Category Archives: Schools

MA schools ranked at top nationally

2015’s States with the Best and Worst School Systems

by Richie Bernardo

2014-Back-to-School-States-with-the-Best-and-Worst-School-Systems-BadgesUnless one is destined for the ranks of wildly successful college dropouts like Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, education remains the traditional route to professional and financial success for many Americans. Consider the median incomes for workers aged 25 and older in 2014. Those with a bachelor’s degree earned 65 percent more than those with only a high school diploma, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The data reveal that income potential grows — and chances of unemployment shrink — as one’s educational attainment improves.

And with school resuming session, many parents will be seeking the best school districts to secure their children’s academic success. When comparing their options, however, parents should recognize that the amount of available public funding is by no means a determinant of a school system’s quality, as our findings demonstrate, though money is certainly helpful.

Overall Rank


“School-System Quality” Rank

“Safety” Rank

1 Massachusetts 2 1
2 Colorado 1 47
3 New Jersey 5 9
4 Wisconsin 4 14
5 Kentucky 10 4
6 Vermont 6 12
7 North Dakota 3 46
8 Minnesota 9 16
9 Connecticut 7 28
10 Illinois 8 32
11 Virginia 11 14
12 Kansas 14 22
13 Iowa 12 39
14 Utah 16 17
15 New Hampshire 15 29
16 Maryland 19 17
17 Nebraska 17 26
18 Wyoming 13 41
19 Maine 20 13
20 Montana 18 32
21 North Carolina 24 6
22 Ohio 23 29
23 Florida 26 20
24 Indiana 22 50
25 Arkansas 21 42
26 Tennessee 28 29
27 Texas 31 19
28 Missouri 27 38
29 Pennsylvania 29 43
30 South Dakota 25 47
31 Washington 32 11
32 Michigan 30 37
33 Oklahoma 34 2
34 New York 33 27
35 Rhode Island 38 10
36 Georgia 35 20
37 Hawaii 36 5
38 Delaware 40 7
39 Alabama 39 36
40 Mississippi 45 8
41 Idaho 42 34
42 New Mexico 44 3
43 California 37 49
44 West Virginia 46 22
45 South Carolina 47 24
46 Oregon 41 45
47 Louisiana 43 44
48 Arizona 48 40
49 Nevada 50 25
50 District of Columbia 49 51
51 Alaska 51 35

David Ruggiero receives 2015 Maguire Award

This from Susan Maritan (personally, I love that marimba band, so my personal congratulations to Mr. R too!!) –

David Ruggiero Selected to Receive Robert C. Maguire Global Perspectives in Education Award

Last week members of the Robert C. Maguire Award Committee met to review the nominations submitted by the Medfield community for MCPE’s Robert C. Maguire Global Perspectives in Education Award.

This award, honoring the recently retired Superintendent, is given to a Medfield Public School staff member whose efforts embody Bob’s vision for further developing students’ global understanding and readiness to engage in the expanding global economy. The recipient is someone who inspires students to look beyond the town of Medfield and learn more about the global community through innovative programs and technologies. After reviewing the applications received, the award committee came to a consensus that David Ruggiero, a Medfield music teacher who teaches at Memorial and Dale, was the best candidate.

The members of the Bob Maguire Award Committee were extremely impressed by his passion and commitment to his students, music and the marimba program he started in the schools.

Mr. Ruggiero, fondly known as “Mr. R” by his students, wrote an MCPE grant proposal several years ago to start the Ngoma Dzakanaka Marimba Band. The marimba is an instrument from Zimbabwe, and the title of the band means “beautiful songs”. The grant was funded, and he has been leading the marimba band since its inception in January 2011.

“The introduction of the marimba band exposed our community beyond the usual confines of our music curriculum,” wrote one parent. “By bringing music from Zimbabwe into the schools of Medfield, Mr. R added a whole new dynamic and energy both to student learning and to concerts.  Kids connect to music, and our marimba band students and those who have heard them really connected to the rhythm and beat of the songs. Music, like history, art and language, can enhance the cultural proficiency of our schools and students. Mr. R has given us this gift and this insight.”

