Thursday, March 29, 2012

Wow.

I have nothing to add to this news from Philadelphia other than that.

How are those turnarounds going?

ASCD has a bit of a round-up on recently published research on how those school turnarounds are going.
...three reports as well as preliminary data from the U.S. Department of Education are beginning to shed light on whether the program has been able to increase student achievement. Two reports from the Center on Education Policy find the SIG program helps schools provide more intensive academic services and builds momentum for major reform. But concerns remain about the prescriptiveness of some SIG requirements, particularly in rural areas. Other challenges include finding and retaining staff in low-performing schools, staffing shortages in state education agencies that limit the ability to provide the schools with necessary support, and sustaining improvement efforts after the grants run out.

Another report from the Center for American Progress finds that state selectivity in doling out SIG grants varies widely. States like Vermont had a 100 percent application-approval rate compared to states like Louisiana that awarded grants to less than 30 percent of the schools that applied.

And speaking of which, there's some interesting perspectives from three of the New York City schools slated for turnaround this year. 

Duncan before Appropriations

Secretary Duncan testified before the House Education Appropriation Committee earlier this week:

During his recent testimony before the House Education Appropriations Subcommittee, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan blasted House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan's (R-WI) FY13 budget proposal to slash federal spending, which the White House estimates would result in a more than 5 percent cut (-$784 million) to Title I grants (currently $14.5 billion) in FY13 and a 19 percent cut (-$2.7 billion) in FY14. Duncan also warned against the devastating consequences of sequestration—automatic cuts that will chop education funding by as much as 9 percent in January 2013—saying, "it is unconscionable for us to ask a generation of students to pay the price for adult political dysfunction."

But Duncan also found himself on the receiving end of bipartisan criticism about education funding from subcommittee Chairman Denny Rehberg (R-MT) and ranking Democrat Rosa DeLauro (CT). They share concerns that President Obama’s FY13 budget request emphasizes funding for new competitive grant programs at the expense of investments in cornerstone federal K–12 programs like Title I and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Crosswalk need repainting?

We're putting together a list of crosswalks near schools that need repainting. If you've got one, drop me a line.

"Wear your zeroes proudly, kids."

Heartbreaking letter from a teacher to her eighth graders:

And here’s the really scary part, kids: The questions you were asked were written to elicit a personal response, which, if provided, earn you no credit. You were tricked; we were tricked. I wish I could believe that this paradox (you know what that literary term means because we have spent the year noting these kinds of tightropings of language) was simply the stupidity of the test-makers, that it was not some more insidious and deliberate machination. I wish I could believe that. But I don’t.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Funding education properly

Here's the key idea from tonight, from Councilor Germain:
...going forward, we need to set a base, a benchmark, that says we need to give more or we don't need to give more...
An adequacy study on education funding in Worcester is long overdue and welcome.

Petty

mentions that the WPS administration welcomes the chance
anyone is welcome to come look through the books

Zalauskas

Len Zalauskas, EAW President
"have sat here trying to obtain more funding" in prior years

"I think that you are going to find without a doubt that the city does not give enough money to the schools...that I've been correct for all these years...that you may have people who are spending this money that don't realize that it's the taxpayers money..spent in a way that's not as wisely as they would spend their own money"
"Open and honest conversation about funding"

Palmieri

..I would hope that prior to having any informal or formal group that the Manager meet with the Superintendent...makes sense before we've picked the blue ribbon committees...
"Superintendent knows more about this budget than any Councilor"

Lukes: UPDATED with a link

wants to know who's going to pay for it
challenges the amount of specificity in the WPS budget in comparison with city budget: "it's going to take a position by position breakdown"

For the record: that would be pages 209 and following in the FY12 budget; it has been a part of the Worcester Public Schools budget since FY09.

report from administration on who is going to fund this

Germain to clarify

"are they spending the money correctly"

O'Brien

know Germain has been a strong advocate for education
Looking at history as a way to move forward
reminds Council of a "task force of business leaders to see what sort of investment the city was making in education...taken a good template that the manager and the superintendent might consider"
the word "audit always makes people nervous"
Are we making the right investment in personnel, buildings...
business people ..add their expertise..
3 or 4 months, based on some support from our city team
have a number of audits to work off of
"I think it would be a good exercise"

