Tuesday, June 25, 2019

June Board of Education: State Student Advisory Council report

Maya Mathews: year has been awesome
spoke about value of student voice on state boards across the country
very cool to see work of student advisory council is far reaching
civic work groups
global outreach work groups
mental health work group

voter registration booths in schools; take civics education into buildings
a lot of conversation around student government and student government involved in their schools
disconnect with their schools
equipt as global citizens: not just second (and so far) languages, networks connecting beyond classroom
increase mental health services in schools
what students want to be getting but are not
districts that have student dropboxes, allowing students to leave a note and have guidance reach out

recruit and retention of students to State Student Advisory Council

June Board of Education :Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter appeal

backup is here
Chuang: calls up school to present
school: submitted on May 17 a letter to add 368 places
handout to provide a framework for appeal
legal counsel is now reading MGL of charter schools
nowhere does Commissioner mention unique program in his letter
not actually relevant
ongoing argument here is this is a unique school...
argues that waitlist at kindergarten level
DESE says this: 
This type of enrollment plan, with assumed attrition, is no longer a viable choice under the current charter school statute. In 2010, the charter school statute was amended, adding new statutory requirements to backfill vacancies, to create and augment recruitment and retention plans, and to retain students.The changed statute made impermissible significant planned attrition in the first half of the school's grade span.

June Board of Education: health curriculum

backup is here
Rachelle Engler Bennett and Kristen McKinno
haven't been updated since 1999
have two additional decades of research
started with lots of listening
then moved to panel
focus on skills: integrating topics and skills
decision making and problem solving
promote skills as transferable
panel brought passion and expertise
also meeting with student groups
bring draft to Board in the fall
send out for public comment
final draft in December

McKenna: standards required or voluntary?
will have what these standards "do and do not do"
are some elements required by law
standards as a whole are not required
all curriculum frameworks are recommended: districts could choose not to use the standards, most districts choose not to do it
McKenna: then why do they do this?
Joint work, good work
McKenna: no doctors? will be on review, have had school nurses

Morton: poverty rates have changed
higher rates of incarceration
violence and levels of trauma

McKenna; timeline?
ramp up in spring, implementation for 2020-21

Fernández: curious about how these standards might play into the types of supports for districts or schools that might fall into that
networks available for districts to join on a content area
hearing districts are pleased with offerings that are available

June Board of Education: accountability system

backup is here
Johnston: went out for public comment in April, May
information sessions for school and district leaders to understand what the changes are
also before the Accountability and Assistance Advisory Council
Curtin: fairly limited in the changes that were proposed this year
"wanted to give the system time to breathe and to grow and to develop a bit"

June Board of Education: arts standards

the backup is here
Ron Noble: in February, draft went out for public comment, have made amendments accordingly
intro's Dawn Benski, who will be leading implementation
Craig Waterman: four big shifts
ID's 11 artistic practices, complex knowledge and skills developed over time in arts education
recognizes media arts as a discipline
consistent organizational structure across disciplines
greater detail in eight grade spans
guiding principles: culturally aware instruction, social emotional learning, and engaging communities in the arts
Moriarty: notes "what the frameworks do and do not do" but be sure they know they don't have option of not doing it
Craven: two decades since updated
Benski: supporting implementation through regional arts ambassador teams
PD in each region of the state
Stewart: arts integration, networks
how to integrate various components?
Waterman: made lots of intentional decisions to support integrations
McKenna: concern about resources here
"I wonder what kinds of resources there are to provide the resources there are?"
both online modules and PD for teachers
2019-20 a transition year, full alignment 2020-21
Waterman: "obviously local districts need to allocate local resources for proper implementation"
Hills: in terims of time, how are these new frameworks being received in time pressure
Noble: hope it leads to cross-discipline practice in elementary schools
have tried to embed the framework with cues for things they're already responsible for


June Board of Education: annual evaluation of Commissioner

There is no backup
Morton: through a series of questions around the Commissioner's performance in his first year
divided work among three; in depth interviews with as many stakeholders as possible
rated in four dimensions:
  1. facilitated student growth and achievement
  2. management and operations
  3. external relationships and communications
  4. Board relationships
Facilitate student growth and achievement: 3.8 out of 5.
Management and Operations: 3.75 out of 5.
External Relations and communication: 4.5 out of 5.
And Board Support/Effective Interactions: 4.75 out of 5
....overall it's a 4.1 out of 5
most very pleased with tenure in first year
visits, conference, vision, tactics
access to arts
support of all students in the Commonwealth
timely in response to issues and challenges in his first year in his position
talent of staff; making Board well informed
excited for state in work that will be done moving forward
"was felt that the Commissioner has high expectations"
narrowing achievement/proficiency gaps

Motion to "increase his salary" without a specific number
it is a 2% increase

June Board of Education: Our Way Forward from Commissioner Riley

You can find his report here.
Riley: said he'd take the year to meet with stakeholders
does not replace strategic plan: road map that denotes where we've been and ponders where we should consider going
Ed reform act ushered in a new era
propelled Massachusetts to the top on various national assessments
"so much to be proud of and grateful for"
"my fear is that we may be like Blockbuster video in 1992...thinking that we're the next great American company when we're about to be taken over by Netflix"

June Board of Education: opening comments

We are at the Rumney Marsh Academy in Revere today for the June Board of Ed; you can find the agenda here. The livestream is here.
Important note on location:
We are across the street from the home of Necco wafers.
Oddly packed house today? Posting as we go

Saturday, June 22, 2019

This week's lesson in macroeconomics

...if there is a perception of no competition for something, the supplier will demand more money for it.

This brings us neatly to the single bid from Durham Bus Services for Worcester Public Schools transporation received Friday; Durham perceives that they have little to no competition for Worcester's contract, and so they bid a sizable increase.
If Worcester opted to hire Durham for all three years, it would be taking on a significant cost increase over what it currently pays the company, which is going into the final year of its five-year deal with the district. Next school year, for instance, the school department would be paying Durham $444 per big bus, according to the recently approved fiscal 2020 budget; the average over the following three years, based on the company’s bid, would be $525 per big bus – an 18 percent hike.
That increase would continue a trend of climbing transportation costs for the district, which has seen its five-year contracts with Durham go from $52.7 million in 2005 to $62 million in 2015.
In fact, if you run the numbers compared to the current contract (see page 218 of the FY20 budget)...

...the increase for FY21, when it would begin, is an eyepopping 16.5% over FY20. It is a $2M increase in a single year!

Recall, as well, that this the same transporation company has had issues all year long in Worcester, in what seems clear are management, not driver, issues. The lack of competition plus the lack of appropriate service has pushed the district further towards considering running its own bus service, a report which the School Committee voted to request, as well, in voting to approve the subcommittee report requesting a cost-benefit analysis.

It seems this will be before the Finance and Operations subcommittee on August 13. If you have opinions about service or cost, it would be well to let the committee know.

