Friday, October 20, 2017

The Board of Ed meets Monday and Tuesday

The Board of Education holds its October meeting Monday and Tuesday of next week; the agenda is posted here.
The Monday evening portion is the MCAS results discussion as well as the discussion on district and school accountability measures. And yes, I'm going to go to that, as well, because it's necessary.

Tuesday morning is their regular meeting; the briefing from the Acting Commissioner is here. Along with the usual round of Acting Commissioner, Chair, Secretary, and public comment, they'll elect the vice-chair (memo on that here).
We'll hear a recap of the previous night's presentation followed by discussion of the competency determination, aka the MCAS graduation requirement, usually taken in grade 10; at the previous meeting, Acting Commissioner Wulfson spoke of the need for an interim step on the transition to the grading standards of the new test, and this looks like more on that.
There's a discussion of the FY19 budget (with no backup. And by the way, I'd be interested in the revenue stream the Department runs on).
There's an update coming on the Level 5 districts and schools. This includes an update on the search for a new Southbridge receiver; they plan to have the position posted in mid-October...UPDATE: I am told the position is posted. There are also updates on the Dever and UP Academy in Boston, Morgan Community in Holyoke, and Parker Elementary in New Bedford. It's interesting to note that in two of those cases, the schools are now operating under their district superintendent, 'though reporting directly to DESE. There's also a schedule of upcoming presentations, which includes one of the Springfield Empowerment Zone (Interesting, as it isn't under a level 5 designation).
There's a report on the revoking of educator licenses (this came up during the revisions to licensure regulations), on which the Globe reported today. I'm interested if the increase in the revoking of licenses is as a result of increased reporting or something else.
Among the reports going to the Board (but not for discussion) is one on school breakfast.

Liveblogs next week! 

Monday, October 16, 2017

So how is this going to work?

MASC posted a "just the facts" piece on how the accountability and test bit is going to work this year. With the release of scores and levels--what there are--being released Wednesday, we thought it would be timely. Nothing in this will be news to regular readers here, but you might find a more boiled down version useful. We've also put it up as a PDF here.
Nothing there (or here) is arguing in favor (or against) testing, the new MCAS, the ESSA plan, accountability levels, or the like. This is just the "what's going to happen" version.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Worcester meetings this week

Two Worcester school meetings this week:
  • The Governance subcommittee continues their power drive through policies with a meeting on Tuesday at noon (very conducive to public input). Note that this section includes those on students (J), on negotiations (H), facilities (F), community relations (K), and educational agency relations (L). Most of the policies are MASC boilerplate. Interesting that the superintendent's chief of staff (I have to check the org chart; I didn't know there was such a position) is being given the power to approve WPS statements.

The School Committee meets Thursday at 7 pm with an executive session at 6. In executive session, there are still negotiations with custodians, computer techs, IAs, and educational secretaries, plus there is a teacher discipline case and pending litigation.

MASC will be out to give a series of awards to community members and to Mayor Petty, who is this year's All-State School Committee winner in Division IX (urbans). 

The report of the superintendent is on nursing in the 21st century. There are the usual beginning of year appointments, resignations, and retirements. 
There is a response that the Capstone project--which is the big AP push--was funded in the current year budget; a short response on the wraparound coordinators working at schools; a response on the QUEST program at QCC; a response on the "Seeds to STEM" program from WPI; and a response on improved manufacturing options

There's also a response on possible federal grant impacts, which begins with "Federal initiatives are very much in a state of flux," which may be the understatement of the administration. 

There is an update on the  "management plan activities" on the PCB situation at Doherty and Burncoat. The committee (again?) proposes to review the resolutions before the Delegate Assembly of MASC in November. There's a proposed building fee change (no report) and the close of the FY18 books (also no report as yet).
The administration is proposing participating in the model Educator Evaluation system (?no backup?).

There are a series of donations.

Mr. O'Connell wants to invite a representative from MNA to tour the schools; to modify the McKinney-Vento grant to include hurricane impacts (uh...); to investigate licensure options for those coming from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands; and to ask DESE to extend the October 1 count to later, considering those who may be evacuating elsewhere.
Miss Biancheria wants to discuss the Community Addiction Response Program.

I'm also confused by a series of financial responses coming in from Mr. O'Connell and Miss Biancheria from the last meeting, as there were no fiscal reports on the last agenda, nor any items filed. There's a chart from the Operational Services Division of tuition rates. There's the Educational Divisions supplies account from the FY18 budget. There's an explanation of the changes in the administration account from FY17 to FY18. And there's a report on the Environmental Systems Management. These all feel like budgetary questions, coming during second quarter; did someone just review their budget now?

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

DESE Education Forum in Abington

I'm in Abington tonight in their gorgeous brand-new K-12 school for an educational forum tonight at which Acting Commissioner Wulfson is speaking. It's entitled "K-12 Education Update: How the state and school districts work together to serve your child."
Updating as we go...
Abington Superintendent Peter Schafer welcomes people to the new school and introduces Acting Commissioner Wulfson.
Wulfson says he'll speak about what the Department does and leave time for questions.

