Thursday, November 20, 2014

Looking for more on the Superintendent's evaluation? updating with comments from members

It was early in the meeting; scroll down!

Let's take a look at comments from members!
I'm not going to type the entirety of all of everyone's comments (I will if I can; some are quite lengthy), but I'll give you my best shot the most indicative bit(s) for each of us in each area. There's an ellipse if I've left something out. 
The relative veracity of each quote is up to the speaker; I will not vouch for them.

On Instructional Leadership:
Petty: "Superintendent Boone continues to strive to improve the curriculum for all students in the Worcester Public Schools by ensuring that teachers prepare and provide well-structured lessons based on best practices. I believe that we are heading in the right direction regarding instruction and am impressed with your leadership team. In addition, the Administration has done well with the analysis of data and the creation of accountability standards."
Biancheria: "Administration should not limit the increases in budgets where it is essential to expand resources for the students and in the classroom, while, in addition, not setting the limit on increases in non-classroom staff. It is risky to make adjustments which increase budgets that do not have an immediate effect on the instruction and engagement of our students. The interpretation and clear baseline of all data in order to set improvements and measure success needs improvement. Implementing a wider base of measures is essential to our students. This can support an increase in engaging initiatives which, in return, can influence healthy and safe behaviors."
Foley: "Continued good progress with focused professional development and the understanding of what constitutes effective practice in the classroom. Although, we are moving towards 'high expectations in all settings,' we are not there yet and need to keep that pressure on across the district."
Monfredo: "Our school system continues to meet the needs of all 'at risk' students and at the same time challenge our best and brightest students. It's a task that needs good leadership and the necessary financial resources. Our data shows improvement has been made as we move to assist many of our students who are in need of improvement. Best practices, tutoring, staff relationships with students, parent involvement, school attendance, and a mixture of many motivational ideas are all part of the over-all strategy in meeting the needs of our students. We continue to make some progress but more needs to be accomplished..."
O'Connell: "The Superintendent does focus well on data, including student assessment results, in framing her own instructional initiatives, and these initiatives do provide 'standards-based units of instruction consisting of well-structured lessons with measurable outcomes.' Based on such data, though, I question whether our curriculum truly establishes aggressive standards of rigor tailored to maximize student achievement across the entire student ability spectrum..." [He then ran through this past year's MCAS scores]
Ramirez: "It has been great to see system wide plans for literacy and math. We would like to continue to make gains in these areas."
Novick:" There has been a great district drive on standards, delivery of instruction, teacher evaluation, and the like this past year within the Worcester Public Schools. I appreciate in particular the attention to what is happening within the classroom and supporting teachers to meet students where they are. I want to call attention to the words “variety” and “multiple” above regarding assessment. There is, I think, a constant struggle to move away from the default data points on education and into more rich analysis of how children are doing, well beyond ELA and math MCAS. I saw as a particular bright spot on this the use of portfolio assessments for the summer programs. I would urge us all to see this as an area needing of improvement."

On Management and Operations:
Petty: "I believe that the Superintendent and her staff have done an excellent job in both the management and the operation of the Worcester Public Schools. Although several of our schools are in need of renovations, they are looking better and we area heading in the right direction with both repairs and renovations. We need to prioritize our needs with the MSBA and improved documentation will help us. Although the division of Human Resources does an exemplary job with limited personnel, it needs to continue to focus on attracting a more diverse work force. I would like to see the Superintendent personally focus on school safety with direct contact with each of the school's students, staff, and principals."
Biancheria: "Indicators are, at times, ignored by Administration, which results in failure to provide the tools and budget necessary for the success of all students. A number of strategies need to be identified which focus on the needs of our students, staff, materials, and programs. The perception of empowering staff with a vision of success does not promote the listening skills that can create a successful future for all students."
Foley: " The operational and financial systems in the Worcester Public Schools set a high standard for urban and suburban districts. Recognizing the significant gap in resources between Worcester and other districts, WPS has efficiently used their resources to achieve high levels of success in these areas. The financial operations of WPS, under the leadership of CFO Brian Allen, continues to garner regional and national acclaim for professionalism and high levels of competency. Mr. Allen continues to exhibit leadership amongst his peers and across the state as districts press the case for sufficient and equitable funding."
Monfredo: "The leadership within the school system has continued to address the need for all schools to be clean, safe, and healthy. Many parents have remarked on the overall cleanliness of their school and appreciate the efforts of many staff members. However, we need to make sure that this is the norm for all of our schools...Our school nurses continue to make sure that our students are healthy and they have reached out to the parents in communicating their concerns about their child's health needs...Our human resources department continues to reach out and recruit effective educators for our system...The fiscal management has done a good job with the lack of the necessary resources. More resources are needed in early education including teacher assistants in every kindergarten room if we are to move forward having all students ready for grade one. In addition, we must always look at the teacher-pupil ratio and have it as a priority. The accelerated repair projects have been most successful and have added to the overall curbside appeal."
O'Connell: "The superintendent is very supportive of efforts to enhance our schools, through capital plans through development of proposals for school rehabilitation or replacement, and we have made significant progress here consistent with our limited resources...A review of the resumes of newly-hired/promoted teachers and principals reflects a diverse staff with a distinctive range of talents, skills, and experiences. We do appear to work hard to hire 'quality!' A knowledgeable and dedicated staff operates this [scheduling and management information] aspect of our school system very well--among the finest centers of excellence in our district staff. Our budget format has won national recognition, and properly so. My concern with the budget rests with the budget content. It remains 'administration-centric,' allocating valuable resources to administrative positions of questionable necessity when literally dozens of teaching positions--and parent liaisons--are lost. The superintendent continues to add positions to her administrative staff, right to the present--which will have some budget impact in future years even if they are grant-funded or are budget-neutral for 2014-15. It is truly unconscionable to have classes of 35-40 students in our schools when little (if any apparent effort is made to relocate positions--and funds--from central administration to the classroom."
Ramirez: "The district does a fantastic job with fiscal systems and allocations and management of expenditures and most importantly reporting these to the school committee and the public (transparency). There still remains a large gap in funding for the district and the need to educate the public on the compromises that are made to meet the gaps in funding. While the impact is one of federal and state formula funding, there is a need for local conversations and strategies to meet the gap in funding and this could be a local awareness campaign.
Novick: Our transportation department was lauded in its recent review for its use of resources and quick turnaround on scheduling changes. We are seeing continued improvement in the aspects of facilities management, even given the far too slender resources brought to bear. Mr. Allen’s Eagle award and
the Meritorious Budget award speak for themselves; the well-deserved accolades bear out what we, as primary users of the budget document, know as to its clarity and continued usefulness, supported by day-to-day management that likewise is superlative.
My only other concern regarding this section is that of “available resources,” which lies outside the scope of this committee.

