Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Worcester Public Schools Strategic Planning Public Session

Posting here from Doherty Memorial where we have maybe fifty people (of which maybe ten or fifteen are teachers? I think?). Offhand, I see John Monfredo and Dante Comparetto (both of next year's School Committee) and Matt Wally (incoming D5 City Councilor), a few principals...
I'm hearing the EAW moved the House of Delegates meeting here.
I'm also hearing that the agenda is 2/3rds being talked at, 1/3rd being listened to...

Jennifer Davis Carey, Worcester Educational Collaborative
"we have very important work to do"
introduces elected officials that are here
"this has been a long process...third community forum that we've hosted"
process began when Superintendent Boone announced she would not being returning
WEC and Research Bureau produced a report on the district
"some of the challenges as well as some of the opportunities facing the district"
"another group of interested parties meeting about harnessing the community" on the needs of the schools
Superintendent Binienda supported the idea
"of something that is very different from other districts"
"agreed on a community led process with the input and support of the superintendent"
last strategic plan was 1992
hosted a forum and got a sense of what some of the issues were
plan focused on five areas
educator resources
finance and operation
social emotional learning
privately funded largely by the Barr Foundation, brought in the Rennie Center to do it
"to date, we have been in the data gathering area"
15 focus groups with 150 participants
"we have met in focus groups rather than in larger groups so people might express opinions that they might not feel comfortable expressing in a larger group"
students without parents for same reason
now asking for various shows of hands, good number of parents here
asks "did I miss anyone?"
and she missed teachers, which is the majority

Tim McGourthy Research Bureau
Carey "gave a full overview"
"this has been a process, and it has been a challenging process"
"fulfills the goals that we have for our residents, for our children, and for our community"
"we had a few challenging meetings where we...sought common ground"
Goal is to have a draft out to the community in February or March
and then have a final to submit to the superintendent
and to the school committee for them to decide what to implement

Rennie Center program manager
"pleasure to be engaged with your community"
"if we are not able to get to the questions in person today, we'll collect the cards"
"been in engagement of data collection, now in strategic planning:
learning options, governance, finance, operations, SEL, climate, early ed, college and career, cultural competence, instructional tech, resources, educator

what are the strengths, what are the needs reviewed by every subcommittee
"defining the problem statement and reviewing the data"
"identified specific problem statements"
"vision for themselves three years in the future"
"Where are we going in 2021?"
strategies and actions steps that will move this process forward
Five areas of focus (?)
  • high quality and rigorous engagement
  • quality instruction and educator development
  • supportive environment in all schools
  • modern technology
  • effective governance, finance, and operations
"personalized learning" was just referenced in the technology; I guess no one tipped them off on the third rail
"making sure the workforce is able to engage with students in a meaningful way"
"engage teachers with incentives"
"a child is more than what they learn...a whole skillset, a whole knowledge that exists"
"measurements" to show what student needs are and then "align with" those
"supportive environments not only for educators but also for families"
"define the vision...for how technology is integrated...not just about's an integrated part of their classroom experience"
"Making sure the communication resources are available for the students, for the parents"
"we know that this comes with a knowledge set"
"digital literacy is a skill set that are existing in the schools"
"undergirding factor"
"being efficient" in our use of resources
"having a shared vision"
"taking on specific strategies"
"many resources of the district aren't necessarily coming in through the traditional methods"
that sounds dangerous
"students may not be face to face with their teacher but be in a virtual space"
"ensure that you all know about it and know about the good work coming out of Worcester"

Binienda: very thankful for this process
"school system is not running it...nice to work in partnership"
"really appreciate the dedicated skills of the leaders in this community who have stepped up"
raising the question of how?
"I can't think of anything that isn't covered" within the five areas
references Hanover Academy at Burncoat
Plan is to open an academy of the arts in two years at WEMS (what happened to the science program?)
plan for Doherty is to increase access to engineering
North Quadrant focus on health
increase AP this year, hope is to increase AP Computer Science
have already increased Ch. 74 programs
taking classes during their junior and senior year
new and novice principals for three years
principals "have to know curriculum"
"decided to bring experts into the district to teach teachers"
Catherine Snow brought in for early literacy
giving effective feedback
added two safety centers (?)
complete review of technology now have a five year plan (like the Blue Ribbon panel)
and we finally get a mention of the Ch. 70 funding!
"School Committee has been very involved in advocacy"
increasing partnership with local businesses
day of applying to colleges with community partners

