Making Democracy Work


Massachusetts has the oldest public school system in the United States. Falmouth has seven public schools.

State and Local Authority

Massachusetts has the oldest public school system in the United States. In 1647, under the Charter of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, each town was required to provide schools for all children at public expense. Selectmen had overall responsibility for the schools until 1826, when the General Laws provided for elected school committees and gave them sweeping powers. The Education Act of 1965 empowered the State Board of Education to establish minimum standards and to withhold state and federal funds from school committees which fail to comply.

The Commonwealth's statewide standards-based assessment program was developed in response to the Massachusetts Education Reform Act of 1993. State and federal law mandates that all students who are enrolled in the tested grades and who are educated with Massachusetts public funds participate in Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) testing. The (MCAS) has been implemented by the Falmouth School Committee. The Falmouth Public Schools reorganized their curricula and teaching methods to help students meet the high expectations measured by MCAS; and further refinement will come with Massachusetts signing on to the national "Common Core" educational standards in 2010. Thus the school system of Falmouth, like all others in the Commonwealth, operates under state laws. and within the framework of policies set by the State Board. The committee has undertaken to review periodically goals for education and objectives for implementation. Copies of these goals are available at the office of the Superintendent of Schools.

School Committee

old Mullen-Hall School Cupola

The Falmouth School Committee has nine unpaid members elected for staggered three-year terms. Its principal responsibility is to provide good education with equal opportunity for all the town's young people at a reasonable cost to the taxpayers. The committee determines educational policies, approves curricula, plans supportive services such as food and transportation, evaluates programs, prepares an annual budget, and negotiates with all organized school department employees under the Collective Bargaining Act.

The School Committee also sets boundaries for school districts and allocates pupils to the various elementary schools. School Committee meetings are usually held in the school Administration Building. They are open to the public. A student representative from a five member advisory committee elected by the high school students sits with the committee in its open sessions, with the encouragement to participate actively in all educational discussions and may cast an advisory vote on all such matters.


The School Department oversees seven public schools in the Falmouth school district. Grades Kindergarten to grade 4 are taught in four elementary schools. Two middle schools: one grades 5-6, the other grades 7-8, are located near Falmouth center and accommodate Falmouth school children in those grades. Falmouth High School is a comprehensive grade 9-12 school that offers college preparatory, honors, advance placement, business, occupational, and alternative academic programs plus a wide variety of intramural, athletic and extracurricular activities. A large field house and 40,000-square-foot gym have been added over two successive renovations. Central administration offices are in the School Administration Building, the former Teaticket School, on East Falmouth Highway.

The School Committee encourages public use of school buildings and grounds for educational, cultural, recreational, philanthropic and civic purposes, subject to regulations on custodial services and fees. Community service organizations and groups of many kinds use the school buildings extensively all year round. The Recreation Department sponsors many recreational programs in the different schools and playgrounds.

K-4E. FalmouthDavisville Road1957+1989346
K-4Mullen-HallKatharine Lee Bates Road1924+1931+2003509
K-4North FalmouthMain Road1964+1989398
K-4TeaticketMaravista Extension1967423
5-6Morse PondJones Road1963+2001565
7-8LawrenceLakeview Avenue1953+1999561
9-12Falmouth HighGifford Street Extension1973+2010925

Funding the Public Schools.

Local taxes provide 85% of the annual operating cost of the schools and account for just under 50% of the total town budget. Various kinds of partial or total reimbursements for school costs are made by the state and federal governments and either go directly to the town's general fund or are applied to specific school programs. Reimbursements are available for transportation, food services, special education, general school aid, state wards, regional school district aid, vocational training and the construction of school buildings.

The school administration works on the annual budget for about six months, beginning in the fall and culminating in a special hearing (in the spring) as required by law. Under current state law, the School Committee's annual budget request is scrutinized by the Finance Committee, and the budget total is debated and voted upon at the Spring Annual Town Meeting. Unlike other town departments, the School Committee has autonomy over the individual line item allocations within its total budget figure.

Major capital expenditures do not come under the fiscal autonomy umbrella. They are decided by a two-thirds vote of Town Meeting and are supported by separate School Building Assistance reimbursements from the state. Major renovations or new school buildings also require approval by voters.

Administration and Staff.

The Superintendent of Schools is hired by the School Committee to serve as chief administrator of the entire school system. The superintendent prepares the agendas for all School Committee meetings, makes recommendations for School Committee action and carries out directions from the committee. The superintendent is assisted by an administrative staff which includes an Assistant Superintendent/Director of Curriculum and Instruction, a Director of Pupil Personnel Services, and a Director of Tehnology and Library/Media Services.

