Monday, January 25, 2016

Southbridge public hearing on receivership

posting from the Board of Ed hearing on receivership for the Southbridge Public Schools. We're in what was their high school auditorium (they opened a new school a few years back).
I'll update this post as we go.

I'll do the best I can with names, though the sound quality remains to be seen. Board members coming in now: so far, Willyard, Noyce, Morton, and Stewart are here, as is Commissioner Chester. I'm hearing that parking outside is tight.
Craven and Moriarty have come in. Awaiting Sagan, who has just come in.
As has Secretary Peyser.

Sagan: we're delighted you're all here, looking forward to hearing from many of you
Board introductions
Sagan: very important meeting for us, take our responsibility to children, to taxpayers seriously
Board's authority to create Level 5
districts not fulfilling their responsibility to children
interested in your views on the Commissioner's recommendations
"what you think work and doesn't work here"
"what you think are ways to improve results, which I think you'll agree, are very disappointing"
"a great deal of time and attention go into this. We don't take it lightly."
four people at a time called forward, with those they're required to hear from called in preference
"generally not our time to interrogate you..." but if they do, won't come from your time
have a translator available in Spanish

Chester: thank parents, citizens, staff from district, elected officials for being here and giving us your feedback
have recommended that "we do vote to take receivership"
"recommendation of last resort"
"won't retrace history of Southbridge...was identified a dozen years ago as underperforming"
"despite all that effort, we're looking at a school district where there is some strong performance, but it's the exception"
cites high rate of leadership turnover
if Board votes to take receivership, we will "move very quickly and expeditiously to appoint a receiver"
local stakeholder group to inform a turnaround plan
"assume that staff is hardworking staff, assume that there are strong teachers and strong administrators"
"want to build on strong assests in this community"
welcome those who want to be involved in turnaround
urge those in community to look at an incredible chance for kids in this community

interim superintendent of two and a half months:
appreciate your coming to us to talk about our children
visits classrooms every day
lot of positive things going on every day, but welcome help
"this may be the silver lining"
"this is a community that works together on behalf of our youngsters"
"we're here to work with you" whatever way the Commissioner goes

Scott Lazo, current Board chair
"it's all about the kids, it's all about striving to excellence"
in 2012 that took a turn: five superintendents in four years
middle/high put under one principal "which created the revolving door"
"we need your help"
"is takeover the answer? I'm not sure"
"we're looking at all the mistakes of the past, and I think what we have to do is move forward"
"we need help, we do need help, there's no doubt about it"
school committee and governance here "just waiting to straighten it out"

Joan Sullivan, first grade teacher, president of the teachers' union
members of SEA are "vital to the success of any state plans to improve our district"
advocate for students to receive resources they need
comprehensive education
educators want to share their expertise to assist their district
"stands united in creating the schools our children deserve"
district has only one social worker
"please hear us"

chair of town council, 'though not speaking as chair
"crucial point in our history"
"a decision needs to be made...whatever decision this Board of Education makes is a decision our community has to support"
"unfortunately we have not been participants in the process"
urges parents to speak their minds
"today as a community we have a voice"
"we will support whatever decision comes forth"

Southbridge town manager: thanks interim superintendent
Commissioner has recommended that Board designate Level 5 district
speak for many "they do not care about politics...want to know what we need to do now to move forward and provide a quality education"
"the district has seen widespread turnover"
he's now reading parts of DESE's report
You've asked for our vision for the district: long term leadership, strong staffing"school committee that strictly deals with policy and stays out of day-to-day operations"
parental engagement, students willing to work hard

