Friday, May 31, 2013
The Worcester City Council asked a number of questions during part I of the Worcester Public Schools budget hearing (city allocation) last week. You can find the answers to their questions here. (That's a fixed Dropbox link, which I think you'll find easier to read than the city's Laserfiche.)
You'll note that in several cases, readers are referred to particular pages of the budget. As I told the sixth graders who asked me last week what I do with my budget book after it's passed: read it! Keep it close at hand! There's lots in there.
You can find the budget here.
And the City Council will do part II of the WPS budget hearing on Tuesday at 4. Please plan to attend.
Thursday, May 30, 2013
I want to inform you that I have accepted the resignation of Matthew C. Morse as principal of North High School effective at the end of this school year. Matt has served the North High School Community for 20 years and feels that it is time for him to step aside in order to pursue other educational leadership opportunities within the Worcester Public Schools. I appreciate his dedication to the North community and look forward to continuing to work with him in the Worcester Public Schools. He is notifying his faculty and staff this afternoon.The principal vacancy at the school will be posted this weekend as a search for his replacement begins.
The park is on, yes, Greenwood Street in Quinsig Village, 'though you can best access the spray park from Forsberg Street.
Wednesday, May 29, 2013
The schools start at about 55 minutes in and run for the rest of the video.
You may have caught some mention late last week of a recommendation for more gym class for kids in schools. It's a report from the non-partisan Institute of Medicine of the National Academies (you can read it online at that link for free).
In this light, the IOM was asked to examine the status of physical activity and physical education efforts in schools, how physical activity and fitness affect health outcomes, and what can be done to help schools get students to become more active.The recommendations specifically on physical education are:
elementary students engage in 30 minutes of physical activity in gym class daily. High school and middle school students should have 45 minutes of physical education. At least half of these classes should consist of vigorous or moderate-intensity exercise, the IOM said....in all cases, daily.
Students in the Worcester Public Schools, K-6, have gym class once a week. In grades 7-12, students have gym on a rotating basis; no student has gym for the full school year.
There's thus a MAJOR difference between our reality on the ground and this recommendation. Any increase here would absolutely require increased funding (and I would expect to hear a request for additional time in the day, too, though I'd rather see us to less of some of what we currently do).
The report further recommends:
children should get more exercise during recess, breaks and classroom exercises as well as in after-school sports, the report said. It advised against revoking recess privileges as a punishment for misbehavior at school.Absolutely agreed!
Tuesday, May 28, 2013
*The City Manager was doing this off the top of his head. It's actually $3.5 million, of which $3 million is allocated for renovations (largely the 20% local contribution towards MSBA projects); $150,000 for technology (for FY14); $240,000 for school buses (4 small buses); and $110,000 for facilities vehicles.
Request City Manager provide City Council with an employment chart by department that reveals the city or town of residence for those employees at the time of being hired in Fiscal 2010, 2011 and 2012 as compared with those same employees' city or town of residence for the current fiscal year. (Petty, O'Brien)
Request City Manager recommend to City Council an expansion of the residency provisions in the existing city ordinances that prospectively enhances Worcester residency for future non-represented and represented City of Worcester employees noting in said report the various collective bargaining units with whom negotiations will be required before enactment. (Petty, O'Brien)
new positions created by WPS, new positions created by city (including police and fire)
report: how those state and federal grants are expended (READ THE BUDGET!)
how many private/parochial students transported by WPS?
class sizes: "busting at the seams"
How are we looking to decrease class size as we move forward?
reduce the gap
Boone: "finished year with fewer than 500 seats across the district" and that continues to get smaller
two "very firm" enrollment projections: expect a gradual uptick for the next several years
reopening schools creates similar challenges to closing schools
will know better in October on enrollment
asks about University Park math and science upper level teachers
"are we making progress?...moving forward, making progress"
Boone: "making progress primarily due to the way that we approach the budget"
"finding ourselves getting close to the end of being able to reprogram the same dollars"
Eddy: "continue to make progress"
Gates Lane School: "had come up here repeatedly"
parking impact on the neighborhood Note that we are paying $14,000 for 14 parking spaces across the street.
Boone: schools built without parking areas; issues that we face in most of those schools
planning and design for other schools: too difficult to do it later
nearly impossible to address after the fact
"very large school on a very large footprint"
adequate parking was not planned
other schools: what are creative ways for parking? ...no property around schools to create parking
work with neighborhoods for least disruption
don't have a solution
Eddy: will school budget include funding for Gates Lane parking in the fall
Boone: working to carry forward
Allen: intent of foundation budget was to increase state funding for schools, and so we've seen
"as goes the state budget, so goes our budget"
our budget won't be final until the state budget passes in July
Yes, but the state tends to actually fund MOST of their requirements fully
How many students at Spirit of Knowledge?
