Thursday, October 26, 2017

Regarding the Commissioner's search

A twitter thread:

Update on the OML Worcester strategic plan complaint

My appeal to the Attorney General's office was mailed yesterday.

OH! And on Tuesday, the Worcester Public Schools twitter feed sent out this:


Note that Worcester East Middle is actually 420 Grafton, should you be heading there.
As it was the first notice, and I have a meeting tonight, I won't be there. But they suddenly appear to have decided that parents should come, as in the past half hour I have also received:

  1. a computer-voice Connect-Ed urging attendance
  2. a blank email: 
Too late to make it up to us on transparency... If you go, take notes!

TWO UPDATES:
Scott O'Connell went to the forum.
And Bill Shaner wrote a bit about the lack of public notice and input.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Worcester School Committee "Community and Schools Forum" at Worcester State

I'm blogging tonight from the "Community and Schools Forum" at Worcester State University tonight. It's co-sponsored by the Latino Education Institute, Adelante, CENTRO, Southeast Asian Coalition, and African Community Education. This is a good one, because Worcester is a majority children of color system; the stats for last year are: 
Enrollment by Race/Ethnicity (2016-17)
Race% of District% of State
African American15.48.9
Asian7.46.7
Hispanic41.819.4
Native American0.20.2
White31.161.3
Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander0.00.1
Multi-Race, Non-Hispanic4.13.4
Worcester has--and will continue to have, regardless of the results of the November election--an entirely white school committee.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Commissioner's search (if you couldn't read the photos)

Appointed by Chair Paul Sagan to the screening committee is:
Voting members (current members of the Board)
himself
Secretary Jim Peyser
James Morton
Margaret McKenna
Katherine Craven

Non-voting members
Vanessa Calderon-Rosado (former member of the Board, CEO of Inquilinos Boricuas en Accion)
Sydney Chaffee (National Teacher of the Year, Codman Academy Charter School)
Alex Cortez (Reimagine School Systems Fund--New Profit; Board of MATCH Charter and Innovate Public Schools)
Paul Dakin (retired superintendent, Revere Public Schools)
Marcia Faucher (adjunct professor, Roger Williams University; former New Bedford principal)
Robert Gittens (Executive Director, Cambridge Family and Children Services; former Boston School Committee member)
Sheila Harrity (superintendent, Montachusett Regional Vocational Technical School; Vice Chair, Board of Higher Ed)
Matt Hills (Newton School Committee; he's also a managing director at LLM Capital)
Beverly Holmes (on Springfield Empowerment Zone board; former member of the Board of Ed)
Linda Noonan (of Mass Business Alliance for Education)
Mary Walachy (of the Davis Foundation; member of the Early Ed Board)

I've tried to give a relevant link as warranted; if there are others, send them along 


Board of Ed: Educator License Actions

backup is here
Wulfson: DESE is licensure authority for over 90,000 educators and administrators
part of that is investigating misconduct
"critically important part of the department that rarely gets public attention, and that's probably a good thing, because it means our staff is doing its job well"
within legal office
vast majority of teachers are caring, hardworking, trustworthy individuals; small number should not be an indictment of vast majority

Commissioner may suspend, revoke, or limit a license if the license holder:
  • Lacks sound moral character
  • pleads guilty to or is convicted of a crime
  • commits gross misconduct or negligence
  • is dismissed from a school for just cause
  • misrepresents their history on an application
  • has another professional license that is revoked
a dismissal, non-renewal, or resignation for reasons that might implicate that educator's license, the superintendent is required to report it to DESE
Schneider: a balancing test
Cavell: your license is your ability to do work; you may not fit into culture of a school, but that does not mean you don't deserve to have your license
Dale: will open a file when there is a media report

the office investigates: 
  • professional boundary violations 
  • grooming student for inappropriate relationships
  • sexual relationships with students
  • inflicitng physical harm
  • MCAS cheating
  • criminal condcut
  • inappropriate language and acts
  • substance abuse
Do investigate social media; brief discussion ensues on where the lines are on whose job it is; Wulfson points to policies adopted by school committees on social media use of employees

applicant investigations: must disclose criminal court appearances and convictions; child neglect or abuse findings; employment dismissal for cause
also must certify that there are no misrepresentations on the applications and disclose any future changes to their answers