Germain

"there was an attitude..or a paradigm from older Council members that have gone through the budget process numerous times...'we give the schools enough money'...one of those deals..it become entrenched in our heads...at same time, School Committee would be saying 'You're not giving enough; we need more.' Not trying to spot any department or any person on this...having an independent person come in..if we are giving enough money, why do we keep hearing from teachers in the classrooms that there isn't enough money?  I'm for children, I'm for schools, I'm for teachers...going forward, we need to set a base, a benchmark, that says we need to give more or we don't need to give more...are we doing the right thing with the money we're giving them?..we're talking about trying to take care of the kids and the teachers in the classroom...all about the teachers and all about the kids...a new base and a new benchmark...

...personal wish to have it referred to the Manager...there are companies that do it...also if the Mayor would like, maybe set up a committee that sets up that looks at this audit and audit firm...maybe a Councilor, a School Committee member, a member of each administrator...setting a new benchmark..



MASC Day on the Hill

Alas, even my portable wifi hotspot was not enough to get through the bunker-like conditions of the Gardner Auditorium at the State House. Notes from this morning's Mass Association of School Committee's Day on the Hill:


In addition to MASC leadership, we'll be hearing today from State Auditor Bump, Michael Widmer (from Mass Taxpayers Foundation), and several senators and representatives, including from Ways and Means and Education
Penny Blackwell, MASC President, on new educator evaluation: "If you're not confused, you're not paying attention."
proposed House budget on April 11; senate a few weeks later
"When profits are the motive, it's never good for children." Mary-Jo Rossetti, speaking on the push to privatize public education.


Monday, March 26, 2012

Justice for Trayvon Martin

And because we have lots of kids in WPS who could be Trayvon, I wanted to share that there's a rally this afternoon at 4 pm at the federal courthouse in downtown Worcester calling for justice for him.
Facebook event page here.

Burning down schools in Nigeria

The Islamist group Boko Haram (which translates as something like "forbidden Western learning") is burning down schools in Nigeria:

For several days after the attack in early March, students had come to be taught in the open air, under the hardy light-green neem trees in the courtyard, Mr. Kolo said. But he said the government had failed to provide materials, like chalk for a remaining blackboard, so the students had stopped coming.

“They bombed everywhere,” said Aliyu Adamu, a longtime teacher at Abbaganaram. “Everything. All the classes.”

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Sunday wrap-up

A few things I didn't get to post this week:
  • Boston's pulling of pink slime made the New York Times. I've now been sent notice of so many supermarkets dropping it that I've lost track.
  • GoLocalWorcester did a "we found some people who have an opinion but no information about homeless students in Worcester" post. While I don't usually out reporters calling me and then not doing anything with it, this time, I am going to say: I told you to call and get numbers. You should have called and gotten numbers. And some working knowledge of how this works.
  • The editorial board of the T&G did their bimonthly (or so) "charter schools will save us all" editorial, which means it's time once again to point out that they did so without pointing out that their editor's wife works for a charter school. Journalism 101, guys. (And see Jim Gonyea for more on this.)
  • The Atlanta Journal-Constitution did a massive look at test scores in cities across the country (not Worcester) and pulled out the ones with suspicious gains.
  • CPPAC is having a Parent Expo next Saturday at Clark and you should go!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Sorry if we ruined your breakfast...

