Monday, December 17, 2018

Worcester School Committee meets Thursday

You can find the agenda for December 20 here.
There are recognitions and thanks.

The report of the superintendent is the End of Cycle Evaluation; as yet there is no backup posted, so what the School Committee has to say about Superintendent Binienda's performance is not yet public. You might recall that the Superintendent submitted her self-evaluation back at the meeting on November 13, saying that she had exceeded her professional practice and student learning goals, met her district improvement goal, and performed proficienctly in instructional leadership and in professional culture, and exemplarily in management and operations and in family and community and engagement. If you start on page 11 of the PowerPoint linked above, you'll quickly end up with puzzling questions like how one "exceeds" completion of the superintendent's induction program or in evaluating all principals. You can't. And, speaking as a parent, my jaw dropped at an exemplary rating in family and community engagement. any case...

Finance and Operations met tonight and will report out on Thursday (and apologies for the late posting, which didn't give a heads up) for the first quarter report; the account balances are here. Note that the request for the FY19 additional allocation goes to the School Committee during the Thursday meeting. There's nearly $500K additional in special ed tuition (some through the Collaborative)...and I don't understand what's going on with the technology line (weren't the Chromebooks in the budget?). Also worth noting that special education legal is up $20K more than budgeted; that may have something to do with the homeschooling case that broke just over a week ago, as I believe the district is being advised by their special education attorney for that (that last bit is a guess). Also on that agenda is a report on snow removal equipment.

There are appointments, resignations, retirements.

There is a report on the Career and Technical Education Partnership grant involving eight students.
There is a recommendation that an item on bullying be filed;

An update on the discussed lawsuit regarding school funding against the state is of interest: it speaks of presentations that the Mass Association of School Superintendents are doing, closing with "a formal lawsuit has not been filed." Superintendent Binienda's position was requested, it appears, by Ms. Biancheria, to which the superintendent has responded:
she feels it is important for legal authorities to review past litigation and to present a legal opinion before a formal lawsuit is filed
...something which would be done as a matter of course. What is interesting is that the backup doesn't actually respond to the item, which asked for an update from Brockton on legal action.

There is a super weak response to a request about recruiting; the request was for information on recruiting outside of Worcester, and the backup comes up with only Westfield State, the statewide recruiting fair, and SchoolSpring. The request to seek information from other districts yields the information the state association of human resource personnel. The Commissioner is handing you things like this, after all. 

The administration is responding that the district does not need to make any changes in response to Public Employee Retirement Administration Commission v. Contributory Retirement Appeal Board (SJC-12331).

There is a round-up of responses coming from the FY19 budget. Really the only interesting thing here--which is worthwhile!--is the savings of switching to Voice over Internet for 20 years at $1483 a a line is $1.13M. And if you read the backup, there are other advantages to switching.

The request for an org chart for emergency protocols receives in response this:
The Superintendent, Mayor and City Manager will communicate by phone messenging and/or emails with detailed information regarding any public safety issues. In addition, the Chief of Police and WPS Director of Safety will be sent these emails in order to coordinate messages to be shared with the public.
Thus not an org chart, and no response on who will communicate what to anyone else, including those not of the public, which includes teachers, staff, students, and parents. "two-way culturally proficient communication" is part of the Family and Community Engagement evaluation standard.

In response to a request for progress report opportunities in vocational education not admitted to Worcester Tech, the response is the grant mentioned above and three new programs being approved for South High.

As mentioned in the F&O report above, the allocation of the additional funding from the FY19 conference committee is reported out (here with an additional "as recommended to the School Committee in June"; the vote is later in the meeting). I'd advise reading the entire memo, as it also discusses elementary class sizes (12 more teachers!), student supports (adjustment counselors!), some administration allocations, and the ongoing dearth of teachers at the high schools (it also may answer why high school kids are now being stuffed into gym classes instead of into study halls).

There is a response to the request for an update on the long-sought facilities master plan (remember that?). The answer...looks to be current work with no additional funding, plus the MSBA submissions. Since the report found a $70M backlog in "urgent" repair needs, one would hope that this won't be enough for anyone.

Speaking of facilities, to the request for an update on the Accelerated Repair program, we learn that Harlow Street is getting a new roof, boiler, and windows. The recommendations for this year (which the Administration requests a vote on later in the agenda) are:
  • Burncoat Preparatory School for Roof Replacement
  • Lincoln Street School for Boiler Replacement
  • Tatnuck Magnet School for Roof Replacement
  • Worcester East Middle School for Roof Replacement
There is a really important note at the end of the above memo on Worcester East Middle: it is honestly in need of a major renovation, and it has, in past years, been submitted as a second choice after Burncoat (or third when Doherty was being submitted); it seems, however that the roof situation has grown urgent enough that it can't wait. It's being pulled from the major renovation/repair recommendation this year, and being submitted just for the roof (as Accelerated Repair only does roofs, windows, and boilers, and you can't submit the same building in both programs). EDIT: And here is the T&G on WEMS and the roof. The longer memo backing up the vote relates Worcester's history with the program. 

There is also, while we're on facilities, an item on SchoolDude usage, thus giving the administration yet another chance to remind us that the Worcester Public Schools only spends 60% of the foundation budget on facilities due to chronic underfunding of the foundation budget. Someone should ask for a compounded number on that one!

There is a response to a request, based on numerous teacher requests, that the "First Day Convening" be moved to allow teachers time in their classrooms; the response from the superintendent is that teachers have "ample time during the summer months to make these preparations." 

There is a four page response to several transporation items: note that the ten buses now being run by WPS have allowed, even with the substantial investment needed, for $194K to go back into the rest of the system. Also, if you've had transportation issues this year, you'll want to read the backup, as there may well be something there for you; it looks as though having the student bus passes distributed during the summer would have solved ours. Alsostudent data geeks rejoice: a SAGE sped transportation module! Good thing student data is handled in house! Also, it is worth noting that Durham apparently...isn't abiding by the contract. 

There is a response that all WPS employees are informed of public employees' participation in political activities and have been since August, and this report was in October

There is a request for approval for a prior year payment of $56,497 to CollegeBoard (no backup, so no idea what for). 

There is a request that K-3 parent conferences be held during the day.

There is a request for a report on the changes in the school nutrition regs.

There is a request for an update on the sex ed curriculum.

There is a request for changes in policy due to the changes in laws on marijuana (no need).

And there is the request from administration for allocation of the additional FY19 funding. (man, I hope they take some of these agenda items together!) The budget goes up by $3.4M for this current year!

In the ongoing idea that the handbook is supposed to be the same as the policy manual (it isn't; the handbook should be more specific), there's some changes proposed around the passed attendance, absence, and long term absences policies.

There is also an executive session for a grievance, two rounds of negotiations, and litigation.

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