Wednesday, December 16, 2015

WRSD will continue with MCAS

Last Monday evening, I discussed with the School Committee the reasons for my decision to recommend that the WRSD remain with MCAS rather than moving to PARCC. Much of my conversation was based upon the feedback that I received from building administrators, our teachers union, discussions with superintendents from other districts, and research and reading I have done concerning MCAS v. PARCC.  Although there are some benefits in moving to PARCC, such as being "held harmless" in terms of accountability level or the fact that the new MCAS 2.0 will be more PARCC​-​like, I feel that staying with MCAS is in the best interest of the District at this time.

When deliberating on this issue, I took into account the fact that if we move to PARCC this year, we will be asking our students to take three different assessments over the next three assessment cycles. Another reason for my decision is that the decision made by the Board of Education comes at a very late date and I do not think that we have enough time to adequately prepare teachers and students for the move to this new assessment. Finally, we have been told that there will be MCAS questions on the assessment this spring that are more PARCC​-​like. If Commissioner Chester and the Board of Education believed that PARCC was the best assessment tool for our students, they would have made the directive that all schools would move to PARCC this year. Since both the Commissioner and the BOE support the move to a new assessment in 2017, I feel that having our students take an assessment that is not supported by DESE and the BOE does not make sense.

I look forward to learning more about the next assessment, MCAS 2.0, and will share any information I have with our community. 

Monday, December 7, 2015

Winter weather



Even though we have had unexpectedly warm conditions over the past several weeks, we all know that winter will be upon us soon.  With this in mind, I want to remind everyone that school delays and cancellations are issues that we in New England must live with every year.  Last year, we dealt with one of the worst winters in memory so we all want to be prepared.  The decision to cancel or delay school is one that I take seriously as dangerous driving conditions are a constant issue for schools who transport students.   A decision to cancel school usually takes place by 5:15 am in order to give the bus company time to reach out to their drivers and a SchoolMessenger call will be made soon thereafter.  A two-hour delay occurs during the same time frame.  We average several delays and/or cancellations every year.  Last winter the District had 6 cancellations and 4 delays during a fairly short amount of time when our region was hit with over 100 inches of snow.  Let's hope this winter is a bit more typical than last!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Wachusett Now

Superintendent McCall and Principal Bill Beando
I am pleased to announce the launching of the "Wachusett Now" television program which will be broadcast on local cable access television channels as well as linked through the WRSD website.  "Wachusett Now" will highlight the various schools throughout the District, providing community members with the opportunity to view the schools from inside and out.   I recently had the opportunity to work with the local cable access television crews on our first edition of “Wachusett Now.”  The show is scheduled to be produced on a monthly basis with our kick-off occurring sometime in the next few weeks.  I thought it important that we actually take the show on the road where we can highlight all of the great things going on in our schools and also give community members within the District the opportunity to see schools throughout the five towns.  Each show will highlight a different school for the first two-thirds of the program.  The last third of each show will be dedicated to WRHS as there is a great deal to share from such a large school.  The first program includes an interview with Principal Chris LaBreck from Chocksett Middle School and a brief tour of that building, as well as an introduction to the high school by Principal Bill Beando.  The show will be aired on the local access stations in Holden, Paxton, Rutland, and Sterling.  DVD copies of the show will be made available to Princeton residents at the town library and Thomas Prince School.  The program will also be available for streaming through the WRSD website.  I am enjoying this project and working with Sterling-Lancaster Community Television and Holden Cable TV and I am grateful to Bob Bloom, President of Sterling-Lancaster Community Television, for reaching out to me and the WRSD.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

FY16 WRSD budget approved

I am pleased to announce that the FY16 WRSD budget has been approved.  On October 15th, the town of Paxton voted to support the budget, thus becoming the fourth town (out of five) necessary for budget approval.  This budget will include much needed staffing at the high school and support for middle school students with middle school counselors.