The recruitment and selection of the professional staff involves the school principals, the central administration, and committees that include teachers and parents. The School Affirmative Action Officer is involved in all hiring. Each appointment is finally made by the superintendent. Each year he/she appoints new personnel as needed, and decides whether to renew the contracts of those who have been in the system less than three years. Under state law, teachers and some Administrators (Unit B) whose contracts are renewed for the fourth year obtain professional status. Professional qualifications and certification requirements are set by the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education under state law.

The Falmouth Educators Association (FEA) represents teachers, supervisors and paraprofessionals in collective bargaining with the School Committee. Several other school employee unions also bargain with the School Committee.

The Falmouth Volunteers in Public Schools (VIPS) was organized in 1982 with the help of the LWV to recruit, train and place volunteers in all the Falmouth schools. These volunteers supplement the professional staff, sharing their own skills and enthusiasms with students most likely to benefit from individual attention, including one of the newer programs that provides mentoring for at-risk students. In 2010, the VIPS program provided an avenue for over 40,000 hours of volunteer service from more than 1,200 people.

Academic Program.

A Falmouth school child normally attends four different schools before graduation: elementary school (at one of four elementary schools) grades K-4; middle school (Morse Pond) grades 5-6; upper middle school (Lawrence) grades 7-8; high school (Falmouth High School) grades 9-12. Instruction begins with a single teacher in the early grades, gradually develops into subject-oriented classrooms in grades 7-8 at the Lawrence School and culminates in a wide choice of courses in high school. There is a library/media program that coordinates printed and electronic instructional materials and makes them readily available to teachers and students in all the schools; all items in the collection are integrated with and supportive of the curriculum.

The district has a preschool program for at-risk students and provides a free, full-day kindergarten program to all students. In the elementary schools, language arts, math, reading and science are coordinated through grade 4 so that children have a common background when they reach the Morse Pond School. Social studies are based on the same overall program through grade 8 and physical education is offered to boys and girls together into high school.

In the Lawrence School the emphasis is on developing skills in English, math, social studies, and science. French and Spanish are introduced as electives. Pre-engineering, health, computers, art and music are offered as enrichment programs for all students on a rotating schedule. Intramural sports and other extracurricular activities are provided after school.

Newly renovated in 2008-2010, Falmouth High School offers a comprehensive program with a challenging academic curriculum, and a wide range of learning experiences designed to prepare students for college or careers. Instructional technology is now available in every classroom and learning space. About 60% of the graduates go on to four-year colleges, another 30% to two-year programs. Students can enroll in Advanced Placement courses in English, Foreign Languages, Math, Science, Social Studies, Art and Music. In 2010 students took 187 AP exams and 66% successfully passed. Falmouth High School participates in the Cape Cod Community College "College Connection Program" which encourages all students to consider a college career. To achieve compliance with the Massachusetts High School Program of Studies (MassCore), for the class of 2013 and beyond, the program of studies includes: four years of English, four years of Math, three years of a lab-based Science, three years of history, two years of the same foreign language, one year of an arts program and five additional "core" courses such as business education, health, and/or technology. Falmouth High School offers additional learning opportunities including AP classes, dual enrollment at Cape Cod Community College, a senior project, online courses for high school or college credit, and service or work-based learning. Students have extensive opportunities to participate in extracurricular activities, clubs and sports. In October 2010 Falmouth High School completed its self-study portion of the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) for its reaccreditation.

The creative arts are encouraged at all levels. Children are introduced to musical instruments in the primary grades. The Morse Pond School has a band, orchestra and chorus. There is equal emphasis on the visual arts; the annual arts show is a major event in each of the schools.

There are guidance counselors for grades 5-12 and adjustment counselors for grades K-4. Working with individuals and in groups, these counselors provide educational adjustment counseling and college placement assistance, and are responsible for the educational and psychological testing being done in the schools with the help of the school psychologist.

Falmouth has a comprehensive, integrated K-12 health curriculum that deals with personal safety, sexuality and drugs as well as nutrition and hygiene. There are Registered Nurses in every school who provide emergency care for the students and who work closely with the guidance and adjustment counselors. There is also a consulting school physician.

Special Programs.