156 students...we would welcome them back if the school closed
Allen: we've been seeing enrollment increases larger than that the past several years, so it closing would not be an issue
Toomey: technology ...are we working with colleges for support on technology
Boone cites Blue Ribbon Panel
a capacity issue
systems vulnerable due to loss of support for Windows XP
working to make it most efficient
Allen: state used to capture numbers of computers; leasing computers starting next year
funding at a half year implementation...would cost $1.2M for a full year
class sizes at 22.1 on average: no classes that are greater than 30, so long as Chandler Elementary finds rental space
Boone runs through the class sizes
do charter schools have access to Medicaid funds? if charter schools provide services, they could collect reimbursement, AND THEY COULD KEEP IT
Toomey wants a report
34 net increase of positions
Allen: sequestration eliminating 32 tutors
Boone: well rounded education: realignment..." having a school system that is not just bare bones...but is attractive to choose"
Toomey wants to know if other schools could be open later, as Worcester Tech was for robotics (most of the secondary schools are open into the afternoon...)
Toomey wants to expand after schools programs
enrollment by class: Flagg is one of a handful that has lost enrollment over the past several years
Boone: warranted reduction of positions
large increase in enrollment across the city
"know that it is challenging as we become attached to the people in our schools"
Allen: about the same number of elementary teachers next year systemwide
reallocation of positions within the system
"that's where we'll be come September, absent new funding sources" (in terms of where teachers are)
Boone: elimination of federal grants
"conscious decision not to cut classroom teachers"
Economou asks to have position at Flagg reconsidered
SAIL at Nelson Place: this is a program that serves those with autism
what is happening there?
students "aging up" within the program: students staying at the same school through elementary school
Economou: how many more kids coming in?
"school is already bursting at the seams..."
Boone: will provide information, ongoing training and professional development
"building capacity to serve our own needs"
Economou: "appreciate the savings, but not at the cost of the safety" of the children and the staff
"money is limited"
Lukes: how many new positions added?
Boone: net is 30 new position
Lukes: how many new positions on the cityside? Zidelis say that it's less than 20
Query as to if that's counting new WFD and WPD classes
Lukes is not counting new safety classes: WHICH ARE NEW HIRES IN WFD AND WPD!!
Lukes: total amount received in federal grants?
$30 M in federal grants, $5 M in state grants
Lukes: asks how much counts towards net school spending
grants don't count towards net school spending because net school spending is a measure of how much a community spends on its own school system
"we have costs that aren't included in the formula"
speaks of eyes glazing over from people at home on talk of foundation budget
administrative costs and medicaid not counting
transportation doesn't count towards net school spending: Lukes asks that DelSignore walk us through his report again
DelSignore: "getting there and schools themselves don't count towards net school spending"
Lukes asks if we could save any money by vendoring out the transportation...DelSignore says that there are experts in that (and he isn't one)
cites Grafton which charges a fee to students beyond grade 6 who are not low income
one should perhaps point out that we are 73% low income
says she does not believe that students won't come if they don't have transportation
"if we have a real problem with kids (not coming without transportation)..."not being motivated
Boone: "we never blame our children for our underperforming"
"not required to provide transportation for our 7-12" but once we have the buses for K-6, the rest of the day is taken care of already
increase in requests from charter and private schools
"biting off our nose despite our face.." to cut transportation
putting a fee on those not on free and reduced lunch "middle class tax"
Lukes motion for legal inquiry into fees fails, 1-8
and does this include federal grants?
Zidelis: as their budget increases as a percentage of the city budget, the proportional share of the department
plus increase in technical services ('though not to schools; we're not getting more services)
Boone: grants do not count towards net school spending
Rushton asks for all spending, whether general fund or other sources
incidentally, we're pulled people off of grants, so if there were a change, you'd see it. There isn't one. No one is hiding administrators in federal grants. And don't take my word for it
OPEB: wants to know what would happen if we had to pull $30 million of the school system
Boone: "would decimate the school system"
Rushton "troubling to me" that there's no OPEB funding on the school or city side
"a real thing"
asks if OPEB could be included in net school spending: asks DESE, have not received a formal response at this time
have heard unofficially that it will not count towards net school spending
Rushton concerned about cuts on the order of Prop 2 1/2
Boone: would have enlarged net school spending gap
city could apply Medicaid reimbursement generated by Worcester Public Schools, goes into city general fund, could be used for OPEB
The city general fund gets $3 million each year for services provided by the Worcester Public Schools. The schools are no longer receiving any money from the city for providing this service.
