SHIRLEY — Christine House, founder of the Community Connection Program, presented thank-you notes made by Mrs. Rock’s kindergarten class to the School Committee with the help of two helpers.
“Maybe it will help serve as a reminder that this (the children) is what it’s all about,” House said.
House told committee members that an impromptu meeting was called among parents last week, and there were nearly 15 attendees despite the short notice. The meeting was intended to review Dr. Kevin O’Malley’s report, available on the town Web site, and follow the advice of Sue Jacobs to take the coming changes in the school system as an opportunity to start from the ground up.
“All ideas are welcome, that’s for sure,” Chairman Robert Prescott said.
The floor was then turned over to Shirley Middle School (SMS) Principal Daniel Schauben-Fuerst who introduced Sue Jacobs to present the first part of the SMS Improvement Plan.
Jacobs told the committee that there had been an increase in community volunteerism, however, she said there is always room for growth.
“We could always use more participation by the families,” Jacobs said. “Everyone is always welcome at an open house.”
The Parent Teacher Association (PTA) has funded agenda planners for students to bring home to parents, according to Jacobs, which she hopes would help keep parents informed about what their children are working on in school.
With the school making steps to get the community involved, Jacobs said she hopes to see more parental involvement as the school year progresses.
Fuerst addressed academic improvements at SMS, including 90-minute English, math and social studies classes. The benefit of 90-minute classes is that pupils are able to do three to five different projects during one class period.
Fuerst said SMS will focus on reading, writing and arithmetic, and adjustments have been made to focus on an academic schedule. He explained how the school has eliminated homeroom and the flex program so that all time spent by pupils at SMS is devoted to academics.
Seventh grade math teacher, Debra Flagg, said the school is working continually to improve MCAS scores. She said the accelerated math program available to grades five through eight is an incredible program, that will reinforce things they have learned early, but may have forgotten. An Algebra I program is being offered for the first time.
“They’re going to be super prepared to go into an honors Geometry class,” Fuerst said of SMS pupils enrolled in the Algebra class.
The mission of the Unified Arts program at SMS is to stimulate learning, and produce well-rounded learners, said Teresa Richards.
As a result of budget and staff reductions in Shirley’s schools, health education and foreign language classes have been cut. Richards pointed out that SMS has been able to maintain five out of seven classes under the Unified Arts program including music, physical education, art, library, and technical education.
Richards said the lack of a foreign language program is causing Shirley’s students to be placed lower in language classes as they enter high school. Also, due to large class sizes under the Unified Arts program, Richards said that it can be difficult for teachers, mainly because pupils are not always able to utilize equipment in the classrooms.
On the whole, Fuerst told committee members that parents and teachers have made significant efforts to become involved with the school.
“It’s really coming back to life,” said Fuerst.
Prescott made note of the energy amongst school faculty members at SMS. Committee member Donald Parker added that he wished to commend the School Council for all of the work that they do.