A bit more (for those who wish to know) regarding today's Telegram and Gazette article on pink slime:
  • The box I'm holding and all of those surrounding me in the photo are USDA commodity beef. We are still waiting to hear back from them (they aren't returning calls, shall we say?) on where it came from, so we can contact the supplier and confirm contents.They're staying in the North High freezer (and other freezers) until we get that answer. We aren't serving it unless and until we know.
  •  Not all beef we serve is commodity beef. Some additional beef Worcester purchases, fresh ground, from a plant in Connecticut (and, yes, it's all actual muscle meat).
  • It isn't just that they're mixing ammonium nitrate into this stuff. They do that to kill pathogens in the mix (from the outside of the cattle). Except it doesn't always work: "...three years ago more than 50,000 pounds of “Pink Slime”/BLBT had to recalled. The Times also highlighted that between 2005 and 2009, the ground beef bought from BPI for school lunches tested positive for salmonella 48 times."
  • As things stand currently, starting this fall, schools will have a choice of getting beef that's 15% this stuff or entirely actual ground beef. Clearly, the latter will be more expensive than the former. Worcester is committed to serving the latter, even it if means serving less beef.
  • A number of congressional representatives, including Rep. McGovern, have signed a letter to Secretary Tom Vilsack, urging that this stuff be pulled entirely from the school lunch program. 
  • I've put an item on the April 5 agenda asking for a similar letter from the Worcester School Committee.

And if you have questions, please send them along!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

item on WPS audit is held for O'Brien

...who is not here tonight...
held under personal privilege

Auditor's reports

Lukes: asks about the 1% 3% grant issue; "these answers frankly sound like jargo"Zidelis: cites OMG as their source for authority in taking 3%, WPS in grant application cites 1%; "until this is resolved, the school department is going to cite 1% in their grant applications"
explains that until this is resolved, this will continue to turn up as a finding
Lukes says that the city is providing more oversight "which would justify these fees"
(gotta tell you...I read them...there's no change in oversight of WPS)

 

Council on School Committee election

asking for a report on procedures...request for a manual on recounts...some specifics requested on where votes were lost.
Auditor's report here.

Honoring Patricia Eppinger

..for her work at Union Hill's library tonight at City Council.
Councilor Russell mentions being "a face in the crowd" that day (there was a crowd!).
Councilor Economou comments on the importance of libraries to children learning.
Councilor Rivera says that she can still remember the first chapter book that she got as a child.
Eppinger comments that they are taking some of the resources there and moving them to Chandler Elementary.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Commissioner Chester on Worcester's not meeting net school spending

Sorry, I only have these on paper, so I scanned these. Posted as PDFs. 


Here's the Commissioner's actual letter from November 2011:
The calculation for FY11:
And the calculation for (at that time budgeted) FY12:

Saturday, March 17, 2012

When the Poet Sings

Come see these Worcester Public School students sing, play, and entertain tomorrow at 2pm at Worcester Tech.
Tickets are $15 and I hear there are some left!


in "perplexing" School Committee issues...

In honor of St. Patrick's Day, a hat tip to Al Southwick for an excellent Worcester history column which gave a new meaning to "you spent three meetings discussing what!?"
At its May meeting in 1911, the Worcester School Committee finally resolved a perplexing issue: it decreed that St. Patrick was born in Scotland. The vote was opposed by those who believed he was born elsewhere.

As the Telegram story put it: “The last three monthly meetings of the School Committee have been much devoted to a discussion of the birthplace of St. Patrick, and at the two previous meetings of the committee attempts made to have books telling that St. Patrick was born in Scotland and England adopted as a textbook failed because a two-thirds vote of the full committee could not be mustered. The rules make necessary a two-thirds vote for the adoption of a textbook. When the book was first introduced, it stated that St. Patrick was born in Britain. The authoress changed it to read Scotland and at the April meeting an attempt was made to get it through in its revised form. Opponents of the books wanted the birthplace of the saint changed to France.”
And for the record: "Britain," referring as it does to the island, is certainly right; "Scotland" possibly right; "France" pretty definitely wrong.

Friday, March 16, 2012

CHINs

We're getting a recommendation from a member of the public that we put court officers in every school so they can do the CHINs process in the schools.
Boone responds that we have these programs, and that we partner with the courts on a number of programs.