Diversity and equity: one district in Missouri

This from EdWeek caught my eye:
In January, Lee's Summit's local chapter of the National Education Association shared a letter urging against extending Carpenter's contract. In a list of reasons, the union executive team cited concerns with the rejected September proposal, which they said would have focused on "white privilege" and concentrated on better serving black students in equity training.
The teachers' union also called the hiring of an assistant superintendent of equity and student services not "warranted or necessary." The role was created in the 2018-19 school year as part of the equity plan, and is a position that is being created by a growing number of districts across the country to address schooling disparities.
"We believe disparity in student achievement and opportunity should be addressed with all our minority populations and not just focused on our black population. Diversity and equity should address our students that come with a variety of unique needs," the letter said.
In May, Lee's Summit's school board president made headlines for comments on privilege, including comparing being blonde to being a person of color.
Local reporting here

Friday, June 21, 2019

The Board of Ed meets Tuesday in Revere

New chair Katherine Craven said they'd be taking the show on the road, and June's meeting is at Rumney Marsh Academy in Revere. The agenda is online here, and it's a lengthy one!

Most of the backups are posted but the one that might be of most general interest, the evaluation of the Commissioner is not. Nor is his report to the Board.

Those top the agenda after the usual public comments and the welcome from the Revere Public Schools.

There is a discussion and request for approval of the new arts standards. These are back from public comment, and linked off that page you can find the comments submitted, the response of the department, and the proposed standards.

Also back from public comment are the revised accountability standards. You can find a link to a summary of the comments submitted off that page; most resulted in no change, in some cases due to the federal law. You can also find a link to the document itself with highlighted revisions. Many of the changes in the document are simply recognizing time (it moves from intent to do to what is being done); the substantive changes are:
  • subgroup participation will be calculated for ELA and math (and science where applicable) together, so as to raise the number and work to mitigate the impact of small numbers of non-participants
  • Project Lead the Way is added to the list of advanced coursework (which is revised, in any case)
  • two years of data are used for accountability with 2019 now weighed at 60%

Coming in for its first (I think?) Board update are the health standards; these, perhaps infamously, were last updated in 1999. The planned timeline is:
  • Outreach and Planning (June 2018 – November 2018)
  • Review, Revision, and Board Action (December 2018 – Winter 2020)
  • Revised Framework Initial Implementation (Spring 2020 – Summer 2021)
The review panel has just finished meeting; they met six times since December (the list of panelists is here) with a focus on "the learning standards that outline what students should know and be able to do related to comprehensive health." The Department plans over the summer to "seek additional feedback from content advisors and other key stakeholders, as needed," with a plan to present initial frameworks in the fall to go out to public comment. The final frameworks would then be ready to be released, after public review, in winter of 2020, for implementation in the fall of 2021.

There is the annual "oh dear we wouldn't want to have to have you meet over the summer" delegation of authority to the Commissioner, with specific mention of the contracts of Dudley Street Neighborhood Charter School and Roxbury Preparatory Charter School. 

There is a (revised) list of dates of next year's Board meetings.

Pioneer Valley Charter is (again) requesting a review of the Commissioner's decision to deny their expansion. The backup does a good job of reviewing their history, but here are my notes from last year's review before the Board, which did not go well (for them).

There will be an end of year report from the State Student Advisory Council.

There will be an update on the FY20 budget through the Senate's passage; the budget now, of course, is in conference committee.

Not for discussion but there is also an update on implementation of the LOOK Act and (one of my annual favorites) the list of non-operating districts; those towns will tuition out all of their studentsto other districts. 

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Periodic liveblog of the Worcester School Committee meeting

on minutes, including the executive session minutes, as Petty moves to a voice vote, Comparetto objects to the level of detail included, said he had asked about this, and says he hopes they will do better moving forward
the minutes pass as is

new principals are here to be introduced; Comparetto asks why there no longer is a public process; Superintendent says that there was (if there was, the parents weren't informed of it); she also lists why the acting principals are acting principals; in one case, it is a request of the person, in others time

on the Chief Diversity Officer position, the Mayor takes the floor: "a number of school districts are doing this, across the Commonwealth and across the country...and I think people are watching...that's why this has to be done right"
individual report to superintendent, housed in the HR office
"my suggestion is you take out" the requirement for building-based administration, "or maybe move it to preference"
"maybe do this as you do this like principals...just go through the process"
"somehow get the community involved"
NAACP and the Latino community...have some sort of inclusion, diversity, and advisory committee
O'Connell suggests "desired qualifications...to expand the pool of candidates"
"doing that did bring in a good pool of candidates...this is a suggestion for the superintendent to take into account"
suggests adding a paragraph on recruitment
"she can adopt it or not as she sees fit"
Foley: what is the purpose of this job "if you had to summerize in a sentence or two"
Binienda: "purpose is to recruit and retain...particularly teachers and administrators of color"
Foley: intent to make Title IX coordinator?
Binienda: no, Pezzella is Title IX coordinator
HR: "understanding the importance of welcomeness, the importance of tolerance, "the importance of greeting everyone" with welcome will be part of job
Foley: on the front end, rather than processing complaints and going through the process
would concur that "recent building experience [being required]...may not get the pool you want to have...I think it would expand the pool that way" to drop it
"I'm not sure I'd call it a Chief Diversity Officer...I don't see quite the systemic move to change" of that position
this is a recruitment and retention specialist
Comparetto: "did I hear it right that Pezzella is coordinator of Title IX?"
Binienda: yes, he has been trained by legal
Comparetto: Title IX was a follow-up to the civil rights, seems as though someone in that position should have relevant experience
Q: when will this be posted?
HR: if the SC approves the posting tonight, typically posting on Friday
Petty: pay range? based on experience?
it's budgeted for $120K

O'Connell asks that the report from the students regarding teaching diversity be forwarded to them prior to the recognition, noting that it was not
"if it does concern any...practices...we should be moving on" that we could do so
Petty says "let's set the date, anyway"

to a lengthy back and forth that seemed to be based on approval of private schools being not something Miss Biancheria was familiar with (it seemed?), you might read DESE's guidance and also the Worcester Public Schools' policy LBC.

Worcester Public Schools FY20 budget round two (not a liveblog)

I came in about an hour into budget deliberations, just in time to hear a motion from Mr. O'Connell to cut $500,000--yes, half a million dollars--from the adminstration account.
That's this account:

That's also this account (at the top):

(and in that case, note that the majority of what is reported as central administrative spending under the foundation budget is spent by the city and credited as school spending.
This isn't fiscal prudence; this is just reckless disregard for good governance.

A motion to cut $20,000 from rentals earlier apparently passed. I don't know who made the motion, but presumably it wasn't made in connection with any real facilities planning despite this:
Miss Biancheria made a motion to cut the $85,000 for the superintendent's secretary; that seems oddly personal.
After specifically asking about the funding level for substitute secretarial coverage and receiving the answer that the account was still underbudgeted (I believe she was told it should be $150K and was $126K; I'll check), Miss Biancheria then cut $10,000 from secretarial coverage.

This, added to the $20K cut from legal last session, then came to $50K, which was added to professional development, which you will no doubt hear about this summer.
You will probably also hear of their "no" votes from Miss Biancheria and Mr. O'Connell, as the budget passed 5-2.
That's on a budget of $364,928,023; including grants, it is $420,886,178. It is a 4.9% increase over FY20.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Worcester School Committee meets Thursday

Remember, the budget session starts at 4 pm. The School Committee received an update of the recommended account sequence, which notes the changes made thus far.
They've got...most of the budget to get through. Past practice is they roll through budget until 6, recess to executive session, come back at 7 for the regular session, and then finish the budget as needed. There is not, however, a posted executive session, so maybe they'll just keep rolling with budget. Though it isn't on the posted agenda on the school website, there is an executive session on the city website: negotiations with aides and monitors, and a clarification and accretion petition from the EAW on large bus drivers (these clarify who is or is not in a bargaining unit...perhaps this is in relation to possible changes in who runs transportation?).
The regular agenda can be found online here.
I did some tweeting over the weekend on the agenda, if you want a short version.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

It must be something in the water.