Stewart: "small but mighty"
Schneider: two full time lawyers, a part time lawyer, two full time investigators, and an investigator admin (not her word)
"deal with the worst first" in setting priorities
Dale: prioritize most risk of harm
Sagan urges them to come back if they need greater resources
Dale: educators do have due process rights; sanctions are reported to national clearinghouse; also use clearinghouse for reciprocal actions

Have increased volume due to background checks by districts for hiring authority
"press our school districts to be as vigilant as they can be on this"

Trimarchi: administration of new MCAS on computer: has that created any new "test weirdness"
Cavell "we do have one matter that we're looking at right now, but one matter does not make a trend"
Wulfson: do believe computer testing will tighten up what we're doing

Moriarty: any flags on pending investigations?
No, though in very rare cases, do get flagged during investigations
Moriarty: concerned about staying ahead of investigations
Schneider: authority of hiring and careful checks
"would you rehire this person?"
Peyser: are you required to check background?
what is potential liability for a negative reference that can't be proved?
Cavill: each district does its own hiring, "there are some HR people that are very, very savvy"
Senator Lovely's bill would set more requirements in hiring
Peyser: if former employer tells another district that DESE has been notified about certification, does that put the district at any legal risk?
Cavill: if it's a mandated report, the district is pretty safe
emphasize that districts can report anything
case law about a glowing recommendation for someone that was not warranted
"if it's an omission, there's not a lot of case law holding the district liable"

Board of Ed: Level 5 update

Johnston: review of quarter one results; report here
Rodriguez: pull out some themes
pretty intensive support and assistance to Level 5 districts and schools: liaison from the department
coordinate support provided plus monitor implementation of turnaround plan
figure out what support is needed from department or elsewhere
quarterly updates from Level 5 schools; benchmarks
make mid-course adjustments
"a lot of time right now analyzing results"
schools jumping into variance by grade (growth by grade)
"this is a snapshot in time"
"really make decisions about resources"
digging in with receivers
working to see if other testing is aligned with state assessments
all schools spent professional development time on school cultures and curriculum
"really strong instructional leadership structures"
"really a refinement of the work"
big challenge relates to staffing; "big picture, we know this relates not just to Level 4 schools, not just to Level 5 schools"
looking at efforts schools are putting in
"have turnover that happens in the late summer"
hardest one is principal at Parker is stepping down for personal reasons
good news is seeing places with deeper benches; still change, which is hard to manage
"asserting ourselves and involving ourselves a little more directly"
Q from Moriarty: not as much in Dever?
Dever worked with Boston; cautious, as has been an issue in past years
Moriarty: "see this business of August resignations extremely troublesome...these are licensed accredited professionals"
"but for folks who are doing it for convenience for a better opportunity...I don't think that behavior is ethical"
"there's something unconscionable about that"

Johnston: Southbridge
focused on schools being ready to welcome students back
then turned to new receiver
listening to community to see the qualities wanted in new receiver
four: community building; integrity; resourcefulness; shared vision
turnaround plan "is right plan for district" community felt, so need someone who will implement
networking and are encouraging people to apply
hope to be interviewing by Thanksgiving; hope to have choice by close to year's end, I'm gathering
To Q from Trimarchi: network among receivers; common themed meetings; have visited each other's districts
how DESE brings to bear ideas across districts
for schools to own the change
25 urban districts gather each month; agenda co-developed with DESE
a real emphasis on trauma on learning this year

Board of Ed: FY19 Budget proposal

Wulfson: about a third of the year through FY18, beginning development of FY19

Bill Bell
quick FY18 update: briefly in middle of implementing FY18 spending plan
has been some activity since Governor signed the budgets
override of vetos has some earmarks; hasn't been finalized
big positive news is the additional $4.1M for assessment has been authorized and approved by Governor; awaiting a revenue transfer of that funding
sooo...not DESE money. Where did they find it?
restricted revenue environment
federal ledger is fully appropriated for the school year
funding work you hear now is to fund next school year (on federal side)
discussion around prioritizing areas of emphasis

