There was another Long Range Planning meeting for the School Committee Thursday night. I won’t have a lengthy report this time because they got a late start and didn’t have handouts to help me out. The reason for the late start was the meeting for School Committee members from throughout Massachusetts with Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester beforehand. We were allowed to sit in on a little of that while we waited, and it was a bit interesting. Teachers were expressing concern about charter schools, but it seems that they are in favor lately, especially with parents who need a longer day for day care coverage. Also, there are new projects called Readiness Schools being developed (which may or may not have extended day programs). Mr. Chester said that the governor “wants to show that the educational establishment is not a road block to improvement.” Hmmmm.
Anyway, the School Committee, which had opened the meeting but adjourned to finish attending the other meeting, finally went ahead and had its meeting in a different room at the West Somerville. The first topic under discussion was how to engage additional constituencies in school stuff. There are groups of people working on that and one idea is to have more cross-pollination. For example, there’s a Special Ed Parent Action Committee, a Diversity Committee, a Foreign Language Group and a middle school group, and all of these could be discussed/ informed by School Councils. (Okay, I’m not a Real reporter, and I was scribbling as fast as I could.)
Next there was some discussion of the goal of hiring more minority staff. There have been a few hires, but nothing to crow about. They would particularly hope to find more licensed educators who speak Spanish. Apparently, Rebecca Martinez is doing some kind of Diversity Training and Mark Niedergang asked to have her make a presentation on that to the School Committee.
Foreign Language education was discussed next. Assistant Superintendent Dr. Vince McKay roughly outlined three possible scenarios. The Deluxe Model would be K through 8, with something like the equivalent of a major in a language in 7th and 8th grade. Number 2 would be just grades 6, 7 and 8, but maybe every day. And the third option might be a less formal enrichment option. Dr. McKay would like to have students be able to enter High School with one year of study out of the way (so they could enter straight into level 2 of the language in 9th grade). That and one year of Algebra before 9th are challenging goals, but Dr. McKay thinks that kids could do it. The problem is the hard fiscal realities we’re facing. There will be no new funds for such projects in the foreseeable future.
There was lots more talk about how to involve more parents in schools. Apparently, it has something to do with Title 1 and Title 3. One particular goal is to involve parents of students from diverse backgrounds. The Superintendent mentioned trying to involve parents from ELL classes. Mark Niedergang wanted to start a program of knocking on doors and recommended School Councils for this. There seems to be a plan for all PTA’s to meet on Dec. 4. We’ll keep you posted (as best we can). That’s all for now!