We seem to be on a bit of a streak of "I have a great idea about the Worcester Public Schools!" op-eds in the Worcester Telegram and Gazette lately.
  • Last week, we had another of the periodic "maybe we shouldn't elect our School Committee" op-eds, this one from Roberta Schaefer, who, it is wise to remember, is a former member of the state Board of Ed. I thought this might be a review of the actual data on elected versus appointed schools boards; there isn't a lot, but what there is largely has found there doesn't appear to be a correlation between how school boards get their positions and student achievement, at least on test scores. However, this never argued for an appointed school committee at all, instead spending attention only on charter schools in New York City and in Boston, none of which resemble Worcester in size, demographics, or public access. No evidence is given to support the thesis of the piece.
  • Later in the week, we had another reappearance, this of the proposal that the regional transit authority and the school transportation should be a single unit. This proposal that the transit authority somehow can serve the public schools' population reappears with enough frequency that I have this post from (budget season) of 2017 on my quick find list. It's abundantly clear that many who suggest this and parallel ideas have little information about how much the Worcester Public Schools' buses do and how difficult it is to navigate the city with timeliness if one is dependant on public transit. Also, public transit systems that are federally funded can't compete with private contractors for public school bus service. 
  • Finally, on Sunday, we saw this proposal to put the new Doherty High on (in?) Foley Stadium. There seems, within the piece, to be some confusion over if it is good or bad to be next to a park (good for Tech, bad for Doherty unless it moves?), how much acreage is enough (the suburbs have more, Doherty has 20, but Foley has 12?), and the presence in the city of Worcester of schools other than Tech and Doherty (North is very new, South is being built). The main concern of the piece in fact appears to be the suggestion that Doherty students might be moved to the current South while a new Doherty is constructed; we are warned that would be an "unwelcome development," there would be "political ramifications," and it would have a "negative impact" with no details given. One should also note, of course, that the land across the street from Foley Stadium is Beaver Brook Park, named for the brook that runs through it, and then runs under the street...and under Foley Stadium. 

"30% of the difference is 70% of the money"

The above is a (possibly imperfectly remembered) quote from Rep. Aaron Vega regarding the Promise Act and House 70 proposed by Governor Baker: when it comes to implementation, the difference is in the funding of low income kids.
And now we have the numbers.
Yesterday, MassBudget released a model of implementation of Governor Baker's bill, the Promise Act, and the status quo, projected through 2026.
Note, by the way, that the other House bill was not modeled, as, just as several of us have pointed out despite the unpopularity of the message, the bill doesn't have enough in it to model implementation. It isn't complete.

The differences among status quo, Baker's bill, and Promise are stark:
Status quo: $0.99B above FY19; Baker: $1.45B above FY19; Promise: $2.36B above FY19
MassBudget has included a spreadsheet which you can download to see what they project would be the difference for districts. I would also highly recommend reviewing the technical appendix (scroll down on the report page) to understand what assumptions the projections are based on (different assumptions = different numbers).

The big differences are the Gateways and the big differences are for the kids who have least. 

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Mussotte et al v. Peyser et al press conference liveblog

Learn those names, because here comes the lawsuit.
Live feed coming from the conference on this page.
The front row: the plantiffs
Taking this photo kind of broke my heart. 

Juan Cofield, NAACP
“We felt it necessary given the harm that continues to be done to our children”

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Additional Doherty public sessions

Due to popular and City Council complaint, two dates have been added AFTER FIVE for input sessions for the new Doherty building:

· Visioning/Public Outreach – Monday, June 24, 2019, 6:30pm-8:00pm, Doherty Memorial High School Cafeteria
 · Visioning/Public Outreach – Monday, July 15, 2019, 6:30pm-8:00pm, Doherty Memorial High School Cafeteria

Note that the June 24 session that runs from 2-5 pm still has as a session agenda item "distill the priorities in the visioning process," making me wonder to what degree these later sessions will still be able to establish such priorities.

These are open to the public, of course.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019


"Elbows: the most important weapon in a politician's armoury."

from Yes, Minister

In the past several months, the Worcester School Committee has recognized or honored:
  • the winners of Worcester Regional Middle School (grades 6-8) Science and Engineering Contest at WPI 
  • the seniors who have been awarded the state Seal of Biliteracy
  • students for "exemplifying behaviors that meet the Core Values at the Goddard School of Science and Technology as part of their turnaround process." 
  • a South Central Noonan Scholar
  • the Doherty Memorial High Powerlifting team
  • an International All-Women's Choir member
...and I could go on.
The science fair winners did not have their projects reviewed by the School Committee prior to their being honored. The Seal of Biliteracy seniors did not have their language skills checked by the School Committee prior to their being recognized. The students with exemplary behavior, the athletes, the vocalist...none had the skills or performances for which they were being honored checked the the School Committee prior to their being recognized.

Thus Scott O'Connell is right to remark on the highly unusual hold Mr. O'Connell requested be placed on the item to honor student researchers who presented at Harvard. He has insisted--and the committee agreed, as the Worcester School Committee does not have a personal hold--that the research be given to the Committee first.
This is the research that students did outside of school on their own time and presented first at the Mayor's Commission on Latino Educational Advancement regarding student perspectives on teaching. These same students, based on the way their presentation and they themselves were treated at that meeting and subsequently by the superintendent and other administrators, then called for her resignation
That's the first indication that this is not about the research.
The second indication is that this research was presented to the Mayor's Commission months ago and has been in the news consistently since. If Mr. O'Connell and other members of the committee were as interested in teacher diversity as their introductory remarks in the budget hearing claimed, they would of course wish to have read it. They have had ample opportunity to do so. 

Access matters

Yesterday, MassLive noted the lack of home internet access among two groups of students: those in rural areas (still an issue) and those (of low income) in urban areas. MassLive notes how Springfield and Holyoke have worked with families on this:
At the beginning of every school year, Springfield and Holyoke families can purchase internet services through Comcast at a discount — $9.95 a month, with the option to purchase an internet-ready computer for less than $150. Households with school-age children eligible for free and reduced-price lunches, all households living in U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development-assisted housing and low-income veterans are eligible for the Internet Essentials program.
That's in addition to Springfield having a one-to-one program from grade 3 up, with high school students able to bring them home, and Holyoke having free mobile devices in their middle schools.

