Melrose Public Schools: Investing in the Future

This post was originally published in 2013
The article and any details explained may be outdated.

Last Thursday, the Aldermen’s Committee on Appropriations voted unanimously to recommend passage of authorization for a $480,000 bond to fund a textbooks and curriculum materials, technology, and professional development, with a special focus on math, in the Melrose Public Schools. Here are the introductory remarks I made at the beginning of the meeting.

Thank you for allowing us to present to you this evening what the Superintendent and her leadership team have deemed to be one of the most significant educational investments to benefit student achievement and improve teaching in their educational careers.

In the State of the Schools address, Superintendent Taymore clearly articulated that changes in education and best practices have created demands on students and educators unparalleled in recent history. What she said that night resonated with me when she said “Our children’s school experience has little resemblance to our own.” It’s a combination of increasing federal and state regulations, core curriculum changes, and demands for increased rigor to ensure that our students are prepared for the new world we live in. It’s an educational practice that blends textbook learning, new technology, and independent learning.

The federal Race to the Top as well as the ever changing MCAS and state Core Curriculum mandate us, despite decreases in federal education funding, to meet those requirements, and I believe we have an obligation as a community and municipal leaders to give teachers the tools to be successful and the materials that students need to meet the expectations placed upon them by government, by their teachers, and in their own homes.

Before I hand over the presentation to the Superintendent, I would like to acknowledge and explain a few things. First and foremost, this bond proposal is certainly not the usual proposal that I would put before you. The proposal before you is, in my opinion, the best solution to this challenge. The financial team is in support of it, and I present it on behalf of our superintendent and the educational leaders of Melrose.

I am confident in the proposal before you, and it is my hope that after the presentation, you will be convinced of the following:

1. That this is a worthy investment in educational tools that are similar to the educational tools we have bonded in the past, be it computers or smart boards or educational amenities in new facilities. This Board of Aldermen has continuously supported these bonds in the past, to give teachers the educational tools to be successful.

2. That this is the proper financial tool to use to pay for this. It provides an immediate infusion into the district without having to complete the investment in phases, similarly to how we are managing the renovation of Melrose High School or other multi-year projects. This immediate infusion of investment into our schools through direct instruments for learning will reap great returns in terms of student achievement and best teaching practices.

3. I believe that you will be convinced that this administrative team, led by Superintendent Taymore, has gone through their due diligence, as I have stated publicly at the School Committee meeting, to get it right; that they have systems in place that involve parental input, via the advisory board; and that it is an investment in tools that affect every child in the Melrose Public Schools, from kindergarten through Melrose High School. It is also an investment in a future that will involve new technology, away from textbooks, whatever form that may be, and the rights to use this material in that new technology.

4. That it would set up the School Department to be able to then build off this base of investment in the future with yearly appropriations to the operating budget. The School Department has not been able to do this for decades, despite real investment in education in the City of Melrose, in good times and in bad.

5. That it is not in our interest to require the operating budget of the Melrose Public Schools to fund this endeavor. The Superintendent has done an incredible job, working with my administrative team, to balance this budget, after witnessing historic reductions in educational funding, particularly at the federal level. As I presented at the State of the City, we are working with almost 3 million dollars less in local aid<all local aid is education aid<than we had in 2001. We are working with 1.4 million dollars less in federal stimulus money that has been withdrawn from the federal government, while the economy has not bounced back to where it needs to be. We are working with less special education circuit breaker monies from the state that help us to ensure educational equity for all. We are again, with the sequester, seeing further reduction in federal spending, and we are looking at level funding from the state again this year. Public schools have seen more reduction than any other entity in this municipality and in the state.

The City of Melrose, through sound management, has been able to withstand a great deal of this loss, but even with historic investments in public schools that this Board of Aldermen has made, year after year, losses of this magnitude are staggering. This has forced the Melrose School Committee, of which I am a member, to focus on direct services for students, predominantly in teaching and in programming. The educational leaders and School Committee have done an outstanding job to offer an array of programming and options for parents and students from course offerings to fine arts to foreign languages to an array of electives during school and after school, that we should all be proud of, during these difficult times.

This is coupled, again I must stress, with continuous demands on educators in a limited time frame during the day to deliver curriculum and expectations that are staggering and ever-changing. We need to get these teachers these tools today. And this is how we do it.

We can afford it, due to our strong bond rating. It is in line with our responsible debt planning, and fits alongside other goals that I plan on presenting for next fiscal year that I have already articulated at the State of the City, including road improvements, continued investment in the renovation of Melrose High School, and continued investment in our business districts. I think it is as sound financially as it is educationally and in the best interest of taxpayers.