Superintendent's Notes - September 7th, 2011

posted Sep 7, 2011, 7:04 PM by   [ updated Sep 14, 2011, 7:04 PM ]

I am excited to announce that I am the new Superintendent of the Maynard Public Schools as of
July 1, 2011. I have been an educator for over 23 years. I started teaching on the North Shore
of Massachusetts in Swampscott and then Lynn before I relocated to Rhode Island for the last 20
years. I always wanted to be a Superintendent but one of my mentors once told me not to rise
through the ranks too quickly because it is difficult to manage people if you haven't walked a
mile in their shoes. As a result of that good advice, I was a Teacher for 8 years, a Vice Principal/
Principal for 9 years, and an Assistant Superintendent/Curriculum Director for 3 years and
Superintendent for 3 years before coming to Maynard this year.

In addition to my educational experience which allows me to understand the perspectives of
Teachers and Principals, I am also the proud parent of three wonderful children. Elizabeth is
16 years old, Robert III is 10 years old and Isabella is 7 years old. Each one of my children has
their own unique personalities and I love them all equally. I believe that having school aged
children allows me the opportunity to also understand a Parent's perspective as well.

It was suggested that I do this introduction to help everyone get to know me a little better.
In addition, I will be attending as many PTO and school events in an effort to meet as many
students, parents, and guardians as possible so that we can get to know each other even better. I
have also asked the Principals to set up some coffee hours or evening events so that Parents from
each level (Elementary, Middle, and High School) will have an opportunity to meet with me at a
time that is more convenient for them.

Dr. Masterson, has been very helpful in my transition to Maynard. He felt that the
Superintendent's Notes he sent out were an excellent form of communication and I want to
continue all of the good work that preceded me. However, I am concerned that parents and
community members get a significant amount of communications from Teachers and Principals
on Fridays. Therefore, I have decided to send my Superintendent's Notes out on Wednesdays.
Now enough about me, I would like to relay some important information for you.

The School Committee is making a concerted effort to improve communication. As a result of
this goal the School Committee voted to pilot the taping and replaying of School Committee
meetings for the next 6 months. This was done to help those parents who cannot attend school
committee meetings to be able to get that information from home. The first meeting to be taped
will be the September 15, 2011 meeting. In addition, the School Committee asked me to utilize
different forms of media to improve communication. On August 28, 2011, I wrote my first
Education Spotlight column for the Beacon Villager. I plan on continuing to write those monthly
columns in an effort to support the School Committee’s goal of improving Communications.

I have heard of the following concerns and would like to address them in italics after each

1. Early release day times at the Elementary level changed this year to 12:30 PM from 1:00 PM
last years.

Yes, this change was discussed at a public School Committee Meeting last year. It was a plan to
improve professional development opportunities for teachers at green meadow. The science of
education is improving at a rapid rate and just like in industry; we have to continue to provide
professional development to keep our teachers current on major educational initiatives including
differentiated instruction and a new writing program. Our goal from these changes is to help
improve academic success for all students.

Although the School Committee was aware of these changes, the administration now realizes
that changes of this magnitude must be clearly communicated in advance to parents and we are
all working on the School Committee’s goal to improve communication in the future.

2. The Elementary Schedule is different from years past where students stayed with the same
peers all day long and every year that they were in Elementary school.

Yes, this is also the result of the changes in teachers’ schedules to accommodate common
planning time at the Elementary level. This is an incredible initiative that again invests time
and professional development for out teachers. It is the greatest strategy to improve instruction
in the classroom. After the schedule was revised, we also found a very positive unintended
consequence. In a small school system, the same students stay in the same groups of classes
each year and never get to socialize with other age appropriate children. In this new schedule,
students will not only be with the same 75 students of their class all day long but will also have
opportunities to interact with some near peers in grades just above or below them during lunch
and recess activities. This should improve socialization but may also help to prevent the bullying
that may happen when the same children remain so close during the entirety of their Elementary

Again, this was a well thought out plan to improve the instruction for our students and yet it was
not communicated well to parents. The administration will strive to improve our communication
to parents on such important changes to their children’s school day.

3. The Food Service program is no longer serving water as an alternative to milk.

Yes with one exception. This is the first year that the USDA has specifically said that our food
service program cannot provide water as an option to milk, or apple, or orange juice. The only
exception is that Lactose Intolerant children can bring in a doctor's note to the School Nurse or
our Food Service Director Robert Kinch. In those instances where it is a medical requirement,
The USDA will pay for the children to receive the water as an option to milk.

If you have a question about school it is always best to call, email, or speak to a Teacher or
Principal about your concerns. I am so impressed with the Teachers, Assistant Principals and
Principals and I am certain that they will be able to help you. It is always a good idea to start

with your questions from the source of the problem and then follow the chain of command to get
the answers that you need.

I mentioned that I will be attended many PTO and school events. I just wanted to say how
welcoming the Fowler PTO picnic was. I got to meet many parents and students there and am
beginning to understand their concerns.

Also, I have attended two events at Maynard High School and have been extremely impressed
by the students. The Maynard High School Freshmen Cookout on August 24th and the Maynard
High School Student Government Orientation today where both run by our student government
students. Traditionally Teachers and Principals organize these events to explain school rules
and protocols. However, Dr. Chesson believes that students enjoy learning from their peers
and she instituted this change in presentation. The Student Government Students not only ran
the orientation but also put on Skits to help their peers understand the school values of Respect,
Trust and Understanding. The students also gave the Teachers and Administrators opportunity to
explain their perspectives on these school values.

I was also, impressed with the Teachers and Administrators school spirit. We all wore the
school colors of orange and black. But most of all I enjoyed the ending speech from our new
Assistant Principal, Mr. Caragianes. He referenced the literary work of Malcolm Gladwell
and his theory that everyone becomes an expert after 10,000 hours of study on a topic. Mr.
Caragianes identified that the students in high school have been students for roughly 10,000
hours in grades 1 through 8 and so they are experts on school behavior. He explained that the
students need to rely on their expertise in behaving in school and common sense to help them
behave appropriately and achieve the academic success they need.

I hope that my first Superintendent's Notes have been informative. I am sorry that it is more like
a letter and less like notes, but I have so much to share as a new member of your community. In
the future, I will try for brevity. I would like to end this Superintendent's Notes positively so I
will quote an email that the Fowler Middle School Principal sent to all of his faculty and staff at
the end of the first week.
“I have been checking in with the students all week about how they are feeling about school
and their new teachers.... and the overwhelming response has been "great", "fun", and "cool"
which are all adjectives that are good to hear."

Jeff Mela (September 1, 2011)