Chief Academic Officer

Sorry; I only realized this morning that this didn't post last night. This gives some more context to the report from Jackie Reis at the T&G this morning

 
We have a description of the Chief Academic Officer...Administration is asking that this move forward tonight so as to start advertising on Sunday.
O'Connell is concerned about "eligible for" certification rather than having it. He's making the point that this is not a position that you want someone completing a practicum during.
Luster gives the example of a principal who may not have served directly under a superintendent but had met all other requirements (who may even work in the district now)
O'Connell speaks of not wanting "on the job training...(it's) important for the person to do the work"

Monfredo asks that the position require residency within 18 months (he wants this to be part of the advertisement)
Boone: that requirement would disallow people who work for us NOW to not be eligible: "that concerns me" Cites that most Massachusetts superintendents do not live in the districts that they lead
O'Connell cites that Jim Garvey lived in Auburn and moved when he was appointed; Caradonio also moved when appointed; Mulqueen moved at his contract extension
Foley suggests making it part of the conversation during the interview process; O'Connell concerned about letting people know up front
Biancheria says "there shouldn't be a question of embracing our city...if it affects the pool that will apply, so be it...should be proud to put that on the advertisement"
Vote goes 5-2 on including a residency requirement in the advertisement (Foley and Novick against)

Novick asks that we including teaching experience (that will be included in the interview process) and asks that we move communication up the list to required. Done.
School Committee to get periodic updates on the process as it goes forward: will happen
Advertisement to start this weekend

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Rules

And for those who were following the proposed rule change to have the vice chair always be the top two vote getters (each taking one year), it would require changing the city charter. Filed.

Summer programs

Due to the work on buildings, particular PCB work, the number of summer sites will be "significantly smaller" than in the past.
This in response to a request for a report from Biancheria on a list from summer programs
Monfredo pushes for looking for alternative sites
Boone says "limited sites does not mean we're limiting the number of students...might need to transport students a little further"

TLSS: reporting back

Foreign travel: still being held at subcommittee. We're getting some legal advice from the City Solicitor, and looking then for ways of meeting our legal obligations while still moving forward.
Curriculum review dates being sent to parent groups


Foley: F&O

We've "developed the beginning" of a master plan for the Worcester Public Schools, says Foley, reporting out of F&O subcommittee

Foley runs through how the in-kind contribution city-side is determined: $4.2 million is "in-kind" contribution, as WPS is 54% of the full city budget, though the schools clearly do not use 54% of those offices. The city takes credits for that amount of municipal offices.

Grant recovery: costs that the city incurs in administering those grants. Awaiting a legal ruling from the state on this. The difference between 1 and 3% is $1 million.

Monfredo asks that we get the legal opinion from the state when it comes in.
Monfredo also opposes sending four member to the National School Board Conference in Boston thsi spring.

O'Connell speaks in favor of sending as many people as possible: as it's a renewal of the ESEA act renewal year, among many other things.

Novick: amend to send three members, which is $2760 instead, which passes unanimously.

HOLDing the foundation budget report pending the joint meeting with the Education subcommittee of the City Council (as they sent their report on WPS budgeting there on Tuesday night)




A bit late of a start

so far:
  • Lincoln Street's uniform policy passed
  • we've received a report on entering 9th graders signing up for classes (the ratio is high)
  • we've heard from our bus drivers regarding routing, kindergarteners, and process 
  • we've accepted a grant for Worcester Arts Magnet School

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Worcester School Committee: Ides of March edition

The Worcester School Committee meets tomorrow night at 7 pm at Worcester Technical High School. You will find the agenda here
The report of the superintendent is on the role of guidance counselors in course selection in 9th grade.
Lincoln Street School is asking for approval of a uniform policy.
We have reports from at least three subcommittees (Accountability met yesterday; perhaps that's reporting out at the next meeting?).
We have some requests for reports on student assessment data.
We have two items regarding busing: one on kindergarteners and one on routes.
The process by which the Chief Academic Officer will be filled is being discussed (there's some hope we can post this position this weekend).
Two bookmobile items: one to urge sixth graders to enter the naming contest (rules here) and one to thank Holy Cross.
We are getting an auditing report (but we haven't yet).
Sullivan Middle would like to add band.
And Worcester Arts Magnet is asking for approval on a grant for music in the classroom.


I'm told the Mayor is getting to the meeting late, and, while I can participate and blog, I'm not going to try to chair and blog. I will try to catch up on what I don't get blogged if I end up chairing! And yes, chairing on the Ides of March...