The nominator went on to say, “The marimba bands have helped with the Dale Street School fundraising for Zimbabwe and, in so doing, students have seen the connection between their work in school and the music.”

“Music is a powerful tool to build bridges with other cultures, and Mr. R has shown us what is possible. By integrating something diverse and unique into our school communities, he truly serves as a role model for others.”

Mr. Ruggiero will be recognized and presented with the award on Wednesday, May 27th at 7 PM at the Zullo Gallery when the Medfield Coalition for Public Education holds its annual meeting. The public is invited to attend.

The Medfield Coalition for Public Education (MCPE) is an independent, non-profit organization funded to provide system-wide support and academic enrichment for the Medfield Public Schools, with particular attention to academic needs that exceed the parameters of the school budget.

US News rankings

This today from the Superintendent explaining the new US News rankings.

Subject: US News Rankings

Hi All,


Just an FYI…The US News HS rankings came out today and it has caused issues statewide. They changed the methodology for this year and it has changed the rankings for many districts.


Medfield is ranked 6th in the State for college readiness. This is essentially the metric used for ranking High Schools and is one of the highest rankings ever in Medfield. Only Boston Latin (an exam school) and Hopkinton (also not given an overall ranking) are ahead of us. The others are charter schools. This is great news for our students and teachers.


Medfield is ranked 14th in the State for Math


Medfield is ranked 27th in the State for English


However, the change in methodology looks at the students deemed ” economically disadvantaged” by US News. That is 2% of our students or 4 kids in the grade level. The scores for our kids in this range did not make the threshold established by US News. Because of this they wont give us an overall ranking. This is frustrating knowing that last year we were a gold medal school and last June officials from AP contacted us because Medfield High School had the highest percentage of students in MA taking Advanced Placement Courses AND the highest average scores in MA on the exams.


Other districts that were not given overall rankings include:







Hamilton -Wenham





and many others typically ranked.


I just wanted you to have the info in case you are asked by residents. We let US News know to expect push back as many high performing districts in MA were not given overall rankings this year.





Jeffrey J. Marsden, Ed.D


Medfield Public Schools


Follow me on Twitter @JeffreyJMarsden

My first letter to the editor

Hi Pete – I was one of several music parents that signed a letter to the editor that appeared in the paper today. But for some reason, this fact: that 1/3 to 1/2 of Dale Street music students are missing from ensembles, was removed from the letter prior to publication (real data exists to back the statement up). Members of our Medfield community need to know how that the Dale Street music program – which feeds into our award-winning Blake and MHS music program — has already been negatively impacted by the pilot that was hastily rolled out this year. If the rate of music students missing from Dale Street ensembles continues, the future of our award-winning Medfield Music Program is at risk. If you can help with setting the record straight, I’d appreciate it. Thanks, Chris McCue Potts


Preserving our musical legacy – a letter to the editor: 

Since the days of Lowell Mason, the father of music education born in Medfield, generations of music educators, performers and professionals have followed him and called Medfield home.

In addition to our award-winning school ensembles, today Medfield has alumni and residents associated with prominent institutions like Metropolitan Opera, American Repertory Theater, Boston Symphony Orchestra, The Boston Conservatory, Berklee College of Music, New England Conservatory and Boston Ballet.

One can compare Medfield’s rich musical legacy to a historically significant home that needs to be protected from neglect so that it continues to contribute to town pride and character. But that’s easier said than done. Our music program was decimated about 25 years ago after music was pulled out of the school day – to the point that our MHS marching band had just 18 students (vs. 70 today). It took a Herculean effort to put music back in the school day, followed by 12-15 years of teacher dedication, volunteer efforts and community fundraising to restore the program to an acceptable level.