As for Worcester? While the push to do work online at the secondary level is the same here, there has been no district effort to work with families on home access; it's been years since the district even surveyed internet access, let alone device access. While the student in this AP article is in Hartford, her experience is something some Worcester students experience as well:
With no computer or internet at home, Raegan Byrd's homework assignments present a nightly challenge: How much can she get done using just her smartphone?
On the tiny screen, she switches between web pages for research projects, losing track of tabs whenever friends send messages. She uses her thumbs to tap out school papers, but when glitches keep her from submitting assignments electronically, she writes them out by hand.
"At least I have something, instead of nothing, to explain the situation," said Raegan, a high school senior in Hartford.
 In Massachusetts, requiring students to depend on family access without providing such access is in violation of a free public education. Per DESE guidance of November 2016 (note that's a doc; page 10):
1. Are schools obligated to provide students with a device if one is required for learning and instruction? 
Yes. Under Chapter 71, Section 48 of the Massachusetts General Laws, schools must purchase at public expense textbooks and other instructional materials and supplies intended for use and re-use over a period of years. Schools then in turn "loan" those instructional materials free of charge to students, who must return them at the end of the school year.
Costly tools such as a tablet or other computer or graphing calculator fall in the category of instructional materials and supplies that, similar to textbooks, are intended for schools to purchase and use and re-use over a period of years. If such technology is required, schools may encourage each student to purchase these devices. Students are likely to do so because they may need those devices for future classes and other use outside of school. Schools are advised to be prepared to provide such devices free of charge to students whose families do not choose to buy them or cannot afford to do so. If students need such devices to complete out-of-school assignments, schools must provide that access.
Students need such devices to complete out-of-school assignments in Worcester.

Survey says...

Don't miss the results of the Suffolk University/Boston Globe poll showing that maybe Massachusetts voters are more progressive than they are credited at least on education funding:
Sixty percent of the registered voters who participated in a Suffolk University/Boston Globe poll released Tuesday said they don’t believe the state is adequately funding its K-12 schools...
It’s education, however, where voters put a heavy emphasis on change. A little more than half said they’re willing to see their own school district get less in state funding if it meant low-income districts could get more. An even greater number — 58 percent — said they’re willing to pay more in state taxes to cut down on disparities within the education system.
That’s evidence there’s a “strong appetite for redistribution,” according to the poll’s director, David Paleologos.
“I think it’s the importance of the issue and it’s due to the economy,” Paleologos said of the opinions on education funding. “People view it as a valued investment into our resources.”

Maybe the assumption that everyone has to continue to "get theirs" is not as necessary as assumed?

Saturday, June 8, 2019

Worcester FY20: building by building staffing changes

In the back of the Worcester Public Schools' budget book is a building-by-building budget, beginning on page 283. If you have children in the schools, you may want to take a look at your children's school budget. Do remember that, particularly in elementary schools, staffing can change over the summer, depending on enrollment; most elementary changes are due to enrollment changes yearly in any case. There is a formula citywide for how schools are staffed which begins on page 400.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

FY20 Worcester Public Schools budget

...appalling long document providing for every conceivable and inconceivable situation and opening up ramifications into everybody's death and remarriage, 'covered,' as Murbles observes, 'by THE WILL' (in capitals).
Busman's Honeymoon by Dorothy L. Sayers
because I think of this line every year when the budget comes out!
Let's talk about the Worcester Public Schools FY20 budget, which the School Committee will take up at 4 pm this Thursday, June 6, as well as in two weeks on June 20, also at 4 pm. Remember, if you don't want to download the whole massive thing, you can go to this page and click into the section you're interested in. It's been posted online since May 10.

IF YOU ARE NEW TO THIS: DON'T PANIC!  Yes, the document and the numbers are big, but that's just because it is a big system. You can do this! I recommend starting with page 7, which is the beginning of the Executive Summary, which will walk you through what is changing in this budget, then where the money is coming from, what impacts this budget, what this budget doesn't do, and what to watch for all in the following seven pages. And if you have questions, send them along!

Monday, June 3, 2019

Worcester School Committee meets Thursday: BUDGET TIME!

The Worcester School Committee meets on Thursday this week: NOTE THAT THE BUDGET SECTION STARTS AT 4 PM!
And yes, there's a budget post coming next.

The executive session for a single grievance is scheduled for 6; the regular session is scheduled for 7.

Let me start by highlighting three things on here that I think are of general interest:
  • the administration is recommending the hiring pro bono save expenses (which makes me a little nervous) Michael P. Angelini and others at Bowditch and Dewey for a lawsuit against the state on the Foundation budget.  
  • the Chief Diversity Officer position was held from the prior meeting due, it seemed, to dissatisfaction with the job description, as I described here; note further that it also requires building administrator experience, which is not all that relevant. The position description posted for this week's meeting is the same. Further, the item is phrased "for informational purposes," which is something I would hope the School Committee rejects. It is a new position; it requires School Committee approval.
  • Mayor Petty has the following item:  
  • Request that the Administration invite representatives from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s Center for District Support to make a presentation on the district’s accountability and disciplinary data.
    This is a natural reaction to the superintendent's ongoing claims about what "DESE says." Naturally, one wonders, what does DESE say? This would clear that up nicely.
    Let's be clear: either Superintendent Binienda embraces this, as what she's been saying will be backed up, or she rejects it, leading...to the opposite conclusion.

    I see this of a piece with the Mayor's item following this, in which he asks for all communication that the district has with DESE be sent also to the School Committee. While I hesitate to call anything impossible, do know that districts have ongoing daily communication with DESE, some of which is done automatically through data systems; this isn't about cc'ing the School Committee in on a few emails. Narrowing the scope of this to items of concern (which is too vague...let me think about that some more) such that the School Committee is getting things that are flagged would make this possible and perhaps even useful.
    Of course, starting with the actual accountability data from the fall by itself would be a good start.
Okay, the rest of the agenda: along with the usual rounds of recognitions and thanks, there is no report of the Superintendent.
There are two subcommittees reporting out: Governance, which it appears was entirely about the procedure for homeschooling, and Finance and Operations, which included the annual audits and the third quarter report. Never take for granted a solid audit, which these are.
There are some resignations and appointments.
There is a report on the One City, One Library system which disappointingly opens by focusing on third grade reading scores as a goal, but has some good thinking on challenges and what might be good to work on.  
There is a response to a request for information on immunizations. 
The School Committee will get a presentation from Tobacco Free Massachusetts in the fall.
The overdue update on due process in the handbook is on the agenda.
Flagg Street parents want a pathway to the school from St. Paul Drive; one should note that there are many, many schools in the city that would benefit from such connections
There's the annual "we're going to need to close the fiscal year" item.
There is a request for reception of a summer learning grant ($43,620) for Worcester East Middle.
Mr. Monfredo wants to add broadcast journalism or video production (perhaps one could point to the media arts program at Burncoat?).
There is a request to consider the siting of a new Doherty (not suprising but also not entirely under school committee purview).
And City Solicitor David Moore has reviewed the Open Meeting Law complaint dealing with Mr. Monfredo's collecting of signatures for an advertisement supporting an extension of Superintendent Binienda's contract and does not believe the Committee to be in violation. 

What's happening next door

I've done a bit of tweeting about Rhode Island's efforts to turn around (sorry for the tired verb) education system--they've hired Angélica Infante-Green as their new education commissioner, who of course was a finalist for the Massachusetts education commissioner and may represent a sort of road not taken (an outsider, a Latina, and so forth)--particularly as a number of districts are having eyebrow-raising budget seasons this spring; take a look at Warwick, or Lincoln, or Coventry. All of this is after Rhode Island adopted the MCAS--yes, the Massachusetts state test--as their own state assessment and results in the first year were weak. There's been lots of political fomenting since, 'though what I haven't heard about is any sort of comprehensive funding overhaul.