Mass Budget presentation

If you didn't get to see the Mass Budget presentation "Cutting Class" when Luc Schuster was in town, here it is (from the WPS site):

Question on pay periods?

No, the superintendent did not get a raise last year, and no, she did not--in a contract amount--make more than the City Manager last year.
The school administrators who get paid semi-monthly (2x a month) got paid 23 times the year before last.
They got paid 25 times last year.
(If your paycheck comes this way, you know that the pay calendar sometimes falls this way.)
This is how a number of WPS administrators are paid; it is not how the City Manager and other cityside employees are paid.

The other difference between the City Manager and the Superintendent's contracts is that he gets a car; she gets a $6600 car allowance each year. Only one of those comes through on a paycheck.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Charts and charts!

If you were watching Council tonight, you may have seen me testify in response to this item from the city administration on Worcester Public Schools funding. I've posted the charts that I put together and handed out to the Council below. (As per usual, if you click on them, they'll get bigger.)
WPS funding sources for FY12. The bulk of the funding comes from the state via Chapter 70 funds, as per the Ed Reform Act agreement that the state would pick up the bulk of school funding for urban districts. The city funds 29.4% of WPS operational funds this year.

Most of the state aid provided to the municipality for FY12.
Steady and increasing.

...due to this: increased enrollment in the Worcester Public Schools.
Not only that, but more students with ELL and special education needs, thus higher rates
 of funding needed to meet their needs.

The next two charts were from the Mass Budget and Policy Center presentation: Figure 11 and 12 here. These demonstrate the gaps in the foundation budget (that funding does not meet costs) for most accounts, and that costs of health insurance and special education have greatly exceeded the foundation budget assumptions. The second chart demonstrates how most districts have met their needs: by funding over foundation. Leading to:
...a comparison of Worcester's spending above required minimum compared to several other Gateway Cities.
You'll see that Worcester is below all, and in fact below zero for two years running.
In case you couldn't see the Worcester line clearly, a chart of Worcester's spending above required minimum.
We're at -0.1 percent for the second year in a row.


You can find these charts as PDFs here.

New principal at Burncoat Prep

Superintendent Boone has announced that Deborah Catamero will become principal of Burncoat Preparatory Elementary School effective July 1, 2012. Ms. Catamero is currently interim principal at Clark Street School.
Burncoat Prep's current principal Deborah Frank will, we are told, be taking over as PBIS Coordinator for the district, as that position will be vacant due to a retirement at the end of the school year.

And yes, this means that the principal at this Level 4 school has now been replaced, freeing the way for federal funds. Expect a school committee vote on that sometime in April.

Not meeting spending requirements "an embarrassment" in Leominster

We call 'em out when they don't do it right, so here's a "well done!" to the Leominster City Council. Last night, they learned that Leominster had not met its net school spending requirements for FY12. Calling it "an embarrassment," they immediately voted to make up the difference.

Worcester? Worcester is in year two of being under net school spending.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Zhao suggests giving up forks

I'm beginning to think we're going to need to subtitle this blog with the fallacy"Post hoc ergo propter hoc*."

If you read Friedman on Sunday, please read Zhao today:
To be globally competitive, we should all begin to use chopsticks because chopsticks produce better education outcomes as measured by the international gold standard of education the OECD’s PISA, which tests 15 year olds in math, reading, and sciences, and TIMSS, which assess 9-10 and 13-14 year olds math and science abilities. The top five performers in the 2009 PISA math (Shanghai, Taiwan, Singapore, South Korea, and Japan) all use chopsticks, so do the top five in TIMSS math in 2007 (Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, and Hong Kong), in 2003, and 1999. And PISA and TIMSS scores are what drive nations’ economic growth and back their global competitiveness.
Such is the logic of the New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman and OCED’s PISA group, exemplified by Friedman’s March 11th, 2012 column Pass the Book, Hold the Oil. Citing a correlational analysis between PISA math scores and the total earnings on natural resources as a percentage of GDP, Friedman attempts to prove a point that does not need to be proven: education matters.

*"this therefore that" also known as "correlation does not (necessarily) equal causation."