Rushton: "I'm not asking you to reduce your budget; reallocation"
"with it comes the dollars that are spent as a result of that decision"
"just ignoring the problem and shifting the blame"
Boone: schools followed city's benefits structure on recent contracts
Rushton: "mystified on the premise that...two wrongs make a right"
"to do nothing is a failure"
Commend everything being done by administration
Three areas in which you would see future cuts?
Allen: "In anticipation of your annual question" the answer is on page 14 of the WPS budget
special education, school printing, energy savings
Okay, one editorial comment: there comes a time at which there is no place else to cut. I'd say we passed that several years ago.
"work collaborative with the schools"
"for cities to grow and prosper: safety, services, and schools"
runs through investments in public safety, in public services
progress in schools: reduce the deficit in net school spending number
"I'm hoping to hear...capital budget... infrastructure in our schools"
challenges in our operational budget
"not quite there yet in meeting our minimal obligation in net school spending"
surrounding communities spending 14% more on average; losing families
"make a case that we need to make a little bit more investment"
"Hope we can find opportunities to get to" that minimum
make necessary investment to stay competitive
Questions: administrative spending compared to internal administrative spending: comparison across the Gateway cities: is there some understanding of why there is such a big differential?
Zidelis: can speak to which cityside services go into the calculation?
Zidelis says they can research the difference and come back with a report
O'Brien asks about the percentage of the school budget as compared with Gateway cities
Boone: costs directly incurred by the school district, then city costs charged to the schools
if you look at WPS, we have maintained that line over last several years.Dropping an administration this year
administration is 1.5% of total WPS budget
O'Brien: offset in increase within increase charter school tuition
loss of state and local grants, as well
Boone: $1.68 million we are being underfunded in charter reimbursement
Allen: chapter 70 funds are allocated to charter schools as well; 9% of allocation in education goes to charter schools
O'Brien: increase in chapter 70, plus state and federal grant drops: report?
O'Brien: ASKS TO HOLD BUDGET
(it now is divided between net school spending and non-net school spending).
"Reduction in the estimated FY13 Net School Spending deficiency" to $427,000
Boone comments that this is her fourth budget before the Council
"very busy and productive year as it relates to the Worcester Public Schools budget"
speaks of joint committee with Education
"addressed a number of longstanding questions about the budget and how the budget works"
"a difference place...we're really talking about where we're going forward"
"working to close that gap"
Economic development as a reason for education
increasing enrollment driving increased state funding; space issues
city's efforts to support the capital work
100th birthday of Rice Square School Celebrated today! Happy birthday, Rice Square!
We have "schools going into their third century of operations"
grateful for city's support
working going forward with MSBA on Nelson Place and on the accelerated repairs
sequestration and declining federal revenues in various grants
strike a balance between moving some of grant work into operational budget, and some having to be cut
"difficult decisions from that end"
"builds on our goal to maintain reasonable class sizes across the district"
looking to expand high school teachers for fall 2013 (shift to MassCore)
adding three nurses
refreshing computers, not only in classrooms, but in offices
Blue Ribbon Panel on technology
two Level 4 schools potentially coming out of Level 4 in fall
transportation: growing district, growing number of students with disabilities
state underfunding particular areas
"Let me very clear: the numbers that we submitted to the City Manager and the City CFO were the numbers from the formula" They aren't a request; they are a state requirement.
reintroduction of athletics at middle school
"address all of the various needs...in our educational system"
Friday, May 24, 2013
It is once again that time of year to engage in the budget conversation for the Worcester Public Schools. As in past years we are calling on all Parents to attend the City Council’s hearing on the School Budget for next year. It will be on May 28 at 4pm in Council chamber.
We all know how important our local school system is to our children and our community. I would like to think it is possible to someday call the Worcester Public School District the best urban school district in the state. It seems that each year we need to remind our local elected officials of where we place education among our priorities for Worcester. As CPPAC stated in our online petition last year;
“…1996 was the last year that Worcester played a leading role in urban district funding levels. In 1996, the City Council recognized the value of public education and contributed 5.7 percent above the state-mandated minimum to the Worcester Public Schools. Since 1998, the city has consistently contributed less than one percent above minimum (with one exception: 2009, 1.5%) and last year (2012) allocated less than the minimum. In contrast, communities across the state continue to support public school education at an average level of more than 14 percent above minimum, with our peer communities (other urban districts) averaging more than 3 percent above minimum…”
Recently the City Manager has published his budget recommendations for the 2014 school year. Once again we will fall short of the state-mandated minimum. For 2014 the City Manager has proposed a budget that falls more than $400,000 short of the state mandate.(99.9% of the Foundation Budget) For the last three years we have failed to meet the state mandate.
