Friday, February 12, 1999
Carlisle School Committee contemplates planning for new school
Population growth in town and in the schools is difficult to predict, but if growth continues as it has of late, a new school will be needed soon, school committee member Paul Morrison told the Carlisle School Committee at their February 2 meeting. Morrison, reporting what he had heard at a recent municipal land committee meeting, said that new technology for sewage treatment may allow development to continue at a high rate. He suggested that the school committee ask for money now to start planning for a new school. Members hoped that a consultant might be able to come up with some creative solutions to accommodate 100 to 200 students beyond the capacity of the current campus. School officials believed that a new 600-student school would not be needed for a long time, if ever.
The school committee voted to request a Warrant article at Town Meeting asking for planning money in an amount to be determined. Superintendent Davida Fox-Melanson agreed that planning should begin, adding, "I had hoped to finish one building project before starting the next." She was referring to the new septic system for the school that is to be built on the Banta-Davis Land, but has been delayed for several years due to an abutter's litigious complaints.
The town had requested an expedited ruling on the septic system case in January 1998 and the administrative law judge had said that he would rule shortly after the oral argument, which was heard on April 17, 1998. Since the ruling has not yet been made, the attorney for the town sent another request for an expedited ruling in January 1999, as a reminder. "We hope not to miss another building season," Fox-Melanson said.
Moving from septic systems to systems thinking and systems dynamics, school committee members heard a report from a meeting with the Waters Foundation Advisory Council. The Waters Foundation has granted the Carlisle School close to $100,000 for each of the past several years to develop ways to incorporate systems thinking and dynamic modeling into the elementary and middle school curricula.
Most of the money has funded the positions of Alan Ticotsky (former fourth-grade teacher) and Rob Quaden (middle school math teacher) as systems dynamics mentors. They have been teaching the staff as well as students. This year, the teachers have learned enough that they are finding ways to incorporate systems thinking into their existing curriculum themselves with help from the mentors.
Fox-Melanson said that the reason there has been a big increase in the use of systems thinking in the school this year is that critical mass has been reached; the teachers are now comfortable with it and using it. The mentors have been a big part of this success, she added.
The Waterses hope that Carlisle will be able to help spread systems thinking to other schools. Developing a way to do that will be part of the next phase of the program. School committee member Peter Cole suggested that Concord would be a good place to start. With a new superintendent in Concord, this would be a good time to get the elementary, middle, and high schools there involved in using systems thinking, he said. He thought that it would be good to open "Carlisle College," where Carlisle teachers can offer courses to teachers from both towns.
Continuing in the systems theme, the goals for the 1998-1999 school year include the septic system repair and systems thinking curriculum, along with many other ideas for improving the school. One goal that generated some discussion was the desire to involve the wider community in the school and the students in the community. It was a new goal this year and school committee members brainstormed a bit about how it might be implemented. Two existing connections were mentioned: the involvement of senior citizen quilters who shared their quilts with second graders during their quilt unit, and the immigrant interviews that fifth graders do, often with their neighbors, for a social studies unit. Fox-Melanson said that she had been exploring the idea of community service learning.
Third-grade teacher Jennifer Webster will be taking maternity leave beginning on April 26. She plans to return to teaching third grade next September.
Third-grade teacher Margaret Bruell plans to return to teaching in September as well, after completing two-thirds of the credits needed to receive certification as a consulting teacher of reading. She plans to complete her certification by the start of the 2000-2001 school year.
Responding to a question about substitutes, Fox-Melanson said that it is a challenge to get enough of them. Requests for substitutes have been running in the school newsletter. Teacher certification is preferred, but not required.
The Carlisle School senior band has been invited to perform at the annual Massachusetts Music Educators Association conference on March 13.
The seventh grade will be performing Robin Hood at the Corey auditorium on March 26 and 27.
© 1999 The Carlisle Mosquito