Principals' guide to the MCAS

For those of you wondering what the principals are using for the MCAS exam this year, you can find their guide online.
I had received a question about the following from Appendix E:

Appendix E—Sample Administration Forms and Test Materials
Sample Letter
Dear Parent(s) or Guardian(s):
New this spring, students in grades 6 through high school will be asked to read statements about their responsibilities during MCAS testing and to sign an acknowledgement indicating they understand these responsibilities. The statements are shown below. We recommend that you discuss them with your child along with the school’s handbook and related policies.
Thank you for your involvement in your child’s education. Sincerely,
_____________________________________________________________ Principal
By signing below, I promise that
I have not already seen the student test booklet that I will receive;
all the work in my answer booklet will be my own; I will not copy anyone else’s work; I will not let anyone answer questions for me;
I will not use any materials, such as a cell phone or other electronic device, that I am not allowed to have during testing; and
I will not discuss or share information with anyone about the questions until MCAS testing ends in my school.
If I have any questions about these statements, I will talk with my teacher or principal.
I make the promises above and know that there may be consequences for breaking my promises or the test administration rules.
The Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System:
 
This has gone home with some students in the Worcester Public Schools; the option of whether to use it has been left to principals.
Principal’s Administration Manual, Spring 2012

Sunday, March 11, 2012

South High leads the parade

South High Community School's marching band led off the St. Patrick's Day parade in Worcester today.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Things I learned tonight at CPPAC


  • The next school committee budget presentation will be next month after the House of Representatives budget comes out (April).
  • Fully funding the circuit breaker (for special education funding) would mean $1 million more for the Worcester Public Schools.
  • When four schools were closed in 2007, Head Start was moved out of rented space into those schools with the thought (at the time) that, if the need came up, Head Start could be moved out of those buildings and they could be re-opened as elementary schools. We now enroll more students than we did in 2007 when the schools closed.


Things I knew that continue to worry me:
  • “how the state is requiring us or not allowing us to use our grant funding” is continuing to become more of an issue; the state is now being “a little more challenging” on what positions can be funded out of grants
  • $1.3 million deficit remaining and it's the “hardest budget in the past five years to balance”
All quotes are from Brian Allen. There was also a fairly extensive discussion that continued well into the meeting (and straight out into the hallway) about the budget. There was concern about enrollment at various schools, about capital projects, about repairs, about the lack of city funding above foundation, and several mentions of librarians.
 

CPPAC tonight: FY13 budget update

There is a Citywide Parent* Planning and Advisory Council meeting tonight at 6:45 at Worcester Tech. The presentation tonight is on the FY13 budget.
I'll post anything new that comes up.
*note that you need not be a parent to attend: the public is welcome!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Let's talk about pink slime

The news that the USDA is planning to purchase seven million pounds of ground connective tissue treated with ammonium hydroxide--dubbed "pink slime" by microbiologists--for school lunches went viral yesterday. This is material that has been rejected by fast food outlets, but not by the federal government for feeding to children.

The particularly alarming part from the local school perspective is there is no requirement that this be labeled as anything other than "hamburger" per The Daily:
In 2005, the USDA limited the amount of ammonia-treated Lean Beef Trimmings in a serving of ground beef to 15 percent, but lax labeling requirements mean that it is virtually impossible as a consumer — and for parents of children at a schools where “pink slime” is a part of lunch — to know whether a given package of ground beef or hamburger patty contains it.

“The USDA-AMS [Agricultural Marketing Service] does allow for the inclusion of BPI Boneless Lean Beef in the ground beef they procure for all their federal food programs and, according to federal labeling requirements, it is not a raw material that is uniquely labeled,” Amy Bell, spokeswoman for the California Department of Education Food Distribution Program, told The Daily in an email. “Accordingly, there is no way to tell from simply looking at a package of finished product if BPI Boneless Lean Beef is in the product mix.”

