School District Addresses Diversity Issues Head-On

This is a column by Superintendent of Schools Cyndy Taymore and Assistant Superintendent for Teaching and Learning Dr. Margaret Adams

The Melrose Public Schools staff has undergone intensive training and educational sessions around diversity and racial issues since 2014. In April of that year, when a middle school teacher said something racially offensive to a child, we decided to face the issue head on and use this  as an opportunity to train all our staff in cultural proficiency. The Office of Civil Rights resolution agreement was not concluded until almost two years later, but we did not wait for the report to begin the training. However, since we received the report, the training has been more specific to legal policies and procedures. As painful as this has been, especially for students, it has been an opportunity for our staff to grow and learn and to use their training to help our students.

Most recently, in November and January, all staff for grades 6 through 12 went through two days of professional development. The first day focused on identifying biases and how they creep into the classroom, focusing on race, culture, gender, and how the media and the outside world also affect the classroom.

The second day focused on how to have those conversations with students. After the first day, people were more aware of how they use language, how our curriculum is more or less diverse, and how to have conversations with students. These are difficult conversations to have. They are uncomfortable. How do we as adults facilitate them? All staff, including teachers and administrators, participated in this workshop. In addition, departments and groups of teachers have continued the conversations begun in their own meetings.

The district has also been providing ongoing training for administrators on policies and procedures under the law, their legal responsibilities, the rights of students, and the procedures that should be in place. Curriculum directors and middle/high school administrations have reviewed curriculum materials with their departments to determine how diverse perspectives are represented and make plans based upon the findings.

All paraprofessionals have gone through training as well. That training focuses on being aware as educators of our own biases, and our responsibilities when we see or hear something—how to intervene. It also covers how to have conversations on race and culture in the classroom, when it comes up spontaneously and when it comes up within the curriculum—how do we talk about it in curriculum and content areas and how do we engage the students?

Staff have also gone through training around the English Language Learners program in order to bring the students’ language and culture into the classroom in a positive way, to enrich the classroom and the experiences of all students.

In grades K through 5, the district is focusing on curriculum materials in order to ensure that they reflect diverse perspectives and are inclusive of other cultures. Our plan is to institute professional development for staff in grades K through 5, similar to that we have been doing in the middle and high schools, this fall.

All this ties into the work the district has been doing all along on social and emotional issues. If we want students to feel safe in classrooms, we have to acknowledge the cultural and linguistic backgrounds they bring to school and incorporate that into the classroom.

The professional development completed so far is just the beginning. It’s a journey to a destination. We have started it, and we’ll continue.

Dine at Liberty Bell Tonight, Support Operation Respect

Don’t feel like cooking? Stop by Liberty Bell tonight, April 20, between 5 and 8 p.m. to eat in or dine out, and 10% of your total will to go support Operation Respect. Take a night off from cooking and help honor our women veterans with a trip to see the war memorials in Washington, DC. No coupons needed!

Girl Scouts Keep Bowden Park Looking Good

Girl Scouts

Here is a press release we received from Justine Sterling of Brownie Troop 69008. Thanks to our hard-working Girl Scouts who do such a great job of keeping Bowen Park beautiful!

Local Melrose Girl Scout troops gathered this past Saturday morning to help clean up and beautify Bowden Park, specifically the Girl Scout “Friendship Circle,” which is an area surrounded by bricks, donated by Girl Scouts. They planted annual flowers in pinks, whites, and purples inside the Friendship Circle. They also planted annual flowers and bulbs all around the park and around the tree dedicated to the late and much beloved Melrose Girl Scout leader Bev Mara. The girls also cleaned up sticks and a few leaves from the grassy area.

We had an awesome turnout of over 30 Girl Scouts, probably one of the best attended clean ups of Bowden Park in years. Bowden Park is situated near the Cedar Park train station where the Sally Frank’s Farmers’ Market takes place over the Summer months.

Our Brownie troop 69008 lead the event and we had contributions of flowers and time from these other amazing Melrose troops: Troop 68049, Troop 62900, Troop 62846, Troop 62853, and Troop 76245.

We also received a lovely donation through Lisa Holloran, a local resident, who gets bulbs from the cemetery where her parents lay. She came up with the idea of donating bulbs to organizations like ours and schools after she figured out that they were just being thrown away each year by the cemetery. Thanks go to Lisa and also Maureen Simonelli who so kindly keeps these bulbs aside.

