Friday, January 7, 2005
Preparing students for global economy; Superintendent sees space and staffing needs
On Monday, December 20, in the last of its informal discussions leading up to the January and February marathon of formal budget hearings over the town's fiscal year 2006 budget, the FinCom hosted a large group of Carlisle School representatives, led by Marie Doyle, the new School Superintendent. Doyle was accompanied by Steven Moore, the school's Business Manager; Dr. Linda Stapp, the school's director of Support Services; and School Committee members Nicole Burkel (chair), David Dockterman and Christy Barbee.
A vision for the future
Doyle outlined the school's vision for the future:
• The world is driven by a global economy;
• The demand will be for students trained in science, math, technology and engineering; and
• China will become a world leader.
The school's mission, Doyle said, is to give each Carlisle student the best possible education to prepare him/her for the future. Therefore, she said, Carlisle will ensure that students learn to read at an early age and get early exposure to languages, math, science, technology and engineering.
Doyle said that Carlisle is behind its peers in the use of technology in the classroom, and spends less time on the "5 Specials" — art, music, physical education, health and language — although we spend more time on the core subjects of reading, writing and math. The plan, then, Doyle outlined, would be to offer more languages, and to start these at a younger age; to introduce classes in media and introduce laptops to the school; and to offer classes such as engineering. Doyle mentioned that studies show that children exposed to foreign languages before age 13 have a much better "ear," and the earlier they are exposed to science and technology, the more effectively they learn these subjects. It is therefore not advisable, she said, for Carlisle students to wait for high school before being exposed to these subjects.
The 6/5 plan
Many of these initiatives will impact the middle school, Doyle explained, and she outlined the "6/5 Plan" to provide each grade with 6 team teachers and the "5 specials." The 6/5 Plan requires more space and staffing than some alternatives, Doyle said, and the town's demographics are such that the middle school is facing the same population bulge that increased enrollment in the elementary school a few years back. Consequently, school buildings are short by ten instructional spaces.
In response to an inquiry about the overall demographic pattern, Doyle, Dockterman and Burkel cited two independent studies that showed a short-term decline in elementary enrollment but an increase in the overall enrollment from 850 to 900. The middle school is set for four classrooms for each grade, Dockterman explained, but the incoming grades over the next three years will require five classrooms each.
Stapp next reported on the school's efforts in the area of special education. The percentage ofCarlisle students receiving some sort of special education services, 10.8%, is lower than the neighboring communities', 14%, or the state average of 17%. But the complexity of special education means that a small town such as Carlisle must often go outside its own school system to provide these services, adding to the per-student cost. Stapp echoed Doyle's comments on improving Carlisle education, saying, "the better the regular education is, the less we need to rely on special education to meet the needs of special education students." Stapp outlined a three-pronged approach to determining whether special education is appropriate for a given student:
• Identify the disability;
• Determine that the disability is the reason why the student is not making progress; and
• Conclude that special education will be able to help.
Last year, Stapp said, the school conducted 22 evaluations, resulting in 15 special education situations.
Getting down to the subject at hand, Doyle and Moore stated that the school would need over $100,000 above the 2.7% "Guideline Budget" to meet all its known contractual obligations, add the various specialists needed to keep services level, and to absorb a $21,000 cost increase in the wastewater treatment plant. This figure, Moore explained, included receiving $25,000 from the federal Title 1 ("No child left behind") funding and $200,000 from the state "circuit breaker" funds to pay for special education in excess of a defined per-pupil limit.
© 2005 The