Wednesday, January 13, 2016

"The Urgency of Excellence" on the Worcester Superintendent Search

The report that's being issued this morning in connection with this event is here
Full house...maybe fifty or more people here...they're setting out more chairs
Jennifer Davis Carey comments that it's nice to see so many "education nerds" this morning
report represents "a significent body of work"
"urgency and import that we feel is at hand with this transition point"
report falls into two parts: Worcester as a community, as a Gateway City
second is what we need as a community going forward
strengths of the district, growth over time, critical needs of the district
"core strategic" planning of the district
calls for development of a strategic plan

posting as we go
George Tetler moderating
"how Worcester does things right" with two organizations pulling this together
leadership transitions present an opportunity
average tenure of an urban superintendent is less than three years
"Worcester has been very fortunate that it hasn't had that kind of turnover"
have an opportunity to assess where we are
set a strategic vision
WPS "has their challenges...has several successes...often underappreciated and don't get the kind of attention they deserve"
unique community resources
higher ed "the envy of cities our size"
think Worcester is of a scale "where if we all do things right" could serve as a regional or even national model

  • Hardin Coleman, Dean, Boston University School of Education and Vice-Chair, Boston School Committee
  • Michael Contompasis, Executive Chairman, MA & Senior Field Consultant at The School Turnaround Group at Mass Insight; Former Superintendent of the Boston Public Schools
  • George H. Edwards, Director, Commission on Public Education, New England Association of Schools & Colleges
Coleman: political campaign doesn't talk enough about education
fundamental is closing the opportunity and achievement gap
"the darker you are in this country, the poorer you are in this country, if you're a're more likely to fail in any school across the country"
"Don't take this seriously enough"
equity of access of quality education for all children
don't think we can talk about equal outcomes yet, as bigger than education
fundamental or civil right for the country
member of an appointed school committee "I don't have a constituency to which I am responsible"
"what are those high level goals to which we need to hold the district accountable for"
teachers with year and a half growth sorry, this is the mess around "highly effective teachers" that somehow magically get that much more growth. Doesn't exist and depends on the hugely problematic SGP model
doesn't think it's up to School Committee to pick winners and losers, "more of a full process"
talk to the superintendent about how he does the budget, "how he drives equity"
"human capital initiative" (which has given them the backlog of teachers that don't have a placement)
identifying what your primary strategic outcomes are 

Contompasis: work in finding a superintendent is not an easy task
not a superhuman out there
leader has demonstrated that they are bold in their thinking
track record as an instructional leader
forge partnerships across the city
"to solving the dilemna of the school district"
"are folks out there" and within the district "that have demonstrated that they can do great things even with limited resources"
"not necessarily doing a national search" but what you as a community are looking for in a superintendent
flexible system offering a portfolio of options
"have to revisit whether indeed you want to have a school system or a system of schools"
"do you want to continue to have a top-down compliance driven system"
this does a great job of ignoring that it's Malden that drives this; central admin is needed to report to Malden, among other reasons
some schools may be in need of much more oversight than others
names Worcester Tech as "a jewel"
"what is unique about the Tech school is not only does it offer in something that is career, but also has focus on the academic side of the house"
and has an admissions requirement
"should be a rigorous course of study"
does it make a difference what high school you go to in terms of programmatic studies?
The answer is no, by the way ('though Boston does, which appears to be what many of his remarks are based on)
"High schools are generally the Achilles heel of any school district"
as you design schools, build facilities around the program (note that this is now required by MSBA)
Collective bargaining agreements "constrains" around principals 
"my belief that hiring should be done at the school level"
hold central office accountable for how they provide support to schools
collective coherent focus
"ask yourself some serious questions: are you willing to change the model"
AP courses taken at South and I think we just got a pitch on South's leadership. Really.

Edwards: importance of public education is obvious to us all
unique challenges that you face here in the city
some to do with students you serve and the challenges they bring
really interesting need to build a system of schools or a school district that ensures that every student has equal access to educational opportunities
some of our students come to us with great needs, and some of those aren't being addressed in other places
providing the sorts of wraparound services is falling to our school districts
unique time as national education policy has changed with ESSA
shift from federal back to states; "provides another challenge for us"
opportunity: gems in Worcester, provide a real model for you
"really challenge students to go beyond their comfortable limits"
and we're getting a Stand and Deliver citation here about students rising to level at which they are challenged
"look for level of commitment to your community"
that they'll be with you long enough to make a difference
"take those gems of excellence and replicate them throughout their community"

Process?Coleman: community forums about community assignment system and about superintendent search about what community wanted in those 
"not just the voices that the school committee meetings" as (I think he just said) you'll only hear the same voices at school committee meetings (I should perhaps note here that this view is not shared by many in Boston)
school safety means different things to different people
Contompasis: district theory of action: academic, organization, community
conversations need to occur about what should be the academic 
"not enough to go out have sessions around the city"
"should be more than that"
"getting folks to be actively engaged"
"is it coherent? is it aligned?" 
is what Worcester wants to see of its high schools and school systems?
Edwards: developing action plan and vision
school specific and districtwide partnerships
University Park Campus school partnership with Clark 

Q from Councilor Lukes: previous process had community panel chaired by university president which forwarded finalists to School Committee
serious discussion about process to be used
"neither one is sacred, but what I am concerned about...if the process for the selection is so controversial, how does that help or hinder the person who is selected?"
Coleman: process is critical to success
who you bring in must be ready to deal with that
chair of Boston School Committee very active in deepening pool of national applicants
Contompasis: importance piece is before you even begin there should be agreement to extent possible about theory of action
diverse group of people involved, tremendous community input before the process even started
"process is long and difficult, but it's necessary"

Youth respresentative: tremendous progress that has been made here in Worcester, cites graduation rates and so forth: what about our model needs work
Contompasis: how do you build on it
part and parcel of where the community wants to build its emphasis

President Carberry of QCC (not really a Q) band together with Boston, Springfield, and other key leaders to influence some statewide issues including preK
Contompasis emphasizing importance of full day kindergarten (which we've had in Worcester for years)
organizing a caucus membership around Gateway cities (he makes a quip here about why Boston isn't considered a Gateway city, to which I will reply that only a Bostonian would ask that)

Q from president of NAACP: representation within the teaching profession
Coleman: national crisis, a national problem
"nowhere I go that this isn't an issue"
prioritizing it"holding teachers responsible for the gap" is the short term solution
(I think he means the achievement gap, there)
Contompasis: pipeline is real
 find it ironic that when you become a Level 4 school you get a lot more flexibility 
"there are ways both internally and externally to bring pressure on school districts""I think you need to change how hiring occurs"
"could go to sleep under an apple tree and the only thing that would be unchanged would be the school system"
(totally untrue, BTW)
endorsement of levels of pay by skill (which also doesn't work)

McGourthy: strategic vision needed for district
I'll attempt to go back and put in links to the places that something someone said that is not backed up by research. A quick Google will give it to you, though. As someone who watches education across the state, I'll add that it was clear that Coleman and Contompasis were clearly speaking about Boston, whether they knew it or not. They weren't, largely, speaking to what is true of Worcester.

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