Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Funding the Worcester Public Schools: WEC and Research Bureau presentation

I'm at Mass College of Pharmacy for the second presentation on funding the schools. Live blogging as we go
City Manager Augustus: (who mentions that he was at the first one as well)
"critical to the city of Worcester"
prepare an educational infrastructure that will be nimble and adaptable
know relationship has not always been harmonious one
"some of those rivalries are built in"
"not always an unhealthy thing to have that...back and forth..can be a postive and productive part of the process"
"shared final outcome...every child gets education that they need"
critical tool to build economic base of city
expand major growth opportunities...relying on an educated, trained, workforce
make sure every child has an opportunity to take advantage
good examples of partnerships and thinking outside the box
cities One City, One Library as example of working together
"that's exactly what we want to be doing in the city"
"connect with technology and literature"
"my goal to work with Dr. Boone to expand that concept...break down those silos"
"this is all our community, these are all our kids"
First budget put together, try to make sure that budget reflected the priority...on education and the importance it plays on our community
state comes out with new minimum contribution: met that this year, then exceeded by $1.1M
(waiting to see if he mentions past hole...)
due to factors in formula saw decrease in Chapter 70 aid last year...tried to offset that
tried to make another step in that direction last night with $500,000 in free cash
have lost a number of positions, have seen classrooms of more than 30 students
"again, this is a balancing act"
enrollment is up this year, hoping Ch. 70 will be back up
"things that are in our control, be more effecient"
ESCo, solar panels across the street from Foley
new windows, "close that envelope"
transitioning from oil to gas
think we need to have an honest and open conversation
"seems to me that it ought to calculate all of the costs for a fair way of understanding"
thinks transportation, crossing guards ought to count towards Net School Spending
"that number ought to get factored in, because it's money we don't get credit for"

Superintendent Boone: encouraged by this, shows how far we've come in the conversation in funding public education
"we've been able to move these conversations from the back and be a shared conversation about the role that public education plays"
grateful for joint meetings of Council and SC (Education and Finance &Operations)
took complaints about lack of transparency to heart
"waiting for October numbers" (to see if we're the second or third largest district in the state)
"our process begins...two years ago"
Seven Point financial plan presented and approved by School Committee
budget zero based, are assumptions delivering
won National Meritorious Budget award last year
T&G editorial board said that WPS would not be able to survive after loss of stimulus funds
"one of those myths clearly dispelled"
didn't just happen, our new normal, our new baseline
going to reach another plateau
enrollment now back up to where it was before we closed schools
challenges around where we are for how many students we have and educating well
opening of school report on operational elements of schools
work that's been done with MSBA
"we don't talk about it, we make it happen"
boiler moved from Columbus Park to Grafton Street
work very closely with City Manager, Mayor, legislative delegation
voice of principals, parents, students
charging for athletics would make it not possible for some students to play
maintain our athletic budget, and have restored intermural athletics
presentations to School Committee in February on what revenue projections will be
"can truly talk about what the city needs, and not talk about the schools as being an island in itself"
"nearly two-thirds of budget is state funded"
funds need to be accounted for in a public manner
"we're required to provide transportation K-6"
so many things in education that aren't being funded, but are being mandated
homeless students
"we've not been expand funding"
struggle with students who have two study halls a day because we don't have enough resources for
Two billion dollars underfunded state wide
trauma children are dealing with, provision for many things we have in the district

June Eressy (former WPS principal)
been a principal at all three levels, "what's the difference?...the kids are bigger"
overarching responsiblity for student accountability
really challenging at times with the budget
"when you see the faces before you every day...I think it's so important that we set goals when we talk about spending money at the school level"
looking at dissaggregated student data
"always focus on performance outcomes...try to align with the resources that we have"
"have resource allocation meetings prior to setting table of organization for the year"
important to recognize needs of your particular school
"principals...very lucky to have that forum...not the case in other places"
listen to students, to teachers
continually revisit and reallocate
"I'm not just talking about money. I'm talking about aligning the resources within the schools."
make sure art, music, phys ed teachers have what they need
schedule staff in a way to optimize staff resources (common planning time)
school goals are aligned to district goals
"strategically build consensus"
"many initiatives were brought in" while old ones were left hanging
"the most important maximize our investments in teaching and learning"