Craven: did talk a lot about general climate
"constrained resources"
much of DESE funding is a pass through to districts
very little oversight or ability to change
working with health for high needs children
Peyser: really important point
"a lot of supports and services out there...not easy to gain access to it...the whole is greater than the sum of the parts"
growing attention to opioid crisis; intersects with challenges we are facing
Craven: retained revenue fund for licensure?
Wulfson: teacher licensure fees have not been raised in twenty years; under discussion for this budget cycle

four or five aid accounts represent 98% of our budget
in all cases, there are arguments that they aren't being fully funded
"so large that they tend to scoop up all of the available dollars"
"concerned about the capacity of the department to undertake all of the work we are doing, as well as the responsibilities that are being added"
level 5: very intensive
investigation in licenses
"very constrained fiscal cap"
"We may be able to hire a commissioner, but our ability to hire additional staff is virtually non-existence at this point in the budget cycle"
oversight of programs not funded
no rule similar to state as fed with percentage set aside for oversight
Stewart: is there a better way to reimburse those areas?

Board of Ed: determinations for classes of 2021 and 2022

aka high school MCAS revisions 
Wulfson: now turning towards next generation high school test
field testing questions this spring
administering test for first time in spring 2019
first class taking with be class of 2021; they are freshmen this year
competency determination cut scores
standard setting groups in grades 3-8; not high stakes decisions
high school is a high stakes test for students
an extended discussion having over next years
and engaging with stakeholder groups
because it is a high stakes test, both fairness and due process requires giving notice of change in standards
propose that first two classes be held harmless with any raising of the bar
would set passing score at a level commensurate with a score of passing the current MCAS test
will require amendment to Board regs on competency determination
expect to be brought forward with language at November Board meeting
ninth graders are getting their eighth grade scores now; a lot of students falling into partially meeting expectations category
"We don't want them freaking out and saying, 'oh my God, you've changed the rules on me and I won't pass my high school competency determination'"
"not raising the bar on them"
passing will still be in 80 or 90 range of previous years
not asking for a vote now but "would urge anyone who takes exception to that to signal that now"
"it'd be even better if somebody said that they think it's a great idea"
West: supportive of idea "what assumptions we're making about our ability to do that" (cross-referencing)
Stapel: meeting of technical advisory committee this week
essentially be doing it in two ways: percentile linking
will also be investigation how to qualitatively do that during the standards setting process
Morton: thinks it a great idea
speaks to Ed's point: gives us a chance to try the test
"where we get a chance to learn from our past experiences" moving forward
Trimarchi: several mentions of updating language
Stapel: current language is associated with current assessment
changes would update those to reflect decisions we're making
Moriarty: makes sense, continuity
"this is transitional, goal in these assessments is to better align and better support a high school diploma as a genuine" signal of college and career readiness
Wulfson: will signal to class of 2023 and beyond: Board does plan to raise the bar

Board of Ed: recap of MCAS results

Wulfson: new test grades 3-8 ELA and math
"by all accounts it was an extremely successful administration"
expressed appreciation to staff "and many hundreds of teachers who engaged with us in all the aspects of test results and scoring"
school and district results provided last week
student and parent reports will be delivered today
providing materials for parents and schools
"not directly comparable"
"designed to signal readiness for academic success at the next grade level"
"a single data point...we caution against reading too many conclusions into it"
transition year because of Board's decision to have an accountability pause to reflect switch to new test as well as new requirements from ESSA
"vast majority of schools did not receive an accountability level this year"
seven Commendation schools
Randolph district exited level 4 status
existing level 4 schools showing good progress, want to see sustained progress over time
some will be good candidates for exiting next year if they maintain progress to date
goal in Level 5 is not to see how fast we can get in or out, but lasting progress
Doherty: very comprehensive presentation and "quite dense"
hope will pause to consider mistakes of the past and not make those mistakes going forward
one mistake was "using test far too much"
"to label schools as failing schools"
NCLB: all students proficient by 2014: a lot of schools labelled failing schools

Board of Ed: Commissioner search

The Board is now soliciting public comment on the Commissioner's search: CommSearch@doe.mass.edu