Last year, the USDA said that 6.5 percent of the beef it purchased for the national school lunch program came from BPI.
As you'd hope, this news sent school nutrition directors (including Worcester's) to the state to ask just what it was that they were planning on sending us labeled "hamburger." The state now has a call into USDA to ask the same.
I've sent a letter to Congressman McGovern, who sits on the Agriculture Committee, asking that this be pulled from the school lunch program. I'd urge you to do likewise (and if you live somewhere other than Worcester, ask your school nutrition director to find out what's going on with the hamburger).

UPDATE for those of you from Worcester: Worcester does not only get hamburger from USDA; we also purchase it separately from a meat producer in Connecticut where it is ground fresh.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Worcester has a bookmobile!

Holy Cross is bringing back the Worcester Public Library bookmobile!

And they're holding a contest for sixth graders to name it (link to come)!

Monday, March 5, 2012

It's official

Jeff Mulqueen has signed a contract with Pentucket Regioinal.

city funding of schools

Foley: the city is really funding schools at the foundation level
What do we get from the city? What do we get from the state?
What is a reasonable amount for the city to take as a credit on services provided?
What is a reasonable amount for the city to take as a charge on grants put through city accounts?

Allen: city's contribution to net school spending, as calculated by the state department of Revenue
grant percentage challenged by School Committee: currently being reviewed by DESE

Foley: you can offset some of these with capital expenditures
to charge our percent of the budget against us (so we're 54% of the city budget; we count for 54% of the city budget for auditing, purchasing, technical services, treasury, budget)
credit to the city for 54% of the department that's there
Is there guidance from the department on urban centers?
Allen: per pupil cost is the other option; at our enrollment range that would be $2.5m
this is the method we have used since Ed Reform
Foley: if we took a per pupil, it would require $2m more from the city?
Yes

Substantial funds both in terms of credits for departments and for grant percentage for city departments
that we do not use for Worcester Public Schools
(we, for example, get charged for the City Manager's office; the City Manager does not have any function in grant funding for the Worcester Public Schools)
And yes, purchasing is done in house; Human Resources is done in house; treasury only cashes and cuts our checks; technical services we do in house; we have (and require) our own budget office





on facilities

Allen: "to provide...a facility inventory..."
rehab done
repairs made
statements of interests forward
"a more comprehensive facilities master plan needed" per conversations from MSBA

Foley: do we need a comprehensive plan or do we "just need to go to the next step?
Allen: both
Foley: credit to O'Brien and Petty for pushing this on the city side as well

Novick: heard also need a more comprehensive plan
need tie with enrollment, not enough just for Nelson Place

Foley: continuing meetings with Education subcommittee on City Council side

question about Heard Street's roof: temporary fixes happening; longterm full repair likely needed

second quarter report

having grants approved at state level has been a challenge
Allen: moved many positions from regular funds to grant funds; asking how positions are supplemental
"have been able to balance" this year
will affect FY13 budget

online lunch payments

ready to go!
Allen notes that this was filed a bit ago (October)
UniBank which is the city's online payment bank
has been implemented with secondary students, as they can already access the student information
next few weeks for elementary; information will be coming home soon
Colorio notes that we should call attention to the $2.50 fee (if you're using a credit card, rather than your checking account; that's per transaction)
Foley suggests that we should even change it to point out that we recommend avoid the fee
Novick: each student has a separate account; this will be called out in the letter (it isn't in the FAQ)
Colorio asks what happens if the money never gets used or requested for a refund; will have to create a system to check those student balances for 12 th graders


Finance and Operations: summer staffing

high school students being able to change their schedules during the summertime
We've got a chart of what the staffing was and how many kids came in
Foley comments that the staffing at Doherty seems much lower
being checked



Subcommittee meetings this week

There are three standing committee meetings this week:
  • Finance and operations, rescheduled from last week, meets at noon today.
  • Teaching, Learning, and Student Supports meets tomorrow, Tuesday, at 5:30.
  • Governance and Employee Issues meets Wednesday at 3.
In all cases at the Durkin Administration Building, 4th floor conference room.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

"Learning to read/reading to learn" a myth

..and a dangerous one:

For teachers who believe that teaching reading falls solely within the primary teacher's domain, reading after 3rd grade becomes an application or assignment, not an opportunity for teaching and learning. To further students' reading level, educators must give explicit instruction about how text is structured and effective and how students can ask questions and use strategies to make text more meaningful.

