Thursday, November 3, 2005
Hartwell multi-purpose room

Present: Julie Dobrow (Chair), Laurie Manos, Dennis Picker, Cathy Rogers, Pam Borgert (Hanscom Representative), Corie Cruise (Hanscom Representative). Also present: Mickey Brandmeyer (Superintendent), Paul Naso (Assistant Superintendent), Susan Bottan (Administrator for Business and Finance).
Absent: Sandy Hessler (Vice Chair).

  1. Greetings and Call to Order
    Ms. Dobrow called the meeting to order at 7:04 P.M.

  2. Chairperson’s and Members’ Reports
    Ms. Dobrow said that she, Ms. Manos, Ms. Hessler, and Ms. Rogers all attended the PTA breakfast last week, over 400 people came to the breakfast, and it was a nice opportunity for the community to come together. She thanked those who worked hard to organize the event. Ms. Dobrow also said that the School Committee had its first roundtable last Friday and they will be having others in Lincoln and at Hanscom. She thanked the Communications Subcommittee for their work on this concept. Ms. Dobrow said that she, Ms. Rogers, Mr. Brandmeyer, and Mr. Naso attended a meeting in Boston which was also attended by the METCO Coordinating Committee and the PTA as well as parents of Boston students. She said that many of the parents attending were new to the district. She thanked the Christina Horner, Bill Craft, and Amy Hood for their work on this event.

    Ms. Manos said that she attended the Joint Conference of the Massachusetts Associations of Superintendents and School Committees. She said that she sat in on many informative and useful sessions including one by Rob Evans who recently spoke in Lincoln. She said that she has copies of the slide presentations for the sessions she attended and offered to share this information with other members of the School Committee.

  3. Public Comments

  4. Consent Agenda

  5. Time Scheduled Appointments
    1. Hanscom Middle School Improvement Plan
      The Hanscom Middle School Improvement Plan was presented by Lt. Jonathan Raby, parent and Co-chair of the Hanscom Middle School Improvement Council, and Doreen Maloof, Social Worker and member of the Hanscom Middle School Improvement Council, since Barry Hopping, Principal of the Hanscom Middle School, was unable to attend because of his mother’s death. Lt. Raby presented the first goal regarding enhancing student learning. Ms. Maloof said that there will be three sessions for “Lunch and Learn”: the first for 4th and 5th grade parents on math will be the week of November 14, the second for 6th, 7th, and 8th grade parents on math will be held in January, and the third for all parents on English Language Arts will be held in April. Ms. Maloof commented on the new teacher evaluation system. She said that it has made the staff more cognizant of the need to relate their professional development programs to school goals, district goals, and to their own development. She said that she is going to be evaluated this year and that she is pleased that the process is clear. She thinks that the new evaluation system will improve the functioning of the school. Ms. Maloof said that she and a colleague went to a presentation on bullying and Aspergers syndrome and that she and her colleague will be doing a presentation of what they learned for the faculty.

      The Committee discussed the lack of improvement in the articulation of the goal on enhancing student learning since it was first presented by Mr. Hopping on October 6. The Committee also discussed its desire that the document make clearer which areas of academic performance are targeted, how assessments will tie in with academic areas targeted, and the need for attention to other assessments in addition to MCAS. Ms. Borgert suggested that the DRA data could be used in addition to MCAS. Ms. Borgert said that she sat on the Hanscom Middle School Improvement Council last year and that she wants to see goals that will show progress at the end of the year. Mr. Brandmeyer suggested that the School Council can work on developing more specificity on what other data do use in addition to MCAS and how this aligns with teacher evaluation and professional development. Ms. Dobrow asked whether the resources needed set forth in the improvement plan are already built into the budget. Mr. Brandmeyer said that faculty planning time is built into the schedule and that workshop, conference, and substitute teacher expenses are already in the budget.

      Ms. Maloof presented the second goal to review and assess the recent Hanscom Middle School program changes and to plan for future program development. Ms. Maloof said that this year Spanish has been introduced for grade 5 this year with students beginning Spanish for a ten week period. She said that a survey was done regarding after-school activities with 87 students reporting interest in a drama club, interest in yearbook, and interest in a 4th and 5th grade applied technology program.