Rosa-Lyn Morris here addressing the Board
does higher ed searches
"delighted to partner with you all"
individual calls with each Board member, other heads of agencies, will be speaking with senior staff
have had conversations with Acting Commissioner
have a working draft of short job description (that would be posted publicly) plus longer job description
documents now being circulated to Board
(the above is the short description)Morton: "what I liked about it...I wondered if everyone saw themselves in the document...my conclusion is that they would"
"this commissioner needs to serve all children and see all children have opportunities for success"
Fernandez likes section on achieving educational equity: more on that lines to emphasis cultural, linguistic, ethnic diversity of state
Sagan asks Board to follow up afterward; looking for Board input by end of week
applications by December 15
committee will see all applications; "there's no pre-screening"

holy stacked deck, all! Only teacher is a charter school teacher; Reimagine School funds; empowerment zone; MBAE! 

Hoping to have finalists for January interview
Sagan: "very encouraged...everyone says this is the best job in the field"

Regular October meeting of the Board: opening comments

You can find the agenda here. The meeting begins with comments at 8:30; updating as we go. 
Interestingly, it's a quiet morning here: few staff, not many in crowd. 
All here save Margaret McKenna, Katherine Craven, and Michael Moriarty: Moriarty and Craven are on the way


No opening comments from Sagan

Wulfson: contingency planning for an influx of students from Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands continues
government-wide task force established by Governor
looking at a number of ways we may be able to assist districts
probably number in hundreds
have been advised to consider the possibility that the numbers may become very much larger
Sagan: "I know you have a slush fund to possibly help the districts" (to surprised laughter)
Wulfson: have McKinney-Vento; talking about supplemental appropriations; some MEMA funds

continuing revisions of social studies standards; revisions this school year
working group in Legislature related to civics education
coordination on science with higher ed
posting some updated guidelines on social-emotional curriculum (originally from anti-bullying act)

lawsuit on translation: status report to court this month
broad areas of agreement in principle; may not need preliminary injunction
preliminary hearing thus postponed; status report November 13

Auditor opinion to Framingham: educator evaluation an unfunded mandate?
determined requirements do not fall under unfunded mandate provisions
program on books for reimbursment never been funded; DESE should develop guidelines for making reimbursement payments if there were an appropriation for that

increasing participation in school breakfast program
continue to believe that school principals and superintendents are in best situation to determine delivery models for their schools

Public comment:
Cateria Albert (sp?) from Newton
input on quality of future commissioner: interest in gifted education
tells of her son who was working ahead of his level
"many kids like him across Massachusetts"
concerned with tears were bullying, but not being educated at level a form of being bullied

Craven and Moriarty here

"there is no perfect commissioner...but it is up to you to accommodate that asynchronty"
"We need a Horace Mann...we need someone to say 'what is it going to be like 10, 15 years from now?'"
need a commissioner who will understand things like competency-based education

Laura Trendal (sp?) from Northborough
"please find someone who understands the gifted and twice-exceptional learners"
cites Massachusetts as 49th in the nation in gifted education
"these kids are fending for themselves"
"too insular and do not look to other states as we should"

Jay Gonzalez, candidate for governor
former Chair of early ed, former secretary of finance
raises serious questions if members of this Board have been forthright
"you and the public deserve better"
Peyser invited to weekly strategy sessions with FES
invites him to be forthright to public
participated in strategy for campaign, solicited donations, if used any state resources
"the people of Commonwealth deserve public leaders...that are following the rules"

Monday, October 23, 2017

Evening meeting of the Board of Ed

coming in a bit late here to the presentation; I'll see if I can pick up what I missed later



Sunday, October 22, 2017

A rabbit hole I fell down today on Massachusetts property taxes and school funding

In order:
  • 1620: Mayflower passengers arrive in Plymouth (start of the Plymouth Colony)
  • 1630: Massachusetts Bay Company starts in Boston
  • 1634: Taxation of every man's assets and products of his abilities passed by Mass Bay Colony
  • 1635: Boston Latin School founded
  • 1636: Harvard founded
  • 1646: Taxation of "visible estate" (a property tax) 
  • 1647: "Old Deluder Satan" law requires a school for every settlement of fifty families and a grammar school of every settlement of a hundred paid either by parents and masters OR by the settlement as a whole
This of course both leaves a lot out and oversimplifies, BUT I thought the interaction of taxation and education in Massachusetts interesting.

