This meeting began with a series of public comments from parents and community members. These parents expressed concerns about closing Marks Meadow and redistributing low income kids to different schools to create equity among % of low-income kids in all the schools. There was a proposal made by a group to create an immersion (Spanish-English) school at Crocker Farm, which would keep Spanish-speaking kids together (with Spanish-speaking staff). A formal proposal will be submitted by this group in October.
We then turned to superintendent's update. Dr. Rodriguez made three announcements. First, he noted the there had been two open redistricting subcommittee meetings with time for public comment, and there will be two open forums for such discussions. Second, he noted that this is the first he has heard of an immersion school, and would need to learn more. Third, he encouraged all parents to attend the Open Houses being held on Wednesday, September 23rd, at all of the elementary schools.
Next, we heard a presentation by Kathy Mazur (head of HR) on the work of the redistricting subcommittee. A map was shown (already on my blog) -- which is still a draft in progress. This map may be revised some, when final district enrollments for the year are determined on October 1st (interestingly, the overall elementary enrollment is down by about 30 kids from projections last spring). Some changes are already likely to be made to two roads (given transportation issues): Strong Street will all stay within the Wildwood district (even though it is cut by the railroad tracks) and State Street will go to Wildwood (now shown as going to Fort River).
Several aspects of this map were noted, including:
- no child is on a bus more than 30 to 35 minutes
- language clustering will not occur
- the % of low income kids is 32.3% at WW, 34.8% at CF, and 35.2% at FR
- the size of the schools is within 100 kids at each (359 at CF, 454 at FR, 440 at WW)
- class sizes are still low (average of 19.9 at CF, 19.7 at FR, and 20 at WW)
- the plan follows natural borders (e.g., main roads, railroad tracks), with the exception of two apartment complexes off of East Hadley Road (one will move to FR, one to WW)
- kids at all schools are moving (100% at MM, 40% at CF, 20% at FR, 38% at WW).
The plan is for the SC to vote officially on this plan at the October 27th meeting. At this meeting, there will also be votes regarding several key issues, including:
- whether to return the portables to the town (since they are not needed in any of these plans, and thus could be sold by the town to replenish reserves)
- whether to eliminate differential programs (e.g., Chinese language at only one school)
- whether to allow for open enrollment to a school not in one's district
- whether to continue clustering students by language.
The committee then turned to discuss a budget update, which included reviewing a memo from the Budget Coordinating Group (BCG) -- Andy and Irv are the SC members on this committee. This memo states the importance of having budgets ready early this year, so that the town services (town, schools, library) can coordinate the budget process and be ready in case the Select Board proposes an override at the March 23rd election. Steve stated his concern that the schools should be focusing on doing as well as possible with the resources we have, and that we should not be presenting dire scenarios (e.g., eliminating world language and instrumental music) to build support for an override. Andy stated that the issue was one of timing, and that we would of course look for cost-savings before asking for an override. I noted that the elementary school budget should actually be in good shape next year, since with the closure of MM, we would be operating with fewer teachers and an entire administrative team. Irv agreed with this, but noted that the structural deficit remained (as noted in the FCCC report) and that an override would likely be needed at some point. Dr. Rodriguez noted that we would certainly look into efficiencies and potential cost-savings.
Next, we turned to a discussion about district goals. Steve suggested adding a goal to conduct a thorough review of the elementary school math curriculum, particularly given the concerns expressed nationwide about the math curriculum we use (Investigations) and the movement of other districts to different math curriculum. I expressed support for this goal, and noted that a review of this curriculum had not ever been done (certainly not for 20 or so years). I also noted that it would not be hard to look into what other MSAN districts were using, and that Everyday Math was a curriculum used by many MSAN districts (and with demonstrated research success as described in the What Works Clearinghouse) and that Think Math! is a curriculum now being used in Brookline and Framingham, MA (and also has demonstrated success). Both Irv and Dr. Rodriguez expressed their support for adding this goal.
Kathleen suggested adding a goal to increase professional development on issues of race for teachers. There was some discussion about this, and ultimately the superintendent offered to bring his recommendations regarding this goal to the next meeting of the goals subcommittee.
We tabled the discussion of the elementary school survey results (it was quite late by this point), but will return to this discussion at the October meeting. Steve and I agreed to prepare a brief presentation of these results to guide the discussion.
We then accepted a few gifts, discussed items for upcoming meetings (including world language in elementary schools), and reviewed a calendar regarding upcoming meetings and a budget timeline.