Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Worcester City Council hears the Worcester Public Schools budget

Looks like we have John Monfredo from the School Committee, Mr. Allen, and, on her first day in her new position, Superintendent Binienda
updating as we go..once we start...here we go! Mayor Petty is in.
Petty: any questions?

Gafffney: aside from our budget, I had an opportunity to go through the WPS budget as well
mainly going to be observations
took 45 minutes...to get an admission that there was a $1M in savings (not true)
transportation lists two different numbers he says. 
"just suggesting to the new superintendent areas to look into on day one on the job"
nearly doubled, more than doubled the amount on school services
over $15,000 per pupil on costs here on average 
amount going to teachers...spending over $6000 per student to teach them
$9000 going to things other than teaching the students uh, no...
projected students going to be down, yet adding positions in elementary, "I don't understand that"
"going to leave it to the school committee to make changes needed"
fascinatingly, it looks to me as though the Council has largely glazed over here
"all these administrative costs..."
want to know where the largest administrative cost is? Municipal costs! 
Toomey: suggest a training course for the councilors who don't understand how the budgets are done
"thank you and good job"

Lukes: new superintendent's on a honeymoon
"I don't think anyone's going to give her a question she can't answer, but let's give it a shot"
breakdown by class?
Allen: stand alone report, available to school committee
Lukes: last year had 500 students show up that we weren't prepared for
Petty: we wish!
Allen: increase in number of ELL students; change of students within the overall enrollment
enrollment this year was relatively flat for 25,000
predicting that the enrollment increases will not be as large in previous years
not seeing a decrease in total; may be individual grades that decrease
secondary teacher/student ratio: contractual level must be followed
Lukes if not?
Allen: would have to add teachers
had discussions about that at this time
may need to add teaching positions once the summer is over; occurs every year
conserve a number of positions to account for shifts in enrollment between now and September
Lukes: Special ed? more than anticipated by the state?
Allen: 19% near the state average
full time equivalent, closer to 7% of the time
Lukes: attention to new school in Doherty
Binienda: not going to be funding it because of the budget
investigating getting some other money possibly to start a year from now
I should note that the planning is still in
Lukes: anticipate students lost due to this
Binienda: great potential already in the system
South High got greater acceptances than the town
"we already offer those opportunities for families, we just have to publicize it"
adding AP capstone  to South and Doherty
Lukes: any budgetary impact?
Binienda: just AP teacher
Lukes: ratio of classroom teachers to non-classroom staff (I think?)
still losing students after middle school?
Allen: given number of private and parochial schools in city, certainly
schools like Seven Hills come back to district
normal enrollment trend, seeing increase over next years
Lukes: school choice?
Allen: fairly flat over last few years
$2M over time; $300-$500K annually coming in
leaving 420something; coming in 60 student range
Lukes: anticipated student enrollment?
25,100 for this fall; 24,959 last year

Rivera: college acceptances are spectacular (at South)
look at education to be equitable throughout
went through Worcester Public Schools, children went through, different programs through different schools
enhance existing programs, rather than putting all our eggs in one basket
people really don't understand or underestimate programs that are happening in the Worcester Public Schools
Binienda: haven't branded ourselves
expanded vocational offering in the comprehensive schools, Worcester Tech
"that would attract more families also"
638 AP exams at South this year
expand offerings to other schools
pockets of excellence
Rivera: schools work on PR, let them know some of the good things that are happening
police within the schools
security measures that aren't actually police-based, but are evidence-based
being preventative and intervening early
Binienda: reviewed the report from Good Harbor
basic technology things that we need to fix: brand new cameras in entranceway
how to make school itself more secure
"but the other part was PD for staff...do we want to do the ALICE training? or what we're doing...with the Worcester Police Department"
things coming in from outside
"that's one of the reasons I didn't want the hoodies up over the face..." see what is going on with their face, then see what is going on with the students
"all of it is based on having students understand if they are upset" dealing with it other ways than being disruptive
Rivera: mindfulness, mediation

Petty: City Manager has given extra money over foundation budget
schools still have a shortfall, though
to bring us back to a base budget, about $700,000
Allen: to restore positions we had to reduce, about $700,000
Petty: what have you done to adjust?
Allen: either a consolidation of sections (larger classes) "which in reality is not practical to do in scheduling" and at elementary, will see increase in class sizes (over 27)
"those were mechanisms to balance the budget; not necessarily good choices"

Bergman: we don't market our secondary schools very well
"should include in our August tax bills...a list" of where kids went to school
"on safety issue, I'd probably go the other end of some of my colleagues"
some of the things my colleagues have proposed are safe
"I'd encourage you to keep everything on the table"
"we always want to save money"
compares to Springfield's budget: slightly larger district, much larger budget
much more needy population...doesn't work that way

Gaffney: sorry, I have no idea what that was, except it seems as though he's under the impression that kids cost the same amount to educate regardless
"nonsense of the school to prison pipeline...didn't pan out"
"the budget I'm looking at says some positions are net neutral" but increase in administrative costs
teacher has to produce roster of attendance, "doing so many administrative tasks"

Rosen: college acceptances at South
"what can we do to take the success of South High School" and spread elsewhere?
every figure, every number in the budget book, but something not in budget book
"that's the high expectation of students"
Worcester Tech has an admissions policy
"many of the students who used to easily waltz into the technical school, because maybe they do have some issues with their attendance and so forth"
facility that I know at Doherty "really wasn't made for vocational offerings"
agree with need for expanded vocational?
Binienda: looking at vocational wing for new South
diesel technicians; second year of program

And here's where my battery died...long day...I'll update from written notes once I have a chance to recharge
Okay: what follows is necessarily much shorter as I don't write nearly as quickly as I type. Apologies to the councilors who might get underplayed as a result! 

Russell: progress on pooling resources with the city?
Allen: ongoing conversation; city handles ESCo projects for energy conservation
city uses trade areas of schools; will continue conversation under new superintendent

Economou: has had two children come through WPS
"it was an excellent experience"
applaud the City Manager for increase above net school spending this year; result of work on School Committee side, cites Foley, Monfredo

King: in his professional work, sees varied amount of mental health issues across the system
how many school adjustment counselors?
Allen: 124 adjustment counselors and psychologists together; roughly half and half
King: ratio of 1:250 recommended; how are we doing?
request here for a report
talk about safety, from "evidence I've gone through" could be uptick in police involvement due to reporting
how is WPS tracking police resource response and arrests?
Binienda cites Pezzella, meeting on how to track
asserts no uptick in arrests at South
City Manager breaks in to say WPD are tracking and can get King a report
King: clinical staff favors lower ratio of staff to students with further support

Lukes: in past, uptick in crime once school is out; is that still true?
I don't think there was really an answer to this one
transgender bathrooms? Binienda: not a new issue for us
at South, use bathrooms in health center; have single bathrooms, "all inclusive"
"never had a student complain"
Lukes recommends consulting with legal counsel; don't want to lose federal funding
Petty: have had policy in place for some time (true: state issued regs in 2013)

Toomey: speaking of adjustment counselors, etc "could prevent a lot of things from happening"

budget passes unanimously on a voice vote 

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