Thursday, November 7, 2019

Worcester School Committee meets tonight: who's fooling who?

And I know, I know, I'm sorry...I will say that most of the agenda is items that have been postponed from prior meetings, so this isn't going to go through everything, either.

The report of the superintendent is the quick survey of every department that has been on several agendas and keeps being postponed.

The real meat of the meeting, however, and what would be gathering much attention were the community not still in election mode is an updated update on the 14 points the School Committee passed back with the Superintendent's contract.

In sum? There's nineteen pages here, but there's not a lot of content.
Thus the subtitle of the blog post

1.The call is for a "clear and transparent process" for presenting data going back seven years.
The response is to note that the state's report doesn't include yet-to-be released data from other districts--"hey look at them" is not a good plan here--and that they'll get to it when it is.
We don't need to wait on the state to release other districts' data to get ours up.

2. The call is to re-engage with the "Suspension in Worcester: a Continuing Conversation" report from City Lab at WSU.
The response is that the memorandum of understanding with WSU is still being reviewed.
This doesn't answer the re-engagement with the report content.

3. The call is for comprehensive training for all staff, including the Worcester School Committee,
on "understanding cultural differences, unconscious bias, understanding racial disparities, and trauma informed care, including Ch. 222.
The response is four pages of professional development of which, of the above, only trauma informed care is mentioned at all.
This is a clear attempt to snow the Committee under with lots of information (even bet we hear "clearly there is a lot of work going on" said tonight), distracting from the administration's refusal to work on institutional bias at all.

4. The call is for a comprehensive legal review of the district's implementation of Ch. 222, with a report back on the changes in policy and procedure that are necessary.
The response is a dismissal that it has been done and the district is in compliance.
There has been no evidence offered of any such review, and the data makes it clear that the district is not doing well with this issue. There has been no report and no proposed changes in district policy or procedure.

5. The call is for maintainance of a English Learner Parent Advisory Council which includes community partners.
The response is that there is one with some discussion of what has been done so far.
The important point here? This is an ADVISORY council; they exist to ADVISE the district on the English Learner community.

6-9 are coming in January

10. The call is for the disciplinary practices to not be funneled through a single process.
The response is that they aren't.
My sense is that this is one where the phrasing of the query is the issue.

11. The call is for the hiring of a Chief Diversity Officer.
The response is that there is one.
I will note here that there was and is continues to be community observation that limiting the scope of this position to Human Resources makes it of extremely limited utility, and is counter both to the motivation of the community call and the way in which the position exists in other districts (where it most often is an assistant superintendency).

12. The call is for work with the colleges on focused recruitment and retention of a diverse teaching force.
The response is on the Worcester Teacher Pipeline initiative.
If we continue to ignore retention, all we get is high turnover, which isn't fair to anyone.

13. The call is for a semi-annual report on the English Learner deparment, including compliance with best practices and federal guidelines.
The response is to push the report onto page 11 and following of the printing material here: not to have it be a report of the superintendent, not to have it be a formal discussion, but to bury a list of items, a host of which are a repeat of the PD items above, within this written report.
For a district in which one in three children is currently an English Learner, this is both irresponsible and dismissive.

14. The call is to work to implement the report of the Mayor's Commission.
The response is that the initial report is out but has not been finalized.
The initial report is not included here.

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