Monday, August 31, 2015

Worcester School Committee meets Thursday

The Worcester School Committee meets this Thursday, September 3. You can find the agenda here. 
We'll have the opening of school report at our next meeting, I'm told, once we get the numbers clear.
Our student reps are back! Looking forward to their contributions!

It's the hiring report! Thus while face of the agenda doesn't look very long, here's what the School Committee, with backup, version looks like:

And yes, I'll read every page! Thanks to the HR department for getting the information together!

We have a reponse on clearing up the grounds at City View (it happened).
We have a couple of responses coming from our budget session: the first clears up Miss Biancheria's query regarding the IT department; the third describes the school fruit and vegetable grant. The middle one is pretty interesting, as it deliniates school security spending. As you can see in the backup, more than double the designated school security budget is spent on security from the facilities budget. That's over and above what is spent on security out of the safety budget. 
We have the (now graduated) Doherty students coming to talk to us about their mentoring proposal.
We have recognitions for Mock Trial, for the library foundation awards, for the Boys and Girls Club awards, for Melissa Watson and the 1000 Watts barber shop, and for Mr. Twiss and the Burncoat Madrigals.
We're being asked to accept a donation from the Emerald Club for iPads for Belmont Street School.
We're being reminded of International Walk to School Day (October 7) and Manufacturing Day (October 2).
And we're being asked to appoint four school nurses.
There is NO executive session this week.

7 pm, City Hall!

Schools on the City Council agenda

This week on the Worcester City Council agenda, there are a few items pertaining to schools:

  • William S. Coleman, III request City Council place on the November 3, 2015 Municipal Election Ballot the following non-binding question: "Should Massachusetts rescind its decision to adopt the National Common Core Education Standard for Math and English, and revert back to the curriculum frame work that was previously in place? Yes or No."
Were this to go on the ballot, it presumably would be calling on the Board of Ed to reverse their 2011 vote in favor of adopting the standards (interestingly, I heard over the weekend that the Board vote on PARCC is projected to be at their November 17 meeting).

  • William S. Coleman, III request City Council request the City Manager provide an update as to the placing of a a plaque honoring Worcester Technical High School's Graduating Class of 2014 and President Barack Obama.
In Finance, they have the following:
  • Recommend the adoption of a Loan Order in the amount of Seven Million Twelve Thousand One Hundred Dollars And No Cents ($7,012,100.00) be appropriated to fund four building improvement projects of the Worcester Public Schools.
This is the funding for next summer's MSBA projects: Flagg, McGrath, Grafton Street, and Jacob Hiatt (all for windows, Hiatt for a boiler as well). The city has to borrow the entire amount of the projects, 'though the state will reimburse the city 80% for these projects, as they have all the others we've done.

  • Request City Manager forward a copy of the Worcester Public Schools' safety audit/plan to the City Council. (Lukes)
I'm assuming Councilor Lukes is referring to the school safety audit, which we discussed the Request for Proposals of at our last school committee meeting. We should have it back this fall.
  • Request City Manager consider updating City Council relative to the status of rehab/replacement projects for Burncoat Senior High School, Doherty Memorial High School and South High Community School. (Palmieri)
The only one of these the City Manager could update Council on is South, as we're in the first round of documents to prepare and committees to appoint for that, as South has entered into the MSBA process. Doherty has been submitted to MSBA, but we won't hear anything on renovation/rebuild submissions until this fall, and Burncoat hasn't been submitted to anything (note the Councilor's careful use of alphabetical order in his submission!)
  • REPORT OF THE COMMITTEE ON TRAFFIC AND PARKING Upon the Petition of Councilor George J. Russell on behalf of Patrick Donahue request installation of school zone speed limit and thickly settled speed limit signage in Crowningshield Rd.: recommend adoption of the accompanying Order to install “School” signage in Crowningshield Rd.
That's for Rice Square School.
  • REPORT OF THE COMMITTEE ON TRAFFIC AND PARKING Upon the Petition of Gina Tangney request speed limit signs and/or stop signs at the school crossing portion of Harrington Way, as well as toward the bottom of the hill, as a way to slow down traffic: recommend adoption of the accompanying Order to install “30 MPH,” “Thickly Settled,” and “School” advisory signage in Harrington Way.
That's for North High.