The Boston Globe has a piece today on the most recent bit, which is the discussion of if the state should take over the Providence school system. The first part that made me sit back in my chair:
[Mayor] Elorza has faced public criticism from members of the council and the Providence Teachers Union for insisting that he interview most people coming to work for the school department, from principals down to crossing guards. A spokesperson for Elorza acknowledged the mayor does like to meet with applicants before they are hired but argued he does not interfere with school department decisions.
When it comes to signing off on contracts with vendors, the council has come under fire for a requirement that it approve all agreements worth more than $5,000. The process has led school department employees to joke that it can cost more than $5,000 in man hours just to prepare a small contract to go before the council. Council leadership has defended the practice, arguing city government needs checks and balances.
...there's somebody who needs some roles and responsbilities work here, and it isn't the school committee.
There is plenty else at work here--Rhode Island, after all, has the same redlined New England districts that Massachusetts does, meaning that the need is concentrated in their cities. Add to that Providence's size relative to the rest of the state, where a district about the same size as Worcester is close to a fifth of the entire state public school enrollment. Infante-Green has been careful not to talk about a "takeover" speaking instead of partnerships, 'though one should of course always approach such terms with care. At this point, all that has been happening is a comprehensive review (which is how we know the bit above from the Globe) with results due later this month.
While Rhode Island hasn't had the same comprehensive funding reform Massachusetts has had once and is over due to have again, it also hasn't had any of the related reforms (catch any Massachusetts mayor insisting as above, for example) around who has what sort of authorities. Between that and the relative proportion of the population involved, expect there to be more Legislative action that might otherwise be the case.

Friday, May 31, 2019

Role playing in history class

This pops up in my timeline every few weeks it seems: a role playing scenerio from a teacher either is framed in a problematic way or goes badly askew. This piece from Slate discusses just that and why.
A teacher may wish to teach students about the history of American slavery and may think that “feeling” their way through that history is the best way to do it. But historical empathy is much more complex than this idea assumes. In a critique of the common idea that students’ historical empathy might prompt them to adopt democratic habits and acquire an affinity for social justice, professor of education Megan Boler writes, “Passive empathy is not a sufficient educational practice. At stake is not only the ability to empathize with the very distant other, but to recognize oneself as implicated in the social forces that create the climate of obstacles the other must confront.” 
This recognition of personal implication is an extremely significant intellectual and emotional leap, and one that many white adults—including teachers—have not, themselves, made. King pointed out that the teacher’s position in relationship to this history was important. Someone teaching a lesson about the Confederacy, for example, might have family members still sympathetic to the Confederacy—or she herself might be. Before teaching these lessons, he said, “Teachers need to really get in there, to understand themselves as a racialized human being.”

Monday, May 27, 2019

Towards a more diverse teaching force

They're working on it in Framingham, and there's a two part series in the Metrowest Daily News this weekend: Part I and Part II

Those who forget the past

...are doomed not to learn anything at all from it.

Hey, remember how the Worcester Public Schools had a 2014 Blue Ribbon Technology review?

Remember how one of the things we found (if we didn't already know) was an advantage of Worcester's size was that we were able to do things in-house?
That rather than pay and pay and pay for outsourcing, and have to wait and tolerate whatever the vendors decided, we pay actual employees who work for us and do what we want (like when we added paying for school lunches online)?

One of the things that has been rather...marked...under the current administration is an ignorance--professed or real--to anything that happened before. And so I suppose one should not be surprised to see among the proposed costs for the FY20 budget is student data outsourcing (p. 10 in the text, p. 17 online):
...provides an Information Technology Implementation Coordinator (funded to start at halfway through the fiscal year) to support the bid, selection, transition, and implementation of a third-party student information system (including online grading and parent portal) to be purchased in 2020-21 and implemented in 2021-22 school year. This budget also reflects $30,000 for a temporary district-wide online grading module that can be used while the district transitions to the integrated student information system.
There has not, of course, been a cost-benefit analysis done of outsourcing student data; those costs are generally per pupil, which for a district the size of Worcester quickly becomes substantial. The current fixation on online grading not only ignores the extent to which this is already happening (raise your hands, parents, if you already get access to your children's grades online), it does not take into account what always previously had been postulated as the main roadblock, that it might be considered a change in working conditions and thus open for collective bargaining.

This is thus a nearly perfect storm of ignoring work already done, ignoring prior raised concerns that still have not been dealt with, missing the places in which the purported issue has already been dealt with, and failing to built on something that is actually a strength of the system.

This is less about the $30,000 + the half year salary (I can't tell how much, as it doesn't go into that level of detail) for this year: this is about moving ahead to tie the district to a change in how student information is managed without doing the necessary homework, including how much this is going to cost, not only in time, but also in advantage.

This is just not smart.

Doherty Memorial "visioning" sessions

We have finally gotten a building project section over on the Doherty website where this is posted, but should you not have seen it, there are three sessions coming up on the Doherty building project here in Worcester. Each is from 2-5 pm at the school, a time which is of course entirely impossible for many, many people to make:
Text after the break

Friday, May 24, 2019

A few things we learned from the WPS budget hearing before City Council

Beyond the ever-present "whose job is it anyway?" tussle that there is every year, there were a few things that were new to me that we learned through the testimony:

  • Superintendent Binienda plans to give all high schools identical schedules next year, where the first two and last two blocks don't rotate. It seems ('though this wasn't entirely clear) that this is for outside entities to teach and for students to leave campus. This has not had any public airing (I have two high school students and this is the first I am hearing about it) and the impact this would have on a myriad of programs and classes is of significant concern. Switching school schedules is a major undertaking, absolutely ought to be something on which the School Committee is consulted, and ought to involve families in more than their stumbling across it in testimony outside of schools. 
  • Superintendent Binienda, in responding to a question on diversifying the teaching force, is looking to echo Framingham in the short-term employment of teachers from Spain. This does not, ethnically or racially, diversify the teaching force, as Councilor Rivera pointed out. In fact, the history of Spain and the history of many of the countries from which many of our residents derive is colonialism. The responses on how we are recruiting, particularly in light of the major state effort going on, are weak. 
  • Commissioner Riley told the urban superintendents that this June announcement would include something having to do with voluntarily enlistment in a system with less testing. Note that the degree to which the Commissioner has any discretion on that is limited, as much of the system is in state law. Further, it seems very unlikely to me that any district of concern to the state--as ours most certainly is--would be granted testing discretion. 
  • Superintendent Binienda cited the lack of professional development time in explaining why elementary teachers would have to wait until October 2020 to undergo systemic bias training (put on by AVID?). The district has two professional development days prior to the opening of school, one of which, at the Superintendent's insistence, the entire staff spends at a pep rally at the DCU Center. I'd suggest systemic bias training is more important. 
  • It is dismaying that the City Manager would attempt to use the city's not creating a Recreation Worcester location in a particular council district to "reclaim" $100,000 from the Worcester Public Schools, as was clearly going on with Councilor Mero-Carlson's question and the Manager's response. We appear to be back to claims of "extra funds" given in particular years--it used to be the Charter funding--without regard to how the city contribution to schools is in fact calculated. This is smoke and mirrors and it doesn't lend itself to what everyone solemnly testifies is a good partnership.