We need to let the City Council and the City Manager know that it is not acceptable that Worcester’s Net School Spending is in the bottom 2% of the state as percentage of foundation budget.
We need to let the City Council and the City Manager know that it is not acceptable that there will be more Elementary classrooms of >27 in FY14 then there was in FY12 or FY13. It is unacceptable that the Student Teacher ratios in the Elementary schools are increasing specifically after all the rhetoric form the City last year that Class size is an important measure of our student opportunity for success.
We need to let the City Council and the City Manager know that it is not acceptable that the City charges the Worcester Public Schools more for administrative services (1.6% of the foundation budget and a 19.5% increase since FY08) then the Worcester Public Schools actual administratively spends on running the schools. The actual Administrative cost on the school side of the budget has only increased by 2.4% since FY08 despite an increase of 5.1% in student population.
We need to let the City Council and the City Manager know that it is not acceptable that the City takes as revenue into the general fund the $3.2 million dollars (1% of the foundation budget) in Medicaid reimbursements that are generated by the services provided by the Worcester Public Schools and is not returned to the Worcester Public Schools.
Please if it is at all possible try to attend the Budget Hearing on Tuesday, May 28th at 4pm at City Hall and directly contact members of the City Council before Tuesday’s meeting to let them know your opinion.
City Council Members can be reached at:
(508) 799-1049 (same phone number for all)
Joseph Petty - Mayor email@example.com
Michael Germain - At-Large GermainM@worcesterma.gov
Konstantina Lukes - At-Large LukesK@worcesterma.gov
Joseph O’Brien - At-Large OBrienJC@worcesterma.gov
Frederick Rushton - At-Large RushtonR@worcesterma.gov
Kathleen Toomey - At-Large ToomeyK@worcesterma.gov
Anthony Economou - District 1 EconomouT@worcesterma.gov
Philip Palmieri - District 2 PalmieriP@worcesterma.gov
George Russell - District 3 RussellG@worcesterma.gov
Sarai Rivera - District 4 RiveraSA@worcesterma.gov
William Eddy - District 5 EddyW@worcesterma.gov
Thursday, May 23, 2013
Sorry, I realize that Arkansas is being cut off a bit on the right margin. Click the chart to see it all.
That's from today's WBUR report "Census Data Suggests Mass Punching Below its Weight on Education Spending." Per $1000 of personal income, Massachusetts ranks 32 out of the 50 states in spending on education; essentially, this is a measure of what the state is spending versus what it (presumably) can afford.
One does have to be careful with this sort of comparison--what $1000 gets you in different parts of the country is very different, for example, and Massachusetts largely supports education from state and local funds (not federal ones)--but it is an interesting way of thinking of education spending.
If you're interested in seeing the entire meeting of May 22, including public testimony, you can find it on the Channel 11 page, under "Archived Programs."
And since he's now sitting up there on the page, let me take this chance to congratulation Mr. Allen on his election last week to the presidency of the Mass School Business Officials.
Wednesday, May 22, 2013
That's about 10% of their district.
More on this tomorrow.Check out #CPSclosings on Twitter for more.
Union Hill: 15.6%
Chandler Elementary: 14.9%
Belmont Street: 11%
Columbus Park: 7.5%
Worcester Arts Magnet: 5.9%
Schools with biggest enrollment decrease:
Burncoat Prep: 12.1%
Flagg Street: 8.5%
Chandler Mag: 7..7%
Gates Lane: 6.7%
Clark Street: 5.9%
Rice Square: 4.7%
Jacob Hiatt: 4.2%
testimony from Flagg parent: which is projected to lose three teachers, which would be moved elsewhere
nuts and bolts have been discussed numerous times before tonight
"some of the budget drivers that we've faced in preparing the FY14 budget" will be presented tonight
Posting as we go
budget book has been published "great document"
"not all of the numbers are in yet...discussing beginning on June 6"
Senate numbers are out, still time to influence at the State House level
City Council still not final, "could go up and could go down" (they hear it next Tuesday)
meeting all year with the City Council, "where is the city relative to our peers" in funding
"if you have a pitch tonight, please make that as well"
Foley: "we don't set the revenue goals for the school department; that's done elsewhere"
In addition to the list of reasons Commissioner Chester cited in recommending that Spirit of Knowledge be put on probation--something which the Board of Education passed yesterday--the state had some harsh words for the degree of transparency down at Mystic Valley charter, which was seeking an expansion:
But Jeff Wulfson, deputy education commissioner, said the state is simply representing the public in this case. “Public schools have elected boards, so there is a level of accountability,” he said. “There is nothing like that in charter school boards, so we have to act on the public’s behalf.”This is the first time I have EVER heard the state speak of the responsibility that the Board of Ed has to the public to be sure charter schools are publicly accountable and operate that way. That is very important.