      Ms. Dobrow asked how progress on this goal will be evaluated; where parent feedback is being sought, when will meetings with parents take place; and what strategies will be employed to increase parental participation and feedback. Ms. Borgert said that many of the programs in Extensions are not core subjects and do not bear a significant relationship to the district goal regarding Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment. Ms. Borgert said on some issues action rather than more evaluation is needed. She said we know that the students want a drama club and that the school should find a way to act on it this year. Ms. Dobrow asked whether scheduling is working with Extensions. Ms. Maloof said that having the sixth grade Extensions before lunch and the 7th and 8th after lunch has permitted better teacher availability and that many students have gotten their first choices.

      Lt. Raby began presentation regarding the third goal on transition to the Bedford High School. Ms. Maloof provided detail on this transition since she has worked on the transition. She said that of the 40 8th graders at Hanscom roughly half will go to Bedford High School. She approaches the transition to provide students with tools to transition to any high school since the reality is that many Hanscom 8th graders will end up going elsewhere. She said that this year the meetings between Bedford High School and the Hanscom Middle School have been more formalized and more systematized than in the past. She said that placement is an intensive process that takes place over three weeks and that a document is produced for each student with recommendations for placement. This documentation is kept in case students move and need this information for another school. She said that students visit Bedford High School in May or June and that last year Bedford did not want the Hanscom students to visit because they were planning orientation for the fall. Ms. Maloof said that the Hanscom staff felt that it was important for Hanscom students to visit in the spring and that this visit did take place.

      The Committee discussed how in large part this particular goal simply articulates events which are already happening and expressed their desire for a goal that will actually improve the Hanscom Middle School. Ms Borgert observed that the meeting of the math and language arts teachers is the only aspect of the goal that has curricular impact and that the question of whether we are meeting the students’ needs in math and language arts is important. She asked whether the Great Books program is meeting the needs of students who need enrichment. Ms. Rogers asked whether there is follow-up on students’ performance at Bedford High School. Ms. Maloof said that the Hanscom Middle School has asked for this data. She said that informal feedback is fairly positive and that she has heard that Hanscom does a good job on placements. She noted that it is normal for there to be some changes in placement once the students are at the High School. Ms. Dobrow pointed out that science is not mentioned in the goal even though science placement at the high school had been raised as an issue in the past.

      Speaking about the goals as a whole, the some members of the Committee discussed their impression that some of the most important issues facing the school had not been addressed, that none of these goals really focused on academics and their desire that the goals align more with district goals. Mr. Brandmeyer said that the School Improvement Plans establish what the School Council will pay attention to and do not speak to all areas of progress. He said that the accountability for building the budget and for responding to the RFP is at the district level. Ms. Dobrow thanked Lt. Raby and Ms. Maloof for standing in for Mr. Hopping. Ms. Dobrow asked that the plan be revised in line with the Committee’s suggestions and brought back to them for approval as soon as possible.

      Lt. Raby expressed his concern about two areas not mentioned in the plan. He said that because of the lack of a playground at the Middle School recess is short and noted that his 5th grade son misses the longer recess. Mr. Brandmeyer said that the School Council could take on the issue of the lack of a playground if they are interested. Lt. Raby also suggested that students and parents could be surveyed as part of the teacher evaluation process. Mr. Brandmeyer said that under the district’s contract with the teacher’s union surveys of parents or students cannot be part of the evaluation process but that parent comments are always welcome.

    2. Discussion of Administration’s FY’07 Preliminary Budget
      Mr. Brandmeyer began the presentation on the preliminary budget. He said that the administration began work on this in September and recognized the contributions of Ms. Bottan in creating the budget. Mr. Brandmeyer reviewed the School Committee’s Guidelines for the budget. He said that this budget represents the administration’s thinking about what an excellent program for FY’07 would look like. Mr. Naso pointed out that the initiatives that are set forth in the budget are those which will require additional funding. He said that there are also plans for initiatives and progress that do not require additional funding. Mr. Brandmeyer said that the initiatives set forth are aligned with district goals. He reminded everyone that all the items discussed tonight cannot actually be funded in the base budget.

