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, December 3, 2016

Enrollments, FY18 School Calendar, Ripley/Beebe Rentals, and More: November Melrose School Committee Meetings

Before the football was played and the turkey eaten, the School Committee met twice in November! Check the minutes for the official version, but here are my notes of the highlights:

November 15th
·      Supt. Taymore announced formation of an Elementary Music Working Group to provide recommendations regarding vision, status, structure, and plan. The group is expected to report back to her prior to the presentation of the budget to the Committee in case there are any fiscal suggestions.
·      The Dept. of Public Works (DPW) provided a report on completed work in the schools.
·      Interim Director of Finance and Administrative Affairs Ms. Farrell provided a summary of the End of Year Report, which is submitted to the state annually. Total school-related costs in FY16 were $54.4M, with the biggest line items being teacher salaries ($16.3M), insurance for active and retired school employees ($6.4M), payments on debt ($3.9M), and tuition to charter schools ($2.6M).
·      Ms. Farrell’s title was changed from Interim Director to Director of Finance and Administrative Affairs after Supt. Taymore confirmed Ms. Farrell’s licensure with the state.
·      Enrollments were presented with these highlights:
o   Enrollment continues to trend upward. We now enroll almost 38oo students.
o   149 English learners are now enrolled, up from 116 last year.
o   The minority population has increased from 18% to 20%.
o   The low income population continues to increase.
o   The homeless population is down from 23 in FY15 to 18 this past year.
o   We currently enroll 30 school choice students and four foreign exchange students.
o   Future implications:
§  Pre-fabricated classrooms will be added at two schools.
§  Additional elementary specialists (art, music, PE, etc.) are needed.
§  Increases in the number of student social/emotional/behavioral issues is challenging.
§  Additional high school and middle school staff is needed to address increased enrollments, academic requirements, and student interests.
·      The FY17-18 school calendar was approved. School will start on August 30th, 2017 and end on June 14, 2018 if there are no snow days.
·      School choice numbers were approved by opening ten seats each in Grades 7 and 8, and five seats in Grade 9.

November 22nd
·      The MHS Science Dept. has received a grant to participate in the Mystic River Watershed Association Herring Monitoring Project. Student work will occur from Fall 2016 – August 2018.
·      A new five-year agreement to rent the Ripley and Beebe buildings to the SEEM Collaborative was approved, with rental increases and more tenant responsibility for maintenance and repairs. It was noted that SEEM has been a good neighbor for many years and that there was agreement by both parties that the relationship was mutually beneficial.
·      A waiver was granted to the MHS girls hockey team to allow 8th graders to play in order to fill out an undersubscribed roster.
·      City Solicitor Van Campen presented an element of the recently passed Municipal Modernization Act that allows school districts to appoint one Committee member to sign warrants (school bills) on its behalf, and report afterwards. Both Mr. Van Campen and Melrose CFO Mr. Patrick Dello Russo (in conjunction with the outside auditors) recommended against adopting this practice and continuing with the current practice that requires a majority of Committee members to approve and sign the warrants. Their counsel was taken and no change was made to the process.

Last meeting of the calendar year coming up on December 13th at 7:00 at City Hall when we expect to take up dollar maximums for student checking accounts, Internet safety measures, the hiring of legal counsel, and annual data presentations that the Committee expects to see from the administration. We will also conduct our annual self-evaluation.