Wulfson said complaints from parents and teachers about the school “have clearly gone beyond what we’ve seen at other charter schools.”
Those complaints, many from anonymous sources who say they fear retribution from the board, range from a lack of adherence to the state’s Open Meeting Law to a failure of the board to address concerns about transportation, admissions, and other issues.
“The board’s role is not only to be academically successful, but to act as a public body, with transparency and a responsibility to the public,” Wulfson said. “We feel they have fallen short on this too often.”
Monday, May 20, 2013
- June 28: Worcester Art Museum
- July 12: Museum of Russian Icons
- July 26: Higgins Armory Museum
- August 30: Ecotarium
Sunday, May 19, 2013
For those wondering just what he's referencing, the letter to the editor was in the Boston Globe, not the T&G, so you may well not have seen it. It was in reference to their (not surprisingly for the Globe) one-sided coverage of the charter school hearing at the State House last week. And the Globe has a strict 180 word limit on letters to the editor (mine clocked in at 178 before it was edited further by them), thus it was rather short.
With all due respect to Mr. Nemeth, I was at the hearing last week at the State House. It's not that big of a room, so I know that he was not. Thus I not only heard the testimony of the pro-charter forces; I heard the testimony of the gentleman from Stanford, flown in specially by the Boston Foundation to present his findings. Representative Denise Garlick of Needham, the House Vice-Chair of the Joint Committee on Education, directly asked him if he had controlled for the affect of parents on educational attainment when comparing charter schools and regular public schools.
Not only did he concede that they had not; he said that any such study would be unable to do so, as parents had "opted into school of choice."
That's not dishonest, Mr. Nemeth; that's what he said.
As for whether charter schools exclude particular students, the numbers speak for themselves. Here, for example, are Spirit of Knowledge's 2012 numbers as compared to the Worcester Public Schools:
- Spirit of Knowledge serves 31.2% low income students; WPS serves 70.1%
- SoKA serves 11.9% special education students; WPS 20.9%
- SoKA serves 15.6% ELL; WPS 24.3%
And that's just one of Worcester's charter schools. While Worcester's other two charter schools are (thankfully for their students) not so benighted, the comparisons of population would reveal similar trends.
In nearly three years of operation, SOKCS has employed four executive directors, has not maintained a sound or stable financial condition, has failed to maintain adequate membership on its board of trustees, has not provided the academic model proposed in its charter, has not shown promising academic results, has a significantly decreased enrollment from what it projected in its application, and will face financial challenges as a result of its drop in enrollment.
So the makeup of Worcester's charter schools is not that of the general WPS population, Mr. Nemeth. That's the truth.
I'm more than happy to argue the relative merits of charter schools with Mr. Nemeth or with anyone.
I do take issue with being called a liar in print on the Sunday editorial page.
I get my facts straight before I write or speak. I would suggest that Mr. Nemeth do the same.
You're entitled to your own opinion, Mr. Nemeth; you're not entitled to your own facts.