If you're coming to the MASS/MASC Conference next week, this is background research I was doing for the "70 on 70" session at 12:30 on Wednesday. 

On economic inequity and educational impact: TO READ

I highly recommend this piece from WGBH working with MassLive on Springfield's High School of Commerce and what poverty and inequity look like from there.
Longmeadow spends 144% of net school spending, Springfield just hits 100%, to compound the hardship. 

Friday, October 20, 2017

The Board of Ed meets Monday and Tuesday

The Board of Education holds its October meeting Monday and Tuesday of next week; the agenda is posted here.
The Monday evening portion is the MCAS results discussion as well as the discussion on district and school accountability measures. And yes, I'm going to go to that, as well, because it's necessary.

Tuesday morning is their regular meeting; the briefing from the Acting Commissioner is here. Along with the usual round of Acting Commissioner, Chair, Secretary, and public comment, they'll elect the vice-chair (memo on that here).
We'll hear a recap of the previous night's presentation followed by discussion of the competency determination, aka the MCAS graduation requirement, usually taken in grade 10; at the previous meeting, Acting Commissioner Wulfson spoke of the need for an interim step on the transition to the grading standards of the new test, and this looks like more on that.

There's a discussion of the FY19 budget (with no backup. And by the way, I'd be interested in the revenue stream the Department runs on).

There's an update coming on the Level 5 districts and schools. This includes an update on the search for a new Southbridge receiver; they plan to have the position posted in mid-October...UPDATE: I am told the position is posted. There are also updates on the Dever and UP Academy in Boston, Morgan Community in Holyoke, and Parker Elementary in New Bedford. It's interesting to note that in two of those cases, the schools are now operating under their district superintendent, 'though reporting directly to DESE. There's also a schedule of upcoming presentations, which includes one of the Springfield Empowerment Zone (Interesting, as it isn't under a level 5 designation).

There's a report on the revoking of educator licenses (this came up during the revisions to licensure regulations), on which the Globe reported today. I'm interested if the increase in the revoking of licenses is as a result of increased reporting or something else.

Among the reports going to the Board (but not for discussion) is one on school breakfast.

Liveblogs next week! 

Monday, October 16, 2017

So how is this going to work?

MASC posted a "just the facts" piece on how the accountability and test bit is going to work this year. With the release of scores and levels--what there are--being released Wednesday, we thought it would be timely. Nothing in this will be news to regular readers here, but you might find a more boiled down version useful. We've also put it up as a PDF here.
Nothing there (or here) is arguing in favor (or against) testing, the new MCAS, the ESSA plan, accountability levels, or the like. This is just the "what's going to happen" version.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Worcester meetings this week

Two Worcester school meetings this week:
  • The Governance subcommittee continues their power drive through policies with a meeting on Tuesday at noon (very conducive to public input). Note that this section includes those on students (J), on negotiations (H), facilities (F), community relations (K), and educational agency relations (L). Most of the policies are MASC boilerplate. Interesting that the superintendent's chief of staff (I have to check the org chart; I didn't know there was such a position) is being given the power to approve WPS statements.

The School Committee meets Thursday at 7 pm with an executive session at 6. In executive session, there are still negotiations with custodians, computer techs, IAs, and educational secretaries, plus there is a teacher discipline case and pending litigation.

MASC will be out to give a series of awards to community members and to Mayor Petty, who is this year's All-State School Committee winner in Division IX (urbans). 

The report of the superintendent is on nursing in the 21st century. There are the usual beginning of year appointments, resignations, and retirements. 
There is a response that the Capstone project--which is the big AP push--was funded in the current year budget; a short response on the wraparound coordinators working at schools; a response on the QUEST program at QCC; a response on the "Seeds to STEM" program from WPI; and a response on improved manufacturing options

There's also a response on possible federal grant impacts, which begins with "Federal initiatives are very much in a state of flux," which may be the understatement of the administration. 

