Sunday, November 17, 2019

Students know the difference

The current issue of School Business Affairs, which is the ASBO (that's the national/international school finance people organization) magazine has this article:
"Should Your School District Join a School Finance Lawsuit?" by Al Ramirez
I'd link to it--it's here--but it's paywalled, so that doesn't do you much good.

After sorting out what a district should consider before deciding on joining such a lawsuit, the article closes with the following:
Adults--all community members, whether or not they have children in schools--accept a moral duty to determine that the current school funding sysetm is fair in its treament of their students, and is adequately funded to meet the educational aspirations the state holds for its children.
One of the more poignant moments an adult can experience is to travel with a school team from a school district that is inadquately funded by the state mechanism to a school district that is treated well by the state formula.
When the team arrives at their rival's campus, the students immediately recognize the disparities. They don't need legal precedents and statistical analysis to understand what is going on. They know immediately, loud and clear, how they are valued by the system.
Jaust look into the students' eyes. You will know everything you need to know about your state school funding approach.

"They know immediately, loud and clear, how they are valued by the system."

Friday, November 15, 2019

Worcester School Committee meets Thursday

And the agenda is here, as a PDF with hyperlinks? I think this is new.
Finance and Operations will be reporting out from their Monday meeting.
The report of the Superintendent is an update on the strategic plan (no backup as yet).

There is a response on interactions with homeschooling families (the link doesn't work; it's page 28): of 158 plans in 98 families, the adminstration reports that 96 were approved within the first week, 26 within the second week, 19 before 20 days, and 17 required more than that. The report states that the 17 were all incomplete upon submission, missing "evidence of progress." They state that only 2 plans are missing. The report says a "recent court ruling supported the WPS standards for evidence" though the case is not cited by name nor is it included.

There is a list of Chapter 74 programs and the number of students enrolled, as well as the after school and evening programs and enrollment.

Mr. Monfredo and Miss Biancheria are proposing support for the Baker-Polito effort to reduce domestic and sexual violence among young people.

Mr. Foley and others note Mr. Hennessey's award of 2019 Administrator of the Year from School Bus Fleet.

There is a proposal to update policies - JB – Equal Educational Opportunities; ‑ JFABD - Homeless Students: Enrollment Rights And Services; ‑ JFABE - Educational Opportunities For Military Children; ‑ JFABF - Educational Opportunities For Children In Foster Care (it's language tweaking).

There are eleven pages of outstanding administrative items that the administration is suggesting be filed as the term comes to a close.

There is a request that the following donations be accepted:
  • $400.00 from a donor to Claremont Academy to be used as a scholarship for Latino female of Latina who plans to attend college.
  • $84.60 from Box Tops for Education to Canterbury Street Magnet Computer-Based School
  • $225.00 from the Digital Federal Credit Union to McGrath Elementary School
  • $500.00 from the District Attorney's Community Reinvestment and Crime Prevention Program to Forest Grove Middle School to assist with their bullying campaign

There is a request for information about the new vocational tracks at Doherty (which the Committee has already voted in favor of).

There is a request (without backup) to approve a prior fiscal year payment for $308.79 to Airgas ("industrial, medical, and specialty gases").

Then there are a slew of items from Mr. Comparetto:
  • Request that the Mayor consider alternative methods to electing and appointing School Committee members that includes, but is not limited to, district School Committee seats. 
  • Request that the Mayor and School Committee establish Worcester Public Schools’ Safe Zones.
  • Request that the Superintendent present an annual report on the status of education for Latino students.
  • Request that the Administration incorporate best practices for creating a diverse workforce.
  • Request that the Administration provide an update on current restorative justice practices.
  • Request a moratorium on suspending K-2 students for non-violent offenses.
  • Request an "equity audit" of the Worcester Public Schools in accordance to best practices.
  • Request that the Administration provide an update on the efforts of the Administration to create ethnic studies programming

Miss Biancheria wants an update on the South High building project (shouldn't this be a standing item in a subcommittee somewhere?) and an update on recess (which I think Ms. McCullough has an outstanding item on already).

And there is another prior fiscal year payment in the amount of $1,484.10 to Johnson Controls Fire Protection LP for services performed at Burncoat High School (fire supression?).

And there is an executive session: for arbitration with the Mass Nurses Association; for litigation with the Estate of Suzanne F. Miville; and for collective bargaining with the computer technicians.

Yes, I am planning on being there and blogging.

Finance and Operations meets Monday

It's the first quarter report! and more!
The agenda is here.

