School Superintendent Doug White has requested $143,817 in capital spending to provide Rochester Memorial School with security camera upgrades, a field irrigation system, and also a math curriculum materials renewal, items that White told the Rochester School Committee on November 15 are outside the scope of the regular school budget.
“We’re looking at trying to provide the [Capital Improvement Committee] with the background and support for what it would look like,” said White. He added that he hopes the Town will fund at least one, if not a couple of the proposed projects.
Security cameras were installed at RMS in 2014, said White, “But technology has come a long way.” To further security, the mutual link between the school cameras and the police department would be expanded. “The more cameras logged in the better,” added White.
During a meeting White had with RMS Principal Derek Medeiros and Facilities Director Gene Jones, the three determined that security camera upgrades at the school tops the district’s capital spending priority list.
The cost of the camera upgrades is roughly $86,817.
The irrigation system would enable better and more efficient maintenance of the fields behind the school and the area near the adjacent playground, White said, but the $56,000 price tag prompted some questions.
“It just seems like a lot,” said School Committee member Tina Rood. “Is it like an industrial grade [irrigation system]?”
Medeiros said it requires a relatively extensive installation of underground piping with pumping systems encompassing both the fields and the playground.
White also explained that the school’s “Go Math!” curriculum is up for renewal and, rather than renew the materials annually as the district has been doing, he would prefer the Capital Improvement Committee approve a three-year renewal, which is what the Mattapoisett School District does for its math curriculum.
“Whether they want to take that avenue is up to them,” White said, “But we gave them the background information to be able to put the program in place and continue for a three-year period, which means we can do it for a lot less than if we were to renew it each year.”
White said he’d already put in the request for the capital funding by the November 1 deadline.
“We’re excited that Rochester has decided to have a capital plan that has included the schools,” said White, adding that the Town last fiscal year provided the school with $25,000 in capital funding. “So, we’ll see what happens this year.”
Also during the meeting, Medeiros provided a brief overview of some of the highlights of this year’s MCAS results, expressing pride that 59% of students in grades 3-6 are exceeding or meeting expectations in ELA and 55% in math.
“So that’s great,” said Medeiros, adding that, for a number of years, there were zero or perhaps 1 percent of students meeting the exceeding expectations mark in ELA. “Now we’re looking at 6 percent.”
In grade 4 ELA, 54 percent exceed or meet the expectations in ELA, while 42 percent are partially meeting expectations and only 2 percent have not met expectations.
For grade 5 ELA, 52 percent exceed or meet expectations, 47 partially met them, and 1 percent did not.
Medeiros said a point of pride was the grade 6 ELA results, with 60 percent exceeding or meeting the expectations.
“A nice big jump here,” said Medeiros. Only one student, he said, did not meet expectations.
Overall, the average growth percentile in all grades in ELA – 68thpercentile – exceeded the state’s average.
In math, 55 percent of the school’s students exceeded or met the expectations, 41 percent partially met them, and 5 percent did not. In grade 3 alone, 17 percent of students scored in the exceeding expectations category.
“This is a big jump,” said Medeiros. Another big jump, he said, was in grade 6 where 71 percent of students either exceeded or met the expectations, “Which is an awesome achievement,” he said.
The math student growth percentile throughout the school was 62 percent for all grades, compared to the state average growth percentile of 50 percent.
“Some great numbers here,” Medeiros commented. “Our student growth dots are headed in the right direction.”
The school will focus on identifying the struggling learners, said Medeiros, providing intervention for the lowest performing 20 percent of students in each grade.
Chronic absenteeism is also a matter that Medeiros said the school will be addressing, as the state standards for MCAS accountability scoring now looks to absenteeism rates as a factor. Medeiros said he would be working with the school’s social workers and psychologist to look at students who exhibit chronic absenteeism to provide supports that might help them attend school more regularly. Medeiros mentioned the imminent formation of a family engagement program, which is an element mentioned as an action item within the district’s new school improvement plan.
“We’re excited to move forward with action research in family engagement,” said Assistant Superintendent Elise Frangos. “We hope to lessen the absenteeism that we have in each of our schools. … We want to really engage with the families so that that can change.”
Finally, Medeiros highlighted the results of the grades 5 and 6 science, which was for the first time offered online rather than in pencil and paper format. Medeiros said the composite performance index was higher this year at 88 percent compared to about 80 percent last year. Students performed particularly well in earth and space science, as well as in technology and engineering.
“Wow to everybody in the building,” said acting Chairman Anne Fernandes. “Everybody deserves a lot of credit for working so hard – parents, as well.”
“It’s been, really, a team effort,” said Frangos. “So much to be proud of. A really big achievement here at Rochester Memorial.”
The next meeting of the Rochester School Committee is scheduled for January 3 at 6:30 pm in the Rochester Memorial School music room.
Rochester School Committee
By Jean Perry