      Ms. Bottan described the three tier process used in putting together the budget. She explained that in projecting utilities costs FY’05 actuals were increased by 50% for FY’07. She described the funding assumptions of level Chapter 70, level Hanscom contract, level reimbursement, grants and fees, loss of EDCO rent, and expiration of Codman Grant for Instructional Music at the Lincoln School. She described the expense factors and the budget drivers for incremental increase. She developed a per pupil allocation for supplies and services for Lincoln and Hanscom. She noted that the Hanscom per pupil numbers are higher because technology purchases are included in the Hanscom budget but are covered by the warrants for the Lincoln budget.

      Mr. Naso and the principals described new funding initiatives included in the preliminary budget. Mr. Naso described two initiatives for professional development on each campus. The first seeks funding to support professional development and resources to support pilot projects regarding instructional technology. For each campus, $9,000 is sought for professional development and $6,000 for hardware to begin implementation. The second seeks funding to support professional development for in-district programs and to assume costs for membership in Primary Source.

      Gian Criscitiello spoke about an initiative to return two of the 10 fourth grade science units to being taught in the fourth grade classroom rather than in a separate setting. This would allow teachers to integrate the science instruction with other units and teach science in a way that is more consistent with how other subjects are taught. Expenses of $8,750 would be for work with the teachers and for materials.

      Judith Glassman spoke about the initiative for additional instruction in technology and engineering at the Lincoln School. Ms. Glassman said that of the 27 technology/engineering frameworks, 9 are being covered in the 6th grade and that the remaining 16 standards are not being adequately addressed.

      Randy Davis introduced an initiative to incorporate the engineering standards into the 3rd grade curriculum at the Hanscom Primary School. She said that 3rd grade teachers requested this initiative because they believe that this material should be covered in 3rd grade as well as 2nd grade.

      Donica Hadley described an initiative to improve the guided reading program at the Lincoln School. In assessing the material in the bookroom, gaps in multiple-copy instructional level texts have been found.

      Ms. Davis spoke about an initiative to buy more texts for students to read during independent reading at the Hanscom Primary School. There is a need for more books that are at students’ “just right” level to build fluency.

      Ms. Davis described an initiative to create a summer reading program for students completing grades two and three who need extra targeted instruction. The summer program would attempt to get students to grade level in reading.

      Ms. Glassman introduced an initiative to add one additional period of foreign language instruction per week in the 7th grade so that instruction will take place five days per week. It is contemplated that increased time will result in a greater understanding of the language and culture and that this will permit more emphasis in 8th grade on reading literature in the target language.

      Ms. Davis described a joint initiative from the Hanscom Primary School and the Hanscom Middle School to create an after school club to teach American Sign Language to 3rd and 4th grades. This would be a way to provide some language instruction which cannot be fit into the school day and would allow students to begin a second language learning experience.

      Lynn Fagan spoke about an initiative to provide enrichment opportunities including music, movement, and tumbling for the Hanscom Integrated Preschool. She said that research supports working with preschool children in music and movement.

      Ms. Fagan also described an initiative to expand the Hanscom Integrated Preschool Day to four hours per day which would allow inclusion of services without impacting core classroom experiences and to incorporate other changes in the program. The program is currently 2 ½ hours per day.

      Mr. Naso summarized facilities equipment initiatives including computer furniture for the Hanscom Primary School, modification of the Hanscom Middle School computer room, additional library staffing for the Hanscom Middle School library to enable it to be open every day, and the purchase of additional grade7/8 mathematics textbooks for Hanscom Middle School so that eighth graders who need to can continue to work with the Transition Mathematics text.