Resident of Southbridge and parent of a Southbridge student
"my son needed to help, he was violated in the first week"
went to district for help and was offered school choice
say that you want community to come together"...and yet you're pushing people away when they need help"
think principals cover up for teachers
"I feel like a hopeless mom who can't protect child"
"think school system should not work on covering up for their teachers but to help teachers and parents communicate"
"we definitely need this takeover"

longtime Southbridge resident, current school committee member
"it may very well take a generation to restore students to pre-2004 numbers"
should not allow it to be an excuse for continued student failure
since 2012, "district has spiraled out of control"
decision has been made
"unfortunate it has to take place in such a far away place as the city of Boston"
plans to serve out term

ninth grade English teacher
tenth year in Southbridge Public Schools
"I have some of the best students in the world"
chose to loop with them
"students come with a range of abilities and challenges, challenges far beyond my abilities as a professional to solve"
"have to acknowledge and help us to solve the needs of the students"
urge you to not just listen to the voices to the teachers and the educational assistants, "but please hear us"

Student of Southbridge High school
teachers and staff have been great though "maybe we do need the help"
"coming to a point where they've gotten the things they need to do...but it comes to a point: the staff do great"

education assistant at middle/high school: why you shouldn't put district into receivership
"finally have a school committee that has a focused direction"
"working towards solving problems on their own"
"cleaning up the house that was left them"

associate principal of middle/high school
"have seen firsthand what instability can do to students and to those who help them learn and grow"
wanted to help lead the change at the middle school
have high expectations "and they can succeed"
cannot hold staff or students to expectations that you have not modeled for them
"until a child is available to learn, teaching means nothing"
across the board plan, PBIS...
"the one thing we haven't had is time"
need stability in central office to support these initatives
work towards the same goal "to provide all students with a high quality education, because that is what they deserve"

city councilor: representing the 42% of the community that is Hispanic
big night for my community, big opportunity

parent of daughter in middle high school
"this doesn't happen...we don't ever have a full room EVER"
"we don't have enough textbooks for all of the students...we don't have enough teachers...we don't have enough support"
"blemish for them to have to discipline a child"
son chose to go to a vocational school "students thought he carried a knife, because he was from Southbridge"
if it's been a problem for so long "why would it take the state twelve years to step in?"
"it took twelve years for it to get as bad as it did"
"I heard someone say earlier 'we can't go any lower,' and that is the saddest statement of all, because those are our children."

math teacher hired two months ago, native of Panama
see future doctors and others in her classroom
"need similar role models who speak their native language, Spanish"
here and will continue to do whatever it takes

resident went to meeting several months ago
only one to acknowledge that the kids were suffering
"welcome you to take over the town"
always been a roller coaster
"if you had any idea of the bullying that goes on behind closed doors"
"lots of things that go on with the forgotten children, the special education students"
"why should we have to fight our school system?"
"the Southbridge model is 'if you speak up in public, we'll call DSF on you.'"
"yesterday is gone, today is the present, you're giving us a gift"
"and the future is our gift"

lifetime resident: "my feeling is you've made up your mind up on what the vote is going to be"
new school committee; "things obviously didn't work out" ("PTA moms")
now have the committee back from before
"the PTA mothers threw everything out"
"with you guys coming in, you can get rid of a lot of the deadwood teachers"
"there's a lot of good things with you guys taking over"
"but you haven't exactly done a good job in Holyoke and Lawrence, either"
"but we need a little more time without everyone being scared"

Sagan: "Board has not reached a conclusion or fully debated it"
asks Chester to comment on teachers being fired
Chester: "we have exercised receivership neither situation did we believe it was wise to require the faculty to reapply for their positions"
"don't have an intention of doing so here; either"
Believe there are strong teachers: "build on what you do to turn this district around"
"welcome you to be part of that turnaround process"

parent of five boys in Southbridge, has lived here 17 years
should give new school committee a chance
"they're working so hard, should give them another chance to prove themselves"
kids misbehaving in class, making other kids not focus
"not giving teacher enough to make the strong decision" to resolve the problems
some kids should be put in a separate class, maybe, because they're affecting other kids

