Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Open question

As I watched the students walk out of high schools across the country today, this kept going through my head:

"Heart of the Commonwealth, represent!"

I'd always recommend you read Charlie Pierce in Esquire, but today's column has both some nice reflections from his father's time as a Worcester Public School administrator:
My father worked in what were then called “inner-city” schools. When he left the classroom—he actually taught fourth-period Bio—he became the vice-principal on whom disciplinary matters fell. He was notably tough, but he also was a realist. He had a running feud with one phys-ed teacher whose class was scheduled for the first thing in the morning. He kept sending kids who fell asleep down to my father’s office. The first thing my father asked them was whether or not they had had anything to eat that morning. If the answer was no, he’d give them some money and send them to a diner down the street. Then, he’d wait for the gym teacher to come down and yell at him. “Charlie,” he once told me, “You can’t teach a hungry child. It’s pointless.”
...as well as a great analogy on how the high school students are taking on the fringe right:
But the real high comedy has been to watch the conservative intelligentsia embark on a serious fool’s errand—namely, trying to battle with educated teenagers on social media. I mean, don’t any of these people have kids between the ages of 10 and 20? This is like the Redcoats marching back to Boston from Lexington and Concord. They’re taking fire from behind every tree and every stonewall, and they’re getting slaughtered on platforms they’ve probably never heard of.
But go read it all. 

Never again

While it's school vacation week in Massachusetts, note that gun protests are happening at schools across the country:
"I just feel like some people might be scared to protest. It was real nerve-wracking," Pierre said. "But once you do it, you feel liberated, and you feel like you're connecting. All the people that you don't know who's hurting, you find out they're hurting with you, and you're just more connected through protesting."
Upcoming actions:
I'll update with more links as I find them. 

While we are talking about student protests, may I introduce (or reintroduce) you to Tinker v. Des Moines? This is the case that gives us the oft-cited line about students not shedding their rights "at the schoolyard gate" as well as the question of if students are "disrupting school assembly." I'd point you also to this:
That they are educating the young for citizenship is reason for scrupulous protection of Constitutional freedoms of the individual, if we are not to strangle the free mind at its source and teach youth to discount important principles of our government as mere platitudes.
I'd suggest reading what the ACLU has about this case and its implications if you plan action at school.

Harvard Graduate School of Education offers this collection of information for creating resilency after violence. It includes this statement:
When students engage in protests, civil disobedience, or any other form of activism, it’s important for school leaders to listen to their concerns and to support their right to protest, says educational ethicist Meira Levinson. Educators can support students' right to protest without taking a stand on those views themselves. Defending students' right to voice their views can help foster civic participation and bolster a strong climate. Educators should encourage conversations about difficult or controversial issues, and should do so regularly throughout the year.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Worcester School Committee meetings next week

Two subcommittees and a full committee meeting!
It's not actually clear from the online postings what is going to be discussed at the subcommittee meetings; it's just everything that has been sent to that subcommittee. That's not best practice on agenda postings; here's my guess from what has backups.

Monday, there's a Finance and Operations subcommittee meeting (5pm). It looks like a lot of the items are facilities repair related (most without a backup); you can see the list of big projects done in cooperation with MSBA (costing more than $60M total since 2012)  here. In other words, the answer to "why haven't we used bonds?" is "we have."
Because cell phones are always with us, there is a report on that.
The one to watch, of course, is the quarterly budget update. It's in much better shape for second quarter (free cash transfer) with a projected ending balance of -$177, 761...still negative, but better. The report is here.
Note that legal was cut by $30,000 and now is over that amount. Workers compensation continues to be over the budgeted amount (remember when there are proposed cuts during deliberations). Special education tuition is eight new students since June (and I don't understand the last sentence in that paragraph...meaning it was more like $700K?). Translation--in two accounts--has been flagged as underfunded in the past, as well.
The good news on utilities is that the solar panels are working; the bad news is that Nelson Place is getting fewer solar panels than planned? Also, crossing guards are not an account in which one wants to see a balance! There are some account transfers on this one.


