Sunday, December 1, 2019

Worcester School Committee meets Thursday

The agenda is here.
The report of the superintendent is on the Barr Foundation grant on "reimagining high school." The grant is a second round of a grant received last year--this one for $300K, last year's for $150K--of which little has been said until now. In fact, the first round of the grant, when it was listed in an article on disciplinary disparities, was billed as:
A $150,000 grant – and possibly more – from the Barr Foundation to implement a ninth-grade transition program aimed at reducing suspensions.
The School Committee did not receive a report on the work of that grant, nor did it receive a grant report that specified how the funding had been (or even was planned to be) expended. A ninth grade transition program for reducing suspensions is not the same as work on what Worcester imagines its graduates from high school to be, as this second grant reportedly is being used for, even if, as this report says, this one focus on "9th grade success," along with "rigor and relevance, college planning, and equity."
I say "reportedly" because the request that the Committee vote acceptance on the grant has not a shred of information on how the grant is being expended. This is problematic for two reasons:
  •  it means the Committee can't fulfill its function of keeping spending aligned with the goals of the district (rather than chasing what is shiny)
  •  it means the Committee (and thus the district) isn't fulfilling its fiduciary responsibility in allocating funds. No one is voting where the money is going. 
As the presentation itself also lacks specificity--the strategic plan is mentioned, but not how this aligns with it, with nothing on how this lines up with other work the district is doing--it's impossible to tell from this what exactly is being done, by whom, where, what it is going to cost, and how. The section on work so far and work ahead is the same: stakeholders that are being met with can mean a lot or a little; a "representative sample" of site councils, given how much work there is to be done on site councils in Worcester, is, frankly, not representative. One of course likewise wonders which students have been met with. If it's the usual suspects (as I call them; the kids who get picked for everything), the "portrait of a graduate" is only going to mean a very particular thing.
Also, that diagram on community is from Battelle for Kids out of Ohio and...why are their diagrams being used?
None of this, incidentally, is to find fault with the idea of looking at what Worcester thinks a high school graduate should be. It isn't clear to me that this is necessarily going to do it, nor how the grant funding is being spent to get there.

Teaching, Learning, and Student Supports subcommittee met largely to file things, it seems, as the term comes to a close. Looking through the minutes, it appears that there are a number of requests for information coming back.

There are some resignations and appointments.

The enrollment by course report that is coming back to Miss Biancheria's request isn't the full list of courses; I believe it's the new courses that had been approved.

There are donations and recognitions and congratulations.

The ongoing rash (pun intended) of prior fiscal year payments continue, with $1284,86 to a certified nursing assistant, and with $1721.02 (!) going to Struck Catering. I would think they are probably more prompt in their billing than this, which would mean the district not only is not following proper procedures on this, but it's also holding up paying a local business.

Mr. Monfredo has an item to "increase math scores as delineated in the strategic plan." That's this works.
Miss Biancheria is asking again this year for a list of snow-clearing equipment by school "including the process for clearing snow at each site and the evaluation of equipment." Setting aside for the moment just how far into management this is (the answer is WAY into management!), it's hard to think of responses for "the process for clearing snow" that aren't, er, sarcastic.

Mr. Comparetto closes the agenda with a series of items in response, I believe, to an email from a Worcester principal that was pinballing across social media, which asked students to dress as Pilgrims and Wampanoag on the day school got out for Thanksgiving.

They read:
  • Request that the Administration provide an update on the alleged culturally inappropriate programming at Goddard School of Science and Technology. 
  • Request that the Administration consider incorporating a day of mourning at Thanksgiving time into school programming. 
  • Request that the Administration consider incorporating real American history into the curriculum. 
  • Request that the Administration review recommendations made by the organization Teaching Tolerance for culturally appropriate Thanksgiving programming
The implementation of the history and social studies standards still has, it seems, work to be done. The state standards did extensive work on historically disenfranchised voices, and the standards created and the resources used lead towards a richer understanding, one hopes. If you're struggling to see the issue here, start "A Culture, not a Costume" from the Washington Post; Googling that will give further resources.

There is an executive session, with one item arbitration with the EAW, one item on litigation, and two on collective bargaining.
And yes, I am planning to attend. 

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