It’s not coincidental that Medfield’s high academic rankings and musical success have been on parallel paths since the full rollout of MCAS in 1999. The combination of strong academics, the arts, athletics, citizenship and cultural initiatives, has been providing the well-rounded education that families want, and is sought after by top colleges and employers.

But surprisingly, history is beginning to repeat itself. This past September, a pilot was launched under the radar that pulled 4th and 5th grade band, chorus and orchestra ensembles out of the school day impacting more than 320 children. The students now need to show up at 7:30 a.m. 1-2x a week placing a burden on many children and parents. On any given day, 1/2 to 1/3 of students are missing from their ensembles, and many children have dropped out entirely from the music program because of the early-morning start.

If Medfield continues to lose music students at the current accelerated rate, five years from now we will not have a sufficient number of children in the program to justify current levels of staffing, and future generations will be deprived of all the benefits that a Medfield music education now provides. Parents who only have elementary school-aged children (or younger) don’t know what’s truly at stake.

We know from research and alumni feedback that ensemble practices give children a greater sense of acceptance and community, help to relieve stress, teach students critical thinking, and improve students’ ability to focus and retain information. The ensembles also allow students to see that music could be a serious endeavor – even something they might pursue professionally one day – just like Lowell Mason, and everyone else who has followed after him.

A Boston College emeritus professor and three consultants (all associated with Sudbury schools) have been hired to conduct an evaluation of the Dale Street music pilot at a cost of $6,000, but the evaluation plan does not include capturing input from the community at large.

Town leaders, long-time residents, veterans, realtors, and many others have all said that the Medfield Music Program is a source of great community pride, yet it will continue to decay if something isn’t done soon to address the loss of student participation from music ensembles. Please join us in helping to protect Medfield’s rich music heritage at the very place where it takes root:  Dale Street School.

The easiest way to voice your support is by sending a note to by May 20 and it will be forwarded to school administrators, staff and consultants involved with evaluating the music pilot.


Medfield Music Parents:

Chris McCue Potts

Maria Baler

Sherri Goldman

Fran Pericles

Kathy Loranger

Marybeth Wagenseller

Barb FitzPatrick

Holly Mahoney

House budget passed

The Mass. Municipal Association has analyzed and sent out an alert on the House budget, and its inadequacies.  The main MMA issues continue to be the lack of proper financial support by the state for the towns, and mainly education funding.  The Governor’s budget proposed a $20/child increase in education funding, the House proposes a $25/child increase, and the MMA says it really should be $100/child, but at the very least a $50/child increase.

This was the MMA alert yesterday analyzing the House budget –

Thursday, April 30, 2015



Late yesterday afternoon, after 3 days of deliberation on 1096 amendments, the members of the House of Representatives unanimously adopted a trim $38.1 billion fiscal 2016 state budget plan that is nearly identical to the House Ways and Means draft (H. 3400) that was unveiled 2 weeks ago.

The House-passed budget would increase overall state expenditures by less than 3 percent, as the state seeks to close a projected $1.8 billion structural budget deficit by restraining spending and eliminating 4,500 state jobs through an early retirement program. The final House budget is several million dollars smaller than the budget filed by Governor Baker in March.

The action now turns to the state Senate. The Senate Ways & Means Committee is expected to release its proposed budget by mid-May, and the full Senate will pass its version before the end of the month.

The House budget provides strong progress on many important local aid priorities, while there are still a number of issues where further action or additional funding is needed.

Here is a summary and status of the key municipal and school funding issues in the fiscal 2016 state budget as adopted by House of Representatives on Wednesday:

In a major win for cities and towns, the House budget supports $979.8 million for UGGA, a $34 million increase over current funding – the same increase proposed by Governor Baker.  This would be the largest increase in discretionary municipal aid in nearly a decade.  Every city and town would see their UGGA funding increase by 3.6 percent.