We now turn our attention to the FY17 budget development process that will begin in the next few weeks.  On November 3rd, the School Committee's Business/Finance Subcommittee and I have invited town officials to a forum on the FY17 budget and to share information pertaining to the upcoming budgets for each town.  This roundtable should assist all parties involved to have a better understanding of the financial matters our towns and the District must deal with as we move into FY17.  As always, I appreciate the time and energy that member towns put into supporting our schools.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

MCAS and PARCC



MCAS results for all schools in Massachusetts were released last week.  On November 17th, the Board of Education will vote to either continue with MCAS or begin to use PARCC.   The following link will bring you to the document page from the September 2015 Special Meeting of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.  The first three links on the page include a student assessment update, MCAS and PARCC side by side, and the considerations the Board will use when making a decision on MCAS or PARCC.  The first link is a presentation and has excellent information pertaining to the details around these two assessment tools.  An area of concern associated with PARCC is the use of technology and how schools across the state will be able to accommodate the requirement that the assessment be conducted using technology.

MCAS/PARCC Information

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Welcome Back!

I'd like to welcome all students, staff and families back to the Wachusett Regional School District for the 2015-2016 school year.  The following letter was shared with all families and published in the Landmark earlier this month:

Dear Wachusett Families:

Another summer has come and gone and we are embarking upon another school year here at Wachusett.  We have had a busy summer preparing for our first day of school, September 2nd, by making sure that the buildings have been cleaned, materials have been ordered and received, and the curriculum is ready to go.  As we continue to make plans for another terrific year, I would like take this time to share some information with you about our district.

One of the most exciting aspects of this coming school year will be the ongoing construction and completion of the new Mountview Middle School in Holden.  As you travel down Shrewsbury Street, you will note that there is now a brick facade on the building and the exterior looks almost complete.  On the interior of the building, classrooms and learning spaces are beginning to take shape with framing, walls, and finish work in progress.  We are excited the project is meeting the projected timeline and look forward to the grand opening in 2016.

In conjunction with our infrastructure growth, our vision for the District continues to expand as we work on the development of the WRSD Strategic Plan.  Our school district is well poised to provide a visionary strategic plan that will take us into the next five years of learning in all schools.  We are committed to a collaborative, open planning process in which feedback and discussions are vital aspects of synthesizing our unified goals.  I am confident that this process will improve our district and strengthen our community.  I will be sharing more information with you on this front this fall.

A core value that makes our district special is that we are committed to putting children first.  As we embark upon the new academic year, I was pleased to lead a two day administrative retreat in which building principals and Central Office administration focused on all aspects of what is best for kids.  We used viable measures, such as data analysis, student learning outcomes, vision statements, and goals around what makes learning possible for all students to improve the prospects of student learning and enrichment.  By bringing all decisions back to the statement what is best for kids we further established a culture that honors the best interests of students with every decision that we make.  Through this process and moving forward, we will continue to revisit our values as educators and also convey those educational values to the Wachusett community.

As we work to ensure a successful year, please know that I appreciate the work that everyone in our community does to provide what is best for kids.  Good luck to all of our students, families, and staff this coming school year, and thank you for your continued support of the Wachusett Regional School District.  I look forward to seeing you at the start of the school year. 

Darryll McCall

Superintendent of Schools

Monday, June 22, 2015

Last Day of School



This is the last day of school for the students here at Wachusett Regional and I want them all to know that we are proud of their accomplishments and wish them a relaxing summer!  I have attached a copy of my end of the year letter that was sent to families and staff.

