Friday, June 17, 2022

June 2022 Post

As the 2021-2022 school year comes to a close I want to thank the entire community for your ongoing support of our schools. This year brought some "normalcy" back and I fully anticipate we will reinstate our usual programs and operations in September. This blog post will touch upon the new elementary school project, the next Special Town Meeting, our new strategic plan, website/app refresh, and my thoughts about school rankings.

Reflecting on the past year, one can't help but think about the school vote in November. Thousands of residents attended the Special Town Meeting (STM) and 62% of them supported our proposed new elementary school project. Unfortunately, the project needed the super majority of 66% and it was defeated. As we move forward, the Medfield School Committee and I are energized to get back to the process, establish a new School Building Committee (SBC) and find a solution for our students and staff that the community can support. We look forward to working together with town officials and committees to make a new school or a renovated school a reality for our students and staff. We submitted a Statement of Interest (SOI) to Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) in April and anticipate we will also explore a process outside of the MSBA program. Stay tuned!

The next STM in Medfield will take place on June 21, 2022, at MHS. Medfield will finally get an opportunity to vote on the use/development of the Medfield State Hospital. This STM also has implications for the Medfield Public Schools. The project will provide $20 million for infrastructure that will eliminate this huge liability to town, and hopefully free up funds to advance our new/renovated school project. Although the project may increase our student enrollment by 60 students, the developer has pledged $1 million to the Medfield Public Schools to mitigate any costs associated will an enrollment increase.

Next year we will begin the strategic planning process to replace our “Medfield 2021” plan. The strategic planning process will provide many opportunities for parent and community input that will help shape the direction of the Medfield Public Schools for the next five years. Please watch for participation opportunities in the fall. Also, watch for a "refresh" of our website and app. Please remember to download the Medfield Public Schools app in the Apple Store and Google Play.


Lastly, I'd like to share some thoughts on the school rankings debate that happens each year. In April, U.S. News & World Report released its annual High School Rankings, comparing nearly 2,400 public high schools across the country and ranking them nationally and within each state. We are very proud of another impressive ranking this year for Medfield High School: #20 among all public high schools in Massachusetts and #640 nationally. That success is a tribute to the hard work of our students and the families, teachers, and other staff who support them – not only at the high school but at all levels of the Medfield Public Schools.


When lists like these are published, most notably by USN&WR and Boston Magazine, we often hear a range of comments from members of the community. Some celebrate the honor for our school. Others raise concerns about how much our high school’s ranking has fluctuated over the years, and question whether those increases or decreases reflect changes in the performance of the school itself.


It’s important to understand some context about these lists – including how they are similar or different from each other, and what they do and don’t tell us about student outcomes:


  • The magazines use different lists of schools in their ranking system. While Boston Magazine reviews Massachusetts public high schools only within Route 495, not including charter schools, USN&WR includes a broader geographic reach across the Commonwealth and does include charter and exam schools. 

  • In calculating their rankings, the magazines also use different methodologies. The two formulas include different sets of indicators and assign different “weights” to each indicator. For example, the most significant factor in the USN&WR ranking is Advanced Placement (AP) exams. This scale weighs not only the number of seniors taking AP exams but also provides additional weighting for students earning a passing score (3+) and those who earn passing scores on multiple AP exams. Boston Magazine takes a more simple approach, ranking the school’s overall AP passage rate in comparison to the overall passage rate of peer institutions across the state. 


  • Both ranking systems sometimes change their methodology from one year to the next, adding or removing certain indicators, or changing the relative weight of each. For example, Boston Magazine’s rankings used to factor in per-pupil expenditures, the number of sports and clubs offered at the school, and the number of college advisors, none of which are included today. These variations make it far less relevant to compare any school’s ranking in years that used different calculations.


These factors alone contribute significantly to why, even in the same year, MHS may have a very different ranking on the two scales. In 2015, MHS earned one of its highest-ever ranking in Boston Magazine (#12) and its lowest-ever ranking in USN&WR (#52). Of course, very slight variations in student performance data – both here in Medfield and in every other community – also can contribute to changes in ranking from one year to the next. In most years, high schools are separated on the lists by a fractional difference in the ranking systems’ scores. It is worth noting that AP scores contribute significantly to both of these rating scales, and the approach that each high school takes to these national exams – including which courses are offered, which students take the exams, and when they take them – also can have a significant influence on the rankings. 


