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Jenny's Recap of the October 21st School Committee Meeting



The fourth School Committee meeting of the academic year was held on October 21st. Superintendent Edouard-Vincent provided a brief report of notable happenings across the district including:

  • Events:

- Harvest Your Energy Festival

- McGlynn Middle School Yard Sale

- Brooks Fall Festival

- MHS Open House for 8th Graders

  • Inclement weather on Thursday and the collaboration between Buildings and Grounds, Eastern Bus, and the City of Medford that kept our students safe and our buildings running.

  • MPS students received 2nd and 3rd place awards from CASIT as they also celebrate Italian Heritage Month. Brooks 5th grade received 2nd place winning a prize of $200, and McGlynn 5th grade students received 3rd place winning a prize of $150.

  • The Chang sisters of Medford High each received a $500 award from the Pace Family and Federazione American Abruzzo (FAA USA) as they celebrate Italian Heritage Month. FAA grants awards based on essays submitted regarding Italian culture and heritage.

  • MHS has received a $10,000 grant from the Verizon Foundation for a maker space. The grant will allow MHS to create a STEAM maker space that enables interdisciplinary project-based learning. The grant will be presented formally at the next meeting, and Molly Laden will be on hand to provide additional information.

  • Planning for College Info Session for students with 504 and IEP services will be held this Thursday, October 23rd, at 5:30 in the Science Lecture Hall. The College Fair will occur right after the session, at 6:30 in the gymnasium.


During community participation, the Superintendent agreed to follow up on overcrowding issues on Middle School Bus 2. The bus is especially crowded on Fridays, and in several instances, students were not transported home as expected.


The Committee unanimously approved a motion to accept a grant from the Blanding’s Turtle Headstarting Program. Turtles have 40x higher chance of reaching 14th birthday when not born in the wild, and Medford High is pleased to participate. The grant amount is $2205.75.


Chad Fallon, Headmaster at the Vocational School, requested approval to execute a fundraiser for the Vocational School to celebrate year 3 of Bistro 489. Tickets will be available to the community for the spring dinner. We will showcase the space and the culinary arts program, among several other participating programs. The request and the subsequent motion to create a revolving account in our financial ledger to categorize the funds both passed unanimously.


Personnel Update

Asst. Superintendent Patterson provided a report to the Committee of hiring and personal movement to date across the district. She noted that, as in all schools, mid-year hiring is much more difficult. The brief update prompted several questions from the Committee across the following topics:

  • Nutritionist resignation - With this resignation, there is no nutritionist in the district and Asst. Superintendent Patterson indicated that they do not plan to hire a new nutritionist. She noted that MPS is not REQUIRED to have a nutritionist from a compliance perspective and that it is, in her words, a “nicety.” The district is still working to make the universal free breakfast a success.

  • Mid-year hiring and onboarding - The programs held for new hires before the start of school are not held mid-year. Training for mid-year hires falls on the building leaders. Regarding security standards, training is building specific and not an HR function, even before the start of school. The process should be similar for mid-year hires, where building leaders are responsible.

  • After school hiring - The district has hired several staff for the after school program since the start of school. A report on the current state of the after school program was requested.

  • Andrews 8th grade science teacher leave - The current substitute is a certified teacher but is not certified in Science. This same group of students experienced a teacher leave of absence last year. Superintendent Edoard-Vincent indicated that more information is needed on the length of the leave before substitute plans will change.

  • All open positions are posted on our website.


Lots to think about in this personnel update. Mid-year hiring is challenging, and it reveals some process opportunities to explore, including how we onboard mid-year staff and what contingency plans we have to address absences where specialized subject matter is required. There is a Personnel and Budget Subcommittee within the School Committee, and I hope that in this next session, it will take up the issue of personnel contingency planning.


I don’t personally consider a nutritionist a “nice to have” when we remember that one in nine households in Medford experience food insecurity, and those issues disproportionately affect our children. We certainly need to do what we can to provide food, but our goals should be more significant than that. I would like to see MPS move toward a model of providing healthier meal options so that we can address the needs of all our students, especially our most vulnerable, with programming that also aims to improve the quality of food we provide. This topic is very complex, and I am aware that changes to move in a healthier direction have significant budget implications.


Dyslexia Screening Update

For those who are newer to this discussion, I want to provide a bit of context. On October 19, 2018, Governor Baker signed into law a bill to direct DESE to issue guidelines to assist school districts in developing screening procedures for Dyslexia.