Indoor Yard Sale at FUMC Melrose, Sat. April 23

The United Methodist Women will be holding an Indoor Flea Market/Yard Sale at the First United Methodist Church of Melrose, 645 Main St., on Saturday, April 23 from 9 am-2pm. Free admission; coffee & donuts and light lunch for sale.

Reminder: Trash and Recycling on Holiday Schedule This Week

Curbside collection of recycling and trash will be on a holiday schedule with a one day delay starting Tuesday, April 19. Therefore, Monday’s trash and recycling routes will be picked up Tuesday and Tuesday’s trash and recycling routes will be picked up on Wednesday and so on through Saturday (when Friday’s route will be collected).

To stay up to date on trash and recycling events, follow the Melrose Recycles blog!

TOPSoccer Returning to Melrose!

Again this spring, Melrose Youth Soccer will be teaming up with the US Youth Soccer TOPSoccer program in order to host its second five-week soccer season for children with physical and/or cognitive challenges. The season will start with a training session for volunteers on April 24th, from 1:30 to 2:30 on the Franklin field (Greenleaf Place, Melrose, MA 02176). The following four Sundays from May 1st-May22nd will be dedicated to hosting players from ages 6 to 18 also at 1:30 to 2:30 on the Franklin field. Registration for both players and volunteers is available on the Melrose Youth Soccer website (www.melroseyouthsoccer.net – Follow the Registration links). If you have questions about the program, please contact Bob Lynch-Galvin (bob.lg65@gmail.com) or Christine Thorsteinsson (Christine.thorsteinsson@comcast.net).

Weiss Farm Update

Here’s the latest e-mail from Friends of Stoneham about the Stoneham Zoning Board of Appeals deliberations on the Weiss Farm project.

The ZBA is scheduled to meet in the Hearing Room at 6 PM on Wednesday, April 20 to begin deliberations for the purpose of making a decision on the Commons at Weiss Farm comprehensive permit application. The meeting will be open to the public but members of the public will no longer be heard. There may be additional ZBA meetings scheduled to continue deliberations. See meeting agenda posted on the town website at http://www.stoneham-ma.gov/sites/stonehamma/files/u80/doc02560720160414074635.pdf.

Last week, on April 13, the Stoneham Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) met to finish up the public hearing on the Commons at Weiss Farm comprehensive permit application. The ZBA heard the developer’s closing statement and final comments from very concerned members of the general public. After scheduling a date to begin deliberations on the application, the ZBA officially closed the public hearing. A 50-minute video of the meeting can be viewed on Stoneham TV on-demand at http://vp.telvue.com/preview?id=T01824&video=272876.

At last week’s meeting Special Counsel Jon Witten confirmed with the developer that a decision on the application would be made and filed with the Town Clerk by Monday, May 2. In its decision, the ZBA may: 1. approve the comprehensive permit application, as filed, 2. approve it with conditions or 3. deny it.

Last Winter Farmers Market of the Year is Today!

The Winter Farmers Market comes to Memorial Hall today, Sunday, April 17, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. This will be the last local farmers market until the Melrose Farmers Market starts up on June 9 and the Wakefield Farmers Market starts on June 18. Please join us for a fun final day of shopping local produce, meat, fish, cheese, baked goods, bread, tea & coffee, spices, pasta & pierogi, and much, much more! Check the website for a list of vendors and attractions.

Paper Shredding Day at the City Yard is April 16

Paper Shredding Flyer April 2016

Follow-Up Message: Students Have Returned to Class

The following message was just sent out by the Melrose Schools.

Students have returned to class

Students at Melrose High School and Middle School have returned to class. We have reviewed the threat and do not feel that there is a significant risk. We have swept the building with support from the police and fire departments. Additionally, we followed the protocol established by the North Eastern MA Law Enforcement Council. We will continue to monitor the building security throughout the day.

Please know that we are one of at least twenty districts who received this call.

Keeping to our normal routine is the best way to prevent such events in the future and keep us safe. Please reassure your students that we are doing everything we can to make sure that school is safe. Remember that our feeling of safety is also important. We have asked staff to be particularly aware of students having difficulties.

If your student is upset or concerned, Guidance staff is available throughout the day to meet with students who need support.

This new situation of messages to schools is extremely disruptive and will be taken seriously by the police. If anyone has any information on the source of these messages, please contact us immediately.

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