To help the community understand more about these ranking systems, Director of Instruction & Innovation Christine Power made a presentation to the School Committee. I encourage anyone who is interested in a more detailed analysis to watch a video of the meeting (this agenda item begins at 1:06) and review the accompanying slide deck. As Dr. Power notes in her presentation, we can be encouraged by trend lines (see below) that show that overall, MHS’s rankings on both scales have remained fairly consistent over the past decade or more. Even when the ranking changes significantly in a single year – whether upward or downward on the lists – our analysis suggests that shift does not indicate a significant shift in the academic performance of MHS students or in the overall quality of the school. 


At the school and district level, we use these ranking systems as yet another set of data points to monitor progress, and we continue to track the comparison of MHS to neighboring high schools over time. However, given the limitations I outlined above, we also do not overemphasize the significance of our high school’s relative ranking in a particular year. Instead, we conduct our own internal analyses that include an even broader set of indicators than those used in the ranking systems – including SAT, MCAS, graduation rates, AP participation and performance, college-going rates, and the degree to which our curriculum, instruction, and assessment practices are aligned with state and district expectations. We review the data and are always considering changes in our approach to teaching and learning based on what we learn. Ultimately, these internal measures will drive our decision-making far more than any magazine article.

In keeping with our core work of developing “the whole child”, we also focus deeply on other measures of school and student success beyond academic performance. In recent years, we have prioritized students’ social-emotional learning (SEL) and overall wellness, recognizing that students must be physically, mentally, and emotionally ready to learn and thrive. Our progress in this critical area was recognized by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) in its letter earlier this year continuing the accreditation of MHS. The report commended a “concerted effort on the part of faculty and administrators to promote school-wide habits, skills, and mindsets that build students' social, emotional, and academic competencies through social-emotional learning (SEL) and other related personalized learning programs (e.g., advisory, RISE) to foster strong relationships between students and staff.” We take great pride in this feedback, even though it is one that no magazine ranking system takes into account.   


A little healthy competition between neighboring school districts and communities is always motivating and clearly a good conversation piece. We can all consider the consistent ranking of MHS as one of the top public high schools in Massachusetts as a source of community pride. But I caution us all against focusing solely on these rankings. To do so would be a disservice to the hard work and success of the students and the PreK-12 educators behind those rankings.

Thank you again and I hope you have a great summer!


Jeff Marsden

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

June 2020

The horrible and tragic killing of George Floyd has once again brought the longstanding issue of race and injustice to the forefront of our lives. Scenes of peaceful protests, violent protests, words that bring people together, and words that divide us are plastered on our television screens and social media feeds. Our kids are watching and listening. 

While I was in my doctoral program at Boston College, we spent an enormous amount of time reading and discussing issues of race and social justice. I will never forget a discussion I had with a classmate, friend, and colleague that is African-American. He said to me, “ One thing you will never have to do as a father is to tell your son to keep his hands on the wheel when he gets pulled over. In fact, that is the first thing I told my son when he got his license.”  My son is now 18 years old and I’ve never told him that he needs to keep his hands on the wheel when he is pulled over. When people say that race is not an issue, I share my colleague’s story because people can at least relate to that concrete example. That conversation took place in 2004, we certainly have a long way to go.

Growing up in a small city, race, and ethnicity were never part of the conversation in our schools. The city’s Catholic churches were all designated by ethnic background. The Irish, Portuguese, Polish, and French all had their own church. In elementary school, black kids, brown kids, and white kids were in the same classes and everyone played together. Somewhere around middle school and high school black and brown kids sat together in the cafeteria while all of the white kids sat together. It just happened that way. The problem was that no one ever talked about it...never. It wasn’t until I read (and highly recommend)  Beverly Daniel Tatum’s book, “ Why Are All The Black Kids Sitting Together in The Cafeteria?” did I begin to reflect on my own experiences growing up and how that shaped my thinking through my K-12 years. If we are truly honest with ourselves we all have some implicit bias. Tatum’s work, along with Pollock’s Everyday Anti-Racism (A former Blake MS book group read) can really help with reflection and self-examination of these issues. 