      Ms. Bottan described enrollment assumptions. For Lincoln a 12 student decrease is being projected. Level enrollment is projected for Hanscom. She also set forth the preliminary budget gap. In Lincoln, a level service budget has a $627,155 gap over the 2% increase that Finance Committee guidelines permit over the FY’06 budget. A level service plus initiatives budget has a $720,733 gap over the Finance Committee recommendation. For Hanscom, a level service budget has a $633,035 gap over the Hanscom FY’06 budget which is the target amount for the FY’07 budget. A level service plus initiative budget has a $770,272 gap. Ms. Bottan also provided a timeline with the next steps in the budget process. She noted a few dates which are not on the slide presentation. On November 8, the principals will be coming together to discuss the budget again. Mr. Brandmeyer said that School Committee discussion of the budget will continue on November 16 but that the district will not present suggestions for closing the gap until December 1.

      As the School Committee began its comments on the preliminary budget, Mr. Brandmeyer asked that they communicate any ideas the administration can consider to close the gap. Ms. Dobrow asked that members concentrate their comments and questions at a higher level and not at each line item.

      Ms. Bottan said that the $291,913 of circuit breaker funds used in the FY’07 preliminary budget does not exhaust the circuit breaker funds. Mr. Brandmeyer said that there were no leads on additional grants, rental fees or other revenue at this time. He said that EDCO renting the POD through the end of this year and is moving to Waltham. He said that the PODs are in such bad shape that it may be necessary to put money into them to rent them. Ms. Bottan said that flat fees are assumed.

      Ms. Manos asked whether there is a way to decrease the $180,000 allocated for consumables and durables for the Lincoln Schools. Mr. Brandmeyer said that the entire budget has to be examined in terms of what stays in and is taken out.

      The Committee discussed the uncertainties regarding renewal of the Hanscom contract and funding for Hanscom next year. Regarding possible funding for a new contract to run Hanscom, Mr. Brandmeyer said that a new contract would probably not be a fixed cost contract like the current one. He said that they will not really know the actual budget for Hanscom for FY’07 until the RFP process has concluded but that they determined to go forward with a preliminary budget for the Hanscom schools because there are so many interrelated pieces of the Hanscom and Lincoln budgets. Mr. Picker said that the numbers here provide a starting point of what we would need to run the Hanscom Schools next year. Mr. Picker explained that the Subcommittee responsible for responding to the RFP will prepare the financial submissions for the RFP to be revised and approved by the School Committee, and that the Subcommittee is creating various financial scenarios, some smaller than the preliminary budget. Mr. Brandmeyer said that this year is different because for the last five years the district has known what Hanscom funding will be and that this year this is not known. Mr. Brandmeyer said that the timing of the RFP process is tricky in terms of teacher contract timing. Ms. Borgert noted that Hanscom has 10% fewer students now than when the current contract was negotiated. Ms. Rogers asked about the discrepancy between per pupil allocation numbers for the two campuses. Mr. Brandmeyer said that there are expenses which are included in the Hanscom budget which are not included in the Lincoln budget such as technology expenditures. When asked about differences between the Hanscom FY’06 and FY’07 budgets, Ms. Bottan said that she has increased the principals’ accounts to bring them more in parity with Lincoln.

      Ms. Dobrow said that all the new initiatives will not be able to be funded and asked the administration to give guidance in prioritizing new initiatives. Ms. Dobrow passed on a question from Ms. Hessler of, as the district is aligning Hanscom and Lincoln, why do the models continue to develop along different lines rather than moving into greater alignment.

      Regarding the addition of technology/engineering instruction for 7th and 8th graders, Mr. Picker asked how many standards’ strands are not being covered in life science, earth science, and physical science and why the incremental money should go into technology/engineering rather than core science. Mr. Picker also asked about the timing of bringing 4th grade science back into the classroom. Mr. Brandmeyer said that two units are planned to return to the classroom for the first year and that after this has been begun a timetable can be established for bringing the rest of 4th grade science back into the classroom. Mr. Picker asked why chose American Sign Language for the Hanscom after-school second language experience. He also asked about whether school budget should be used for after-school academics. Mr. Picker also asked about funding for updating of the Lincoln School Library collection and was told that $20,000 to continue this multi-year initiative is included in the preliminary budget.

      Ms. Manos said that she is convinced that K-4 math needs focus in light of MCAS scores and said that she would favor an initiative to push this further and faster. Ms. Davis commented that just because something is not on the initiative list does not mean that the district is not working on it. She said that the district has funding, personnel and materials in place in math, work is ongoing, and additional funding is not needed.

