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Gill Montague School: Corkboard

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mik - Fri, Apr 12, 2013, 10:47 A
New Super for the GMRSD
MCTV's website is
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MikeL - Thu, Apr 11, 2013, 10:59 P
New Super for the GMRSD
If anyone is wondering about the outcome of the Super search, the School Committee voted- and declared unanimous- to hire Michael Sullivan of Northampton Massachusetts.
If you go to MCTV's website, you can hook up with the video form the interviews and the decision meeting, etc.
P.s. He said he'd work with the tech panel... ;)
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JeffSingleton - Mon, Feb 11, 2013, 1:31 P
GMSD Budget Public Hearing
Yes I will be going to the budget hearing tomorrow. Here is a list of questions I sent to the school district about three weeks ago and will be asking some. Some have been answered because several SC members asked them too. I am posting them here although it is perhaps not that helpful without the original budget packet handed out.

TMS = "Management Solutions" who essentially runs the GMRSD business office and created these materials.

Analysis and Questions re the proposed FY 14 budget (TMS version)

This packet contains 1) An intro with budget assumptions (1) 2) TMS Preliminary line item budget (pp. 2-19) 3.) Another budget that appears to be full funds (20-26) 4.) Salary and operating increases? (p. 27) 5.) Assessment sheet (28) 6.) Grants list (29?) 7.) Revolving accounts (30). There is also a FY 2013 Budget report of current status.

General comments and questions:

1. The TMS line item preliminary budget does not appear to be an “all funds budget”. It totals $17, 257,629.18. The budget on the assessment sheet is an “all funds budget” and totals $19,155,043. Grants, school choice and circuit breaker are then pulled out under “less other revenues” We have not had these revenues outside the budget in the past and just wonder about the rationale. Not criticizing but raises questions about some of the the line items (for example school choice) and how they work etc. Also raises questions about sustainibility but this format in some ways is more transparent in this area.

2. The long term fiscal plan (Table B) does not appear to have been consulted. This may not be true but it certainly appears that way. The budget increase and and town assessments appear to be significantly higher than in the latest version of Table B. For example Table B assumed a budget increase of 2 ½% and a total assessment increase of less than 2% while the TMS budget assumes a budget increase of and an assessment increase of . It seems to me if you are going to start out the process this way there should perhaps be an explanation a bit of evidence that the long term plan was consulted.

3. Not clear how this budget was developed “without administrative input.” Not a criticism, just not clear how it could have been done.

Other comments and questions.

Budget assumptions (page 1)

This seems to contain most of the key revenue and expenditure assumptions. It would be good to have the actual numbers as you do in some cases with totals so one can see if revenues and expenditures meet.

*Minimum local contribution – Municipal growth factor seems logical as initial adjustment. Governor’s budget scuttlebutt clams to be fully implementing the reforms of 2007 (aggregate wealth model) so the minimum contribution may be a bit lower. Unclear however whether this requires proposed state tax increase. IMHO this does not really impact overall town assessment/funding which are far above minimum contribution. Does impact the ratio between Gill and Montague.

* 4% increase in health insurance – basis for this estimate? GIC?
*Salary increase of estimated $781, 005 or 11%. Obviously this is one of the big budget drivers. What is the basis for this.. staff increases or decreases? Steps? Colas? Role of grants?
*School choice funds at $750,000. Is this net in and out? Probably not. I really feel school committee should understand this and how it relates to line items because this method is different than before TMS. Line item in budget was net and there was no school choice revenue on assessment sheet as here.
*Grant funds $700,000. Same issue to some degree. Not clear how this relates to line item estimates in prelim budget, sustainability. Seems like a huge cut compared with your grant list at the end but perhaps not.
*Circuit Breaker $586,334. Same issue Not clear how circuit breaker revolving account works and how use of this revenue source has increased or decreased over time. Obviously this could have an impact on future budgets if GMRSD is reducing assessments with increased amounts that are not sustainable. Not saying this is so but should be considered See revolving accounts. p. 30.
*$300,000 E and D use. This is more than Table B calls for, which is $200,000. Given the already bit gap between assessments in this budget and Table B this obviously needs discussion. When we created Table B DESE raised questions about whether the lower $200,000 was sustainable.

Line item budget..

I have a number of questions but will wait for the budget hearing for most of them and try to send them out in advance. Again, the final amount of $17.257,629.18 is obviously much lower than the “all funds” budget on assessment sheet. Thus it probably includes the use of grants etc to reduce line items whereas on the assessment sheet these are subtracted from the all funds budget. (27). This may be the right way to go but it raises questions about how the line items are calculated and whether these various uses of grants, school choice funds, circuit breaker etc are sustainable. The good news is that the new TMS process allows us to see this better than the old process.