Worcester Public Schools before City Council for FY20: laterblog

When the Worcester Public Schools goes before the Worcester City Council on the budget--or when any school district goes before their appropriating authority--I always find it is useful to start with MGL Ch. 71, sec. 34:
In acting on appropriations for educational costs, the city or town appropriating body shall vote on the total amount of the appropriations requested and shall not allocate appropriations among accounts or place any restrictions on such appropriations.
Further, in Worcester, we do well to note that by section 5-2 of the City of Worcester Charter:
The city council may, by majority vote, make appropriations for the purposes recommended and may reduce or reject any amount recommended in the annual budget, but except on recommendation of the city manager, shall not increase any amount in or the total of the annual budget, nor add thereto any amount for a purpose not included therein, except as provided in section thirty-three of chapter forty-four of the General Laws.
Thus the City Council:
  • cannot add more money to the city budget (including the schools)
  • cannot transfer money to or from any section of the budget (including schools)
  • cannot allocate funds within the school budget
As I already noted, the City is also running very close to the line in terms of required spending, thus they don't have a great deal of ability to even cut.

Nonetheless, the City Council spent more than three hours questioning Superintendent Binienda and Mr. Allen on the FY20 budget on Tuesday night (you can find the videos on Facebook here and here), only to hold the item for next week. It is, of course, an election year, but I've also noticed that municipal bodies tend to edge more and more into schools when they can, either because they aren't getting pushback or they aren't seeing the school committee as doing its own oversight.
Note also that this was covered only by Bill Shaner of Worcester Magazine, which is really a problem. This is not a blow-by-blow liveblog, but I felt we needed to say more about this.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

May Board of Ed at the Malden Public Library: FY20 budget

backup is here
Bell: "The Senate is now in full session debating the budget"
no news beyond what the committee released two weeks ago on the 7th of May
overall appropriation of $284M "a lot of adds and deletes that go into that 284"

May Board of Ed from the Malden Public Library: history, social studies, and civics update

back up is here
Peske: one year since approval of new standards
Michelle Ryan (herself a former Randolph history and social studies teacher):

May Board of Ed from the Malden Public Library: teacher diversification

back up is here, but there is a PowerPoint
I actually can't see who is speaking, so IDs are going to be missing, mostly
"have a lot to be proud about, but as we celebrate what we've done well, we have to recognize that we're only number one for some"

May Board of Ed from the Malden Public Library: opening remarks

You can find the agenda here. Posting as we go once we start. 

Public comment first:
we're doing wifi again

Craven: heavier agenda in June with possible Monday night meeting in either Revere or Holyoke
ongoing subcommittee on Commissioner's evaluation chaired by Morton
Morton: will present at June meeting

Monday, May 20, 2019

Worcester's Standing Committee on Finance and Operations meets Wednesday

...at noon?!?

The agenda is here.
First, note that the recommendation to raise substitute daily rates by $5/day next year in the FY20 budget is proposed as the first year of a three year phase in to get the rate to $85/day.

Next, the auditors are in! This is three things: the schools' portion of the City of Worcester audit (it looks as though most of the findings have been corrected); the test of the agreed-upon procedures for the student activity accounts (some documentation and reconciliation findings); and the overall review of agreed-upon procedures for the district (which looks...entirely fine).

Finally, the third quarter report is up for review; the account by account report is here, and the report is here. There's a projected balance of over $500K, and there is a corresponding recommendation for the purchase of textbooks and classroom materials, and classroom technology.

The Board of Ed meets tomorrow

The Board of Ed meets at the Malden Public Library (?) tomorrow at 10:30 (different time and location).
After the usual array of comments by the Chair, Secretary, Commissioner, and the public, the agenda includes an update on the teacher diversification project (one of the Commissioner's goals for this year); a report on what the Department has been doing on the updated standards for history, social studies, and civics; an update on the state budget (as Senate Ways and Means has released their budget); and proposed dates for next year's meetings.

It looks to me like a shorter agenda, but I am planning on liveblogging.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Two Worcester updates

  • Don't miss today's letter from Worcester's Society of Friends
  • If you didn't catch Clive McFarland's columns earlier this week (here and here in the second half), I want to note that this sort of data analysis is supposed to be a basic function of the adminstration. It is what the School Committee should be hearing reports on, and it's part what the Superintendent should be held accountable on. We shouldn't have to leave it to columnists to do the basic analysis. 

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Two upcoming events of interest (both online and one in Worcester)

Two things that MASC is involved in this week that are open to the public that might well be of interest:

On Tuesday at 4 at Worcester State, the Multistate Assocation of Bilingual Education has a panel discussion on implementing dual language education; I've seen the agenda, and they're really covering the bases in terms of who will be there. 
You can register here; if you're interested but can't make it to Worcester, you can participate online here

Marianna Islam of the Schott Foundation on Wednesday at 4 is moderating a webinar by Colin Jones of MassBudget and me (with my MASC finance hat on) called "School Funding: What Every Parent Needs to Know." The Twitter hashtag for this is #GrassrootsEd.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019



Just in time for the rally at the State House tomorrow, we've now reached the "SQUIRREL" part of the foundation budget bill discussion, where everything gets thrown against the wall.

In the past week, I've seen arguments invoking the regional salary percentages and their comparisons to the municipal wealth formula; I've seen arguments that we somehow must preserve circuit breaker funding as is (ignoring why we have it); I've seen arguments that we must have "more accountability" ignoring that we have enormous amounts of accountability under a system that the state has never fully funded.

And now we have the "but Boston" invocation.

If you really think that those arguing that Boston shouldn't get more money care a whit about equity, please go ask them what they think about the 17.5% of the foundation budget that districts significantly more wealthy than Boston, serving significantly less diverse and more wealthy students than Boston get.
And unless and until they're arguing that the 17.5% aid going to those communities should also be taken away, and unless and until those same people are arguing for a low income implementation that fully meets the Foundation Budget Review Committee's recommendation, spare me your sudden concern for what you're depriving we Gateways of.

Worcester School Committee meets Thursday

Sorry for being late posting this; if there is one thing to pay attention to, it is the job description of the Chief Diversity Officer being on the agenda for approval, which I already wrote something about.

The agenda is here.
The report of the Superintendent is on the South High student design club, as covered in the T&G earlier this week.
There are resignations, recognitions, and such.
Of passing interest is a prior year payment of over $18,000 to Leicester for what looks like a division of services to a student on an IEP. Is someone at some point going to ask why we have so many prior year payments now? This didn't used to be nearly as much of a thing.
There is motion to send a letter opposing the change in charter reimbursement proposed by the Governor and passed by the House that would only reimburse charter tuition increases that are due to enrollment being high that any of the prior five years.
As covered by the T&G, there is a proposed change in due process for students.
There is a request for approval for a donation of $685.00 to the Worcester Public Schools’ Transition Program.
There are requests from Miss Biancheria for reports on summer facilities work, on the BRACE program, and this--
Request that the Administration provide a summary of the funding proposed in the City’s Budget for the Worcester Public Schools and indicate the way in which this funding, if approved, can enhance programs in the Worcester Public Schools.
--which...isn't that the budget?

There is a plan to recognize students who will graduate with the Seal of Biliteracy.
And there is an item to set the budget hearings.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Students learn what they live about civics

...and that means that how schools operate and how schools treat them as the next generation of leaders matters:
In the midst of debates over what students should learn in civics and how to deliver those lessons, civics education advocates risk missing the larger context: Compulsory K-12 schooling itself makes up the most intensive interaction the average American will have with a civic institution—far outpacing the time spent filling in a ballot, sitting in a jury box, or waiting in line at the DMV...
All but absent from the growing civics education conversation is the recognition that everyday interactions in schools also inform students' civic development, and that often those interactions tell a totally different story about individuals' rights from the government textbooks used in class.