The first item on the agenda is the report closing FY19. First, note that on a $345M general fund budget, the district was left with a balance of $2312 at the year's close (that goes back to the city). That's a margin that is, well, stunning. Districts that are much much smaller don't manage their projections and budget lines that tightly.
The second thing of note (to me, anyway) is that over the course of the year, over $4M was transfered from salary lines to non-salary lines, with $1.6M going to Misc Educational OM, which I don't of May, $370K had been transfered into that line, so what happened since?

The second item is a response to the request for a walking path from St. Paul Street to Flagg Street School; the report notes that a pathway of 300 feet would cost between $25,000 to $30,000; there is a layout as the second page.
There is no report, because one was not requested, on if this is the greatest facility need of this level of cost, if there are other schools that likewise might need such access, and if this is the most equitable way of spending such funds.

The first quarter report of this fiscal year is on this agenda: the year thus far by cost center is here; the report with narrative is here. As always, I'd urge you to read it, but a few notes:
  • part of the FY20 budget increase via the Senate was an increase in instructional assistants, focusing on kindergarten. That line is running higher that budgeted...and I don't understand why from this description, to be honest. Ah, okay: if you read to the end of the report, this gets picked back up: Title I came in $158K lower than was budgeted, so instructional assistants are being shifted off of Title I to the general fund. 
  • facilities ordinary maintenance is running higher than budgeted, because contracted services are having to pick up for unfilled positions.
  • personnel services is running over almost entirely due to $184K in outside contractor professional development 
  • transporation over three lines is running nearly $500K, with almost half of that coming from the giveback negotiated by the superintendent and agreed to by the Committee in connection with their renewed contract with Durham. Some of the other lines are likewise Durham-related, though they are WPS spending: the overtime "to address vacant positions" is, I'd venture, at least in part due to the times WPS is having to pick up Durham routes when Durham doesn't have drivers. The district in total has added four routes--two WPS, two Durham, despite the issues there--and that's the increase in the salary line.
  • I keep saying this:  ...and it appears that part of the reason for the workers' comp line is that 10 of THOSE are for the prior fiscal year; what the heck is going on??
  • the salary line funding is all vacancies: maybe we should be asking why all of these positions are not managing to be filled?
The recommendation is to add five adjustment counselors--three in elementary, two in high school--and a guidance counselor to managing the early college programs (is this the greatest need on the guidance end??) and half a million dollars in literacy materials "and related professional development."
There's also a report on how the grants came back (some lower, some higher) and what might be shifted there. And the proportionate share requirement--funding special education services at private schools--is included in the description. 

Finally, there is  a 73 page report on environmental management. That sounds like a lot (it is!), but it's also actually readable:
An EMS requires an organization to “Say what you do, Do what you say, and Prove it” as a way to ensure compliance and overall improvements.
and uses parallel structure...
It reports out that environmental management has not only included specific departments, but has impacts districtwide, runnng to 600 staff having been involved. There's a focus on preventing issues, rather than fixing them after they occur. There are sections on legacy building issues (including lead in water, for those interested; I found it very reassuring, as the issues found have been dealt with and are undergoing retesting); usage (including indoor environmental quality! including:
The Facilities Department, the WPS EH&S Consultant, the WPS Nursing Department and the Worcester Department of Housing have worked together with a city-wide initiative, the Prevention Wellness Trust Fund (one of nine projects funded by DPH to reduce chronic disease, including pediatric asthma) to pilot EPA’s Tools for Schools program. It included classroom IEQ training and “walk-through” assessments. The goal of this component of this project was to identify conditions that could cause or trigger asthma.
and toxic use reduction...and apparently we need a boiler somewhere?...working on Breakfast in the Classroom, types of waste disposal); a department by department review, with an interesting note coming from the art department:
The Art Department identified heavy reliance on donations that were not all certified for use in schools
(another reason to fund the budget!), the end of the use of bleach by custodial staff, and a new term to use something in cleaning WPS buses:
Protexus Electrostatic Sprayer! (There are YouTube Videos!)
I feel as though someone should mention in here somewhere that this is, of course, just the WPS run buses, not Durham buses.
There are sections on preparing for emergency managment..
There are also some impressive references to operating protocols and training.
If this is of interest, I'd recommend it! 

My plan is to be there for this, but I do have a meeting later that night, so I don't know that I'll make it all. 