In another victory for cities and towns, House members supported full funding for the Special Education Circuit Breaker program.  Their budget plan would provide $261.7 million, an $8.3 million increase above fiscal 2015, with the intention of fully funding the account.  This is a vital program that every city, town and school district relies on to fund state-mandated services.

Last November, former Gov. Patrick used his 9C budget powers to eliminate the $18.7 million increase regional school transportation reimbursements that the Legislature originally enacted for fiscal 2015, reducing the final amount to $51.5 million.  The Governor proposed level funding at $51.5.  Recognizing the importance of this funding, the final House budget would restore $5 million to bring regional transportation reimbursements up to $56.5 million.  A proposed amendment to increase funding by another $4 million did not pass during the House budget debate.

The House budget would restore $18.6 million to the Kindergarten Development Grant program.  The Governor’s budget would have eliminated all funding, and House members want to level-fund the current appropriation, at least for the next year.  This is an important account, because eliminating the $18.6 million would have jeopardized expanded kindergarten programs all throughout the state.

The House budget supports a $108.2 million increase in Chapter 70 education aid, with a provision providing every city, town and school district an increase of at least $25 per student.  This is $2.9 million more than the recommendation in the Governor’s budget submission, which included minimum aid of only $20 per student.  During the debate, the House did not adopt an amendment to raise minimum aid to $50 per student. Because most cities and towns only receive minimum aid, the MMA is calling for at least $50 per student minimum aid in the Legislature’s final budget.

The final House budget would add $1 million to increase fiscal 2016 reimbursements for the transportation of homeless students to $8.4 million.  While the account remains below the full reimbursement called for under the state’s unfunded mandate law, it would be the first increase since fiscal 2013.  The House did not pass a proposed amendment to fully fund the account.

Under state law, cities and towns that host or send students to charter schools are entitled to be reimbursed for a portion of their lost Chapter 70 aid.  The state fully funded the reimbursement program in fiscal 2013 and 2014, but is underfunding reimbursements by approximately $34 million this year.  Both the Governor and the House Ways and Means budgets would level-fund charter school reimbursements at $76.8 million, which would guarantee another major shortfall in fiscal 2016, and result in cutbacks for the majority of students who remain in the traditional school setting.  Increasing this account was a top priority for municipalities and school districts during the budget debate, but House members rejected an amendment that would have raised funding up to $130.5 million.  This will continue to be a major budget issue as debate turns to the Senate.

The House budget would level fund PILOT payments at $26.77 million, continue to fund library grant programs at $18.5 million, and restore funding for METCO to $20.14 million. During debate, the House adopted an amendment to add $1 million to the Shannon anti-gang grant program, providing a final appropriation of $6 million, which is still $1 million below current fiscal 2015 (post-9C) funding.

During the budget debate, Representatives approved an amendment adding an outside section that would prevent the practice of “pay the patient” by insurance companies, which undermines the ability of cities and towns to fund and operate effective and efficient ambulance services that are at the core of emergency medical response in Massachusetts. “Pay the patient” would force communities to pursue their own residents to recoup thousands of dollars in ambulance expenses, a system that is inefficient and subject to abuse.  The amendment would also clarify that municipalities are authorized to set a fair rate for ambulance services, preventing insurance companies from shifting costs to local property taxpayers through below-cost reimbursements.

During fiscal 2015, 156 cities and towns collected the local Community Preservation Act (CPA) surcharge and are eligible for state matching grants in fiscal 2016.  The Division of Local Services (DLS) estimates that the balance in the state trust fund will be sufficient to provide a first round match of only 18 percent of the surcharge levied by each city and town.  This would be the lowest state match in the program’s history.  Knowing this, House members voted to dedicate up to $10 million of any fiscal 2015 year-end state budget surplus to supplement the fiscal 2016 state match.