A few picky points… The line item budget is labelled T1T2 but is not the traditional T1T2 as it used to be presented. That was a shorter budget summary sheet. The line item budget is rather hard to follow due to the smaller type face and the way the broader “functions” at the end of lists of line items appear. Maybe just some changes in type face would make it easier to follow. We have had this in the past.

Material on pp 20-26. Not clear to me what this is.

Salary and operating increases. (p. 27)

This provides more detail to support budget assumptions on page one. A total increase of $689,989.66. Again I would want a bit more of a breakdown in terms of how this number is calculated. Especially re salary increases. The comments say “no individual contract increases” so does this not include steps and colas? If not the the projected increase would no doubt be much larger.

Assessment Sheet (28)

TMS seems to have returned to the traditional format. Not my favorite but I think this is good for historical consistency and it is the basis for Table B.

Again, the method is a bit different since the FY 14 budget is an all funds budget. then School Choice, Circuit Breaker and Grants are subtracted. These did not used to be on the assessment sheet but this may work out better. Again raises questions in my mind about relationship between these revenue sources and the line items that appear in the previous budget. Also sustainability issues.

Enrollment seems very low. 783 for Montague and 124 for Gill for a total of 907??? Is this what I am seeing. I thought the foundation enrollment was just under 1,100??

Obviously the assessments and increases are significantly higher than in Table B, the long term plan.

Grants (p. 29)

Very helpful chart on historical use of grants. Does not include FY 14. Why, since they are part of the all funds analysis? Creates the impression that there has been a huge decline in FY 14 which is hopefully not true. Again, need to review for sustainablity.

Revolving accounts

Again, extremely helpful. Need to understand how these work and how they work their way into the budget. For example I assume the $445,613 reported for Circuit Breaker for 7-1-12 is used to fund the $586,334 use assumed on page 1 and on assessment sheet? Maybe, maybe not but if so how does this work and what are the long term implications?

Ditto school choice. I was under the impression we lost money via school choice (more out than in) so how do we get a balance that seems to be used to fund shortfalls in other line items etc. More favorable balance than what was originally assumed?
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MikeNaughton - Sun, Feb 10, 2013, 4:58 P
GMSD Budget Public Hearing
Just a reminder that GMRSD will hold a public hearing on their proposed FY14 budget this Tuesday, Feb. 12, at 5:45 pm at the high school. In the past, these hearings have often been sparsely attended, which seems a little odd given the intense questioning the district has faced at town meeting. ;-}

This is a great opportunity to get questions answered, express opinions (pro or con), and/or just find out more about this very important part of our community. I hope to see a good crowd this year! :-)
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Art - Wed, Feb 6, 2013, 3:25 P
Graduation results
Can anyone inform me as to how many seniors were in the class of 2011, and how many graduated out of that number? Art Gilmore
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JeffSingleton - Sun, Jan 13, 2013, 8:18 A
What does Zero Tolerance really mean
Re the incident of racial harassment at a local school.

If my kid was being subjected to racist remarks I would be a "bit sensitive" too and the question seems to be... is an in school suspension and an apology really zero tolerance? My impression is that homeowner does not think so and this may well be a valid opinion. My personal view, for what it is worth, is that I would judge the school response in part on the basis of whether it works... that is, whether the incidents at the school stopped. To me the response seems to fall a bit short of zero tolerance.

But this is an issue of school policy, and of course racial harassment is near the top of the list in the area of key school policies. It is often at the very front of these policy manuals we see. Parents who are not satisfied with policies should have ample opportunity to question them and ask for changes. There is a pretty elaborate structure for "parental input" at public schools like Sheffield, some of which is required by state law and regulations. There is usually some sort of "parent advisory council" and or a PTO. We also are supposed to have an elected school committee that is supposed to listen to input and exercise oversight. re policies. The goal, IMHO, should be a problem-solving culture that builds confidence among parents and the community in part so these incidents do not blow up into huge unresolved controversies.

Stuff happens, mistakes are made, sometimes policies don't work. It is how the system responds that matters.

BTW I am very skeptical of Responsive Classroom, particularly in areas like this, based in part on personal experience. But that is another discussion.
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tappies - Fri, Jan 11, 2013, 8:31 A
What does
Just an FYI: Montague Elementary uses Responsive Classroom. In fact, the new Assistant Principal is a certified Responsive Classroom coach.
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PaulK - Fri, Jan 11, 2013, 12:21 A
What does
The beauty of this approach is that it's instilling and reinforcing so many other positive values as well as the ones being discussed. Done authentically, and not manipulatively, it demonstrates to the kids our trust in their trustworthiness and in their intelligence and in their worthiness to be included in the discussion. But it has to be done with a true intention of meeting them honestly. If it's approached as simply a technique to get better adherence to rules or to 'make the kids be responsible', the smart kids will smell a rat a mile away and just go through the motions. It has to be based on an honest faith in the humanity, goodness, and grown-up-ness of the kids and in their ability to empathize with others, be thoughtful, be kind, be loving. This ain't no party trick. This ain't no new way to train them. It's a way to remind them of their own humanity and to welcome them to the community as participants.