Excellent piece--and crucial point!--in EdWeek.

And Worcester, please note the extensive section on the Boston Student Advisory Council.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Doherty Memorial building committee

The city said this afternoon that, though it is a public meeting, no public questions or comments would be taken, despite questions being posted on the agenda. 
The agenda is as follows: 

The meeting was posted for 6:30...it has not, as yet, started, but I'll be updating this as we go.

DPW Commissioner Paul Moosey presenting
one of the things DPW does is oversee school construction
updating building committee
Tishman is building project manager; LPA selected to design new Doherty, also designed Nelson Place and South
Feasibility is "when we look at what program is this building going to need"
1670 students is settled with MSBA, "which this building can't contain anything near that"
"that's the biggest part of it is the program"
"then what are your options to get there": to add on and renovate, or look for another site, or squeeze another building onto this site, or take this building down and build new
going to do visioning: "get a little bit more public input than we have had in the past"
"a substantial investment, probably at least as much as South High"
"this school is surrounded by parkland"
"the city administration has no interest in touching the parkland"
"but [also] you're not going to see a new school in 2024, which is what we're committed to" if we touch the parks
the superintendent has arrived
Tishman going through the modules of MSBA
now in module 3; "the city has done terrific to this point...getting MSBA to even look at the school"
first phase is the preliminary design program: scheduled to be completed in September this year
then preferred schematic design submitted in December of this year
plan is for occupation in September of 2024
president of LPA "so pleased to be here today"
and now is introducing people who work there
program development, then alternative site evaluation, evaluation of existing building and site
"allows the best option to rise to the surface"
uh, maybe
"at the end of this process we choose three options to pursue further"
"very inclusive and thorough process to gather input"
"want to get as much input prior the end of the school as possible"
"some big picture visioning sessions" which she says "we will get to you"
special ed is reviewed separately through DESE; Ch.74 is envisioned to continue with engineering

Parra reviewing quadrant; looks at all sites of a particular size in the quadrant

available sites, road access, neighborhood concerns "find the best site to meet the needs of the school"
 "comparative" as it is only sites that actually exist
will look at site itself, as well as adjacencies to park
comparative designs: first is a no build; then additions and renovations, then new constructions on exisiting site, looking at swing space putting building on current site

Moosey: very compressed schedule, LPA has really made a huge commitment
"very accelerated"
Augustus: Nelson Place on schedule, on budget, close to energy independent
"if you think about the cost of South High School" $210M or so
Doherty close to $230M: "the city in partnership with the state will build the equivalent to new five ballparks, so we have our priorities straight"
"that's important that people remember that and acknowledge that"
acknowledges Mahoney and Chandler
South: the state is reimbursing us 55%, so the city needs to come up with 45% (thus not, let's say, five ballparks)
"actively talk more about the vision for the schools" than we have in the past

Bergman: 2024 as opening date?
there was some discussion of MSBA changing policy on pools: is that true? is this a chance to discuss that?
Moosey: I haven't confirmed that that is the case
Bergman: there wasn't the publicity that there could have been; "not a criticism, it's an observation"
"moving forward" asks that we do better
Q: are there alternative areas being considered?
Is Duddie in the district? "believe it is just outside the district"

Q: who is on the building committee and what is their role?
"certain votes that they have to take"
"building committee has a role in that?" yes, they do
could we just get their names published?
how long from shovels to building? South High is 33-34 months of construction
what about if you have students here: where do they go?
if you keep them here, that's difficult, but it's been done
"not off the table, MSBA will look at that option"
Q: how will that process unfold? "it's way too early to talk about that"
Q: I am not asking for an outcome; that will be a public process, involve the public schools
"yes, it would have to be the schools"
Q: is that something that parents would be involved in? this is not thoroughly answered
Q: land granted to school versus taking
Friends of Newton Hill, concerned with using full space of school, could cut into space "functionally parkland"
Moosey: "I mean outside of that border" of 20 acres

there is an upcoming meeting, it is not yet scheduled, they took names but no contact information

Doherty building meeting tonight

While neither the city nor the schools has sent any notification out (including to Doherty quadrant families), there is a meeting on the Doherty Memorial building project tonight at 6:30 at the school.
Liveblog to come

Sunday, May 12, 2019

A quick note on the Chief Diversity Officer in the FY20 WPS budget

Much more to come on the FY20 Worcester Public Schools budget, but a quick note for those who had been seeking a Chief Diversity Officer for the system: the position is in the budget, and per the org chart (this is page 66) would answer to the Human Resources Officer:

Per page 16, the position's responsibilities are outlined as:
•Increase the number of Highly Qualified teacher candidates
•Recruit educators knowledgeable in instruction in urban environments
•Expand and enhance recruitment of diverse educator candidates
•Provide supports to increase new teacher retention
•Develop a pipeline of educators among Worcester Public Schools students
•Attract recent college graduates to the Worcester Public Schools

My sense is that those advocating for the position saw it as much more than this; certainly, it is in other communities.
UPDATE: Should it be useful, here are the Superintendent’s direct reports:
UPDATE 2: the job description of the position is posted for Thursday night's meeting. It is a very compliance-based, hiring-focused position.

A bit of research for your Sunday

Coming in from Quartz at Work is this bit of research:
After paternity leave was instituted, surveys of Spanish men ages 21 to 40 showed they desired fewer children than before. Farré and González think that spending more time with their children—or the prospect of having to do so—may have made men more acutely aware of the effort and costs associated with childrearing, and, as the researchers put it, “shifted their preferences from child quantity to quality.”

Happy Mother's Day! 

Saturday, May 11, 2019

And what is going on in Worcester?

My NSFW title for this could be what I was asked by a friend I hadn't seen in awhile that I ran into downtown yesterday: 'What the * is going on with Worcester School Committee?!?"

After a three hour executive session during an off-week meeting, the Worcester School Committee on Thursday night voted 5-2 to grant Maureen Binienda a three year contract at $215,000 a year, with a 2% raise each year, Comparetto and Foley opposed. Further details of the contract have not been released (though it is a public document).
Incidentally, I've requested that the minutes of all executive sessions regarding this negotiation be released, as the reason for the executive session is now complete; the school department has 10 days to respond and 30 days to release them.

There is, of course, much more that has been going this week than that.