Friday, May 17, 2013
They will review the departments and budget categories in the following order, in every case at 4 pm:
Building and Zoning
Housing and Health
Property & Casualty Insurance
DPW & Parks
Parks, Recreation, Cemetery
Worcester Public Schools
City Manager's Office
City Manager's Office
Worker's Comp & Public Safety IOD
Worcester Redevelopment Authority/Union Station
Workforce Investment Board
Workforce Central Career Center
Administration & Finance
Finance: Admin, Budget, Treasurer & Collector, Purchasing
City Energy and Asset Management
Debt Service Principal and Interest
Pension Obligation Bonds
Five Point Plan Funds
Line Item Budget
May 23, 10 am, Creamer Center graduation at Worcester Technical High School, Tracy Novick
May 24, 11 am, St. Casmir's at St. Casmir's Church
May 30, 6 pm, UPCS, Atwood Hall (Clark), Jack Foley
June 3, 6 pm, Burncoat High, John Mondredo
June 4, 6 pm, North High, Dianna Biancheria
June 5, 6 pm, Doherty, Donna Colorio
June 7, 6 pm, South High, Brian O'Connell
June 10, 6 pm, Worcester Tech, Tracy Novick
June 11, 6 pm, Claremont Academy at Atwood Hall (Clark), Brian O'Connell
June 12, 6 pm, Adult Learning Center at Forest Grove, John Monfredo
All eighth grade graduations take place on the last day of school--June 25 this year--at the school unless otherwise noted.
Claremont Academy, 11 am, Donna Colorio
Burncoat Middle, 1 pm, Donna Colorio
Sullivan Middle at Worcester State, 10 am, Dianna Biancheria
Suillivan Middle at Worcester State, 1 pm, Dianna Biancheria
Forest Grove Middle, 10 am, Jack Foley
Forest Grove Middle, 1 pm, Jack Foley
Caradonio New Citizens Center, 1 pm, Tracy Novick
UPCS at Jefferson 320 (Clark), 1 pm, John Monfredo
Worcester East Middle, 11 am, Brian O'Connell
Last night, the opening section of the policy handbook, which deals with school deisolation, was put back into the handbook for another year. Superintendent Boone said that she would formally request that the Commissioner weigh in on our deisolation policy (for those having trouble reading that, it's "DE-isolation," aka, making sure particular populations aren't isolated. Elsewhere, it'd be called desegregation) ahead of potentially making changes next year.
And I should perhaps point out here that the second half of what I said was "and we have schools that are majority children of color..." It can't always all make it into the paper. And if we'd tried to send the handbook back to subcommittee before last night, we would have been told that there wasn't time due to the need for translation.
The rest of the policy handbook was held for our June 6 meeting. Mayor Petty would like the administration's opinion on changes suggested by members of the committee. Those changes are:
- to leave in the language on demerits and on tardiness in the section dealing with school discipline. The administration is proposing that they be taken out; demerits, because we don't do demerits, and tardiness, because it's silly to suspend someone for tardiness (miss more school as a punishment for missing school). The section of rules, however, doesn't actually say that those rules require suspension for breaking them; they are listed as disciplinary infractions.
- O'Connell also is concerned about adding "gender identity" to our non-discrimination policy; there's some disagreement as to where we are with DESE requiring this.
- Finally, while administration is proposing that "prior grades" be dropped as a consideration from admission to Advanced Placement classes, O'Connell would like to keep it.
Colorio: to make more explicit that parents can opt out of Body Mass Index measurement, by putting the impetus on the school to send something home for parents to sign if they'd like to opt out.
Novick: (I've actually put mine by page, so you can look them up if you like)
p. 3: Eliminate new proposed line “Permission to attend a magnet school may be rescinded whenever the Quadrant Manager or designee determines that the district school would more likely better support student outcomes than the magnet school.”
The administration will be weighing in by Friday letter on these, and the handbook will be voted on June 6.
Two further things to note:
- These are the policies that direct the Worcester Public Schools. If you have an opinion, PLEASE GET IN TOUCH!
- The Worcester School Committee--not the administration--is the policy setting body for the Worcester Public Schools. Debate and discussion of policies is part of our job. To limit that, or to limit that only to subcommittee, would be not to do our jobs.
Thursday, May 16, 2013
gold star was placed on the steps outside of City Hall marking the place where Isaiah Thomas first read the Declaration of Independence in the city of Worcester (in fact, in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, as Thomas waylaid the rider heading to Boston from Philadelphia)
appropriate time for the restoration of that star
refer to Council
- commending them for fulling funding the special education circuit breaker
- commending them for funding of the McKinney-Vento transportation costs
- expressing concerns about the 2007 "reform" of funding that continues the non-progressive funding of Chapter 70 aid at the same time as--
- --the charter school reimbursement is underfunded (this year at 68.1%)
Students are selected by their principals, who also select the advisers.
Boone: leadership development
comments from students regarding their experiences in the council
Contest began in 1923.
judged on technical skill and the "emergence of a voice"
about 900,000 submissions
The public hearing of the FY14 WPS budget will be next Wednesday, May 22 at 7 pm at the Durkin Administration Building.
This is scheduled as a meeting of the Standing Committee on Finance and Operations. There will be a presentation on the budget, followed by a chance for public testimony.