"I graduated from this school in 1968 and I did okay"
came back and did cable access
"I filmed those twelve years...and you can see how beautiful those kids were for those twelve years"
could make better use of the educational access channel
"that's been a missed opportunity"
"I never said no to the town, and I never said no to the school"
"and then adminstration changed, and all that went away again"
"hope to God there is a place for this school committee" in the receivership

parent from North Carolina
"love Southbridge, I love the potential"
"so many parents I've met, they're amazing"
so diverse, kids from everywhere, "we're not tapping into it"
"we're not tapping into that"
"I believe in Southbridge"
"my son's about to be a sixth grader, and I'll be honest, the only thing I'm considering, everyone says 'oh, school choice' But why would I want to help anyone else's community?"
"I don't care about the politics"
I want my son to get a scholarship
"I'm working him, but someone is failing him"

retired teacher, Latina
"welcome you, anything you can do for us, I hope it is in the best interest of our students"
if our three elementary schools are Level 3, why are we Level 5?
Why fix what is not broken?
need for cultural awareness, special ed teachers, support staff
need for public transporation: will you look at moving after school programs for parents and students?
need for parental involvement
vocational component to high school

teacher, vice-president of union, parent
"how we move forward from this point on"
"well aware of challenges we face...what is often missed in the that the teachers have been harmed greatly by what's been happening over the last ten or fifteen years"
"lived with lack of vision, and when we have had vision, it's changed in about two months"
"we've been rowing very, very hard, but without any direction"
"We certainly don't need a plan that turns over staff; we do that very well ourself"
"we're willing to do the hard work"
"don't give us a receiver that will try to fix things from the top down"
"what we need are teachers and principals working together with support from up above"

parent of twin ten year olds
one on an IEP: have had to continuously since September about implementing his IEP
19 accommodations and only 3 were met
other son is in honors
"I as a parent had to go in there and insist"
"if you can do better than what my child has received, then go ahead and take it over"


"I got here because I'm in the education program in Nichols...when asked which schools should we go observe at...they said any school but Southbridge"
seventh grade math teacher, have been here since five days after graduation
has implemented after school programs
points out that he's a "gringo" and shouldn't be the only mentor for Latino program
"we cannot see this as abnormal"
"we need teachers who go above and beyond"
message sent by putting that new school over there
"we have to put that trust put your children's lives in our hands every day"
"our children are human beings and not statistics on a paper"

parent of a first grader: "to see my little six year old say that he wanted to drop out every day...that's ridiculous"
his homework was in his folder for two weeks; teacher didn't check
was supposed to see the guidance counselor every week: he's seen her twice
support system needs to be better
"I refuse to medicate my son because a teacher refuses to do her job properly"
"all my son's friends' mom have said "don't send him there, it's terrible"

Southbridge resident
"it's my opinion is that Southbridge doesn't have the resources to take on special programs" to educate its students
"very expensive, very expensive to administer"
"Southbridge doesn't have the resources"
Southbridge, FYI, pays for 28.72% of their foundation budget; the remainder is state funded, as they're a low aggregate wealth district
will there be more resources?

principal of high school: ready to embrace our accelerated improvement plan
ready to move forward, with or without receivership
"want to applaud the staff that is here today and the staff that comes in every day"

teacher has worked for 29 years in Southbridge
seen constant change "without anyone waiting long enough to see if it would work"
cannot control leadership
cannot control needs of students in our classroom
"challenges of working in our district are great"
"have chosen to stay and to teach the children of Southbridge"

librarian: reorganization of school district means reorganization of library without needed materials for students
worked to get library back to Mass library system

citizen of Southbridge, graduated in 1975
have been a sub several different times
"lack of comprehensive message and understanding between the higher levels, like the superintendent, and the people teaching every day. And the students sense that. The kids do know what is going on around them."
"would be nice for those of us who don't have friends in the system to find out what's going on"

resident of Southbridge 51 years; dropped out in 1979
"it doesn't go 12 years back; it goes way back"
"when I dropped out, I couldn't even read"
the teachers try, they love their students, I know that
"everything has to stop: the bullying, the daughter's being bullied now"
"I'm tired. I don't know what to do anymore. I'm tired."

