Despite the small turnout, Principal Ted Lombardi offered an abundance of information to parents of Malden High School students and of other schools in Malden on ‘Ask the Principal Night’ held on May 9th at the Jenkins Auditorium. The main focus points for this discussion were the newly proposed bell schedule and the change in the structure of the math curriculum. Some tertiary topics included an overview of the Tornado Travelers Club, details about current STEM classes in MHS, the future of the Parent Information Center, advancements in the Chromebook initiative, as well as inconsistencies in X2 and iBoss.
Principal Lombardi had prepared a presentation for those in attendance and proceeded to elaborate on all of the information he had provided to the parents that were present. In one portion of the presentation, he went into great detail about the block scheduling recently proposed by a group of teachers. He spoke about the results of the student survey that was emailed to MHS students regarding whether or not they would be open to transitioning into the new schedule or keeping the current one. Out of the 1119 students that were surveyed, 512 were in favor of the new schedule while 507 were in favor of the current one. Lombardi voiced that personally, he “liked longer blocks” because “they’re functional for kids.”
After Lombardi finished his presentation, he opened up the floor for parents to bring up questions but before that, Shauna Campbell, science teacher and Advisor if the Tornado Traveler’s Club, gave a quick run down of the what the club offered and discussed how incoming 9th graders could sign up for trips. Campbell also explained that there would fundraising events for the all upcoming travel opportunities in order to makes these trips as accessible to as many students as possible.
When the floor was opened up for questions to Lombardi, one mother of an incoming MHS student and a graduating senior wondered if there were plans to redo the student survey as incoming ninth graders could not participate in it and the graduating seniors “may or may not [have] [cared]” about the impact they had on the results. Lombardi responded by saying that he “wanted to get a broad sense of where everyone was at” and that this survey was conducted mostly for the purpose of seeing how polarized students felt in regards to either option. Considering the students felt quite evenly split between the two standing options, Lombardi is “curious to hear more parent input” regarding the changing of the school day. He will be meeting with a student committee to further discuss the implications of transitioning to a new schedule or keeping the current one. Also, he added that eighth graders may not be not be informed about high school schedules, justifying why only MHS students in grades 9-12 were surveyed.
One potential benefit that of the new schedule may be that students would have less homework. This is because they would be able to focus on their four theoretical classes as opposed to the current six. Lombardi explained that there would also be guidelines regarding when assignments could be due and when grades would be put into X2. He believes that this schedule will pose as a benefit to students who are involved with multiple extracurricular activities and experience a “rinse and repeat cycle that [makes] [it] difficult for them” to perform well in school without being physically drained and fatigued.
A major issue with the current schedule is homeroom because it renders the government mandated school time for students arbitrary. With the new schedule, advisory, “a formal way to personalize education for students” would replace homeroom. During it, an advisor would keep tabs of a student, their grades, and their performance throughout high school. Lombardi viewed it as “opportunity [for] [teachers] to make real connections to kids”. It would potentially include a weekly student newscast that pose as an opportunity to see highlights from sports games and performances; it would essentially be an elongated version of the current student announcements that happen during homeroom each morning.
One parent next brought up the question of whether or not study halls would pose as a detriment to students if the new schedule was instituted. Lombardi responded by saying that study halls were “certainly a drawback” but that “the idea is that [they] don’t want to have teachers out”. Ultimately, Lombardi believed that “there is no perfect schedule” but that he and various teachers throughout MHS are approaching this situation by pinpointing the concepts they “like enough to fix the problems” within the current schedule.
Aside from the new schedule, changes to the STEM department within the school were discussed as well. Some parents were concerned over how the new 9th grade math curriculum which would begin with Math 1 and be followed by Math 2 and Math 3, would affect eighth graders in their current math classes. Parents also inquired on what role the current Summer Math Enrichment Program would the classes their students would be in. be STEM teachers including Kathryn Bizier, Cara Joyce, and Shereen Escovitz are currently meeting in teams to ensure that the math summer “enrichment [will] match the curriculum in the school.” Joyce also added that this new model “aligns with the real world” and will also enable math teachers to place students from other countries more accurately in math classes as well.
Parents also asked about how the current engineer classes would change as the current engineer teacher is retiring and why a honors engineer class was not being offered. Math teacher Escovitz explained how the reason why there was no distinction between the course was due to the boxed curriculum called Amatrol curriculum which is currently being utilized by the school.
Lombardi also spoke about the Parent Information Center with various parent attendees. He explained how Malden is a difficult district to run a Parent Information Center in due to “the amount of languages that come through the door”. He added that finding staff for the Center was the main issue but parents did pose the option of whether or not volunteers would be accepted. Further developments are yet to be made with Center.
Next, developments and current issues with technology in the school were discussed as well. One parent brought up the issue of the iBoss application in Chromebooks, explaining how the app only received a one and a half star rating and costs $30,000- an “absurd amount of money to pay for something that doesn’t work”. This parent inquired where the funding for iBoss was coming from and Lombardi responded by saying that the information technology from city to city in has merged over the past year; “it [didn’t] matter who [was] in control of it if it [didn’t] work”. There is a current update on the funding status of chromebooks and a “clear commitment to continuing the one-to-one endeavor” said Lombardi. He added that there are plans to outfit the incoming ninth graders with a new device; “something different...studier than the current Chromebook." The funding for this would come out of “the local budget and or potentially grant funding”.
Lastly, parents asked if there would be a Back to School night for parents and ninth graders next year as well as the opportunity to start college planning earlier than junior and senior year. Lombardi said that he was speaking to guidance counselors about including a sophomore college planning session for next year and that he hopes for their to be opportunities to provide parents more resources regarding the school such as giving parents the training to be able to navigate X2.