Monday, April 3, 2017

Worcester School meetings this week

Two meetings this week:
The Finance and Operations subcommittee meets on Tuesday at 5. The agenda is here.

The part to watch on that (and arguably the most important thing that will end up on Thursday's meeting's agenda) is the second quarter update on the FY17 (current year) budget.

A $375K gap is a lot of ground (yes, non-Worcester readers, even in a $300+M budget) between now and June. You can see that the City Manager's partial filling of the hole left by the Quality Kindergarten grant helps; the city's contributing $280,000. Since the Quality K grant for Worcester was $750K, though, that doesn't get us all the way there.

Also, note what else is going on on the quarterly update:
  • rarely do you hear anyone in Worcester talk about special education tuition. That account, though, is now $596K over what was budgeted last June. To interpret this paragraph: "based on student fiscal responsibility" means that kids have moved districts, and we've now sorted out that Worcester has to pay for them. The "approved tuition rate increases for residential placements" means the cost went up for schools kids live at (and this has to be approved the state; it has been). "This account also represents the processing of several necessary prior year payments" means some of this is FY16;  and "as well as new student placements for the current fiscal year" means that new IEPs are still coming through. Remember that the foundation budget only recognizes 1% of the district enrollment as out-of-district special education (and not actual students or costs), and that the circuit breaker, which covers extraordinary costs, is also underfunded (for Worcester, by $294,500 for FY17). It's probably past time to start talking about this.
  • because of the ongoing flat funding of the WPS capital account, the district isn't buying new buses at the rate required, so they're increasing the number leased: they're adding adding a special education route, increasing rental use for the transitions program, adding two midday routes through the end of the year, and "The district is developing contracts for the lease of 10 buses during later this fiscal year." The account is projected at $156K over at this point; watch this for FY18.
  • Workers' comp. Still over.
  • Personal services had some movement due to bringing special education services back to the district, but there's some things going on here besides that: an increase in legal (ok, contract negotiations year, plus the ongoing PCD-ness); translation services (underfunded in about every district serving high numbers of first-language-other-than-English speakers);  security guard contracted rates (has anyone asked why we still have them when we have cops in the schools?); and "nursing services contract rates," (?) as well as "an increase with necessary student services" (and I don't know what that is).
  • A balance of over $500K is still in instructional materials; given the above, I have a sneaking suspicion that the schools aren't going to see their remaining $10/pupil.
  • And hey! Money saved on utilities!
Also on the agenda: bus tracking (hey, pilot testing before the end of the year!) and running totals on how much the state has underfunded charter reimbursement from FY12 on. 

The full committee meets on Thursday; the agenda is here, and it's a long one, because there was an extra week between meetings. As a result, the following is not in agenda order, but re-sorted into one that is a little easier to follow.
The report of the superintendent is on AVID. 
There are a few appointments and a number of requests for congratulations.
There's (apparently? no backup) a report coming back on window replacements. How the district plans to deal with PCB's is also in there, so perhaps it will be dealt with at least partly in executive session. 
There's a request to approve the update of the agreement with the Collaborative.
They're also being asked to approve the innovation plan for Goddard Elementary.
They're being asked to update the policy on physical restraints (the state adopted new regulations a bit ago on this).

The committee is being asked to accept a donation to Clark Street to encourage families to visit libraries over the summer.
They're also being asked to accept a donation to Worcester Tech for their science fair.
They're being asked to accept a donation from Target to Woodland Academy for the annual Freedom Trail trip.
They're being asked to accept a donation from Fallon for SAT testing for all juniors.
They're being asked to accept accept the Secondary Transition Systemic Improvement Grant for $37,000, which is to improve how high-need kids on IEPs are transitioned out of services from the public schools.
They're being asked to accept the Biobuilder grant for $28,000, which builds on the biotechnology programs at North, Doherty, and Tech, and includes a $500 stipend for students who complete the program.
They're being asked to accept a $10,000 donation for a scholarship from DCU.
They're being asked to approve a prior fiscal year payment of $2,066.40 to a parent for transportation.
They're being asked to accept a donation of $3,000.00 from the Patterson Family Foundation & Scholastic Reading Club for Chandler Elementary.
The audit is in! But not yet attached; being sent to F&O.

Mr. O'Connell is concerned about the edge of Tatnuck Magnet's property; truck traffic from CSX; the federal budget; the update on state accountability (for which comments are due April 5).
He also would like the city to consider issuing bonds to replace schools more quickly.
He also thinks we should have a literary magazine.

Miss Biancheria would like to know which schools are using Mass Work-Based Learning Plans.
She'd like to know about the online program being offered Creamer.
And she'd like a schedule of STEM programs. And a report on the bullying conference.

Mr. Monfredo wants all teachers to read "Casey at the Bat" to students during the week of May 29th.
He would also like the committee to express its concern at the federal budget.
He also wants to celebrate "Heart Health month."
And he's accepting donations for his annual book drive.

Ms. Colorio wants to create a task force "to investigate and seek solutions to drug and alcohol problems in the schools." She's also asking for a report on the Massachusetts ESSA plan and what changes that might bring, and a report on the mathematics and ELL (I think she means ELA?) standards, both of which were voted last week.
She also would like to create "a Hotel and Restaurant within a vacant Worcester public school." Which we don't have any of.

There is also an executive session at 6 pm on negotiations with the teachers' union, two grievances, and (you guessed it!) PCB litigation. 

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