Enrollment In Expanded Mashpee Preschool Program Jumps Thirty Percent

Mashpee parent Morgan Peters (right) proposed teaching a film class for 7th graders, as well as enhancing the current Indian education program, at the August 6 school committee meeting.
LANNAN M. O'BRIEN/ENTERPRISE - Mashpee parent Morgan Peters (right) proposed teaching a film class for 7th graders, as well as enhancing the current Indian education program, at the August 6 school committee meeting.

The number of students registered for the newly expanded preschool program at the Kenneth C. Coombs School has jumped from 66 to about 90 since registration opened in April. Superintendent Brian A. Hyde announced the news at a school committee meeting on Wednesday, August 6.

Roughly 60 of those students are enrolled in one of three five-day, full-day programs, while the rest are signed up for the three-day, half-day program or one of two four-day, half-day programs. Preschool teachers will begin meeting at school next week to plan the details of curriculum and daily routines, such as arrival and dismissal, Mr. Hyde said.

“We want this to succeed, so we don’t want teachers just showing up the first day,” he said.

The preschool pilot program was approved by the committee in March as an expansion of the current program at KC Coombs, which has served about 65 children ages 3 to 5, with a special focus on children with special needs. The new program is intended to provide free pre-kindergarten education with transportation for all 4-year-olds in Mashpee, with limited space for 3-year-olds.

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Committee member Don D. Myers reminded Mr. Hyde and the other committee members that they had planned to establish a metric system by which they would evaluate the program’s effectiveness in December. If they decided it was effective, they could add appropriate resources to the following year’s budget.

“Let’s not forget that we need to come up with those metrics,” he said. “When we set that up last year, we developed it as a one-year program.”

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Committee members responded positively to plans for a film course and an enhanced Indian Education Program proposed by Mashpee parent and Wampanoag Tribe member Morgan J. Peters.

For the past year, Mr. Peters has been conducting a service learning fellowship in the Mashpee Public School system through the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, where he is a professor and director of African & African American Studies. His volunteer work included leading a film club for 5th and 6th graders, teaching them the basics of acting, directing, and producing a film.

Moving forward, he said that he hopes to contribute to the schools on a teaching level, and has begun discussing with Mr. Hyde the possibility of beginning a film course for 7th graders.

He also identified a need to enhance the district’s current Indian Education Program with a focus on cultural, social, and academic development, citing evidence that minority students’ programs result in higher levels of retention and academic success among students of color.

“Let’s see how we can take Indian education and make it more effective in all of those areas,” he said. “We have a tribal community; it’s been here and it’s going to be here.”

Committee members responded enthusiastically, but agreed that the proposals should be “fleshed out” quickly with Mr. Hyde and business manager Paul Funk so that they can be added to the FY2016 budget. Ideally, Mr. Peters would begin the initiatives by the start of the 2016-17 school year.

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Leadership team meetings throughout last week allowed for productive discussions on the district’s accelerate improvement plan, led by the state District and School Assistance Center (DSAC). DSAC representatives have been working in the district since September, when it dropped to a Level 3 due to low MCAS scores.

A nearly 30-member team of teachers, directors, and members of administration, including newly appointed grade 7-12 principal Sean Gilrein, fine-tuned details and benchmark dates for each of the objectives for the three-to-five-year plan, Mr. Hyde said. The objectives, which will be implemented through action steps, include professional learning focused on curriculum instruction, effective use of data, and family and community engagement.

“The team really felt that they owned it,” he said.

The plan will be announced at convocation on Wednesday, August 27, which starts at 8 AM at Mashpee High School. Town manager Joyce M. Mason, Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe chairman Cedric Cromwell, and school committee chairman Scott P. McGee will be in attendance. Massachusetts Secretary of Education Matthew H. Malone is expected to speak at the school the following day, Mr. Hyde said.

The visit to the school will be Dr. Malone’s third this year.

“He’s put Mashpee under his wing because he loves us,” Mr. Hyde said, adding that the schools have already implemented ideas suggested by Dr. Malone during his visit in March. “He really has a soft spot in his heart for the Mashpee Public Schools.”

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Mr. Hyde announced that standards-based report cards for students in the KC Coombs and Quashnet Schools will roll out in September, an effort that was led by the school principals. The report cards will not only list grades, but will reflect students’ progress in various state standards, such as phonics and working with whole numbers.

Additionally, he said that the district will not implement the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) assessment for grades 9 and 11. The school committee voted in June to administer PARCC in spring 2015, but had not made any decisions regarding specific grades.

Grade 10 would still take the MCAS until 2018 to fulfill the state requirement, Mr. Hyde added, and because PARCC does not include a science exam, the schools would continue to administer the MCAS for science. He said that PARCC would not mean anything to grades 9 and 11, and it made little sense to administer any tests for those grades at the same time as their SATs and Advanced Placement exams.

“Don’t we have to vote on that?” Mr. Myers said.

Mr. McGee said that the committee’s decision had been broad-based, and the members decided to vote on the change in September.

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