Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Morning update in Worcester

Around the question of disciplinary disparities, systemic bias, and the administration:
  • Yesterday afternoon, Mayor Joe Petty (the mayor chairs the School Committee in Worcester) released a statement supportive of the points being made by the Worcester Coalition for Educational Equity. I'll put the full text after the jump. This is also usually where I link to the Telegram, but the coverage of this has been coming from a reflexive defense of the administration, rather than a questioning of the issues, which is not making the coverage very useful. Try Worcester Magazine
  • An attempt was made to create serial deliberation via reporter in checking on the status of the superintendent, who is currently in contract negotiations with the school committee. And if you read the article, the headline is not accurate.
  • And there's a follow-up column from Clive McFarlane today. 
  • And the Worcester Coalition for Educational Equity is asking other organizations to sign onto their statement. 
I want to thank the leaders of the Latino community for bringing forward their concerns with the Worcester Public Schools and I view this as a teachable moment for us all. Simply put we can do better.
I am proud to be the Mayor of a City as diverse and vibrant as Worcester. Every day over ninety languages are spoken in the Worcester Public Schools by students from well over one-hundred countries. Every day around twenty-five thousand students are well served by thousands of teachers, staff, and administrators.
Members of the Latino community have raised concerns over data that suggests a significant disparity in suspension rates and an uneven application of discipline. I am aware of these reports and share many of the concerns recently raised.
Disparities in the application of discipline are always unacceptable; moreover suspension must be a last resort. Although I recognize that the Superintendent is taking this issue seriously and has released improved suspension numbers, I am asking her to release the data on which she has based her findings.
​ Recognizing those concerns, last year I convened the Mayor’s Commission on Latino Education and Advancement, co-chaired by Quinsigamond Community College President Luis Pedraja and Mary Jo Marion from Worcester State University, to review and make recommendations on how we can provide the best opportunity for our Latino Worcester Public School students. Using research conducted by Worcester State University and with a focus on incorporating the goals set by the 2017 Worcester Public Schools Strategic Plan, the Commission is continuing its work.
We can’t afford to let any of our students fall further behind because of our lack of action. We need to take several steps immediately. I am calling on my colleagues to join me in the following plan:
1. I am calling on the school department to provide the necessary, student-sensitive data needed to do a thorough review of the suspension rates in our Worcester Public Schools.
2. Hiring a Diversity and Equal Opportunity Officer as the City Manager and City Council has done on the municipal side of government.
3. Review of the state’s school discipline statute, MGL c222, to ensure the city is in complete compliance with the law and make any necessary changes to our policies and procedures.
4. I am calling on Worcester State University to re-engage with our school department in order to refresh and update the 2014 report, “Suspension in Worcester: A Continuing Conversation.”
5. Incorporate training practices focused on understanding cultural differences, unconscious bias, and trauma informed care.
6. Recognizing that our workforce does not reflect our student population, I am asking for our public and private college partners to work on strategies for a focused recruitment and support effort of our diverse WPS student body for Education Preparation Programs.
7. I am calling on the Mayor’s Commission on Latino Education and Advancement, to finish their work and submit a report no later than August 15, 2019.
I know that we need to act and we need to act now. This is an ambitious plan but I urge my colleagues on the school committee to embrace these initiatives and move this plan forward.

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