Family and Community and Engagement:
Petty: "I believe that the Superintendent's performance regarding family and community engagement continue to be proficient. Dr. Boone works hard to make sure all students transition well into our school system as new students to Worcester or ones who graduate from elementary to secondary or beyond. It also should be noted that the administration and staff collaborate well with city organizations to improve student achievement. The Superintendent has worked hard to begin the process of celebrating and promoting the successes of the Worcester Public Schools which will continue to improve in subsequent years."
Biancheria: "Limited, as well as selected, engagement in our community bounds the opportunity of developing relationships and is restricting the reflections of concerns. It is a challenge to identify the avenues to take to our community stakeholders; however, utilizing all resources available would ensure growth opportunities."
Foley: "Dr. Boone has continued to be engaged with all members of the community, encouraging families and community groups to be active participants in the educational process. Worcester has had good success with multiple community partners in the schools. An important step this past year has been the incorporation of a communications person within the management structure at WPS, albeit only part of the person's job description and on soft funding. This opens new opportunities for WPS to move beyond press releases and pursue more positive (and genuine) marketing and promotion of the schools."
Monfredo: "As we know, family and community engagement is a critical piece within our community. The success and economic growth of a city depends on its school system. Therefore, the Worcester Public Schools needs to connect with the community and articulate the successes in our system and ask for the needed resources to make progress. We need to communicate our mission and ask for assistance when needed. Our schools need to be consumer friendly and to reach out to our students' most influential teachers...our parents. The establishment of a 'Parent Academy' has been another fine program for parents. However, more outreach is needed for the parents who are not engaged within the school or speak another language. Personal contact with parents at the various schools needs to take place and we will need community agencies to assist us..."
O'Connell: "The superintendent has made vigorous and well-formulated efforts during the past year to help parents/guardians to assist their children to master academic work and skills. The programs she has scheduled for parents in this regard bear promise of significant success over time. It is vital, though, that she take more aggressive steps to invite, and encourage, parents into the decision process in schools, by serving on School Site Councils, and on the Citywide Parent Planning Advisory Council, and by assisting with Parent-Teacher Organizations where they exist. Every School Site Council should have a full compliment of parents/guardians, and every school should be represented on CPPAC. This will occur when it becomes a key priority of the superintendent, but not until then."
Ramirez: "We all know that parental engagement is the most powerful tool in turning a low-performing school into a high-performing school. Individual schools must meet the diverse needs of parents. The district is going in the right direction with partnering with the community on family engagement, however, any new initiative takes time and effort to implement. There are a number of best practices that the district can implement such as 1) flexible times for parents to connect with teachers and guidance 2) Multiple means of communication between home and school (phone calls, fliers, mail) 3) A series of 'Get to Know Your School Nights' that are planned well in advance (ex: relationship building with teachers and guidance, curriculum and assessment, student supports (specialized to the needs of students) ) 4) A mentoring program for students who do not have a caring adult in their lives. Worcester needs stronger and more public advocacy for education and this is more compelling with it comes from the Superintendent and is supported by elected and public officials. One example of this is the gap in the foundation budget--there should be a continuous discussion about trade-offs that the district has to make on an annual basis (i.e. high schools that have too many study hall periods, middle schools with class sizes over 30 students). Could there be monthly meetings that are reports from the superintendent to the community that are not school committee meetings and are open for discussion and questions? Many sectors of the community have great ideas and want to be heard but we are not providing the space for the community to be heard.
Novick: The resolution of family concerns that make it to central administration has certainly improved over time, even within my time on the Committee.Likewise, the language around collaboration with families—of education as a shared responsibility—has become more clear, as has the language used in speaking to families.Too often, still, our families are not “welcome members of the classroom and school community,” however, which needs to be improved at the individual school level.
In particular within this standard is the importance of communication being a “two-way” communication with parents. Rare indeed is the opportunity for parents to talk back to the schools, particularly to the central administration. Roundtables with those already at the table (literally and metaphorically) do not do the job needed of giving parents a real voice within the district. I would suggest this, along with the communication with staff piece of Standard IV, being a goal for the 2014-15 school year.

