Diamond Middle School PTA Board Meeting - Nov. 20, 2017
We met at 9:10 am in the Library.
Attending: Principal Turner, Alix, Karen, M-Triant, Martha, Mona, Craig
This month’s thank yous were read.
Principal Turner gave the Principal’s Report:
--The shift to the new traffic pattern went better than expected… the constraints around parking and traffic post-reconstruction are apparent. We’re told we can’t pave anything more, with the exception of possibly a third lane on the Hancock Street side entrance … As it stands now, the school is 19 spaces short just of staff needs. Allowing parking in the turnaround circle from 9 am to 2 pm is one stopgap possibility. And parking on the lawn works all right - until the snow comes! Administrators will continue to work on it. A related problem, driving the shift to the new bus-and-car dropoff pattern, is that the cafeteria dropoff loop turned out to be much too small. Kids and buses were forced too close together. That said, the shift to the new dropoff pattern went much more more smoothly than J.T. feared it would.
--The Cookie-dough fundraiser for the D.C. trip is finished…the vollume of sales was good. There was a little turbulence about the profusion of fundraisers, but that’s been mainly smoothed out. We have 100 registrations and the due date is Dec. 1.
--Parent conferences are going well. We continue to make tweaks to the signup process. The question does arise, is it time to blow up the model? Are there more effective ways to conduct the conferences? Staff is receptive to the input of parents and the possibility of re-examining conferences.
--The 7th grade fall social went nicely, and it’s thought it makes sense to have the seventh graders do an event that’s a social, while the 8th graders have a dance that’s called a Dance.
--J. Turner’s receptive to coffee-with-the-principal ideas. The next parent-principal coffee will be held on Jan. 19, and focus on technology, particularly changes in some of the technology used in Diamond classrooms. Other coffees might deal with homework; STEM; and what teachers think parents should know about their kids’ school experience.
-- At the Nov. 7 School Committee meeting, Director of digital learning Jennifer Judkins briefed the committee on the new 5-year technology plan now in development.
-- Mona Roy submitted her notes on the latest meeting and work of the Special Ed Parents’ Advisory Council, attached below. Discussion is ongoing as to the implication of the Human Rights Commissions’ survey of student experience and an analysis of suspensions that found African American students and special-education students suspended at disproportionately high rates. Principal Turner said that while the Administrators’ Council is definitely interested in advancing equity, its members also feel the methodology of the survey was flawed because it was perception based rather than data based.
Martha reported from the School Health Advisory Council. Town Meeting voted 109-35 to ban retail marijuana sale in Lexington. The council is supporting Narcan traning, and there will be a Parent Education Forum Dec. 6 on Substances and Middle Schoolers.
Karen delivered the Treasurer's report, and described recent and current grant requests: Jane Hunley for Mythmasters; a grant to Ms. Wells and Mullen for helping WIN kids with social skills and language therapy; and $700 to enable Mdme. Goulet’s students to attend a Francophile concert.
Also Karen reported that a parent who’s started a business giving French cooking classes is looking to donate a gift certificate for instruction, the question being how that might be made useful by the PTA. It was thought it perhaps it could be auctioned or presented as part of World Language Week.
Social Committee Report:
--Biggest need is someone to coordinate grade-level events Some discussion ensued of what events would be worthwhile, but the obstacle remains recruiting someone willing to organize all these good events. There’s an abundance of people willing to help, and a shortage of people willing to lead.
--The committee continues working on meet and greets at parent’s home. And a plan is afoot to hold a schoolwide parent social, a la the 6th grade social, since school-based opportunities for parents to get together are quite rare. The committee is looking for a date and host parent to hold the event.
Karen previewed some other upcoming events, including the possibility of a school book fair and a second presentation of “Screenagers” in April.
PTA/O President’s council: the major issue is the upcoming votes on debt exclusions for the Hastings School and the Lex Children’s Place. People tend not to understand that the LCP saves the town money by keeping kids with high-cost needs in town, obviating the need for outside placements. The Yes for Lexington Committee still needs phone bankers and volunteers. A community forum on start times was held on the 15th and a task force of the school committee will now begin looking at implementation.
Everest Team Leader Ed Dube, who teaches World Geo/Social Studies, appeared before the board to float the idea of monthly field trips to reinforce and expand student’s learning. Mr. Dube’s main question was, did we think parents would be willing to volunteer to go on the field trips? Members felt the answer was probably “yes.”
The board adjourned at 10:20 am to meet again Dec. 18 at 9 am in the library
SEPAC Addendum: Here are Mona’s notes on the work of the SEPAC.
SEPAC: Had a great turnout on how to write a meaningful IEP. In December we will have the annual basic rights presentation and early next year we will have a Q&A with Dr. C and SPED director. Also will be focusing on the discipline disparity survey and getting ready for next year’s more general SEPAC survey on various topics. Want to confirm that messages are getting through the PPC.
HRC: SC approved the goals of the discipline survey which are to:
1. To solicit feedback from parents of African American/Black students and/or students on an IEP/504 plan (K-12) on their perspective and experience of the handling of discipline issues by school officials.
2. To increase access to education by reducing the amount of time that students are removed (e.g. suspension, detention, time in guidance) from the classroom.
3. To reduce the number of suspensions (particularly of African American/Black and IEP/504 plan students) by studying the feedback and working with LPS faculty, staff, parents, guardians, and students to move towards non-exclusionary disciplinary responses.
Annual MLK Day event — community conversation on race — looking for facilitators to facilitate small group table discussions — should a note be sent out through the newsletter? Anyone on the board interested?
Community Coalition: Monthly coffees have been well attended. We encourage everyone to come to connect with new people in town. At the Steering Committee meeting, deeper discussions mental health, marijuana use, harassment of LGBTQ youth and potential work on that issue with SHAC. Some ancillary discussion on working through tech issues to make communication of events and partner events more seamless. If any PTA has any event related to the topics of student stress or mental health — please let LCC know it can be publicized. Likewise, we will sending a list of dates for PTA newsletters.
SC: # 1 priority is YES campaign. Looking for people to phone bank this week. SC also approved new WDMS traffic plan proposed by Jen. SC also approved HRC goals for discipline disparity survey. Superintendent search committee had several focus groups to understand community needs for next Superintendent. SC also held discussions on HW policy and School Start time. Sounds like LHS school start time change will not be resolved by the end of his year.
MORE DETAILS ON — cost of YES not going forward from a SEPAC perspective on LCP
— inclusiveness — benefit of a child being included in their community and the benefit to children having a diversity of peers
— cost — legally mandated to educate SPED children starting at the age of 3. So if there is not enough space at LCP to do that, then the most severe of these kids have to be outplaced at a cost of perhaps $75K — 100K+ per year. Further once, a child is outplaced, it is often hard to get that child back into public school for a myriad of reasons so given that the town is responsible for the child’s education until the age of 22 — you can do that math. Even for a child that will be eventually outpaced — just keeping the child in town through middle school could save $1.1 million per child. So you can see that a new LCP would actually be a cost saving measure.
Verbal update on HRC survey and the disparity in discipline data and the current reporting requirements by LPS
Five years of data shows discipline disparities.
Legal obligations — http://www.doe.mass.edu/ssce/discipline/ — there are a lot for example -
School leaders periodically review data to determine the impact of suspensions and expulsions on selected student populations, including but not limited to race and ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic status, English language learner status and student with a disability status, and whether the data indicate over-reliance on suspension or expulsion as a consequence for student misconduct.