The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, October 15, 2010

Carlisle School Committee lays out goals

Superintendent Joyce Mehaffey (center) and Supt. Assistant Claire Wilcox (second from left) stand with members of the Carlisle School Commiteee (left to right) Bill Fink, Louis Salemy, Josh Kablotsky, Chair Chad Koski and Mary Storrs. (Photo by Cynthia Sorn)

Four goals were approved, while a fifth was considered but did not pass muster by the Carlisle School Committee (CSC) on October 5.

1. Develop a balanced and fiscally responsible three-year budget for the next year

Member Louis Salemy suggested the goal, which Chair Chad Koski noted should be a three-year budget. New member Josh Kablotsky asked, Do we have a choice? Koski explained that the committee could develop a one-year budget, but chooses to incorporate long-term planning. Salemy added, The School Committee does its best to manage the budget successfully.

2. Maintain a diligent scope of the school building project

Member Bill Fink noted that the scope of the school building project can wander very easily. After various town boards reviewed the building plan, he explained, suggestions were made on additional work that might be done. He proposed that the School Committee assist the School Building Committee in maintaining the guidelines set by the Massachusetts School Building Authority. Isnt that already set in stone? asked Salemy. They set guidelines, said Fink, but there are certain things they will not reimburse such as the multipurpose room, which is part of the building project. He said that the CSC can help support the priorities that were established for the building project.

3. Maintain an effective dialogue to ensure a smooth and successful transition to the new administrative structure

Member Mary Storrs said the School Committee needs to support the new administrative structure, which includes Superintendent/Principal Joyce Mehaffey (6-8), Principal Patrice Hurley (1-5), and Director of Student Services/Principal Karen Slack (PreK-K).

Previously each person held only one administrative position. How do we make [the goal] measureable? asked Kablotsky. Storrs agreed that there needs to be an evaluation piece. Mehaffey said she can issue reports to the committee. Salemy said she could report during the year and at the end of the year. Koski agreed with the goal, saying, We need to let the new structure settle. We need to slow the changes down. Fink added, Both this year and next year will be full with the school building project.

4. Review and evaluate new School Committee meeting structure

Storrs suggested the topic and explained, My goal would be to evaluate how effective the once-a-month meetings are. The committee recently switched from a twice-a-month schedule, at the advice of consultant, Donald Kennedy, who said that paring to one meeting a month would reduce the administration workload. All administrators attend the meetings. Kablotsky asked how the committee could measure whether the new structure is effective. Salemy noted that most School Committees meet once a month. Storrs said they could look at Belmonts meeting structure. The Belmont School Committee, she said, has two monthly meetings: a business meeting without administrators and a regular School Committee meeting. The committee agreed to evaluate the current meeting schedule.

Goal to measure public satisfaction not passed

Kablotskys suggested goal to establish a method for measuring the responsiveness of the committee to the community was voted down, with Koski, Storrs and Salemy voting nay, Kablotsky aye, and Fink abstaining. Fink said that the process would need to be better defined. Kablotsky explained that the goal was to measure how much the committee and the administration are open to questions and suggestions from parents.

The committee examined the different communication avenues available to parents and the community. Mehaffey said parents are welcome to attend the School Advisory Council meetings, which is composed of principals, teachers, parents and a community representative. Kablotsky replied, Many parents feel excluded. They are not willing to be part of a committee. Another way to communicate, said Koski, is by email. We have a School Committee mail box, and also all the administrators do. Salemy noted there is a comment period before and after each School Committee meeting. Kablotsky said that parents perceive the communication as one-way, They never hear responses.

Hurley replied, We allow questions and responses during the School Advisory Council meetings. It is an open meeting, she added. Last year, the council did not receive a single email. Fink, who is a member of the School Building Committee, suggested that people with questions about the building project come to the meetings.

There is some burden on parents to come to meetings. Maybe they need to be educated about that, Storrs noted. Kablotsky responded, Thats the best we can do? Fink responded, Is that appropriate? Is that effective? That is what I would ask. There are multiple avenues to communicate. I think it is an appropriate approach. It works. Salemy added, There is an effective feedback mechanism they can vote us out of office every three years.

To contact the CSC, the Carlisle School Building Committee or the Carlisle School administrations see the school web site:

Other ideas anti-bullying, private placement survey

A few other goal ideas were discussed but were not brought to a vote. Storrs suggested an anti-bullying goal to create a safe and respectful school environment. She said, We need to help promote that from the top. Koski pointed out that the work on the anti-bullying goal is at the administrative level, not at the School Committee level. Mehaffey explained that the school will be submitting a state-mandated anti-bullying plan to the committee by the end of December. Training has already occurred for staff members, she said, adding, If the staff needs additional training we would add that on.

Slack said that the Carlisle School District has the most teachers of all schools trained in Open Circle. The Open Circle program (grades K-5) offers students a safe forum in which to talk about issues and concerns. The Advisory program and Second Step (grades 6-8) continues the same process.

Storrs said, I get a sense that we have a pretty safe and respectful community. I suggest we support that. Mehaffey said her team is working on how to make it alive for students at all ages. She said students are filming public service announcements which are streamed every Monday into middle school classrooms. We also address bullying in Health classes, added Mehaffey.

Survey suggested

Kablotsky suggested surveying all families that have chosen to send their children to private schools. He said that parents of students who opt out could be invited to speak with the committee about why their children are not attending Carlisle School. By discussing why parents choose not to use the school, Kablotsky said that it would show that we are interested in improving.

Assistant to the Superintendent Claire Wilcox said a written survey is sent to every family that leaves Carlisle, and they are already asked if they would be willing to meet with the administration. Only a few parents respond, she added. Storrs said the follow-up with families is an administrative, not a School Committee job. Mehaffey said that she can report the results to the CSC. Storrs warned about privacy issues and pointed out that given the small population, the families could easily be identified.

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