  • An Open Meeting Law complaint was filed against the Committee for communications regarding the ad in support of Ms. Binienda's contract renewal at three years. The email gathering signatures was sent out by John Monfredo, three members of the Committee signed the ad, and it is known that at least one other received it. It was also circulated to staff of the Worcester Public Schools. 
  • I heard (yes, this is literally hearsay) multiple reports of teachers being asked by principals to sign the letter of support of the superintendent. The just-re-elected head of the teachers' union Roger Nugent was also collecting signatures in support of the superintendent. 
  • There were, it seems, ongoing meetings with community activists over the course of the week with the Mayor and the Superintendent around the list of action items Mayor Petty has put forward. The discussion, it appears, was around putting those into her contract, or otherwise tying the renewal to those issues. While the Mayor did again read those items at Thursday's meeting and I am told the Committee voted in favor of them, it does not appear those are in her contract, nor that they were issued as goals or otherwise formally part of her evaluation. The Committee has not created new goals for the superintendent since her evaluation in December. Superintendents in Massachusetts have a mid-cycle review halfway through the year, which on this schedule should be taking place around June. 
  • There were activists on both sides of the contract renewal at Thursday's meeting; Bill Shaner noted the demographic divide. There were also seven police officers, which is unusual. 
  • While committees can and do have who they like in their executive sessions when it comes to staff, it is worth noting that School Safety Manager Rob Pezzella was in the mayor’s office at one point. 
  • The Teamsters, who organize the bus drivers who work for Durham, were among those present at the meeting on Thursday; the superintendent has made her support for continuing to work with Durham clear, even as there are continued issues with Durham's service for the Worcester Public Schools. 
  • While the vote was 5-2, the Mayor's vote in favor was tempered with a significant amount of critique which extended beyond the issues around disciplinary disparities recently discussed into the bussing contract, the district's lack of a health curriculum, and others. 
  • Dante Comparetto released a statement Friday, saying that while he will finish his term (it runs until December), he will no longer be running for re-election due to this vote. Nomination papers for School Committee (300 signatures of registered Worcester voters are needed) are due this coming Tuesday, so it appears unlikely this will add people to the race. This does leave an open seat on the Committee, and I believe means the School Committee will not have a preliminary election in September. 

Friday, May 10, 2019

Heading into the weekend...

I know I still owe you a “what is happening in Worcester?” update plus the Worcester Public Schools budget came out this afternoon, but for today, please enjoy this bit of this year’s Seeger Sing behind Worcester City Hall, part of the annual WPS Arts Festival. Some unexpurgated Argo Guthrie:

Senate FY20 budget amendments

Check out Roger Hatch's analysis on the Senate budget for MASS.

Heaven bless them, the Senate sorts by topic!
As always, these are only the K-12 amendments with statewide impacts; if you're looking for an earmark, you're on your own.
to review the way that regional school districts are funded and to recommend a framework that better accounts for differences between the towns that make up these districts and how the funding is distributed
  • Amendment 154 would authorize the use of Water Pollution Abatement funds for lead abatement in public schools.
  • Amendment 155 would create "Finish Line grants" for any year after the first of public university or college. 
  • Amendment 156 would create an unfunded mandate task force. 
  • Amendment 157 would bump the allocation specifically for Gateway Cities in the English learner grant line to $1M (from $250K).
  • Amendment 158 would allocate (a new) $200,000 for the Partnership to Advance Collaboration and Efficiency among the state universities and community colleges.
  • Amendment 159 would add $300,000 for Bottom Line, which works with juniors and seniors to get them into and through college.
  • Amendment 161 would bump the early college allocation from $1.6M to $4M. 
  • Amendment 167 would add $500K through the JFK Library for civics (as was done in the House budget).
  • Amendment 169 would boost the cap on Mass School Building Authority spending to $750M (something for which MSBA has been asking). 
  • Amendment 177 would add the Safe and Supportive Schools grant for $700K.
  • Amendment 178 would create a LIFT fund to "to finance the development and implementation of the recommendations of the foundation budget review" which...I don't know what that means.
  • Amendment 179 would add (back) in military mitigation.
  • Amendment 180 bumps regional transporation reimbursement to to $92M. 
  • Amendment 184 would boost the Mass Mentoring line to $1M.
  • Amendment 193 is (again?) an unfunded mandate task force.
  • Amendment 194 would have DESE do a special education services delivery study.
  • Amendment 195 would add replacing lead pipes to the definition of a capital funding project. 
  • Amendment 202 would add $1.5M to the civics projects trust fund.
  • Amendment 205 would bring METCO up to the $23.6M that the House settled on.
  • Amendment 206 would create a $250K financial literacy grant program.
  • Amendment 217 would add $600K to the Reading Recovery line.
  • Amendment 219 would bump the after and out of school line by about $500K.
  • Amendment 225 would increase the recovery high school line to $3.1M (as it was last year).
  • Amendment 227 would increase the Bay State Reading Institute line by about $400K.
  • Amendment 228 would create a $20.3M Lead in Drinking Water trust fund
  • Amendment 239 would bump the non-resident vocation transportation line (currently $250K) and bump it to $3.4M (which I would guess is full funding).
  • Amendment 245 would increase the amount of the sales tax going to the Mass School Building Authority from 1% to 2%.
  • Amendment 246 would allocate $100K for National History Day.
  • Amendment 247 would allocate $100K for a STEM service learning grant.
  • Amendments 248 and 250 together would add back in the early college line in the foundation budget that the Governor had in his budget (the House did not, nor does the Senate).
  • Amendment 249 would fund MCIEA, the alternative assessment consortium, at $550K (it was funded at $400K in FY19).
  • Amendment 258 would reconsolidate the grants as the Governor did, and includes the use of this funding for innovation zones.
  • Amendment 259 would expand the definition of "rural" for the use of the rural school line of $1.5M, increasing it to 35 students per square mile from 21. This does not include an increase in the funding of the line.
  • Amendment 266 is the $700K for the Accuplacer.
  • Amendment 267 adds a line for $1M for Reach Out and Read.
  • Amendment 268 adds back in the earmark of $250K for Project Bread's Chefs in Schools project.
  • Amendment 277 would increase the rural aid line from $1.5M to $3M.
  • Amendment 278 would add $100K for the Berkshire County Education Task Force.
  • Amendment 280 changes "proposed new text" (Where?) from 2015 to 2014 around the Mass School Building Authority.
  • Amendment 281 increases the allocation for charter reimbursement to $113M (the House number), implements the 100/60/40 reimbursement change, creates that Ch. 70 "floor" that is in the Governor's funding bill and the House budget, increases the facilities allocation, but it does NOT appear to change which districts get funding; it covers all increases, not just the highest enrollment in five years. (For those of you who had been seeking a way to handle the House having language and the Senate not, perhaps this would work?)
  • Amendment 282 would increase the amount in the carter reimbursement line to $125M.
  • Amendment 284 would create a $10M pothole account for districts that would see a net loss of all aid between FY19 and FY20.
  • Amendment 294 adds language (not funding) in the adult education line (allocates towards English learning).
  • Amendment 301 would amend the law to require that the fiscal impact on the sending district be considered in the creation of any new charter school and further bar the creation of any new charter schools in any year in which reimbursement is not fully funded.
  • Amendment 303 appears to fully fund all of the current transporation reimbursements through the creation of a minimum corporate tax (sorry, municipals, you're not in this one)
  • Amendment 306 boosts school to career connecting activities to $5.4M; the Governor proposed at $5M; the House has it at $4.5M and Senate Ways and Means proposed $4.5M.
  • Amendment 308 would allow any district currently in receivership to have up to 80% reimbursment of buildings through MSBA (coming in from Holyoke).
  • Amendment 319 funds the charter reimbursement at 100/60/40 without new allocation, increases the facilities allocation, but does not otherwise change the language (also clearly an attempt to ensure there is language to counter the House)
  • Amendment 320 would provide at $10.5M pothole for those impacted by the low income count shift.
  • Amendment 321 would require Breakfast after the Bell in any school with an eligbility count of 60% of students or more.
  • Amendment 322 boosts the charter reimbursement line to $188M, increases the facility amount, but KEEPS the 100/25s for reimbursement years. It's also doing something to the tax code...let me find that part out. 
That's what I have! Call your Senators!