Unlike my experience in school, in Medfield, we feel that we have a responsibility to address these issues with our instruction and learning. It’s no secret that we lack racial diversity in our community. In fact, two years ago was the first time our student population was below 90% white. In the 2018-2019 school year, we began a Civil Rights Self Evaluation Review Committee that includes PreK-12 representation of teachers, parents, and administrators. This committee has begun to review the curriculum and practices within our district. We developed and trained our teachers on the Medfield Model for Evaluation of Bias Checklist. This tool is used when new curricula or materials will be introduced to our students. Our school libraries are beginning to be infused with books that are culturally sensitive and bring different perspectives to our students. Since early February, 20 teachers have participated in an onsite (now a zoom) 10-week college course on Cultural Proficient Teaching. Our leadership team is scheduled for a full-day workshop in August on supporting Cultural Proficient Teaching with follow up professional development during the year. Our strategic plan also addresses the issue of student diversity. This is clearly a focus of our district and we feel these changes can make a difference, but like our country, we still have a long way to go.

This topic is not easy or comfortable. Please take some time to talk with your children and help them process these recent events.  I’ve provided a link that might be of help as our country continues to grapple with these issues. Now more than ever it is important to remember that our kids are watching and listening. 

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

January 2020

Happy New Year! I hope everyone has a safe and healthy 2020.

This blog post will provide an update on the Dale Street Project and the Fiscal Year 2021 Budget. Please remember to follow me at @JeffreyJMarsden and @DaleStProject for updates on Twitter. Search #medfieldps to see all of the great experiences happening in our schools. Don't forget to join the over 1,300 people that have downloaded our new app from the Apple Store or Google Play. Search "Medfield Public Schools, MA"  

Click here to see some recent Medfield Public Schools' news stories!

Dale Street Project Update

School Committee Chair Anna Mae O'Shea Brooke sharing at a recent visioning meeting.
The important visioning process continues to move forward. The Education Visioning Group consists of teachers, parents, town officials, administrators, and community members. This group has been working with consultant David Stephen to begin the visioning process for a new elementary school. The process will continue on January 28th and again on February 4th. The February 4th meeting will also include the second Community Forum beginning at 7:00 PM in the Dale Street Cafeteria. This will give anyone in the community an opportunity to ask questions and give feedback. A third Community Forum will be on February 24th at 7:00 PM in the Dale Street Cafeteria.

Last week, a design team from Arrowstreet met with all teachers and staff to hear about their learning goals and priorities. This information will be used as the basis for the creation of the Dale Street Educational Plan. This plan is required by the Massachusetts Schoool Building Authority (MSBA) and is a key document in the design process. Also, members of the design team, our project manager, the Chair of the School Building Committee, Mike Quinlan, and I met with the Medfield Energy Committee to discuss sustainability features for the potential new school.

Two major decisions related to the project will take place during the spring; site selection and grade configuration. Our focus for site selection was on town-owned land with potential for school construction. The following sites were reviewed: Red Gate Farm, McCarthy Park, Hospital Hill/Sledding Hill, Hospital Campus, Dale Street School (existing site), and Wheelock site (land behind the school). It was determined that the only two viable sites are the Dale Street site and the Wheelock site. More analysis and public input will be done on both sites prior to any decision. Another major decision is related to the grade configuration of the new school. The MSBA has given us two options; a Grades 4 and 5 school or a Grades 3,4, and 5 school. Projected student enrollment, teacher/staff input, as well as parent/community input will all be considered before any decision is made. To participate in the Dale Street School grade configuration survey click here.

The Dale Street School Project website can be found here.

FY21 Initial Budget

It is that time of year again as we begin to build the budget for the 2020-2021 school year or also called the Fiscal Year 2021 Budget. After many meetings with principals, directors and department leaders, we presented an initial budget to the Medfield School Committee on December 19th. School Committee members Jess Reilly and Meghan Glenn are serving on the FY21 Budget Subcommittee.  This version of the budget is our first pass "draft" which includes additional personnel and supplies requested from each building. The current budget increase stands at 4.02%. The FY21 Public Hearing will take place on January 30th at 7:30 PM in the Lowell Mason Auditorium at MHS. All are welcome and encouraged to attend. 