Reading round-up

Some things I've read recently of interest:

  • it shouldn't be news but it never hurts to reiterate that PTA fundraising exacerbates inequities. The move towards at least making outside funding transparent would be a first good step (can't we run these all through school committees as donations? shouldn't we, anyway?). 
  • there's been lots of pushback (thankfully) on the rewarding "grit" notion (which was somewhat being misinterpreted, anyway), and this Boston Globe piece puts that together well
  • morning reminder (via tweet) post-Santa Clarita that what we're teaching students in schools is not only harmful, it also is of limited utility
  • if the Supreme Court decides to end DACA, we're going to lose a lot of teachers
  • I'm not sure that our having gender neutral restrooms available in the new Worcester high schools should even be news, but the pushback to those criticizing it in the comment section on Facebook is heartwarming. Also, this Time article is a solid read.
  • and perhaps it isn't surprising that Worcester Public Schools Transporation Director John Hennessey can make sense of the spaghetti that is the routing system; it seems he was practically born in a bus yard! Nice one from School Bus Fleet, which is the national school transportation magazine, on Mr. Hennessey's recent recognition as 2019 Administrator of the Year. And yes, it does talk about bringing WPS transportation fully in-house. 

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Meanwhile in Roanoke City...

In the ongoing saga of a district that also has Durham busing and associated issues, but the school board cares...
The headline on today's article really says most of it:

"Roanoke City School Board threatens termination for embroiled bus provider: Durham School Services took over school bus operations over the summer"
The article continues:
For the first time, after nearly three months of issues with Durham School Services, the school board mentioned possibly firing the company. Durham apologized once again for the issues, but the board made it clear it was not satisfied with the apology and demanded an action plan be delivered by Wednesday afternoon. Board members said firing the company would not be good for anyone, but they are running out of patience.

Remember: Roanoke City Schools have had Durham only since August...
After quoting Board member Laura Rottenborn, who, we know from previous articles, is herself a parent, the article continues: Tuesday’s meeting, the school board, which at first was tolerant of Durham’s performance, sounded more like the parents that have been speaking at the podium during the school board’s meetings each month.
Echoing parental concerns...
And their bottom line?
The board said the bottom line is that it can’t take chances with kids.
For the record, I don't--and it isn't clear to me that Roanoke City knows--if "firing" a contractor is possible, and if so, how. 
Accountability starts at the top. 

No CPPAC in Worcester tonight

...and it's not clear what happened with the State of the Schools...

Yes, this notification went out this afternoon. Not a great deal of care for families' time there. 

The website description now has this of what is happening next week:
The CPPAC will meet with representatives of the Worcester Public Schools about the Portrait of a Graduate Project that the district has undertaken. This is a year-long collaborative effort to determine the skills, aptitudes and attitudes that will be vital for all WPS graduates to be successful throughout their lives. This work will involve educators researching the rapidly changing economy and world and will also ask a wide-variety of stakeholders for their perspectives. This meeting will give us an opportunity to hear directly from parents what they feel is most important for their children now and in the future. 
No liveblog from me on that; I already have a meeting scheduled. 

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

The Board of Ed meets next Tuesday

And the agenda is already up, so why not post about it?
After the usual round of comments, the Commissioner is presenting on the Kaleidoscope Collective. The deadline for applications is Friday; the memo says 77 have been received so far. DESE has brought on two staffers for this program, per the memo:

  • Komal Bhasin joined the Department on November 4 as the senior associate commissioner leading Kaleidoscope. Komal was principal of UP Academy Leonard Middle School, part of the Lawrence Public Schools, for six years and prior to that was principal of Excel Academy in East Boston. Her previous experience also includes serving as an assistant principal in a district turnaround setting in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Before entering school leadership, she was a science teacher and an English teacher in Laplace, Louisiana.
  • Tera Carr joined the Department on October 15 as the associate commissioner for the Kaleidoscope Collective for Learning. Tera recently served students as the director of teacher development and pathways for the Tulsa, Oklahoma Public Schools. Prior to that, she was principal of Hamilton Elementary School in Tulsa, and she has also been an assistant principal, a high school math teacher, a special education teacher, a pre-K teacher, and, in Harbin, China, an English language teacher for first-year students.
The Board's Budget subcommittee will be presenting their proposal.

There is also Phase I of what is intended as a two part revision to the vocational schools regulations. The memo explains the proposed changes, which are designed to allow for additions (a bit more) and expand access (in some specific areas), strengthen the regs on program quality, and make some shifts on educator licensure.
Phase II--they're holding off for a reason--looks at access, via this section of the regs.
The proposal is to send the Phase I section out for public comment.

There is also an update on grants.

And...that's it? Next Tuesday in Malden