First day for our newest students!

It's the first day for our preschooler and kindergartners today! Please be patient around our buses and schools today, as goodbyes may take a bit. 

Also, I wouldn't be surprised if the afternoon buses run a little later, as IDs will be checked for the adults meeting the kindergartners at the bus stops. 

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Dyett High hunger strike enters its second week

As it wasn't getting national news attention for some time, you may have missed that twelve people have been on a hunger strike since last week to try to save Dyett High School in Chicago. Dyett is (sound familiar?) slated for closure in a neighborhood mainly served by charter schools; it is the last open-enrollment high school in that section of Chicago's South Side. Slate has a good summary and the larger parallels:
The story of Dyett is remarkably parallel to the one Jelani Cobb tells in this week’sNew Yorker, about the closure last year of Jamaica High School in Queens, Cobb’s alma mater and not so long ago a crown jewel of the New York City public school system. The death of Jamaica High, like the death of Dyett, can be traced not just to broader demographic changes in the community—higher poverty rates, more English-language learners—but to how the municipal powers that be deal with those changes. You can give the schools the additional support they need, or you can abandon them in the name of greater choice.   
The mayor (not surprisingly) is not exactly covering himself in glory with how he's handling the situation. Meanwhile, support rolls in from all over. 

Friday, August 28, 2015

Universal free lunch (and breakfast!) for our first full week

The menus for next week are up!
If you go to a school with a full kitchen, you can find the full menu here.
If you go to an elementary school without a kitchen, you can find the menu for the full month here.

And did you see? Not only in Worcester, but nationwide, our school lunches are becoming healthier.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Ending the "agrarian school year" myth

My hearty thanks to the Learning Lab from WBUR for taking on the "agrarian school year" myth in today's column. Most important point:
In the early 19th century, rural schools typically had two terms: winter and summer. Yes, summer.
That’s because spring and fall, not summer, were* the busiest months on a farm. So rural children helped with planting in the spring, attended school for two or three months in the summer, went back to work for the fall harvest, then did another two or three months of school in the winter.
If you'd like to talk about ending this model, maybe we can talk about how families aren't all summering at their cottages in Newport?
*still are.

Back to school queries UPDATED

A round up of answers to some of what I've gotten over the past two days:
  • Lunch menus: The School Nutrition page is found from the bottom of the main WPS page right now. The center menu is for schools without kitchens; the link takes you to the menu for schools that do have kitchens. Yes, you can just send in your child and have them get lunch! If all your child needs is milk, that's fifty cents. Parents, did you notice? No nutrition form to fill out yesterday!
  • Buses were a bit late coming home in some cases yesterday due to 7th graders and 9th graders (in particular) finding their way to them these first days (and remember, that backs up through the system due to our tier system). The same will probably be true on Monday, when we bring on our kindergartners!
  • Yes, it does say on the calendars that seniors may need to make up snow days. This has always been the case; we just put in on the calendar this year. It will depend on how many we have, and that would be decided in the spring. By state regulation, seniors can only get out of school a limited number of days early. 
  • Hoodies in the secondary schools: after a flood of tweets from high school students, I asked about this downtown today. From what I was told, in their meetings before school, the secondary principals agreed that the issue they've had is hoods being used to obscure who a student is (if they're in a hallway skipping class, for example). Thus the ban on hoodies (as we already have one on outdoor coats that might have hoods) has been implimented. That doesn't mean students can't wear other second layers (sweaters, sweatshirts without hoods, fleeces, etc); just no hooded gear. (And yes, I did pass along the astute observation that schools should probably stop selling them, then. Good point!)
  • Homecoming games: there's been a rumor going around that the homecoming games are cancelled this fall. I checked this with Davide Shea, WPS Athletic Director, on this, and here is his reply:

More questions? Send them along!