In updating the Rochester School Committee on the town’s School Improvement Plan during the committee’s June 1 public meeting, Rochester Memorial School Principal Derek Medeiros identified pillars of the larger district’s overall Strategic Plan 2023.
He focused on project-based learning and opportunistic implementation of what he called the four C’s. By working together on projects, children learn how to collaborate, think critically and communicate.
The Old Rochester Regional School District’s plan is a “Theory of Action” that outlines how to provide life and career skills for its students via “rigorous and relevant curriculum” and “multiculturalism, diversity and global awareness” using “evidence-based approaches.”
How that applies to elementary-school students is through project-based learning opportunities provided by teachers, specialists and administrators with experiences designed to target content and process according to age.
Medeiros said he and Assistant Principal Charles West will work on evaluation of lesson plans and results.
A key, 21st-century skill learned during the pandemic was becoming proficient in Zoom technology. Coming out of the pandemic, Medeiros talked about various ways in which the pandemic impacted progress in key social areas.
In pointing how well RMS students acclimated back to normal life in school, Medeiros credited teachers, saying that, “None of that happens without relationship building.” Students were comfortable asking questions and taking direction.
“That was key for us because we knew that hybrid and Zoom was definitely going away,” he said.
Another pillar Medeiros identified was training in “responsive classroom” programs designed to evaluate students’ needs and address areas that need support. Panorama survey and Kaleidoscope are two tools that teachers use to measure data and identify areas of need.
Late in the meeting, Medeiros updated the committee on RMS’s literacy campaign, outlining the process and interaction with the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE.)
Fire and evacuation training has been done with the guidance of the Rochester Police Department. Teachers are being trained to make sure certain doors are closed at certain hours, all part of a strategic plan to ensure safety at a volatile time. Training occurs under the acronym “ALICE,” which stands for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter and Evacuate.
Committee Chairperson Sharon Hartley discussed school safety and security, pointing to renovation of the RMS entry. “To see the effort that goes into that when you walk into our main office … knowing that our school leaders and our office personnel are monitoring” illustrates the commitment to safety, she said.
Hartley opened the meeting with a moment of silence for the affected families and community around the tragic shooting at the Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.
“It takes a toll on the heart. I know my heart aches for all those families impacted by the tragedy in Texas,” said ORR Superintendent of Schools Mike Nelson. “I think Mr. Medeiros did a nice job of explaining some of the work we’ve done recently, and although an event that happened in Texas is a reminder our efforts have been ongoing … ALICE training is probably the least-fun type of work that we do.
“We understand the different perspectives on it, but we also want to make sure our staff members and our students are as prepared as they possibly can be. … I don’t have a doubt in me that our staff and our educators will do everything they can in those type of moments to make sure that student safety is their primary focus.”
RMS has double doors, noted Nelson, along with many security cameras and an updated alarm system. “We’re fortunate to have those resources out of our operating budget,” he said. Nelson encouraged people who see things to reach out, ask questions and find out who anyone is that is not readily recognized.
ORR’s Vision 2023 is in Year 4 of a five-year program, and come August or September the district will start planning for its next improvement cycle. RMS is classified as an update, being in Year 1 of a two-year plan.
Early in the meeting, Hartley said she was happy and sad to recognize three retirements: Jane LaRue, who spent 18 years in food service at RMS; Kris Mathieu a third-grade teacher for 18 years; and instrumental music teacher Christine Williamson.
The committee voted to approve two leases, one being with the Countryside Child Care Center at the same rate as the 2021-22 academic year. The other is with the Southeastern Massachusetts Education Collaborative (SMEC) to renew the leases from the past year that comprise a “strong partnership,” according to Nelson. The request is for two full-size classrooms and one smaller space.
The committee approved the donation of a mural from Mathieu that will have a home at a donated tree.
“I really feel like the kids need to see these positive messages given to them,” said Mathieu, who talked about greeting each and every individual child at school and thought the mural would add to that sense of belonging.
June 1 was the final meeting of the committee for the 2021-22 school year and the last half day of system-wide professional development.
During subcommittee reports, member Jason Chisholm reported from the ORR School Committee that member Joe Pires suggested the committee work to make the community aware of what constitutes membership on the school committee and what the committee does.
Robin Rounseville reported on behalf of the READS subcommittee that DECA (ORR’s business club) was award $1,967 in grant funding, the “Light a Fire” music program was awarded $1,000, and the Garden program was funded $2,000.
The committee voted to reaffirm Hartley as chair, upon which she emphasized the importance of maintain its team spirit. “We all have a flame, and everybody makes the difference and inspires us,” she said. The committee voted for Rounseville as vice chair. Diana Russo was voted as committee administrator and Russo and Toni Bailey as recording secretaries.
RMS will once again be represented on the ORR School Committee by Jason Chisholm. Hartley and Rounseville will continue to represent Rochester on the Joint School Committee, and Rounseville will stay with the Tritown Education Foundation while Hartley will remain the town liaison.
Chisholm will serve on the Equity Subcommittee. Nelson will continue with READS and Anne Fernandes will stay with SMEC. Kate Duggan will stay with the Early Childhood Advisory Council.
The Rochester School Committee entered executive session to discuss strategy with respect to collective bargaining and to comply with the provisions of any general or special law or federal grant-in-aid requirements and only returned to public session to adjourn.
The next meeting of the Joint School Committee will be held on Thursday, June 23, at 6:30 pm, and the next meeting of the Rochester School Committee will be held on September 1.
Rochester School Committee
By Mick Colageo