      Ms. Dobrow passed on a question from Ms. Hessler. She asked how additional funding added last year for professional development, a crossing guard, and busing is working out. She also noted that this is year 3 for the math specialist in Lincoln and asked whether this position would continue. Mr. Brandmeyer said that the Lincoln math specialist is included in the preliminary budget and that he would not suggest reducing the position now.

  6. Superintendent’s Report
    Mr. Brandmeyer thanked the PTA for the Lincoln School breakfast. He provided an update on the bidding of the computer technology RFP. Mr. Brandmeyer and Mr. Naso have completed their interviews of vendors, have checked references, and have awarded the contract to Fresh Pond from Cambridge, Massachusetts. The runner up was IPE, located in New Jersey. He said the decision was challenging because the proposals from both groups were strong.

  7. Curriculum
    1. 2005 MCAS Results
      Mr. Naso began his report on the 2005 MCAS results with a caution about drawing either positive or negative conclusions about programs only on the basis of MCAS results. He said that the challenge is the use the MCAS scores along with other data to make good decisions. He said that there are problems in looking at percentages especially in small populations and that this can result in misleading perceptions. He said it is important to use the MCAS data along with other data to address the needs of students who have to move to proficiency. He said that the state provides software called Test Wiz which can be used to create MCAS data reports.

      Mr. Naso reviewed results in English Language Arts. He said that he looked at the items that students who scored Needs Improvement or Warning were having difficulty with and that there was not a particular pattern of difficulty. Specifically, the only pattern to emerge at the 4th and 7th grade level was difficulty with open response items. Mr. Naso said that it is important to look at multiple data points for each non-proficient student to see whether the student is making progress.

      A multi-year analysis of 4th grade math scores will be done to determine whether there is evidence of more success with some strands than with others. Mr. Naso said that the district needs to ask whether sufficient time is devoted to math. It should also be asking whether there is sufficient time built-in to revisit concepts and skills. He said there needs to be very close analysis for students who are not reaching proficiency and for students who are in subgroups. He again cautioned that looking at MCAS scores alone is not enough and that students’ work must be closely monitored on a ongoing basis.

      Regarding science, Mr. Naso said that the content for MCAS proficiency for science is for the most part taught. There are some instances when the coverage of engineering/technology standards is not sufficient. He said that a consultant will be working with 6th, 7th and 8th grade science teachers on assessments. He said that there is a need to review, apply, and expand knowledge and skills taught in earlier grades.

      Mr. Naso talked about challenges for increasing MCAS proficiency. He said that the district needs both standards based curriculum and standards based instruction which focuses on what students actually learn. There needs to be a direct relationship between the standards and what is done in the classroom. Mr. Naso cited as an example a recent meeting with new teachers where the focus was on a piece of curriculum and how to make choices in assignments, projects, lessons, and assessments to reach the end goal of student learning. He also spoke about the need to use school, grade, and classroom data for coordinated monitoring of proficiency. He mentioned the use of “up front” assessments to identify learning needs and potential difficulties. He also talked about the use of common assessments and benchmarks for each grade for key outcomes and about use of classroom “authentic” assessments.

      Mr. Naso said that Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) determinations are received by the district and that 2005 Mid-cycle AYP determinations show that at the district level two subgroups did not make AYP in both ELA and Mathematics. The Special Education Subgroup and the African American/Black Subgroup did not meet either the Performance or Improvement targets. Mr. Naso said that intensified standards based instruction with teacher ownership and expanded use of performance data at the school, grade and classroom level should help address the need for improvement. Mr. Naso said that teachers are fine-tuning when differentiation of instruction is necessary and differentiation within subject areas. When asked about culturally differentiated instruction, Mr. Naso reported that in some of the district’s professinal development work teachers have learned about cultural differences in communication patterns.