In the spring, the district’s plans around screening were the subject of much discussion. At that meeting on May 6th, Dr. Nadine Gaab from Boston Children’s Hospital/Harvard Medical School provided an enlightening report of best practices, and a parent and friend of mine shared her struggles with her son’s reading journey. Dr. Gaab’s commentary that early screening can change the course of reading proficiency resonated with me. Waiting until the point of failure in 3rd grade, when dyslexia is currently diagnosed, is not recommended.


DESE offered competitive grants this past summer to pilot screenings that are valid and reliable, scientifically based, brief, administered three times a year, and had an inclusion of Code and Meaning based and/or Rapid Automatized Naming (RAN) assessments. DESE approved four screeners for the pilot. Columbus and McGlynn were offered grants for MAP and Lexia screeners, respectively.


It is important to note that the screeners we are discussing identify risk of reading difficulty, rather than a medical diagnosis of dyslexia. Risk of reading difficulty looks at the following:

  • Phonological awareness

  • Sound/symbol recognition

  • Alphabet knowledge

  • Decoding

  • Rapid naming

  • Encoding (spelling) for 2nd grade


Here is a summary of the assessment being used in our elementary schools this year:


MAP at Columbus

  • Columbus Principal, Dr. Kay identified a point person in each grade. These point people then attended webinar training, and screening began 9/16. All student assessments are now complete. The team started looking at results on 10/9. In-depth training occurred on 10/16 regarding the interpretation of assessment results and what to do with the information. Each student receives a set of scores called Ready for Intervention Today (RIT) in areas including foundational skills, language and writing, literature, and informational and vocabulary use and functions. Students all get a Lexile range, which can help compare to students in other programs.

  • MAPs then offers instructional guidance and content based on student scores.

  • Students will get a supplemental rapid naming assessment to fill a gap that MAP does not support

  • MAP provides a detailed report for families, and training is just beginning on these reports.

Lexia Rapid - Screener

  • Grant provided by DESE for McGlynn, which includes professional development provided through DESE.

  • Lexia offered to roll out the pilot at Brooks and Roberts free of charge. Previously, Associate Superintendent Diane Caldwell noted that DIBELS 8, an in-person assessment, would assess Brooks and Roberts students.

- Lexia trained the teams in person on 10/16. Teachers will receive Data Dive training

on 11/20.

- At Brooks and Roberts, educators who choose to take the training, which is

optional, will receive professional development in after school hours.

  • As with MAP, the district will use a separate screener for rapid naming assessment because Lexia doesn’t test this skill.

  • Lexia results provide a reading success probability, which indicates the likelihood that a student will be reading on grade level by the end of the school year, as well as percentile rankings and a performance score that looks at skill development over time. The results provide a roadmap of sorts to potential resources and interventions outside of the Lexia toolset.


Both of these assessments are computer-based and administered three times per year. All of the professional development associated with both screeners can be used by teachers to apply toward re-licensure requirements. Lexia academy provides additional online professional development as well.


Intervention

During this meeting, there was also a discussion on intervention solutions, which I was happy to see. MAP does not have intervention solutions; it is strictly a screener. Lexia also offered its Core-5 product to all our K-2 staff at no cost for the duration of this pilot. Core-5 is a robust computer-based intervention tool. If we choose to purchase the program, the Core-5 is approximately $40/student, and this cost is separate from the assessment tool. The software does a placement exercise the first time a student logs in and then drives content to the student based on the student-specific profile. Customized learning paths are especially useful to ensure that we aren’t stigmatizing our struggling readers when working in a classroom setting.


The Committee agreed that a communication/letter with some consistency of message would go home to inform families of student results. The administration noted that there would be differences in the information sent during this pilot phase as we continue to work with DESE. Still, they were hopeful that our work this year would both benefit students and position us well when DESE issues final guidance in the fall of 2020.


Cleaning Company Contract

The Administration presented the School Committee a recommendation to accept a three-year contract with Compass Cleaning to support the High School and McGlynn complex. They are our incumbent vendor. The administration performed a competitive bid process in concert with the City’s procurement team. The process included a separate evaluation of technical response and cost, site visits, and multiple addendums issued. Year 1 of the contract, which begins in November 2019, is a 4% increase over the current agreement and is slightly higher than we projected in the budget. Asst. Superintendent Patterson noted that because the contract terms will take effect mid-year, we don’t have a budget concern.


The School Committee asked that future contracts require a living wage clause to ensure staff, whether hired directly or via a contract, are paid reasonably for the work. The Committee also passed a motion to conduct an analysis of insourcing vs. outsourcing options before the next contract renewal in concert with our Union partners.


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© 2019 by  Committee to Elect Jenny Graham