Making Democracy Work

School Committee

Meghan Palanza, Observer

Submitted June 2018

The Town of Falmouth has a school committee comprising of 9 volunteers, who must be voted on to the committee during the town election. Each committee member is voted on for a rotating 3 year commitment. The Committee chair and vice chair are also newly elected every year by the committee members.

The Falmouth School Committee mission is "to educate students so that they are engaged in their education in a way which develops their capacity to pursue their goals and fosters lifelong learning". The members take this mission to heart, which is apparent in their interactions. In observing the committee, it became obvious that the committee members take their roles seriously. They are engaged and enthused about the work they do. The members are respectful of each and the multiple people who they interact with during the course of their work.

The town makes it fairly easy to stay on top of the scheduled times and agendas for each meeting. They are posted on the town website, well in advance of the meetings, and provide a list of who will be presenting to the committee and which items the committee will be addressing. The meetings are structured the same and are scheduled every second and last Tuesday of the month. They are kept promptly and on task by this year's chair, Kelly Welch. I believe she sticks to the schedule because she is respectful of the agenda times that have been communicated to the public and for TV viewers who may be watching.

Public comments are allowed at the beginning of every meeting, with a time limit of 2 minutes, which is clearly written in every agenda. Examples of public comments may be a parent concern of a location of a bus stop, or the walk-out that the Falmouth high school students had planned to show support of the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting this year. Each meeting also receives an update from the following individuals; School Superintendent, Assistant Superintendent, Director of Technology, Director of Human Resources, Director of Finance and Operations, Director of Student Services, Director of Curriculum K-6. Each director provides a short update on recent events, conferences they attended, curriculum, or staff updates. The committee is kept abreast of most, if not all, initiatives within every school in Falmouth. Examples include but are not limited to; 3-5 year plan updates from the individual principals, No Guff week activities, Model UN field trip, Art and Poetry contests and shows put on in the various schools, and the Science Far.

The topics that are addressed are vast. The committee discusses such topics as; School Choice, addressing chronic absenteeism, donations to the schools from third parties, surplus school books, and the next year's kindergarten numbers. The school committee is also responsible for approving various monetary costs and activities for the schools. For example; band and chorus trips, student foreign exchange programs, and East Falmouth Elementary courtyard renovations. The various discussions are interesting, with pointed questions to the presenters by the committee members.

This past year, there were several significant projects and issues that required action by the committee. The proposal to move the field back to Falmouth High School, as well the required renovations in moving the field. A sub committee was formed to work closely with the vendor/ consultant in order to collect as much information as possible. Then the committee voted to move ahead with the proposal. The information was shared at town meeting, where it was discussed and voted on; the last step was to move to the town wide election.

Also, several Falmouth High School students planned a `walk-out' during school hours to show support for the recent shooting at Florida high school and gun prevention. A representative student appeared before the committee with the plan. The committee asked many questions and commended the students on their well communicated and thought out plan.

In addition, Nancy Taylor, the Falmouth Superintendent, announced her retirement. It is the School Committee's responsibility for selecting the Falmouth Superintendent. The search began, which was done at an accelerated pace. The committee was thoughtful, purposely sought out community opinions, met with consultants and spent countless hours for this process. A replacement was decided on which the committee spoke extremely high of.