Monday, September 17, 2012

You can watch anytime! ...with a bit more on enrollment

I really need to stop assuming people "just know" things...Charlie, this one's for you.

So, you don't live in Worcester, or Charter just let you down,* or you're someone who does not actually get local cable: yes, you can still watch the Worcester School Committee live! During the meeting, go to the Channel 11 tab on the main Worcester Public Schools website, scroll down the Channel 11 page, and click on the arrow to start the livestreaming.
So, you were out of town last week, or had to watch something else, or were engrossed in a book, and you're now wondering what happened at the Worcester School Committee meeting last week: yes, you can watch the archived meetings! On that same Channel 11 page, click on "archived programs." The third option on that page is "School Committee meetings;" choose the meeting you'd like from the list.
Note that you can jump ahead in the meeting (helpful if you're looking for something late in the agenda), and you also have the option of creating your own clips, if there's a certain piece you want to keep or pass on elsewhere.


With that in mind, last Thursday's meeting (September 13), included Superintendent Boone's opening of school report (a personal favorite). Included in that were our preliminary enrollment numbers. The official count is October 1, and then we allow time for chasing down free/reduced lunch forms, change of address, and the like. This unofficial count of last week has us at about 750 students more than last year.
...which is a lot. It's even a lot by our standards of growing every year.
Last June; thanks to much work by many (from parents to the City Manager to those who sharpen pencils), we were able to hire ten additional elementary teachers and nine additional secondary teachers.
This was excellent and badly needed. Not only do we need the teachers just for class size, we've also got curricular holes in the secondary schools that need support as well.
And we needed those teachers just for the kids we knew we were going to get.
Those added teachers, though, are going into a system that isn't staying the same size; it's growing. And this year, it's growing at a rate above and beyond!
Besides that, our students aren't enrolling in any sort of evenly distributed fashion. We have 33 elementary schools, and kids enroll in all of them. Three kids in one school may send a class to 29, whereas five in another may only bring that number to 24. Unless we eliminate parent choice from the system--which I don't think anyone is willing to do--we are never going to have an even distribution of students.
Add to that the fact that we are bumping our head against the roof, so to speak: the Worcester Public Schools had fewer children enrolled when we closed schools than we presently have enrolled now. Even if we had the money to hire even more additional teachers--and we don't--and even if we could evenly distribute kids--which we can't under current policy--we don't have rooms to put those newly formed classes in. We're out of space: down to seats, not rooms.
Thus, class sizes that are still, in some places, large.
This is something that everyone, from the School Committee and Superintendent Boone, to principals, is acutely aware of. It's a multi-faceted challenge, though, and it's part of the balancing act with making sure we have enough buses and we get supplies to classrooms and we figure out how we're going to use the new testing regime without a major technology infusion...and so forth.
Let's see how those October numbers shake out, and start having conversations about space.

*unless you have them as an internet provider, too. Sorry, no help here.

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