Falmouth Music department wins award, laments lack of department head

Falmouth High School music teacher Todd Fruth told the school committee that Falmouth students received a “spirit award” for their exemplary behavior and enthusiasm at a recent music competition in Washington, DC. Mr. Fruth then noted that the district’s music department does not have a department head to coordinate and guide teachers’ efforts. “Without the leadership, it really can be a struggle,” he said.

The department head position was eliminated in 2010.

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Elementary technology integration specialist Kristin Bergeron showed off several online projects that students executed with iPads, including creating their own e-books with photographs of original illustrations and a narrated voice-over.

Some members of the school committee expressed support for getting more digital devices into classrooms and perhaps creating an additional technology integration specialist position.

Others expressed concerns that online reading encourages skimming rather than deep reading skills. Technology director Wendy Haskell said there are many interactive tools, such as highlighters and flash card creation programs, that help students engage deeply with online texts.

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Director of curriculum Mark C. Wilson said the schools are expanding their pre-school curriculum, “Tools of the Mind,” into kindergarten. There is more role-playing and context-based learning in the new curriculum. “It aligns with how students learn and how teachers want to teach,” he said.

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Parents will learn about Tools of the Mind at kindergarten orientation on May 27. The cost for expanding the program is $3,500 per classroom, Mr. Wilson said.

As a requirement of the new curriculum, each classroom will have its own teacher’s aide (currently kindergarten aides are shared between two classrooms). This means there will be fewer aides available for the older grades.

The school currently has 15 kindergarten classes across four elementary schools. Next year there will be 17 classes. A total of 22 families from other towns have elected to send their children to kindergarten in Falmouth next year. Falmouth gets $5,000 when a child from another district attends school here.

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Later this month, school committee members will submit their end-of-cycle reviews of Superintendent Bonny L. Gifford’s first year.

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The school committee will now allow public comment following each agenda item, in addition to the time they allow at the beginning of their meeting. Comments at the beginning of the meeting can be on any topic. Comments following an agenda item discussion must pertain to that topic.

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Director of finance and facilities, Michael M. Ward, said the aging split rail fence at the North Falmouth Elementary School’s preschool playground will be replaced with something safer, perhaps a chain link fence. The playground directly abuts Old Main Road.

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Mr. Ward also reported that Carousel of Light will be allowed to draw power from the Mullen-Hall Elementary School, where it will temporarily be set up for the summer.

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About 180 people participated in the Mullen-Hall playground rejuvenation day on May 3, school committee member Alan Jacobs reported. The playground now has a new layer of wood chips and fresh paint. A new horizontal string of lights that illuminates in sequence at different speeds, challenging children to race it, has drawn particular enthusiasm at recess.

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Committee chairman Judith Fenwick noted that the first record of public education in Falmouth dates from 1715. She plans to hold “a big birthday party” for the public schools next year. 

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