: improved communication with Board, receiver leadership. Concerns: student reading competency, achievement gaps, relationships with Superintendents (“they don’t always feel heard”). Suggestions: more “primary source reporters” to the Board for informative purposes, more information to Board prior to press releases (no surprises).

UP Academy Springfield: Request for Waiver of Opening Date
This is about Springfield Empowerment Zone. Unlocking Potential and Empowerment Zone are interested in working together. Stakeholder groups support waiver. Passes unanimously.

Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School: Request for Review of 2014 Amendment Decision:
Commissioner: Reviewed timeline for enrollments/grade spans. Recommendation not based on judgment that “school is not doing good job.” Provides innovative program, etc. Time to consider additional enrollment increase is at the time of charter renewal (and still have room to expand under current option). Board needs to review evidence from 1.5 years ago (2014-15). Part of criteria is demonstrating demand (to expand or alter) and PVCIC has met that criteria. PVCIC has been asked to provide evidence and it’s due in a few weeks. Commissioner not confident that demand is there; suggest PVCIC come back in the fall. Probably can get to decision earlier than normal timetable. Pivot on 4th year of data; however, looking at merit of question, wouldn’t recommend. This is not the only charter school in the area. Amendment to increase enrollment not taken up by the Board (so in effect denied until further information presented in fall/winter).

Rescission of Obsolete Regulations: Rescinded with no discussion.

Update on FY17 State Education Budget
Budget is in Conference Committee. Revenue forecasts “tailing off considerably.” As much as $1B shortfall is projected. The depth of the crisis is understood by the Senate, House, and Conference Committee; they are expected to work together to find agreement. It’s a fluid situation at the moment. There may not be a finalized budget until well into the summer. A DESE concern is the potential contract for assessment as it is extremely costly.

Delegation of Authority to Commissioner to take Necessary Action between Board Meetings: Passes unanimously with no discussion.

Calendar: Passes unanimously with no discussion.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Enrollments, Class Rank, and Events: 6/14 City Wide PTO

Yesterday’s City Wide PTO featured a brief appearance by Supt. Taymore who would be headed to the School Building Committee meeting upon her departure, as they planned to vote to recommend the best possible configuration of instructional program solution to the School Committee at our evening meeting. She explained that as of this fall, there is no more room [at the elementary level] based on current projections. Her staffing goal is to keep teachers and she accomplished that [within the context of this year’s budget], but administration suffered. We have no “backbench” [for administrative succession planning] and the new administrative organization chart helps accomplish that. She’s in the process of filling those positions. She’s posted for the AD position [and since then, current MHS Asst. Principal Fogarty has been appointed: http://jgpr.net/2016/06/14/mhs-assistant-principal-stephan-fogerty-appointed-director-co-curricular-physical-education-health-wellness/]. A City Wide attendee noted that a dearth of new teachers is expected in the coming years. The Supt. acknowledged that, indicating that she has partnered with four colleges (Salem State, UMass Boston, Gordon, and Mass. College of Art) in part so that interns will be placed in Melrose. She hopes that it will help graduates “think of us first,” and it also allows us to “have a say in how teachers are prepared.” Regarding open MHS positions, if Principal Farrell is appointed to the Director of Finance position, she will post for that spot as it is a contractual obligation.

Attendees brought up the fact that Melrose did not name a valedictorian this year. Supt. Taymore said that this kind of action is reviewed periodically and we’ll do that in this case. It’s important for us to think about student aspirations as well as parent aspirations. She said that there should be academic recognition and she recognizes the need for cultural change around academics. The MHS and MVMMS PTO’s can play active and important roles in this effort.

·               The Roosevelt Green Team is engaging in a new recycling program with Terracycle (https://www.terracycle.com/en-US/). One of Terracycle’s reps will come to City Wide PTO in September to talk about their work, which could involve fundraising opportunities for other PTO’s too.
·               Melrose Energy Challenge is well under way and there is a benefit to PTO Inc. if parents note that they are Melrose PTO members when they schedule. More here: http://homeworksenergy.com/melrose-pto/.
·               Rockland Trust’s community softball game benefiting the Melrose Education Foundation (MEF) has been rescheduled from Memorial Day weekend to August 14th. For more information, contact Branch Manager Will Sullivan at 781.665.3300 or e-mail him at William.Sullivan@RocklandTrust.com.
·               The MEF annual fundraiser at the Beebe Estate is September 24th.
·               Parent University (co-sponsored by MEF and the Melrose Public Schools) is expected to be the second or third Saturday in November. (Flyer from last year’s event here: http://melroseedfoundation.org/2015/10/12/save-the-date-melrose-parent-university-sat-nov-14-2015/). There will be childcare offered again this year.

If you are a Bridge volunteer, a pilot program will begin at the start of the next fiscal year (July 1st) whereby volunteers who have a current CORI on file will automatically be re-registered for the coming year. You will need to re-register if your CORI needs to be renewed and/or your volunteer location is transitional (e.g. moving from ECC to elementary, elementary to middle, middle to high school). Bridge Director Jennifer McAllister will provide this information in an e-mail to volunteers. New volunteers are always welcome.

Congratulations to the parents who are moving onward and upward and we’ll welcome new members in the fall. Next meeting is September 13th. Have a great summer!