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.

Friday, March 10, 2017

FY18 MVMMS and MHS Programs of Study, Budget Presentation, and Decisions on Fees

The Committee held a meeting this past Tuesday, March 7th to hear about and decide on approving the FY18 Middle School and High School Programs of Study (POS), receive the proposed FY18 budget from Supt. Taymore in order to begin deliberations, and vote FY18 fees. Here’s the rundown (and don’t forget to check the minutes for the official version):

Program of Study: Middle School (Principal Conway and Assistant Principal Parsons) http://mvmms.melroseschools.com/our-school/course-descriptions/#sthash.yzSCcmW5.dpbs

§   Most changes center around A Block, addressing issues around writing, introduction to band and orchestra, and challenge science classes (which students will still select, but labs will now be based on all three major science topics. One teacher will take one particular domain and focus on that).
§   There were updates to English course descriptions (especially challenge classes).
§   Special education instruction includes focusing on writing for students on IEP’s.
§   Classes were selected in Aspen last year using the POS as a guide, and it’s important that students choose classes that interest them when they make selections.
§   In the past, the MS has clustered students identified as gifted in specific challenge classes, but this year will give them options based on their interests.
§   There may be more sharing of staff with MHS this year (currently at 8 teachers).
§   The course selection process is in late May/early June, but information will go out to families in April.
§   They’ve developed a possible 8th grade 2D art class with a competency based learning approach for 1-2 trimesters. (It would potentially allow students to test out of Art I as a freshman at MHS (so they ultimately have more art opportunities in later grades).
§   The POS can’t say how many sections will or will not run. They can’t always run as many sections as students might like.
§   We have the “Cadillac” of foreign language programs and some students may even be able to take two languages during some portion of their time at MVMMS.

Program of Study: High School (Principal Merrill and Assistant Principal Corrigan) http://melrosehigh.melroseschools.com/2016/03/mhs-2016-2017-program-studies/#sthash.pKdtzScj.dpbs

§   Very few changes this year.
§   Considerations: Competency Based Education (CBE), Project Based Learning (PBL), Social Emotional Learning (SEL), and class size.
§   Students can advance more quickly in Fine Arts if they successfully complete a portfolio review (with standards developed by the art teachers).
§   Dual enrollment: outstanding feedback from students, this year expanded offerings.
§   More personalized learning for 12th grade students is expected
§   AP Capstone Diploma program (2nd year) and AP Research new.
§   Honors Stats in new; AP computer science is a new math course.
§   There are revised requirements around Wellness.
§   New student options: later start for 12th grade students by skipping A block to work on college/career planning; and early release for an exploration opportunity (career planning and/or training).
§   Starting scheduling process a little earlier, hoping to have 1st run before April vacation, which should help MVMMS and support best assignment of staff.
§   Rare now to have course conflicts (due to the new scheduling protocol).
§   Minimum regular ed class size is around 15.

Budget priorities and impact on the budget (Supt. Taymore and  Director of Finance and Administrative Affairs Marianne Farrell)

§   Last year’s priorities were different with a level service budget and a goal of maintaining direct services to students. There were some reductions to balance the budget (e.g. three administrators).
§   This year: SEL, inclusive practices, instructional technology, and enrollments are the priorities. As of today, enrollment totals 3818 (with K at 304). Professional development is very important and is being employed across the district in a variety of ways taking time, money, and other resources.
§   Standard challenges: loss of state and federal funding, increasing costs for transportation, health insurance, special ed. programs and services, English Language students (enrollment of 150) and the translation services required, unknown curriculum changes (e.g. history, etc.).
§   Document is shorter than previous budget documents; less information at the beginning and more throughout. Offsets are now combined at the front of the document.
§   Four categories are detailed: salaries, materials and supplies, technology, and contracted services. There was a review of each section (individual schools, itinerants, music, athletics, pupil personnel services, teaching and learning, administration, and system-wide).
§   Committee discussion: excellent formatting, be careful in terminology (we do not have a deficit but instead the Supt. has presented a budget that differs from what the City can afford); Melrose is a minimum aid community in the Governor’s budget with assessments for charter schools increased (even with 19 fewer students); vocational school assessments are based on average income per household which doesn’t make sense; slightly lower structural deficit in the school budget; we look at any spending we can make prior to the end of this year; this is one of the richest teacher contracts in the city’s history; “shocking” youth of our staff has impact on budget; House budget coming next and is unknown; usability and accessibility of the document aligns with recommendations from MASC/MASBO/MASS workshop this past weekend; review of curriculum materials included assessment of their duration and necessary replacement; METCO reimbursements are a state question; possibility of negotiating library materials’ costs in conjunction with other districts (but many materials are charged per pupil and there are state regulations around purchasing)?; concerns around transportation costs; translation services require efforts around district-specific documents and other districts struggle with this also; solving problems like substitute teaching and the shortage of administrators.

Fee Decisions

§   Photography class at MHS: eliminated the fee.
§   Transcripts: eliminated the fee.  
§   HS Athletics: no change to fees.
§   Elementary Music: $5 increase.
§   Ed Stations: 2% increase based on the 2:22 release time.
§   ECC:
§  Stay and Play (summer): 2% increase.
§  Stay and Play (school year): 2% increase.
§  Tuition: 2% increase.

Public Q&A Session on the budget will be held on March 14th from 6-7:30 in the Aldermanic Chamber of City Hall. It will be open to the public and televised. In order for Subcommittee Chairman Liz DeSelm to combine questions and facilitate efficiently, please send your questions to her in advance at ldeselm@cityofmelrose.org. If time remains, questions will be taken from the audience. Our regular business meeting will follow.