   Superintendent end of year letter

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

FY16 WRSD Budget


As you may already know, the District's proposed FY16 budget did not receive the required approval of four of the five Member Towns in order to pass.  When a budget proposed by the District is not finalized prior to the start of the new fiscal year (July 1st), a letter is sent to the Commissioner of Education requesting a 1/12th budget until a final budget can be established.  The 1/12th budget is based upon the prior fiscal year's budget (FY15) and every month 1/12th of the prior year's budget would be allocated to the District to cover expenses to operate.  This is the third year in a row that the District will have started a new fiscal year with a 1/12th budget in place because four of the five towns did not support the budget proposed by the District.  If the Wachusett Regional School District Committee establishes a new FY16 budget at the regular meeting on June 23rd, the Member Towns have 45 days to either reconvene a Town Meeting to vote on the new budget number or the towns can accept the new budget without having a Town Meeting.  In any case, I will be sharing some recommendations with the School Committee on June 23rd about possible reductions to the proposed FY16 budget and what impact these proposed reductions will have on the students of WRSD.

​For additional information, please click on the  link to the FY16 WRSD​ Budget Book (FY16 WRSD Budget Book​).  This informational document  has been shared with all​ five Member Towns.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Holden Pupil Population Study Task Force


In all towns with schools that have common grade configurations, specific boundaries are established for each school. In Holden, the current boundary configuration for the three elementary schools, Dawson, Mayo and Davis Hill, has been in place for 15 years. Student populations increase or decrease and over time schools feel the burden associated with the ebb and flow of the population changes. Currently, all three elementary schools in Holden are dealing with changing student populations. It is for this reason that I have established the Holden Pupil Population Study Task Force. The first meeting of the task force took place on Tuesday, April 14th.  Fourteen members of the public (parents and community volunteers) and District administration met to review and discuss the increasing student population in Holden and to begin the process of addressing issues that are resulting from the increasing number of students, specifically at the elementary level. I was very impressed with the questions and comments at our first meeting and I am looking forward to this group working together over the next several months. The next meeting of this task force has been scheduled for Thursday, May 14th.  

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Special Olympics returns to Wachusett!



This month, I had the pleasure of attending the 2nd annual Wachusett Special Olympics held in the high school field house on March 12th.  This year, as the student athletes entered the building, they were greeted by a student display of art work known as the Art Walk.  Students from every school submitted pieces of art to display for parents, faculty, and athletes to appreciate as they entered the gym for the event.  The opening ceremony procession was lead by students carrying an Olympic Torch while escorting an Olympic Flame and caldron created by art students from WRHS.   It was a fantastic display of artistic talent and spirit!  A total of 106 athletes coached by 115 student volunteers participated in four events this year including basketball, hockey, track, and the newest event, skeeball.  The athletes all put forth their best effort and I was honored to have been part of this exciting and fun athletic event!  Thanks to Dr. Merrick and all of those who helped to make the day so amazing.
The Special Olympics Torch Mountaineer!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Budget Narrative

During our most recent Wachusett Regional School District Committee meeting, I reviewed the FY16 Budget Narrative with members of the committee and the public.  The narrative is meant to give a brief overview of our projections for the FY16 budget.  The budget will not officially be voted upon until March 16th, at which time the WRSDC will either approve or not approve the 3.7% increase we have proposed.  Please take time to review the narrative to find out how our budget process works.

2015-16 Budget Narrative

Thursday, January 15, 2015

School Choice


This week, the Wachusett Regional School Committee voted to approve participation in school choice for the 2015-2016 school year.  This decision was made after much discussion by committee members about the merits and limitations of WRSD's continued participation in the school choice program.  Also in attendance at the meeting were many families, teachers and the administrators from Thomas Prince School in Princeton.  Thomas Prince is a k-8 school that has had declining enrollment for many years.  One way for the school to remain viable has been the inclusion of both school choice students and in-District transfer students into Thomas Prince.  School choice has helped Thomas Prince to remain a complete k-8 building, offering the same opportunities as the larger schools in our district.  A robust STEAM program has been established at the school which has increased the number of students who have sought entry into Thomas Prince.  In the coming weeks, we will be focusing on attracting in-District transfer students from schools within Wachusett to attend Thomas Prince, but we still understand that school choice students allowed Thomas Prince to remain a successful, vibrant learning community.