There is an update on the  "management plan activities" on the PCB situation at Doherty and Burncoat. The committee (again?) proposes to review the resolutions before the Delegate Assembly of MASC in November. There's a proposed building fee change (no report) and the close of the FY18 books (also no report as yet).
The administration is proposing participating in the model Educator Evaluation system (?no backup?).

There are a series of donations.

Mr. O'Connell wants to invite a representative from MNA to tour the schools; to modify the McKinney-Vento grant to include hurricane impacts (uh...); to investigate licensure options for those coming from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands; and to ask DESE to extend the October 1 count to later, considering those who may be evacuating elsewhere.
Miss Biancheria wants to discuss the Community Addiction Response Program.

I'm also confused by a series of financial responses coming in from Mr. O'Connell and Miss Biancheria from the last meeting, as there were no fiscal reports on the last agenda, nor any items filed. There's a chart from the Operational Services Division of tuition rates. There's the Educational Divisions supplies account from the FY18 budget. There's an explanation of the changes in the administration account from FY17 to FY18. And there's a report on the Environmental Systems Management. These all feel like budgetary questions, coming during second quarter; did someone just review their budget now?

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

DESE Education Forum in Abington

I'm in Abington tonight in their gorgeous brand-new K-12 school for an educational forum tonight at which Acting Commissioner Wulfson is speaking. It's entitled "K-12 Education Update: How the state and school districts work together to serve your child."
Updating as we go...
Abington Superintendent Peter Schafer welcomes people to the new school and introduces Acting Commissioner Wulfson.
Wulfson says he'll speak about what the Department does and leave time for questions.

Speaking of school funding formulas, Kansas is back

Their state Supreme Court struck down their changed formula as inadequate:
The court said in a much-anticipated ruling that the state's $293 million spending increase after an earlier ruling failed to provide its students with an "adequate" public education. The state's legislature now has until July 2018 to come up with a new funding formula, according to the ruling. The state is spending close to $4.3 billion on K-12 in the current fiscal year.
The legislature, already dealing with a series of spending cuts after a years-long revenue shortfall, will now have to figure out how to raise more money to spend on its public schools. Legislators have been reluctant to raise taxes, though a growing chorus of teachers and parents in the state have pushed for more spending on schools.
It's worth noting that part of what the Legislature tried to do was tie the new funding up in a lot of requirements. 

Friday, October 6, 2017

Pumpkin Spice has officially gone too far


h/t Dan Gleason

Have a good weekend. 

Update on the Strategic Planning Committee OML Complaint

I'm beginning to think I should have labelled these as episodes.
When I last posted, I was waiting to see if I would get a response to my complaint by close of the allotted 14 day window, Tuesday, October 3.
Note, incidentally, that complaints are filed first with the body against whom the complaint is being made; it's right there in the first line of the FAQ on the Attorney General's page:
Individuals who allege a violation of the Open Meeting Law must first file a complaint with the public body alleged to have violated the OML.
emphasis is NOT added
Tuesday came and went.
I did not.
Wednesday and Thursday also came and went.
I did not.

Today, I received the following in the mail:



After Bowditch and Dewey letterhead and address, it says: 
Dear Ms. Novick: I'm enclosing a copy of our response to the Open Meeting Law Complaint Form which you prepared and which is dated September 19, 2017. Apparently, you have not yet filed this Complaint with the Attorney General's office.
As you will note, the so-called "Worcester Public Schools Strategic Planning Committee" is not subject to the Open Meeting Law.
Very truly yours,
Michael P. Angelini

Thus, before we get to the enclosure, we have at least two issues: the time is overdue, and the responding attorney does not know the process of how open meeting law complaints are handled in Massachusetts (it goes to the body before the AG). 

Here is the page and a half enclosure; I'll type up the text below. 



Re: Complaint of Tracy Novick regarding alleged violation of Open Meeting Law

Dear Attorney General Healey:
We represent the Worcester Educational Collaborative ("WEC") and the Worcester Regional Research Bureau ("WRRB"), which are the organizers of the so-called "Worcester Public Schools Strategic Planning Committee," the subject of an Open Meeting Law Complaint filed by Tracy Novick.
WEC is an operating division of the United Way of Central Massachusetts, an independent and qualified 501(c)(3) organization. Its mission is "to engage the community in fulfilling its responsibility to ensure that excellence is education is available to all public school students and that they are prepared for success in college, career and life." WRRB is a 501(c)(3) organization which "conducts independent, non-partisan research and analysis of public policy issues to promote good governance and informed public debate and decision making."
Neither WEC nor WRRB are controlled, managed or affiliated with any political or governmental body.