The Initial FY21 Budget presentation and a detailed line item FY21 Budget can be found here.

Did you know?

Our SEL Task Force at a recent meeting. This group of students, parents, teachers, administrators, and community members is tackling important issues such as student and teacher wellness, school schedules, and student use of mobile devices.
  • You can now access the same documents and informational items the Medfield School Committee receives prior to each meeting. Many items of interest can be found here.
  • The Office of Social Emotional Learning has a great website with outstanding resources for students and parents including Challenge Success and SEL Task Force. Click here.
  • Medfield is a member of INTERFACE- a referral service for mental health support. Their helpline is 617-332-3666  X1411 or 888-244-6843 X1411.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

November Post

School Cancellations, Delays, Dismissals...

We will once again utilize the Blackboard-Connect System to notify parents if school is closed, delayed, or dismissed early. The phone call will be sent to each household and parent cell phone number that is currently on file with the district. will be here soon.

In addition to the phone call, the announcement will appear on:
  • A push notification from our App (Download from the Apple Store/Google Play-This will be done first!
  • Twitter- Follow me @JeffreyJMarsden
  • Television Stations: Boston 25, WBZ 4, WCVB 5, and WHDH 7
  • Our district website:
Please remember that there will be times when school is not cancelled, delayed, or dismissed early and the weather is still inclement. Those days will feature slower travel for buses and cars, but will not necessarily require a change in the normal schedule. Important:  If you feel it is unsafe for travel, you always have the option to keep your child home.

Friday, October 11, 2019

October Post

We have had a great start to the 2019-2020 school year! This blog post will feature an update on the Dale Street Project, a money-saving energy initiative and our new Director of Instruction and Innovation.  Please remember to follow me on Twitter@JeffreyJMarsden and follow #medfieldps to see all of the wonderful learning experiences happening in your schools! A special welcome to our families that are new to Medfield.
IMPORTANT- The Town's EEE curfew will be moved to 6:00 on October 15th

New App is Launched!

Dale Street School Project

The Dale Street Project continues to move forward. Next week School Building Committee Chair Mike Quinlan, School Committee member Leo Brehm, Principal Steve Grenham, Director of Finance Michael La Francesca and I will be attending a Massachusetts School Building Authority meeting that will decide a "shortlist" of architects. Please see the graphic below for more information.

Upgrade to Save Over $90,000

We are pleased to announce that the Medfield Public School District will save an estimated $91,000 per year in energy costs thanks to a project that will replace all of the light bulbs and several fixtures in each of the district's five schools.
In total, all 6,363 light bulbs will be replaced with ENERGY STAR Certified LED light bulbs at Medfield High School, Blake Middle School, Memorial School, Dale Street School, and Wheelock School. There will also be dozens of outdated light fixtures replaced as part of the project that began in early August and is expected to be completed by the end of October. Eversource in partnership with Illuminate Mass and Commonwealth Electric Company, fully funded the project, with no cost to the district.
LED light bulbs are said to use less energy and last longer than traditional light bulbs. In addition to funding the new bulbs and fixtures, Eversource is also paying for the recycling and disposal of all the old bulbs and fixtures that were replaced.
These new LED lights have truly made our schools brighter, not only aesthetically, but in our efforts to help make our schools as green and environmentally friendly as possible. We thank Eversource and its partners for their generosity in providing this tremendous service at absolutely no cost to the district. 
Through energy audits provided by Illuminate Mass, the district is estimated to save approximately $200,000 in equipment and labor costs due to the project. In addition, once all of the new fixtures and bulbs are installed by Commonwealth Electric, the district is estimated to save an additional $90,078 in annual energy costs. Special thanks to Director of Facilities Amy Colleran for spearheading this project!

Medfield Resident (and Parent) Christine Power hired as the Director of Instruction and Innovation
We are excited that Christine Power has been hired as the district’s new Director of Instruction and Innovation! Mrs. Power holds a Master of Education in Learning and Teaching from the Harvard Graduate School of Education and is a PhD Candidate at Boston College with a focus in Curriculum and Instruction. The Director of Instruction and Innovation position has been open for the last year so we’re pleased to welcome Mrs. Power and the experience she brings to this important role. Bringing innovation into the curriculum is important in order for our district to keep up with the constantly changing environment of education.

