November 3, 2015

Dear Parents, Staff, and Community,

On last Wednesday night my administrative team and I held the first of what I hope to be several ongoing opportunities for dialogue with parents and the community at our “Conversation with the Superintendent” forum.  I extend my thanks to all in attendance, and to those who took the time to fill out the feedback form. I was pleased by the turnout for this new district communication initiative.

We used an open agenda format, allowing questions from the audience on any topic of interest, with follow-up discussion. A wide breadth of topics was covered, ranging from snow removal to district priorities.   Future meetings may focus on specific topics. I will announce the next “Conversation” through a variety of media, and hope to see you. I appreciate your participation, shared concerns and viewpoints. 

Community interest and involvement are important to student and district success and it is clear that Marblehead cares deeply about education. I look forward to continuing our conversation.

Maryann Perry
Superintendent of Schools

For those not present, please find a general overview of the Q & A:

“What are the district’s top 3 priorities?
1). Curriculum work and alignment across all grades and disciplines. 2). Development of a needs-based budget and working with the town on budget priorities. 3).Facilities (including technology), and long-range planning for maintenance, capital repairs, upgrades, etc.
“Is there an update on PARCC? 
Individual and district results are due from the state the week of October 26th. Parent information will be available the week of November 9th. Administrators will be participating in webinar tutorials to understand and evaluate that data.  On November 18th, the State Board of Education will vote on whether to adopt PARCC in place of the MCAS.
“How do we compare to other districts? 
I recognize that there is the need to look at other communities, but I prefer to focus on our own internal growth and benchmarks to monitor how we are doing.  The DESE (Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education) website (specifically the DART - District Analysis Review Tools) has detailed information on our district’s data and comparison with other districts.
 “Are there updates on facilities?
We have put a comprehensive monitoring, maintenance and inspection plan in place for all of our buildings. Adding a plumber and electrician to our staff has cut costs, and increased routine maintenance. Many of the building roofs are past their expected lifespan, and other large projects (Coffin/Gerry School) will need to be addressed.
“Can you explain “Operating Protocols as they relate to the School Committee and agenda-setting?
There is collaboration between the Superintendent and School Committee Chair on setting meeting agendas.  The School Committee discusses and votes on operating protocols at the beginning of every school year.  (Added note: These protocols are based on best-practices of high-performing school committees and have been created with guidance from the Massachusetts Association of School Committees to clearly delineate the respective roles of School Committee and Superintendent).
Will parents have an opportunity t o evaluate teachers?
At this time the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education does not require districts to develop or use a parent feedback instrument of any kind. While it may in the future, the DESE plans to monitor national findings and work with local stakeholders to see if the role of parent feedback should be formalized in the future. Still, parents and students are encouraged to provide feedback to teachers (and up through the chain of command as needed) regarding their classroom experiences.
What is the plan to deal with overcrowding at Marblehead High School?
We continue to track and monitor enrollment and discuss possible solutions district-wide.  Any long-term plan will be part of larger conversations surrounding budget and facility needs.
Will you be reviewing the school calendar again?
The School Committee is obliged to vote next years school calendar in open session, as they do every year; however, any conversations regarding significant and substantive changes to the school calendar would need to start within the community.  (Added note: There are inherent constraints in our current schedule, including mandated state and federal holidays and contractual obligations. Most importantly, we cannot reduce the number of school days (180), which limits our options when attempting to create more time on learning and provide staff with appropriate professional development.) We will continue to work with our teachers and administrators to refine the best use of half days and professional development days within our constraints.
“Can we add buses?
Currently, the bus routes provided comply with state regulations.  While additional bus routes may be convenient, this has not been an area of focus given our district priorities.
“What can be done about snow removal?
This past winter was an exceptional situation, and custodial staff and Town employees worked around the clock to keep up with the challenges of continuous snow. We rely on the Town to keep the roads to our facilities clear, and work with the Town as other areas of concern arise.   
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