WEC and WRRB have organized a strategic planning exercise, which includes various members of the Worcester community, to review public education in Worcester and to formulate a plan for excellence. This "Strategic Planning Committee is not a public body, is not advisory to a public body and has no power to implement any plan or action. It is not subject to the Open Meeting Law. It receives no financial support from the City of Worcester or any other governmental organization. The Committee's work has been funded by contributions from local individuals and organizations and by a grant from the Barr Foundation. It operates with complete independence.
The Committee's findings and recommendations will ultimately be presented to the Worcester community, including the Worcester School Committee, the Worcester City Counsel [sic], the Superintendent of Schools and the City Manager. These findings and recommendations will be advisory only.
Please contact me with any questions regarding the Complaint or this response.

(signature and so forth)

Public bodies are what are required to abide by the Open Meeting Law. Here--in full--is how Mass General Law Chapter 30A, Section 18 (the actual Open Meeting Law) defines a "public body" (emphasis mine):
''Public body'', a multiple-member board, commission, committee or subcommittee within the executive or legislative branch or within any county, district, city, region or town, however created, elected, appointed or otherwise constituted, established to serve a public purpose; provided, however, that the governing board of a local housing, redevelopment or other similar authority shall be deemed a local public body; provided, further, that the governing board or body of any other authority established by the general court to serve a public purpose in the commonwealth or any part thereof shall be deemed a state public body; provided, further, that ''public body'' shall not include the general court or the committees or recess commissions thereof, bodies of the judicial branch or bodies appointed by a constitutional officer solely for the purpose of advising a constitutional officer and shall not include the board of bank incorporation or the policyholders protective board; and provided further, that a subcommittee shall include any multiple-member body created to advise or make recommendations to a public body.
Both the Worcester City Council and the Worcester School Committee are public bodies.
And here's, again the last line of the final full paragraph:

These findings and recommendations will be advisory only.
A body created to advise a public body on something under its purview is itself a public body, subject to the Open Meeting Law.

It will take me a few days to write up the history here, but I'll be appealing to the Attorney General. 

Monday, October 2, 2017

OML complaint on the Worcester Strategic Planning Committee

You might remember that I pointed out in August that the Worcester Strategic Planning Committee had an Open Meeting Law problem, a concern that subsequently was picked up by Worcester Magazine.
And then nothing else happened.
But every person in Massachusetts has the right to call such committees to account on such things, so I filed an Open Meeting Law complaint with the committee. I said the following:
Last June, the Worcester Public Schools announced that they would be forming a strategic planning committee. The strategic plan was subsequently announced as forthcoming in the district budget and is referenced in the district Compact. Any such committee, as it is advisory itself to a public body (the School Committee) is itself subject to the Open Meeting Law. Save a single public input session in July, there has been no public notification of any action. Nonetheless, it is my understanding that the committee has repeatedly been meeting both as a full committee and as subcommittees. There has been no public posting of any session; there have been no minutes shared; even the make up of the committee has never been announced. Given the publicity with which the strategic plan was announced, the references made to it in district documentation, the public purpose it clearly serves, it certainly appears an intentional violation.
The filer is then asked what action the committee should take to rectify the situation; I said the following:
1. The committee should immediately comply with the OML for all future sessions in terms of posting, of keeping minutes, of ensuring public access. 
2. The committee should release all agenda, minutes that fully comply with OML requirements, reports, backups, and presentations of both full committee and subcommittee meetings. 
3. The committee should release all communication among and between any quorum of a full or subcommittee that would be considered deliberation under the OML.
I sent the complaint to both co-chairs via certified mail. Both received them before noon on September 20. Under the Open Meeting Law, the committee then has fourteen (business) days to respond.
That expires tomorrow, October 3.
I have heard nothing.
The next step, should nothing occur, is to escalate the complaint to the Attorney General.