Speaking of school funding formulas, Kansas is back

Their state Supreme Court struck down their changed formula as inadequate:
The court said in a much-anticipated ruling that the state's $293 million spending increase after an earlier ruling failed to provide its students with an "adequate" public education. The state's legislature now has until July 2018 to come up with a new funding formula, according to the ruling. The state is spending close to $4.3 billion on K-12 in the current fiscal year.
The legislature, already dealing with a series of spending cuts after a years-long revenue shortfall, will now have to figure out how to raise more money to spend on its public schools. Legislators have been reluctant to raise taxes, though a growing chorus of teachers and parents in the state have pushed for more spending on schools.
It's worth noting that part of what the Legislature tried to do was tie the new funding up in a lot of requirements. 

Friday, October 6, 2017

Pumpkin Spice has officially gone too far

h/t Dan Gleason

Have a good weekend. 

Update on the Strategic Planning Committee OML Complaint

I'm beginning to think I should have labelled these as episodes.
When I last posted, I was waiting to see if I would get a response to my complaint by close of the allotted 14 day window, Tuesday, October 3.
Note, incidentally, that complaints are filed first with the body against whom the complaint is being made; it's right there in the first line of the FAQ on the Attorney General's page:
Individuals who allege a violation of the Open Meeting Law must first file a complaint with the public body alleged to have violated the OML.
emphasis is NOT added
Tuesday came and went.
I did not.
Wednesday and Thursday also came and went.
I did not.

Today, I received the following in the mail:

After Bowditch and Dewey letterhead and address, it says: 
Dear Ms. Novick: I'm enclosing a copy of our response to the Open Meeting Law Complaint Form which you prepared and which is dated September 19, 2017. Apparently, you have not yet filed this Complaint with the Attorney General's office.
As you will note, the so-called "Worcester Public Schools Strategic Planning Committee" is not subject to the Open Meeting Law.
Very truly yours,
Michael P. Angelini

Thus, before we get to the enclosure, we have at least two issues: the time is overdue, and the responding attorney does not know the process of how open meeting law complaints are handled in Massachusetts (it goes to the body before the AG). 

Here is the page and a half enclosure; I'll type up the text below. 

Re: Complaint of Tracy Novick regarding alleged violation of Open Meeting Law

Dear Attorney General Healey:
We represent the Worcester Educational Collaborative ("WEC") and the Worcester Regional Research Bureau ("WRRB"), which are the organizers of the so-called "Worcester Public Schools Strategic Planning Committee," the subject of an Open Meeting Law Complaint filed by Tracy Novick.
WEC is an operating division of the United Way of Central Massachusetts, an independent and qualified 501(c)(3) organization. Its mission is "to engage the community in fulfilling its responsibility to ensure that excellence is education is available to all public school students and that they are prepared for success in college, career and life." WRRB is a 501(c)(3) organization which "conducts independent, non-partisan research and analysis of public policy issues to promote good governance and informed public debate and decision making."
Neither WEC nor WRRB are controlled, managed or affiliated with any political or governmental body.

WEC and WRRB have organized a strategic planning exercise, which includes various members of the Worcester community, to review public education in Worcester and to formulate a plan for excellence. This "Strategic Planning Committee is not a public body, is not advisory to a public body and has no power to implement any plan or action. It is not subject to the Open Meeting Law. It receives no financial support from the City of Worcester or any other governmental organization. The Committee's work has been funded by contributions from local individuals and organizations and by a grant from the Barr Foundation. It operates with complete independence.
The Committee's findings and recommendations will ultimately be presented to the Worcester community, including the Worcester School Committee, the Worcester City Counsel [sic], the Superintendent of Schools and the City Manager. These findings and recommendations will be advisory only.
Please contact me with any questions regarding the Complaint or this response.

(signature and so forth)

Public bodies are what are required to abide by the Open Meeting Law. Here--in full--is how Mass General Law Chapter 30A, Section 18 (the actual Open Meeting Law) defines a "public body" (emphasis mine):
''Public body'', a multiple-member board, commission, committee or subcommittee within the executive or legislative branch or within any county, district, city, region or town, however created, elected, appointed or otherwise constituted, established to serve a public purpose; provided, however, that the governing board of a local housing, redevelopment or other similar authority shall be deemed a local public body; provided, further, that the governing board or body of any other authority established by the general court to serve a public purpose in the commonwealth or any part thereof shall be deemed a state public body; provided, further, that ''public body'' shall not include the general court or the committees or recess commissions thereof, bodies of the judicial branch or bodies appointed by a constitutional officer solely for the purpose of advising a constitutional officer and shall not include the board of bank incorporation or the policyholders protective board; and provided further, that a subcommittee shall include any multiple-member body created to advise or make recommendations to a public body.
Both the Worcester City Council and the Worcester School Committee are public bodies.
And here's, again the last line of the final full paragraph:

These findings and recommendations will be advisory only.
A body created to advise a public body on something under its purview is itself a public body, subject to the Open Meeting Law.

It will take me a few days to write up the history here, but I'll be appealing to the Attorney General.