Grade Configuration Forum Long On Questions, Short On Answers

Supt. Victor Mercurio tells small group of parents the special panel studying the issue will have a recommendation for the School Committee by the end of February.

Supt. Victor Mercurio met with parents Thursday night at Hanaford in the first of two public forums on the issue of elementary school grade configuration. One thing that was decided at the forum was to extend the completion date for a district-wide survey on the topic.

The original completion date was Jan. 17, but with fewer than 200 responses — about 10 percent of the district — and some discussion that not everyone knew about the survey, Mercurio said he would extend the time period by at least one week. He also said additional notifications and links to the survey would be forthcoming.

Beyond that, however, substantive answers were few. According to Mercurio, that was by design since the forum was an opportunity to hear from the community.

Among the questions posed Thursday and the answers: Was the special panel looking at moving third grade to Eldredge and Hanaford? A: It’s being considered. Was all-day kindergarten going to be implemented at Frenchtown as well as Meadowbrook? A: That’s more of a program question, so that's not going to be tackled by the committee. Could the panel look at school start times too? A: No, that will need to be done by a different committee. Will Frenchtown and Meadowbrook look identical? A: Maybe.

“What are the configurations that are on the table for them to consider?” one parent asked. “Right now, it’s everything. We’re taking a look at everything,” responded Mercurio. “We want to take an opportunity to drill down on the surveys, to see what that feedback would be like.”

As for when changes would be implemented, Mercurio said that would depend on the panel. “If it doesn’t make sense for us to put it in place that quickly, it won’t be,” he said.

Although Mercurio stressed that no decisions have yet been made, he did say that one set of numbers with the third grade staying at Meadowbrook and Frenchtown and another with them moving are both being developed. But Mercurio took pains to say that this was done for accounting reasons only. “There’s been absolutely no decision made.”

One parent expressed frustration that she and other elementary school parents were excluded from serving on the configuration panel.

Mercurio said that’s what the survey and forums were for, but he acknowledged that those did not compare with serving on the committee.

“It’s much more 30,000-foot stuff,” he said about the thinking on grade configuration. “I think the thinking behind it was to get the folks who have had experience with the district, who have actually gone through the configurations as they exist and then have them try to perform the work.

The ad hoc committee includes residents Lori Elias, Tony Fox, Chuck Barton and Suzy Baird; School Committee member Bob Durant; Eldredge principal Dom Giusti, Asst. Supt. Paula Dillion, just-retired Meadowbrook principal Ron Areglado, Frenchtown teacher Judy Cavanaugh and Supt. Mercurio.

The group has met three times so far and Mercurio said it will probably meet three more times, with the plan to have a recommendation to the School Committee by the end of February.

There will be one more public forum, on Monday, Jan. 30, at Eldredge.

Heather Larkin January 20, 2012 at 11:58 AM
At least in this side of town, it seems obvious to me that 3rd grade should move to Hanaford. We have a need for more pre-K at Meadowbrook, the equipment necessary for 3rd grade testing already in place at Hanaford, empty classrooms. Why all the meetings and committees and forums with no information? No need to reinvent the wheel just move the second graders a year earlier.
Laura Giusti January 20, 2012 at 12:39 PM
Although I felt put-off at first by the decision to not include on the panel parents of families that would be immediately be affected by the changes, I understand that it is important that the decisions be based on objective data about what would work best for students in general over time, rather than too heavily influenced by how families on the board feel they would be affected in the short-term.
ELM January 20, 2012 at 01:14 PM
There are so few students right now at Hanaford and Eldredge (just 200 or so per building!) It is wasteful to have such a small enrollment in such large schools.
DownTheHiller January 20, 2012 at 01:31 PM
Change the system: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hkPvSCq5ZXk&feature=player_embedded
Laura Giusti January 22, 2012 at 01:57 AM
WOW! Thanks, DownTheHiller, for the link to Ken Robinson's fantastic video on reforming education- I had never heard of him and now am extremely intrigued to learn more!


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