This is not the way things are normally approached in schools - most anyway - and the results are in: most schools fail.
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MikeNaughton - Thu, Jan 10, 2013, 9:28 P
What does
" That's not to say that all Center School children behave perfectly all the time"

Agreed, from personal experience, but nothing works 100%, and family influence/situation can trump a lot. I think this approach has a good chance of a high success rate, which is more than you can say about some of the alternatives ....
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ChrisP - Thu, Jan 10, 2013, 2:21 P
What does
Paul K - Agreed. This is what the Greenfield Center School does - it's part of the Responsive Classroom technique. That's not to say that all Center School children behave perfectly all the time, but it does establish goals for good behavior and caring for fellow students.
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MikeNaughton - Tue, Jan 8, 2013, 10:07 P
What does
PaulK - Very nicely put. Zero tolerance does not come from signs on the walls and a bunch of rules -- it comes from a culture whose participants live the ideals that it espouses. Very good point.
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Nicolapalooza - Mon, Jan 7, 2013, 9:39 A
What does
Very well said.

Any sensible adult should know that giving our youths the opportunity to have ownership in structuring our expectations of them, as well as their own with each other, will ensure higher levels of respect, responsibility and accountability.
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PaulK - Sat, Jan 5, 2013, 6:58 P
What does
"Zero Tolerance" should apply to the environment of the school and not automatically to a specific child's behavior. If "no bullying" and "no racially-tinged name calling" are truly part of the foundational underpinnings of the school as a whole, the type of behavior described would have social consequences above and beyond some punishment that the principal comes up with.

How do you create a true zero-tolerance environment? By consensus building. Not by handing the kids a printout of a set of rules on the first day of school. Zero tolerance should be built from the ground up, not handed out from the top down. So, engage students in discussions and lessons from Day One about those social or ethical issues and let them participate in the setting up of rules for acceptable behavior. That way, when someone screws up in the lunchroom or on the playground, his or her peers will feel empowered to step in on behalf of anyone being bullied or called names.

The incident described ought to be treated as a symptom of a larger failure within the community and not just as the screw-up of one student. Were there other kids around who witnessed this? Did they speak up? Is this kind of thing happening more than just in isolated incidents? Has the administration looked into all this? Has the entire school community been assembled together to discuss how they feel about it? This is the only way that 'zero tolerance' is really meaningful, in my opinion. Otherwise it's just a throwaway line to make people feel good about themselves.

Treat students as responsible participating citizens and they're likely to think of themselves that way; treat them as children and they'll act that way.
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Rob - Sat, Jan 5, 2013, 5:27 P
What does
suspension then expulsion should only be done in extreme cases or repeat offenders.
First offense if a one time verbal comment I think a talking to and a note to parents should alert student that the behavior is not accdeptable. Repeat offenses or more severe incidents would warrant harsher punishments.
Suspension or expulsion would immediately involve the parents since they would have to come up with a way to deal with a child suddenly not in school. this is a severe punishment that I believe should try to be avoided at elementary age kids but I understand sometimes it is the onlyh way to get parents concerned enough to get involved.
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ChrisP - Sat, Jan 5, 2013, 4:42 P
What does
To me, zero tolerance means completely unacceptable behavior that should get the perpetrator suspended if not expelled. That is probably the most severe punishment our schools give. A pattern of name calling, especially racially motivated, sounds like bullying to me.

The sad thing is, these kids tend to learn these attitudes and behaviors at home. Sending them home for a few days is probably not going to help change the attitude or behavior.
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Art - Sat, Jan 5, 2013, 11:26 A
What does
In some schools the parents would be notified and if it continued the child would be charged with bullying and the district attorney office notified of the incident. Art Gilmore
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MikeNaughton - Fri, Jan 4, 2013, 9:11 P
What does
I'm curious to hear other opinions about this. When a kid does something wildly inappropriate, there is a spectrum of possible responses, from " kids will be kids" to drowning.

The extremes are clearly not appropriate, but where in the middle should the line be drawn? IMHO, to answer that question we'd need to know the answers to a number of questions that would establish exactly how aware the kid was of what she was doing and its likely effect on the victim. There's also the question of whether the goal is punishment or rehabilitation (behavior modification?) -- different goals suggest different strategies for achieving them.

Factor in a new principal -- how aware is he of the history and culture of the school in this area (which would help him determine how out-of-line this girl's behavior was)?

