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.

Monday, October 10, 2016

School Committee in September: Fall is Here!

Three meetings for the Melrose School Committee in September as we’re back in full-time action. Notes from our meetings:

September 13th
The schools had a smooth opening day in late August and students and teachers kicked off the year on the accelerator. Italian and Spanish exchange students visited, sharing their cultures with our community. Supt. Taymore held a safety summit with the DPW and Melrose PD to ensure preparedness for any issues.

Ribbon cuttings were held for the building projects at Hoover (windows) and MHS (Learning Commons, administrative office suite, and maker space). All that remains are the punch lists; any remaining monies will be allocated in December. The maker space may be the recipient of tools funded by a grant.

Supt. Taymore is planning to assemble four working groups this year (elementary instrument lessons, activity fees, focus groups for web site redesign, and Competency Based Education/Curriculum Materials Working Group) to advise her on issues for which she’d like input.

Initial enrollments saw increases close to those expected, with MHS currently hosting 992 students. 100% of Kindergarten students (of those not requiring placements for special education, ESL, or other services) received their first choice of school placement. Specialists (art, music, etc.) are needed at the elementary level as their class sizes are high, and this issue will be reflected in next year’s budget.

Concussion reporting to the state was submitted with numbers creeping up to 21, reflecting more elementary reporting (which is not required, but which Melrose engages in to be more proactive in protecting students).

September 24th
The Committee held a three-hour retreat to work on goal setting for the year ahead. MASC Field Representative Dorothy Presser led discussion and activities in the areas of Committee roles and responsibilities, priority setting, and reflection on improving Committee work. We agreed that another retreat would help us bring this work closer to fruition, with another Saturday session preferred.

September 27th
Asst. Supt. for Teaching and Learning Dr. Margaret Adams and Humanities Director Angela Singer reported on the mid-cycle review for English Language Arts. The intent of the review was to “evaluate the effectiveness of curriculum, instruction, and assessment in English Language Arts grades preK-12 as measured by student achievement, student work, curriculum alignment, instructional practices, and by teacher, student, and parent surveys. Seventeen educators engaged in this effort, and in their Statement of Impact they noted: “By outlining current programming, an action plan can be developed to meet identified areas of need and also build upon existing strengths of the program.” The team will present its final report in the spring of 2017.

Rental rates were approved for the new MHS Learning Commons, which will only be offered to school groups and Melrose non-profits for the FY17 school year in order to monitor the use of equipment and maintain the cleanliness of the space.

The Committee heard a final presentation by representatives from the Permanent School Building Committee regarding siting and placement of the pre-fabricated classrooms discussed and agreed on in June. The PBSC is recommending a fiscally conservative approach and has analyzed all impacts (parking, green space, connection to the main building, etc.). Three classrooms were recommended at Hoover and two at Winthrop. Horace Mann can’t realistically accommodate additional on-site classrooms, but key issues of equity for all students and student safety resulted in the renovation recommendation. The price tag is expected to be around $4.4M. The Committee voted to “accept, endorse, and approve” the plan. Next step: the Appropriations Committee of the Board of Aldermen is expected to vote on funding $400K for design and project management services on Thursday, October 13th. If approved by the full board at a later meeting, parent meetings will be held in late fall in the respective schools and the plan will move forward.


As always, our packet documents are posted at melroseschools.com under School Committee, and you can find videos of our meetings at mmtv3.org. Our next regular business meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, October 18th at 7:00 p.m. in the Aldermanic Chamber at City Hall.

(Reminder: official minutes of the Melrose School Committee can be found on the melroseschools.com web site following approval by the Committee. The above are my notes, and edits and errors are mine alone.)