      Mr. Naso said that he will be presenting MCAS results to parents collaboratively with principals within the next 5 to 6 weeks. Specific dates have not yet been set. Ms. Manos said that she was glad to see that the district will be looking at the amount of time spent on math instruction. She asked whether the district should look at the amount of time spent on science instruction. Mr. Naso said that at the elementary level when analysis of time spent on one subject begins it really means looking at time spent on all subjects. Ms. Manos said that she heard a presentation about an assessment program in math called MAPS and suggested that this might be useful for the district. Mr. Naso said that he is not opposed to using management systems to follow data but that he is also mindful that as a small district it is also good to keep this simple. Ms. Manos suggested that the district might look at how other districts are performing and seek to learn from others who are doing well such as Sherborn. Mr. Naso said that our math specialists meet with math specialists from other districts through our membership in the EDCO Collaborative.

  8. Policy
    1. Policy Subcommittee Update
      Ms. Rogers said that the Policy Subcommittee has begun to meet. She submitted a written update of anticipated activities for 2005-06. She said that under the School Committee’s own policy of reviewing each policy every 6 years nearly every policy needs review. She also said that many policies predate the Education Reform Act of 1993 and that many may be obsolete or invalid as a result of this law. She asked the School Committee for guidance about which areas to begin with and when the Subcommittee should come back to the School Committee. Mr. Brandmeyer suggested that the Subcommittee review the book section by section and determine which policies need to be deleted entirely because of the Ed Reform Act and which need to be revised. Ms. Rogers noted that four areas of policy need particular attention: (1) the safe schools initiative, (2) school health, (3) personnel, and (4) students and programming relating to home-schooling.

    2. Discussion of Attorney General’s Safe School Initiative
      The Committee tabled this discussion.

  9. Budget and Financial
    1. Warrant Approval
      Ms. Manos said that she reviewed the warrants with Ms. Bottan and that they are in order. Ms. Manos moved that the School Committee vote to approve warrants in the amount of $551,947. Ms. Dobrow seconded the motion. All elected members voted in favor, with Ms. Borgert and Ms. Cruise concurring.

  10. Old Business
    1. Capital Planning Committee
      Ms. Dobrow reported that Ms. Hessler and Ms. Bottan attended the initial meeting of the Capital Planning Committee and that two more meetings are set to take place within the month. The Capital Planning Committee will make a recommendation to the Finance Committee in early January. A report from Ms. Hessler said that the Finance Committee intends to endorse $550,000 for capital projects and that requests to the Capital Planning Committee are at $850,000.

    2. Communications Subcommittee
      Ms. Manos reported that the Communications Subcommittee is up and running and that it has prepared a proposal for accessibility of documentation of School Committee work.

    3. Facilities Subcommittee
      Ms. Dobrow reported that the Facilities Subcommittee met last week with community organizations to talk about current and projected needs for space and that the Subcommittee had also received written communications from organizations unable to attend the meeting. She also reported that last Tuesday the Facilities Subcommittee began their tours of the facilities and that they toured the Hartwell building and the PODs.

  11. New Business
    1. Proposed School Committee Meeting Date Change 11/17/05 to 11/16/05
      Mr. Picker moved that the School Committee change its Thursday, November 17 meeting to Wednesday, November 16 and that it add a meeting on December 8 to its calendar. Ms. Dobrow seconded the motion. All elected members voted in favor, with Ms. Borgert and Ms. Cruise concurring.

  12. Approval of Minutes
    Ms. Dobrow moved that the School Committee approve the minutes of October 20, 2005 as amended. Ms. Manos seconded the motion. All elected members voted in favor, with Ms. Borgert concurring. Ms. Cruise abstained because she did not attend the October 20, 2005 meeting.

  13. Information Enclosures

  14. Adjournment
    Ms. Dobrow moved that the School Committee adjourn to executive session not to return to open session for the purpose of discussing contract negotiations. Ms. Manos seconded the motion. The motion was approved by the following roll call:
    Ms. Dobrow – yes
    Ms. Manos - yes
    Mr. Picker – yes
    Ms. Rogers – yes
    Ms. Borgert – concurs
    Ms. Cruise – concurs

    The Committee adjourned to Executive Session at 11:00 P.M.

Respectfully submitted,
Sara Rolley, School Committee Recording Secretary