Someone else from the Rennie Center "to guide us through our next portion"
"what we really want to hear from you in the next hour is your questions, and solicit from you what areas most resonate with you"
we're at one hour and counting at this point
which of these resonates the most with you
Michael Lyons: only 2% of the people on your panel are teachers
"if I were to evaluate this on the system, I'd give 'needs improvement'"
"I'm not trying to be negative"
did not get resources ahead of time, I had to put it together myself
"where's the data from your last listening session?"
"how do you reach out to the students who aren't keeping up with the class?"
Binienda says you evaluate the student, see if student needs additional resources
"what's the plan for the academic social-emotional support in our schools?"
Binienda "that is a brand new area, even for the state"
says we're ahead of the state (????)
one idea is for a two year kindergarten
"our other challenge is preschool"
and now she's talking about the attendance report
Back to the Rennie Center: want to get to their question, not to process or presentation
quality instruction for communication disabilities when pathologists have high caseloads
another: "I didn't see anything presented tonight that we want to increase and do better on"
Carey: still on data gathering, synthesis, process; that's "why we are having the public input session"
"get a sense of things that aren't in the plan that you'd like to see addressed"
Q: how do we plan to train teachers to deal with trauma?
response "I don't think we're prepared to have answers to this"
Q: plans that have been ongoing, then this one is going on
what the district has done so far and what this plan is going to impact from the old strategic plan that's in the pipeline
trauma in school; kids aren't willing to communicate about what is going on
plan for that?
Carey: there are two people taking extensive notes so "we can address them as the meeting and the work continues"
and everyone has an index card
"plan is still in development"
speech and language pathologist: would love to see attention to English learners and how better to support their needs
North High student: what I heard today is you guys talking about evaluating students and creating a lesson plan and all that..."how can you create a lesson plan for students if not every child does it the same way?"
"I want to know how you guys are willing to change that, are willing to make a difference in that"
Student: teachers with different approaches and different ways of their students
doesn't one group controlling what we're teaching limit how we're being reached?
"if you guys aren't prepared to answer these questions, why is this meeting being held tonight?"
Roger Nugent, EAW president
when the draft is released, will teachers, the union have a chance to go over it?
Rennie: this is a very different process, there's going to be a whole process of how it's adopted
occupational therapist: have seen high states testing
"and I take the children who can't make it"
wonder about if we were able to back of when they're little
students who can't get into Tech and want vocational skills: "we desperately need vocational"
wanted to add to the questions with regards to supports: intersections around ethnicity and class
"not enough conversation around race and culture...especially the disparities across Worcester particularly for people of color"
"how implicit bias finds its way into the classroom"
"race dialogues that the city went through and take out comments from students and parents"
"attendance matters, but you suspend kids from a day up to a is taking kids out of school a good way to discipline them?"
"I think it's funny when you guys are talking about pride when we have a superintendent who recently denied a lip sync during school and postponed it to the evening when kids don't have transportation which is denying us school spirit"
teacher at North High: reason I came, out of the thousands of kids in Worcester...all the years I've been here, there's always been a disproportionate number of educators of color"
"is there going to be more, or do I have to wait til 2021?"
graduate of Doherty: my biggest concern for the district is finance
"I know how we are stretched thin...we need to think of other ways that we can raise money for the schools"
have started an alumni association
"would much rather give my money to Worcester Public Schools, because they need it more"
another: I think it's wonderful that social emotional discipline is part of the plan
disproportionate discipline of children of color
English learners: resources for families who don't speak English
final draft and documents in several languages
repeat support of high stakes testing, issues of diversity and English learners
fifth area lumps together a number of issues
"not a separate area focusing on administrator quality, which greatly effects" school quality
and as more people leave, more of the public time is taken up by a "summary"
Parent: specialized substitute teachers who can (for example) teach the subject when a teacher is out
parent of graduates: role around parents and families
"as an outside looking in" (in a Teamster jacket): applauds the students who spoke
parent of a good student: have heard a lot about students who are falling behind, but I haven't heard enough about students who need to be challenged
another: role of financial literacy and skill building
another: more into finance
"a union of 3000 people for which reforming the funding is a priority issue"
will there be other opportunities for this draft?
Carey: in the new year, we also don't want it to be a static plan
"how we work intentionally on implementation, and what are the advocacy pieces that need to happen"
and we're back to someone from the Rennie Center speaking
Giving reflections from the community focus groups: 15 focus groups
quick synthesis points: social emotional learning, trauma in schools
cultural competence: honor that diversity with a culture of welcome in our schools
high quality instruction: "a priority that Superintendent Binienda has been working on for a number of years now"
and now on "process"
Councilor Lukes: concerned about stresses in the schools
schools as an economic development opportunity
"has to be a daring plan"
Corazzini: have future teachers in the district; need actual cohorts of color of young educators prepared
"students need to see educators that resemble them"
"I would also like to see actual's hard to really assess the plan without seeing the data behind it"
"family engagement is not inviting us to a meeting to rubber stamp a proposal that we have very little information about"
"it's not bringing us to the board room, it's coming down the churches, to the Boys and Girls Club...we're already meeting"
"it's the systems, not the people"
embedding social justice and social pedagogy
teachers "who don't have the tools and the abilities...that's a systemic issue"
student: see a lack of restorative circles, a lack of students expressing it
"kids really dealing with stuff and need to get it off their chests"
"acknowledge that kids are struggling with stuff that's eating them alive...because where's the restorative circle at"
"you have kids out here focused like robots"
another: would like to see meetings at schools themselves, rather than 6:30 pm on a school night
can't use some things on the internet, because they are blocked

Next: meeting again in February
"want to highlight some of the specific ways in which we are responding"
"but we wanted to appreciate that you have invited us into your communities to listen hard and listen well"
"I want to reassure you that this is not being heard by deaf ears"
"now have a live survey on the website"
plan fleshed out more in the new year
"we have made an effort not to make this just token representation...but to engage families and students through the organizations they are connected with"
and what if they aren't connected with organizations? 

and we're done here

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