Mayor Petty:
"I'm supposed to talk about balancing and being a referee"
learned quickly that had a number of constituencies as mayor
people have to understand the facts
city auditor did an independent analysis of net school spending
joint meetings of subcommittee
"balancing act"
police class, exam school, class size
"the needs are great in the Worcester Public Schools"
$35 million gap in special education
$25 million gap in health care
inflation gap of $10 million per year
"I know some people look at this...gee, $300 million, but you learn quickly, the needs are great"
money that focused as in Level 4 schools
"people should be looking at Gateway Cities..."as we look at foundation
"proven when you have the resources to do these things"
"it's about leadership and it is about funding, and funding in the right places"
city family, we're all in this together
discussion about where our priorities are, closer as a city, where our priorities are

Councilor Lukes: how are we ensuring that special education is not a dumping ground?
Boone: based on federal regulations, evaluation is very regulated and very stringent
"I look at special education...are we affording the student an opportunity for success" before we put special education services in place
student is a student first
what supports do we put in place for the student to be successful, if that isn't working, how do we go to the next level
implementing that process with fidelity
"response to intervention"
intervention with students before they get to the level of special ed services
have been clear inequities (everywhere), working to overcome
some places special education numbers declining, leveling off
Dante Camparetto: hear don't solve problems by throwing money at it
hear about lack of resources in some of underperforming schools
"hard not to hear that stuff and think that funding is part of the problem"
recent poll of registered voters, 84% think we ought to be doing more to fund our schools
Augustus defers to Petty
Petty: "with right funding in place...make a priority of education"
"I agree with you."
priority to redo high schools, and probably one of our middle schools
"I get that" we're in competition with surrounding towns
cites January 24 meeting on the foundation budget
Augustus: highlight how critical the role of the joint committee has been in educating everyone involved in budget process
make good thoughtful decisions
willing to bet that a poll on more police officers would "hit at least 84% as well"
looked at Union Hill School, trying to lift the neighborhood and trying to lift the school
"this is a whole community"
McGourthy: phrase is "adequate funding for education" you feel that it provides an adequate base for education? If conversation every year is to exceed foundation, is that enough?
Augustus: we're not saying we want an adequate education for our kids
Boone: have to look at how and when are we defining adequate? no longer in adequate in 21st century
"we have to have appropriate resources"
"urban reflects that way in which we live"
much greater diversity in urban settings than we do in other settings
"what's not working with the formula now is a set of assumptions that are from 1993"
Charlie Gruszka: have to be a minimal set of resources for needs: what are areas where you most wish for additional resources?
Boone: class sizes are a critical need
parents looking for smaller class sizes when they choice out
change in graduation requirements, have to support elective opportunities
relevance of pathway even if college is goal; what are things that we used to have, that we lost to funding
supplemental supports that students need
behaviors that preschool students are presenting with
"we could double the number of school adjustment counselors we have in place, we could double and triple the number of wraparound coordinators we have"
libraries, pre-K to do we continue to build that infrastructure
"those are the things that keep me up at night"
Tim Murray: leadership of principals
Boone: there are still people in our traditional industrial mindset, thinking that management needs fewer supports than labor does
mentoring supports for principals, experience success
shift from managers to leaders, getting people to go along with you
Eressy: important for principals who are currently serving to cultivate and nuture capable staff
learning to share your leadership
role of principal "enormously mind-boggling"
Lillian (?) how city is working with key stakeholders in city
Augustus: One City One Library
Boone: our lights don't come on daily without our higher ed partners
"I'd welcome the community to come and see what higher ed's not just about the dollars"
partners to come with us to help fill the gaps
Augustus: dual enrollment programs
Davis Carey: classroom teachers struggle with supplies
Eressy: autonomy to manage budget within your school, shortage should be first priority
wraparound coordinator able to access community resources
if principal manages school budget well, there should be enough for what everyone needs
Teachers spend a lot of their own money anyway, but they shouldn't have to do it


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