In this new role, Mrs. Power will work directly with the district’s faculty and administrators to focus and reflect on curriculum development and teacher practice. This will include evaluating how assessments in the district impact curriculum and exploring meaningful initiatives for teacher professional development.

Prior to returning to Medfield, Mrs. Power was the Director of Practicum Partnerships and Professional Development at Boston College’s Lynch School of Education where she worked with pre-service and in-service PK-12 teachers to improve their practice.

"Through my previous position at Medfield High School, I know that I love the K-12 environment and the Medfield district," Power said.  "Since I’ve returned, I’ve been able to see Medfield’s increased focus on innovation and the expanded opportunities for teachers to think beyond what has been considered traditional curriculum and instruction. I was excited to be given the opportunity to return and make a difference and I hope to help the district build upon all the great initiatives I’ve seen since my return."

Mrs. Power has served on the boards of the Massachusetts Association of Colleges of Teacher Education and the New England Research Organization (NEERO). She participated in numerous Department of Elementary and Secondary Education task forces and presented and presented at several national and regional conferences on the topic of teacher development and assessment.

The first Superintendent Parent Advisory of the year is on October 16th at 9:30 in the Blake Middle School Library. All parents are welcome!

Thursday, April 11, 2019

April Update

This April Update will have important FY20 Budget information, a recap of Design Your Learning Day, the recent One Love training at MHS and important links for parents. Don't forget to visit #medfieldps or Twitter or Google to see all of the great experiences our kids are having in the Medfield Public Schools! I wish all of you an awesome April break!

FY20 Budget Update

The Medfield School Committee voted unanimously to support a revised, lower FY20 budget proposal to present at Medfield Town Meeting later this month. The Warrant Committee also voted to support the budget at it's March 29th meeting.
The revised budget included a reduction of the proposed budget increase from 4.54% to 3.99%. The reduction will help the town to bring a balanced budget to residents at Town Meeting on April 29th and avoid the need for an override.The revised budget now comes in at $36,471,424, a 3.99% increase from the FY19 budget of $35,070,766.
I am pleased that the school committee has accepted the newly proposed budget for FY20 and we are confident that we are presenting a sound, balanced school budget for Medfield residents to consider at Town Meeting. Our goal each year is to always look for ways to keep our budget as low as possible, while still being able to provide an exceptional education and learning environment for our students.
The reductions in the revised proposal, which total $190,030, included freezing the FY19 Budget on March 25 and using the $85,000 in savings toward the special education tuition rates in the FY20 Budget, and taking out a $30,000 increase to the technology budget. There were also individual retirement and leave of absence personnel matters that were resolved that further reduced the district's spending.  A new kindergarten teacher will be added to address increased enrollment and multiple part-time positions would be added to the special education department, including a teacher, transitional coordinator, and psychologist.

Medfield School Committee Chair Anna Mae O' Shea Brooke added, "The goal at the beginning of this process was to put a school budget forward to residents that meet the needs of all students and staff for the next fiscal year and beyond. I believe this budget has met that goal and hopefully residents agree at Town Meeting in a few weeks."
The overall increase to the FY20 budget would help to maintain most current staffing levels and programs district-wide. The budget would also allow the district to fund increases in teacher salaries and compensation and all other collective bargaining agreements, fund increases to student transportation costs and fund increases in professional development initiatives. Please remember to attend Town Meeting on April 29th at 7:00 in the MHS gym.
Additional budget documents can be found here.