This is when we hear from you! Please come!
I believe passionately in this grandiose undertaking that is so wildly American: the U.S. public school system. We were the first country to say, “Yes! We will educate everybody.” Implementation is imperfect, of course, and there is always work to do, but don’t you love the optimism of this giant, generous experiment? Americans have a history of aiming for impossibly high goals. Do we always reach them? Of course not. But isn’t it wonderful that we try?
The Worcester School Committee meets tonight at 7 pm at City Hall. You can find the agenda here.
In addition to the substantive issues coming out of subcommittee regarding the policy manual, we are also:
- recognizing the Boston Globe Scholastic Art and Writing award winners
- getting a short presentation on the Superintendent's Student Advisory Council
- voting (one assumes) to open negotiations with the EAW (for tutors, assistants, IAs, and parent liaisons) and with the MNA (for nurses)
- getting (in addition to Governance) reports out from Accountability and from Finance and Operations.
- hearing back from Columbus Park on naming their auditorium
- setting dates for a number of recognitions
- accepting a donation from St. John's church for iPads at Union Hill
- accepting a grant from Johnson & Johnson
- sending the (now annual) school lunch increase off to F&O
- asking for a report on summer programs
- asking for a report on pedestrian issues (crosswalks, signage) around schools
- considering awarding diplomas to veterans whose military service interrupted their completion of school
- requesting training for our principals for the new regs on suspension
- And (love this one) asking that the City Manager put back the star in front of City Hall where Isaiah Thomas read the Declaration of Independence! (before it was read in Boston...just saying!)
Tuesday, May 14, 2013
- First of all, the entire opening piece on page 3 regarding majority and minority students is proposed, by the administration, to be deleted. That would mean that the Worcester Public Schools would no longer have a desegration/deisolation policy. I see from the minutes of the subcommittee meeting that my colleague Brian O'Connell has raised concerns about this, which I share. If you do, too, I'd suggest getting in touch with us and/or being there on Thursday.
- Second, the school transfer for both magnet and out of district students could now be rescinded "whenever the Quadrant Manager determines that the district school would more likely better support student outcomes than the magnet/out of district school." (that's in the proposed changes). That was not previously the policy.
- It is proposed, in line with DESE policy, that "gender identity" be added to the nondiscrimination statements throughout.
- There are some changes in the languages around testing (I'm planning to propose some changes from the floor on this as well).
- It is proposed that we delete the entire section on excessive tardies and demerits leading to suspensions.
- We're adding a section on head injuries, per state law.
- We're changing the course graduation requirements to bring us into line with MassCore (four years of math and two of the same foreign language are the changes).
- There's also a change in the calculation of class rank.
Monday, May 13, 2013
Saturday, May 11, 2013
- Much of the gap that sequestration left us is being made up by the special education department. The Collaborative is, for the second year in a row, granting us a $1 million tuition freeze. Plus by adding five teachers and 16 IA's, we can bring many more students with autism back to the district, saving the district nearly $2 million (not to mention serving them in their home district).
- There's a substantial increase in the teacher account on special education, over and above that move, making a total addition of 17 teachers.
- There's also a substantial increase in special ed IA's, of 26 positions.
- There's two adds in the IT department, both to help teachers use technology more effectively but also to keep it all online and running. This budget also begins, mid-year, a five year lease program for computers.
- As projected, there is an additional of three nursing positions.
- The only change in elementary is moving one sixth grade teacher from the elementary line item to the secondary line item, as Worcester East Middle is adding sixth grade next year. There are, however, changes school-by-school in elementary, so look at the building-by-building budgets on those (the order is high schools, middle schools, elementary schools, other buildings, in the somewhat-but-not-quite alphabetical order of their state numbers). As always, the number of positions reflects the projected enrollment.
- Secondary is adding nine positions, largely in the foreign languages at the high schools. There is also some substantial shifting of positions, school by school, so do look at the building budgets.
- There's also a number of shifts in funding as grants have been cut: moving 23 IA positions and the Staffing and Mentoring Coordinator to the general fund. We've also lost quite a bit due to sequestration (as feared): 32 tutor positions, a substantial loss in Head Start (which will mean we serve fewer kids), the 21st Century grant being zeroed out (which will hit us in after school and summer school programs), and cuts in other grants.
- There's some central admin cuts: the Student Intervention Support Coordinator, the Facilities Project Coordinator (which was a temporary position for the city-funded capital projects, now completed), and the Race to the Top Design Project Leader (RTTT funded), and the Extended Learning Time Facilitators (of which there are two).