Professional Culture:
Petty: "The Superintendent continues to be committed to high standards and expectations for teachers and students. The recent survey results, again, were very positive. I understand that there are not enough hours in the day. However, I would like Dr. Boone to continue to increase her time in the schools and neighborhood to share the vision of the Worcester Public Schools."
Biancheria: "Communication, including verbal and requested reports, to all members of the State Legislature and School Committee Members is essential. Adopting a frame of mind that requested reports can give a snapshot that is indispensable in possibly shifting decisions in order to better confront the issues at hand is vital. A shared vision can only be successful when discussions, shared information, and listening, become tools brought to the table. There needs to be a familiarity of the administration forged with and amongst the faculty, educational staff and public; this cannot be achieved from statements and notifications presented to them by persons not actually performing the work; it is not effectual when they come from a third or fourth party. When questions are presented, they need to be answered by the individual who is responsible for carrying out those duties, as they cannot be answered by an individual who is speaking on someone's behalf. High expectations are set forth by the top level of administration, yet these qualities and characteristics are not set forth in her actions."
Foley: "Dr. Boone has performed well at creating a professional, focused culture that integrates these values throughout the district. In any large district, there will be some exceptions to any standard, but there is developing a strong sense of ownership within the school buildings of the responsibility for student success and the development of a culture of effective practice, continuous learning, and professional support for colleagues. In many ways, this standard is the most important area for focus if WPS is looking to continue along a successful path. We need to make sure that all communication with community members is both timely and responsive."
Monfredo: "Dr. Boone is committed to high expectations and has been an effective leader for the Worcester Public Schools. More and more professional workshops continue to take place for all staff members. Her vision of every child being college and career ready has been expressed at the many events she has attended. Student data is reviewed often and plays a significant role in the decision making process. Dr. Boone must also reach out to city and state elected officials and communicate to them the strengths our system and seek their ideas and support. In addition, having the time to address groups of teachers at their school or quadrant wide would also be most beneficial to the overall morale of the system."
O'Connell: "This standard will truly determine whether we can achieve the level of academic performance of which we are capable. As I noted in my comments as to my summative evaluation, 'I believe future performance gains are possible, and in fact are necessary if we are to progress from a 'good' or 'decent' school district to a 'world class' exemplar in quality urban student success. Our students deserve the latter and we do have the quality and caliber of students and school-based staff to make this possible. Ultimately, the superintendent must be seen by our key academic staff--principals, teachers, and school-based support personnel--as a decisive advocate for them as they set and maintain ambitious standards of student achievement. In essence, she needs to drive this process forward--the expectations she models, and the time and effort she invests directly in our schools, will set the standards for future achievement. Although few will share their thoughts publicly on this topic, I believe significant concern exists on the part of building administrators and teachers that she is a somewhat distant presence as to our schools, with a less than precise knowledge and experience as to the conditions and challenges (academic, disciplinary, paperwork, standardized testing) confronted by them on a daily basis. More time spent personally in schools--time devoted to LISTENING to school-based personnel as they share their concerns--will be a sound step in achieving a renewed trajectory of consistent academic achievement.'" (Typist's note: the quotes are correct. Most of this is from his summative eval)
Ramirez: "While we are making great improvements in general, the areas that would be important to enhance would be the personal communication with the community especially the business community and parents."
Novick: This category as described by the indicators is about how communication goes on between the superintendent and those that work in the district. This is thus more than anything an evaluation of how effective the superintendent is at having a conversation with the teachers in the district. I thus find it concerning that much of the evidence given is of conversations held with those outside the district. As with family engagement above, this is not only about talking; it is about listening effectively. As I have said previously, the language used in these indicators is telling: “foster,” “shared,” “interact,” “interpersonal,” “shared vision,” and so forth. These are places where improvement is needed.

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