Please Call Your Senators Today and Urge them to Support Essential Funding for Municipal and Education Aid – Including the $34 Million Increase in Unrestricted Local Aid, Full Funding for the Special Education Circuit Breaker, Restoring Kindergarten Grants, and Adding Funds to Regional School Transportation

Please Explain How the House Budget Impacts Your Community, and Ask Your Senators to Build on this Progress with Further Increases for Charter School Reimbursements, Chapter 70 Minimum Aid, Regional School Transportation and Other Key Accounts

Thank You!

MCPE auction

The Medfield Coalition for Public Education’s online auction is on, with very personal items sure to please and interest Medfield kids, but act fast as the auction is over next Thursday –

MCPE’s Online Auction of Treasured Experiences opens TODAY, Thursday, March 26th, and runs through April 2nd!

Back by popular demand, MCPE is offering its most popular treasured experiences from auctions and raffles past.  Kids and parents alike love these one-of-a-kind items, and our teachers and administrators love to give back!  Please bid high on the items and allow MCPE to continue funding future grants that benefit Medfield schools! To bid on our great auction items, please visit our website

MSBA grant for Wheelock boiler

Letter this afternoon from the Massachusetts School Building Authority approving a grant to the town for the boiler replacement at the Wheelock School in the amount of $179,137 to $187,565 –

Massachusetts School Building Authority
Deborah B. Goldberg John K. McCarthy
Chairman, State Treasurer Executive Director

March 25, 2015

Mr. Michael J. Sullivan, Town Administrator
Town of Medfield
459 Main Street
Medfield, MA 02052

Re: Town of Medfield, Ralph Wheelock School

Dear Mr. Sullivan:

I am pleased to report that the Board of the Massachusetts School Building Authority (the
“MSBA”) voted to approve the Proposed Accelerated Repair Project (the “Proposed
Project”) for the Town of Medfield (the “Town”) for a boiler replacement project at the
Ralph Wheelock School.
The Board approved an estimated maximum Total Facilities Grant of $179,137, which
does not include any funds for potentially eligible owner’s or construction contingency
expenditures. In the event that the MSBA determines that any owner’s and/or
construction contingency expenditures are eligible for reimbursement, the maximum
Total Facilities Grant for the Proposed Project may increase to $187,565. The final grant
amount will be determined by the MSBA based on a review and audit of all project costs
incurred by the Town, in accordance with the MSBA’s regulations, policies, and
guidelines and the Project Funding Agreement. The final grant amount may be an
amount less than $179,137.
Pursuant to the terms of the MSBA’s Accelerated Repair Program, the Town has 90 days
to acquire and certify local approval for an appropriation and all other necessary local
votes or approvals showing acceptance of the cost, site, type, scope and timeline for the
Proposed Project. Upon receipt of the certified votes demonstrating local approval, the
MSBA and the Town will execute a Project Funding Agreement which will set forth the
terms and conditions pursuant to which the Town will receive its grant from the MSBA.
Once the Project Funding Agreement has been executed by both parties, the Town will be
eligible to submit requests for reimbursement for Proposed Project costs to the MSBA.
We will be contacting you soon to discuss these next steps in more detail, but in the
meantime, I wanted to share with you the Board’s approval of the Proposed Project for
the Town of Medfield for a boiler replacement project at the Ralph Wheelock School,
40 Broad Street, Suite 500 •Boston, MA 02109 •Tel: 617-720-4466 •Fax: 617-720-5260 •
March 25, 2015
Town of Medfield PF A Board Action Letter
and the Board’s authorization to execute a Project Funding Agreement for this Proposed

Cc: Legislative Delegation
Osler L. Peterson, Chair, Medfield Board of Selectmen
Christopher Morrison, Chair, Medfield School Committee
Dr. Jeffrey J. Marsden, Superintendent, Medfield Public Schools
Michael LaFrancesca, Director of Finance and Operations, Medfield Public
Alexandra Vresilovic, Owner’s Project Manager, Skanska USA Building, Inc.
Mike Trzcinski, Designer, Hesnor Engineering Associates, PLLC
File: 10.2 Letters