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. 

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