Design Your Learning Day-2019

Medfield's Design Your Learning Day (DLD) was held at Medfield High School on April 4 and featured over 100 professional development programs, activities and education sessions that teachers could take part in throughout the day. There were also multiple speakers who gave presentations about a variety of educational and experiential subjects. Teachers from across Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New Hampshire traveled to Medfield to take part in the event.
In 2012, Medfield's DLD began as a small professional development day for Medfield teachers focused on technology. Since then, the program has grown and evolved to include teachers from across Massachusetts and other states and covers a variety of topics and activities focused on good teaching practices, social and emotional well-being for students and teachers and the latest in education technology trends.
Our teachers and teachers from districts all over the region look forward to this event every year. Being able to bring so many educators together to collaborate and learn from one another truly is a special experience. The DLD Committee of Neal Sonnenberg, Diane Horvath, Kerry Cowell, Kate Jones, Ann Lodge, and Stephanie Worthley did an amazing job planning this event. There were also about 25 student volunteers who, on their day off from school, helped out during the event.
Some of the sessions offered this year included a yoga class, a cooking class, a data analytics course, a program on examining grading practices, sessions on coding, a student-led course on E-sports, a student-led session on LBGTQ inclusivity and programs about augmented and virtual reality.
Neal Sonnenberg, Technology Integration Specialist summed it up best, "DLD gives teachers the freedom to choose which topics they would like to learn about and offers insight into what other school districts are teaching and how they approach education and learning. The teachers get an opportunity to learn from one another while giving each other new ideas and methods to use in their own classrooms." 
The day started in the auditorium with five teachers giving short speeches called "Passion Pitches" to those in attendance. The attendees then broke off into four different sessions that they chose to participate in throughout the day. At the end of the day, a short video presentation done by student volunteers was shown giving the highlights of the event and a final Passion Pitch was given to wrap things up.
The DLD Passion Pitch presenters Nat Vaughn, Principal of Blake Middle School in Medfield; Jed Stefanowicz, Natick Public Schools and Natick Innovation Fellow; Kim Zajac, Norton Public Schools Speech and Language Pathologist; Melinda Lohan, Medfield High School Social Studies Teacher; Julie Lowerre, 5th Grade Teacher at Dale Street School in Medfield; Rayna Freedman, 5th Grade Teacher Mansfield Public Schools. 

"One Love"Training for Healthy Relationships

The One Love Foundation recently visited Medfield High School and gave an in-depth presentation to seniors about understanding the difference between healthy and unhealthy relationships. Founded in 2010, the One Love Foundation works to educate people about how to maintain healthy relationships, while teaching them about the signs of unhealthy relationships that they or their friends and loved ones may be in.

On Tuesday, April 2, all Medfield High School seniors attended a video presentation by the One Love Foundation and then broke into small discussion groups led by student facilitators. This initiative is led by Mr. Parga, Principal and Dr. Worthley, the Director of Social-Emotional Learning.

"In a few months our seniors will no longer be walking the halls of Medfield High School and many will find themselves away from home at college or in the workforce," Worthley said. "As they venture off on their own, some will soon begin new relationships. We want all of our graduating seniors to know how to build a healthy relationship, how to get out of relationships that aren't working and how to identify unhealthy behaviors. One Love's presentation does a great job of teaching those important skills to young adults."

The week before the presentation, a One Love staffer came to speak with 32 MHS seniors to train them to be group facilitators. The group facilitators were taught how to lead the discussion with their peers following the video presentation. They were taught what warning signs to look out for and how to help someone who may be in an unhealthy relationship.

The 40-minute video, shown to the approximately 190 students in the senior class, follows the story of a girl in college who is in a relationship with her boyfriend. The girl's friends and family members present her with warning signs that she is in a bad relationship. After the video, the students broke out into the group discussions led by the student facilitators.

"The group discussions really resonated with the students because they were able to candidly talk about these issues among their peers," Mr. Parga said. "I want to commend the students for their maturity in dealing with this serious topic and hopefully they all took away the fact that there is help available if you find yourself in a bad relationship."

Some warning signs of an unhealthy relationship include:
  • An imbalance of power in the relationship, a feeling of ownership and having one partner isolate the other partner from their friends and family
  • A partner who is controlling in general. Tries to control who their partner talks to, where they go, who they're friends with, etc.
  • Physical or verbal abuse
  • On again, off again relationships
How to help a friend in an unhealthy relationship:
  • Be supportive
  • Talk to your friend or loved one
  • Focus the discussion on the unhealthy behaviors
  • Don't place blame on the friend or loved one
  • Offer solutions and help in the future
For more information, visit the One Love Foundation's website here.

Important Links