graduate, class of 2015
"don't take us over and run us over"
"Some are here and aren't speaking, but I am"
Pioneer pride: see school differently by visiting school
"I do plead that you don't take over"
"your help is all we need"

class of 2006, teach communication media at the middle/high school
"I work here because I want to help Southbridge; I want to do it for my town."
was here and was told that we'd have trouble getting into college because of the level of our district
"I really am here to prevent our school from going any lower."
don't destroy tradition
not the only thing that's important: ELL support, an alternative program
making videos "I thought doing things like that would make a difference"
think your quarterly reports have been light on the negativity than your most recent report
"Don't destroy the Southbridge Pioneers."

teacher in Worcester, speaking for Southbridge educators
sees that those in Worcester"have better leadership, better support, better chances for community involvement"
in favor of receivership: teachers need resources, support during this time of transition

parent had an encounter with a previous Southbridge superintendent told that "boys were stupid"
youngest son is in the honors class, NJHS
hear a lot of the special needs students
wonders why her son doesn't have homework
many teachers afraid to do anything because parents will not support them
"they're great teachers, and I have no problem with them teaching in the way they are with my son"

parent had to transfer daughter in 2013 due to issues with her at high school
"She used to cry every single day when she was at the high school"
since she's at Shepherd Hill,she's flourishing
"what I want to see in Southbridge in the public schools"
hope that we can make a change
"change can be good"
"can be done in a school system"

parent and IA in district
teachers always met all my expectations
"if we had more RTI teachers"
hard to get everyone where they could be on their levels
teachers who teach specials, they do a great job, need someone with them to accomodate what these specials have to offer
really concerned at middle school
"how am I getting [my daughter] ready for college?"
guidance counselor "could only deal with the students that were failing"
have parents on same level as students; sending homework to parents who can't support students
"many parents who want to be but don't know how"

ELL teacher one ELL IRF teacher in district
need ELL director desperately
bilingual in Spanish, have been here 23 years "because I choose to be"
time to spend with our lowest proficiency students last year
need more certified reading teachers, more ELL teachers, need more time with special ed teachers for ELL students
need more staffing, need more people
"dedication and the love of our students is here"

graduate of Southbridge 1991
two kids in school: concerned with son going into middle school next year
looking at school choice, versus keeping student in town
teachers have no resources
"As a taxpayer and a resident of this town and I demand that this school district needs help"
"If you're offering help, we'll take it"

works in finance office under business manager
worked here in 2009, have had five business director
"We need a huge, huge change in the business office"
"The budget is totally out of control, which we all know."
dropping an ELL director is totally beyond my comprehension
"a lot of our staff have been hired because of WHO THEY KNOW and not because they're qualified"
"more textbooks, less wrestling"

product of the Worcester public schools "and I feel that I had a better education than my children are going to have here"
warns that district should stop fighting Sturbridge charter school
"you'd best believe I have an application in there"
Son wants to be pushed, wants to excel
"half tempted to go back to Worcester. I know it's the same level, but from my experience, they're trying"

2002 graduate of Southbridge High
very excited to go off to college
have four children, three on IEPs
learned to become an advocate for my children
considering removing daughter going from kindergarten to first grade, and consdiering leaving the disrict
"I want my kids to say that they're from Southbridge and they're proud to be from Southbridge. Pioneer Pride is a really thing. I want my kids to have the same pride that I did in my school."

Brent Abrahamsob, was school committee member until June, when he resigned 
"Southbridge once known as 'Honest town.' That's been compromised tonight."
when I resigned interim superintendent was nearly in place, plan for search also in place 
Town Council interfered, resulting mob
Council said that school was in a "death spiral"
School Committee punished for submitting a needs based budget
done not to benefit students but to protest a individuals' lack of improvement
bringing back to School Committee some of those who'd been a problem
displaying same hubris as before
"the turmoil this present school committee has caused since July 1, 2015 is virtually unprecedented"
"yet another lost year for the Southbridge public schools"
"I implore you to take control of the Southbridge public school districts not on February 23, but tomorrow"
little sympathy for voters of Southbridge as those chose current school committee
children don't deserve to be on losing side

Sagan; "I have to say that this is an unusual meeting for us...I don't know what else to say."

RECESS til tomorrow's meeting

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