Tuesday, Teaching, Learning, and Student Supports meets at 5. There's a response to an (old; my name is on it) item on reviewing what instruction there is on coding, for which the response is this:

There's an item on wrestling teams and one on the reading curriculum
The amendment to the Worcester East Middle innovation school plan has no academic or instructional backup, no support from teams at the school or anything else; it just reports enrollment. As I think of all of the work that went into the innovation plan, this is pretty appalling. 
The one item that may be of most interest is the upcoming school calendars



On Thursday's full meeting, the report of the superintendent is her goals for the year. They are: 
  • completing the new superintendents' induction program
  • providing high quality learning opportunities and resources to all students: the benchmarks are around AP, linking to Khan Academy (!), and then by subject area
  • developing a district technology plan...perhaps they could start with the one from five years ago. This includes "scaling computer science," redoing the website by 2018, and providing "equitable access to mobile technology."
  • providing effective professional development with a list of professional development plans
  • continuing to analyze district data: with measurements having to do with dual enrollment, tiered support, gifted instruction, 
  • developing a positive school climate: with references to some initiatives
...
As a response to the frequent "advertise, advertise" item, the district apparently is being rebranded; beware of reports having no dollar figure attached.
There's a list of the schools that have students from Puerto Rico.
Relatedly, the $5000 came through, and Worcester is using it on a "homeless liaison."

There is a request that the School Committee accept: 
  • $450 to the Art Department at Doherty Memorial High School in memory of Jeffrey Gustafson.
  • $300 to the Special Education Department at Grafton Street School in memory of Elisha Inferrera.
There are requests for the following:
  • Request that the Superintendent create an updated Health and Wellness Curriculum for middle and high school students. (Petty, joined by all of the committee; held from the last meeting)
  • Request that the Administration provide a report on the accountability changes made by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. (Monfredo)
  • Request that the Administration provide a progress report on the Hanover Academy at Burncoat Middle School. (McCullough)
  • To consider joining forces with the Brockton Public Schools as a plaintiff in its School Funding Lawsuit. (Comparetto)
  • Request that the Administration provide a report on changes in principal leadership and its plans to hire new principals.(Comparetto)
  • Request that the Administration provide a report on its efforts to attract a diverse pool of teachers and administrators in the Worcester Public Schools. (Comparetto)
  •  To consider a review of a publication entitled Teaching Hard History: American Slavery from the Southern Poverty Law Center.(Comparetto)
  • To support Senate Bill No. S249-An Act to involve youth in civic engagement, a new bill filed on Beacon Hill by State Senator Harriette Chandler. (Monfredo)
  • Request that the Administration provide an update on the ways in which education is provided to staff and students, in light of the opioid crisis, as a result of the passage of the recently enacted Marijuana Law. (Biancheria)

There is a 6 pm executive session for three workers' comp cases and a grievance.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Round one

You did it!
I hear, by the way, that the vote was unanimous.

We'd be remiss in not thanking MASBO and MassBudget for pointing out these gaps, lo these many years ago...finally we're getting a bit of legislative progress. 
Locally, of course, no one was been more stalwart in pointing out that he'd be giving us bad news less often if we fixed this than Brian Allen. So...hat tips all around.

On to Ways and Means!

By Jove, he's got it!

Stunned silence followed by cheers from me to WBUR's Max Larkin for capturing Boston's relationship with the Chapter 70 aid!
But that’s where state education officials object. They answer that there aren’t many cities or towns in Boston’s position.
State aid is calculated based on how much a city can afford to pay on its own. The fast-growing tax base in Boston and neighboring cities like Cambridge and Somerville make them decidedly unlike other towns which are facing de-industrialization and economic downturn.
Ten years ago, Boston was taking in almost $266,000 in tax revenue for each of its students. In last year’s budget, that number had risen to nearly $400,000 — driven primarily by an increase in property values.
According to state thresholds, Boston now has more than $100 million more than it needs to cover the basic expenses of its public schools. But the state doesn’t ask Boston to take care of itself, instead opting to cover more than the “minimum aid” threshold of 17.5 percent.
Read it, bookmark it, print it out and frame it. I don't recall this ever being captured by a press outlet before!