Chapter 766 is the state's Comprehensive Special Education Law. It is supplemented by federal mandates including the Education of the Handicapped Act and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Under these laws, The School Committee provides for the special educational needs of children ages three to twenty-two in a broad and flexible manner, emphasizing maximum possible development in the least restrictive environment. Continuous efforts are made to identify children with special needs and provide each with an Individual Education Plan (IEP). Priority is given to keeping the child in the regular classroom, but other services are available, from instruction or therapy in a resource room to education in a separate classroom.

In 2009, the district adopted a comprehensive reading program (K-6) to help students learn and continue developing reading skills. Specialists work with teachers and with individual students who need additional help. A federally funded Chapter I program for children who are educationally disadvantaged operates in three elementary schools. Certain alternative programs, including on-line credit recovery courses are available to students who do not progress satisfactorily in the high school. These alternatives help to retain potential dropouts and to bring back into the school some who have already left.

Supplementary Programs.

The School Committee sponsors a summer school which offers students entering grades 7-9 additional support and tuition courses at Falmouth High School. The Night School offers academic, enrichment and vocational courses for adults and young people. The state subsidizes vocational programs.

Upper Cape Cod Regional Technical School

Falmouth has been a member of the Upper Cape Cod Regional Technical High School since it opened in 1969, and sends about 30 to 40 students from the 8th grade each year. The school is located in the town of Bourne, and overlooks the Cape Cod Canal and the Bourne Bridge. A District Committee of eight members from the five participating towns (two from Falmouth) makes policy.

The school offers courses of study in specific trades and careers, ranging from cosmetology and food trades to plumbing and electronics. It also gives a post-graduate course in licensed practical nursing. Each town's share of the budget for the operation of the school is determined by its share of students, and is voted on at the respective town meetings.

Other Educational Opportunities

Since 1914 the Children's School of Science has been offering summer courses based on the natural environment of Cape Cod to students from 7 to 16 years old. The school is a private, non-profit organization. It has a paid faculty and Administrator, but it depends on parents and other volunteers for many services and activities. Enrollment is open to all and there is some scholarship money available. The curriculum changes from year to year, ranging from seashore life to nature photography to botany; the emphasis is always upon the scientific method and on field and laboratory investigation. Some courses last for six weeks, others for three. Information can be obtained by writing to CSS, Box 552, Woods Hole, MA, 02543.

Cape Cod and Islands Child Development Program, Inc. is the umbrella agency for Head Start programs and day care centers in ten towns on the Cape. Head Start is operated through Cape Cod and Islands Child Development Program, Inc., and the major portion of its funding is federal. Eligibility guidelines are determined by the federal government, the target population being children of low-income families. Several private and cooperative nursery schools, day care centers and kindergartens operate in the Falmouth area.

The Waldorf School of Cape Cod is located in Cotuit and is part of a worldwide movement of more than 500 schools offering a fully arts-integrated and interdisciplinary curriculum addressing the needs of the whole child-head, heart and hands.

Heritage Christian Academy in East Falmouth serves families with children in kindergarten through 8th grade who desire education with a Christian perspective.

Falmouth Academy is an independent day school for grades 7-12, founded in 1977 to provide a traditional, academically rigorous college preparatory curriculum for students from Cape Cod and southeastern Massachusetts. In 1989 the school moved into a newly constructed building on a 34 acre campus at the edge of Beebe Woods. The school is small by design, with classes kept to a maximum of 15 students. Faculty, students and guests gather daily for All-School Meeting. In athletics, all teams include anyone who wants to play. Students are required to take a minimum of five core courses each year: science, history, math, English and a foreign language. This central program is enriched with a variety of arts, activities and community projects.

Higher Education

Although the Falmouth school system does not operate beyond the high school level, opportunities for higher education are available in the area.The Cape Cod Community College in Barnstable, a two-year junior college is part of the state higher education system. In addition to the regular undergraduate curriculum, the Department of Continuing Education offers many different courses to people of all ages with different interests and needs. Veterans' benefits, financial aid, and counseling services are available. Falmouth High School participates in the Cape Cod Community College "College Connection Program" which encourages all students to consider a college career.

The Massachusetts Maritime Academy in Buzzards Bay is a four-year state-run institution with courses and facilities open to the surrounding communities. Both the Maritime Academy and the Community College offer night courses for college credit.

Sea Education Association (SEA) is a non-profit, educational institution providing academic programs focusing on the oceans. College students spend the first half of a semester at the SEA campus at 171 Woods Hole Road and the second half on a research sailing vessel.