"Your students consistently fail to perform well on high stakes tests. What would you do?"

Excellent post from a teacher at Boston Renaissance Charter School.
My co-teacher and I decided to spend Tuesday afternoon learning how our urban fourth graders solve problems. We put the desks in a circle, presented the kids with a series of real life situations and then asked them how they would react...
Scenario Four: You missed your bus. What would you do?
• I would run after it and pop the tire.
• I would get a ladder and put it in front of the bus so the driver would think it broke down.
• I get on at the first stop so I would run as fast as I could to get to the last stop.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

And in honor of Read Across America Day...

...otherwise known as the birthday of Dr. Seuss...

If you're wondering about the book I gave my colleagues tonight at the beginning of the meeting, you can find it here. (No, I am not getting a cut!)
A friend sent me a copy of Goodnight Worcester and I thought the illustrations of the city particularly lovely. Give it a look!

Commonwealth Virtual School

should we? should we not?
This is in committee consideration on Beacon Hill

Standing committees

descriptions of Standing Committees
Boone says it's a review: when the committees were changed, there were descriptions  (I haven't seen them...maybe before me?)
Mayor points out that it should be voted by the School Committee and added to Rules
heading to Governance

Heading back downtown

On April 5, we are heading back downtown.
So March 15, here at Tech. April 5 at City Hall. Bring your quarters; the lot won't be open yet!

TLSS meeting report

public speaking courses and debate: options that we have
recommendation for citywide debate for secondary schools: referral to FY13 budget
use of smartphones in classes: prepare a report on recommendations to our current policy
accountability plans are going to Accountability, as is AP report
gym: sports as gym, report in July
comments on the teacher evaluation
All American City Award (on reading): application being drafted
Family Handbook being updated for 2012 school year
status report on the library plan: O'Connell asking for recommendations on expanding elementary librarians coming back at budget

Foley: debate, "could use raising the level of discourse in the city"
concern about putting into place a program at a particular school
Biancheria: that had been looking to pilot at North, would hope eighth graders at WEMS could join in
Novick: concerns around BMI as a measurement; Boone on working with the rest of the community on intergrating health
Also how accurate is it
cell phone policy recommendation coming back for this coming years policy handbook
also not commenting on things in a timely fashion
Boone suggests taking items up at the full committee level (rather than sending things off to standing committee), and voting immediately



Innovation school presentations

initial presentation on innovation schools: this is not the plan tonight, just an introduction
There will be a hearing once School Committee gets the plan
Sorry, just got online...posting as I go...

with apologies for the lack of posts

...as I have been flat on my back with the flu since last week... 
There is (so far)  a meeting of the Worcester School Committee tonight at 7 pm at Worcester Technical High School. You will find the agenda here.
On tonight's agenda: a presentation of three schools who will be submitting innovation plans. Worcester Technical High, Lincoln Street, and Worcester East Middle Schools are presenting tonight. There is, as yet, no backup (and we haven't gotten the plans yet).
Teaching, Learning, and Student Supports had a meeting on Tuesday, and the report is coming back from that meeting. That report includes debate teams, BMI, cell phone use in school, and gym class.
There wasn't actually an F&O meeting this week; it was postponed by Mr. Foley because I was sick. 
We've got two requests coming in from City Council (wow, and they never send us stuff): one for a master plan, and one for negotiating parking for Gates Lane School.
We've been told by the DPW that the garage at City Hall won't be done until late April. Expect to see some action on that one.
A number of requests going off to committee: revising graduation to align with MassCore, creating descriptions of the standing committees, asking for a report on MCAS appeals, looking into a virtual school, and creating a policy on remote participation by members. Oh, and should we look into that empty space at St. Peter-Marian?
Also, some recognitions: those who won the essay and art contest honoring Martin Luther King, Jr. and a Girls Inc. scholarship winner. (Those are not happening tonight; we're passing items.)

Starts at 7!
 

No school today

There is no school in Worcester today (March 1) due to the storm.