- There's also money set aside, as promised, for space rental for Chandler Elementary, to avoid having 6 classes of 30.
- It also adds back in the Out-of-State travel account (which has been set at zero for years) and the Personnel Office travel account (same page).
- There's a substantial jump in the AVID program.
- And this will possibly interest no one other than me, but I am cheered at the news that our #2 fuel oil line item is down by 59%, as only three of our buildings (one of which we don't own) are still using it. In the same vein, we're saving $75,000 this year because just about everyone is getting their direct deposit slips via email, rather than through the mail.
Friday, May 10, 2013
The printed budget will be in the hands of the Worcester School Committee around 5 pm today, which means that it will be up on the Worcester Public Schools website at about the same time.
If it doesn't turn up on that front page, I'd check the FY14 folder on the Finance and Operations page.
Thursday, May 9, 2013
As many of you are aware we lost a young member of the Worcester community and the ACE family last week. David Ndayishimye, who was the younger brother of two of our students, drowned on Friday in Bell Pond. He was only 10 year's old. David's funeral will be held tomorrow May 9th at 10AM at St. Peter's Church.
This is an unimaginable for any family and they need our support now more than ever. Members of the community have established a fund to help David's family with monetary support to help pay for the cost of the funeral. We ask that you please share this information with your networks.
All checks can be made out to:David's Trust Fund -8762c/o TD Bank370 Main Street, #200Worcester, MA 01608
We will also be accepting checks and other forms of donations at the ACE office located on 24 Chatham Street (basement of the Fanning Building) The family could also use gifts of food especially rice, chicken, vegetables, fruit, milk, juice, and other similar items.
The Worcester Public Schools do not expel students. We haven't for years. The most harsh punishment we met out is a long term out-of-school suspension (for, say, a year or half a year) with alternative placement (meaning that the student is placed in one of the alternative programs).
Thus our out-of-school suspension rate is equivalent to expulsions PLUS out-of-school suspensions for the districts that do expel students, like Boston.
That comparison wasn't made yesterday, nor in today's headline.
None of which is to say, incidentally, that we don't have problem. The percentage of students that are out-of-school suspended is skewed off from the makeup of the student body; Latino boys are most often suspended, entirely out of proportion to their percentage of the student body. The number of students in the younger grades--that we even have students being suspended in the younger grades!--is definitely a problem.
There have been conversations in the past about this. They haven't gone anywhere. You'll be hearing more.
Wednesday, May 8, 2013
Concerned about the use of confidential student information to market products? Worried about data security in the cloud?
The Campaign for a Commercial-free Childhood has put up a quick way to send a letter off to the Board of Ed with these concerns. You can also sign up there if you're looking for other ways to be involved.
And please, pass it along!
Tuesday, May 7, 2013
Monday, May 6, 2013
Sunday, May 5, 2013
There are three items on the agenda:
- an update on the plantings around the parking lot on corner of Irving and Chatham Streets, which has been a topic of concern to the Crown Hill Neighborhood Association. The short version: we've put in for a grant which we should hear about the end of May, and we're also getting assistance from the Worcester Tree Initiative.
- we're updating how we get student reps in line with Mass General Law. They're supposed to be elected by their peers.
- the policy handbook is up for renewal. Suggested changes here.
If anyone from the city wants to come along, I'd welcome the company.
Saturday, May 4, 2013
Gates Lane Elem. in Worcester, MA students sharing Thank You cards with their #schoollunch Superheros! twitter.com/SchoolLunch/st…
— SchoolLunch (@SchoolLunch) May 3, 2013
Today was a remarkable day on many levels. Here I am with some new friends at my old school. #SchoolLunch twitter.com/StudioJJK/stat…
— Jarrett J. Krosoczka (@StudioJJK) May 4, 2013
And he'd want me to tell you that the books he gave away were through First Book, which heavily discounts books for Title I schools. If you're part of such a school, be sure you're signed up!
Friday, May 3, 2013
- Item 9.28 E is a request for a transfer of $225,000 for the five accelerated repair schools. We had an update on this Wednesday; it looks as though they're getting ready for summer work.
- Item 9.32 A is an update on Nelson Place being invited to feasibility.
- Coming out of the committee on education, item 10D is a request to come up with a plan to close the net school spending gap.
- Likewise 10E is a request that the superintendent and administration present a plan on how additional revenue would be spent. I suspect this last should include "subject to School Committee allocation."