I don't know what the answer is. A simple answer is that "zero tolerance" means that any infractions are punishable by death and the erasure any record of the perpetrator's existence, but I doubt any of us really wants to go there. But if we don't want to go there, then "zero tolerance" is a slogan that sounds good but means ... well, what does it mean?
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patrick - Fri, Jan 4, 2013, 6:42 A
What does
I don't know what the appropriate discipline is, but that is very disturbing and does not seem to have been taken very seriously. The chocolate milk remark sounds a bit silly, but the other is definitely not. Kids get ISS for things that are fairly trivial, so for a kid, especially one who is certainly old enough to know better, to only get ISS plus an apology doesn't sound like Zero Tolerance at all. A counselor recently said to me that making a kid write an apology when they probably don't even mean it is hardly a consequence.

Sorry to hear your son is being subjected to this kind of treatment. I've been impressed that almost all the kids I know in this community are very open to other races and cultures, but those who are not should not be allowed such blatantly offensive behavior.
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homeowner - Thu, Jan 3, 2013, 11:58 P
What does "Zero Tolerance" really mean?
Yesterday my son was again the victim of racial harassment by one of his peers. This 11 year old girl said to him "SHUT UP MY SLAVE" and "YOU ARE WHAT YOU DRINK BECAUSE YOU MUST DRINK A LOT OF CHOCOLATE MILK".

When this was brought to the attention of the new principal Mark Andrews, he had the student come in for a talk. She admitted to making the racial statements and was told she had ISS for the remainder of the day and had to write an apology letter to my son. That's it.

So, will someone please explain to me what zero tolerance really means and what it should look like in the elementary school? What do you think a school should do in a situation like this?

I don't want to be overly sensitive but after the attack on my son and him being called a "Dirty Nigger", I am a bit sensitive to racial harassment.
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MikeNaughton - Wed, Dec 19, 2012, 9:01 P
Tech Panel to GMRSD 12/11/12
For those interested, the statement I read at the 12/11/2012 meeting of the GMRSD school committee has been posted in the "School District Budget Documents" section of this web site (see link at upper left). Look for in in the "Technical Panel" section .....
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MikeNaughton - Mon, Dec 3, 2012, 8:38 A
Superintendent of Schools Search Survey
TrickyDiego (whoever you are) - you're conflating Jeff and me. We're different people.
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TrickyDiegeo - Mon, Dec 3, 2012, 7:56 A
Superintendent of Schools Search Survey
"I personally am not clear why this is suddenly an issue but if the current interim superintendent does not wish to attend our discussions that is his choice."

It's an issue because certain people MADE it an issue. It's not the responsibility of this VOLUNTEER panel nor is it required by the Superintendent. Why bellyache about it? Just submit the information to the various parties (School Committee, Finance Board) and be done with it. Why is a special meeting necessary? I have to say I'm slightly perplexed. You seemed to somewhat disdain the School Committees use of focus groups ("and if they really need people like you and me to tell them what they should be looking for in a superintendent, after all we've been through over the past ten years, then I think that's a problem."), yet you seem to be advocating the contrary. Is the tech panel (or their 'work') more valid that other groups (parents, communities, etc)?
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MikeNaughton - Sat, Dec 1, 2012, 10:20 P
Superintendent of Schools Search Survey
LeeWicks -

I'm surprised to hear that the average superintendent stays for only three years. I wonder -- has that been true for other districts in our area?

It also occurs to me that the superintendents who have left GMRSD have mostly gone on to be superintendents in some other district. That's what Brenda Finn, Sue Gee, and Nadine Eckstrom did (and I'm reminded that Ken Rocke was a retired superintendent, who apparently couldn't resist doing it for another couple of years :-)). Ken Rocke left because he had to, of course, under the terms of his retirement, and then Carl Ladd left because of friction with the school committee (he went back to his former district in New Hampshire).

Maybe I'm missing something, but that doesn't sound like simple burnout from a high stress job to me -- it sounds like something else has been going on, at least at GMRSD. If I were on the GMRSD school committee, and especially if I were on the search committee, I think I would want to have a pretty good idea for how to minimize the chances of the next superintendent doing the same thing ....
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MikeNaughton - Sat, Dec 1, 2012, 5:01 P
Superintendent of Schools Search Survey
Nice descriptions of tech panel activities, Jeff. I think you summed it up pretty well.
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JeffSingleton - Fri, Nov 30, 2012, 9:25 P
Superintendent of Schools Search Survey
Re Tech Panel

Tricky Diego (?) - Please take a look at my post. Neither the School Committee nor the town boards do the work that the tech panel does, including creating and updating the long term plan (table B), research on projections of the Chapter 70 formula (not to mention understanding the formula!!!), and analysis of per student spending comparisons. This is why until now all the boards have found our efforts quite valuable. Two Superintendents have been on the tech panel and there has been no problem. In fact it has been very helpful.

The superintendent and school committee develop and meet with the town boards on the school budget. That is not our area and we are not interfering with that process.

This has been a very productive, creative effort. for nearly two and a half years Why suddenly is there a problem?
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