Saturday, October 19, 2019

Continuity in governance

On the general blogging principle of anything that I've been asked more than once, even more people are wondering.
You aren't wrong to ask: continuity in governance is a basic element of political stability.

Under the section 4-6 of the Worcester municipal charter (starts on page 92 over here) regarding vacancies on the Worcester School Committee:
If a vacancy shall occur amongst the six at-large members of the school committee, said vacancy shall be filled in the same manner as provided in section 2-10(a) for the filing of vacancies in the office of councilor-at-large, from among the candidates for election to the office of school committee at the preceding regular municipal election
To be clear, section 2-10 says:
(a) Councilors-at-large - If a vacancy shall occur in the office of councilorat-large, the vacancy shall be filled in descending order of votes received by the candidate for the office of councilor-at-large at the preceding regular municipal election who received the largest number of votes for the office of councilor-atlarge without being elected, provided such person remains eligible and willing to serve. The board of election commissioners shall certify such candidate to the office of councilor-at-large to serve for the balance of the then unexpired term
That would be the November 2017 election, in which the results were:
School Committee election results from November 2017: O'Connell, Foley, Monfredo, McCullough, Comparetto, Biancheria, Colorio. The first six serve on the Committee. 

The seventh place finisher was Donna Colorio with 7,534 votes (behind sixth place Dianna Biancheria with 7,824). Colorio is not running for Worcester School Committee at this time; she is, however, running for Worcester City Council at Large and has left her name on the ballot for mayor.

It does, note, take a meeting of the Election Commission to certify the filling of the vacant seat.

There are no Worcester School Committee meetings remaining before the municipal election on November 5. There are two meetings in November and at least one in December. The newly elected Worcester School Committee will be sworn in the first full week of January (January 6th, if memory serves).

And yes, the municipal ballots for the November election already exist; in fact, absentee ballots have already gone out to voters.

UPDATE: Per Nick Kotsopoulos, the Election Commission will meet October 25. Among the things they'll decide upon is what will be shared with voters about Brian O'Connell's passing.

Friday, October 18, 2019

"I shall not look upon his like again."

He was a man, take him for all in all.
I shall not look upon his like again.
                                          Hamlet, Act I, Scene II

When the "motion to file" the minutes at last night's Worcester School Committee came from Jack Foley, my ear knew something was wrong. The "motion to file" and other procedural motions always, always came from Brian O'Connell.

That will no longer be the case.

While not the motto of any of the institutions he attended. the Latin phrase I associate with Brian is "semper fidelis," always faithful. He didn't graduate from institutions so much as become part of them: a trustee of Worcester Academy, on the board of Holy Cross, a lector at St. John's Parish, a Knight of the Holy Sepulchre, and I know there are many more.

Brian also was a child of Union Hill and a son of Worcester, and that, too, was a core part of his being. His decades on the Worcester School Committee are a testament to his being of Worcester and of Worcester being part of him.

Brian was not only renowed for his floor speeches on the Worcester School Committee; he was also the most broadly read. For many years, this led to a host of items from across the country of ideas and endeavors from elsewhere that he thought Worcester should consider or discuss. It was often a race to keep up with him. Race I did, and I am grateful to him for that.

True to his surname--I think I can say this, as one who shares it, though we are not, as we both noted many times, related--he was also very sure and unshakeable when he thought that he was right.

One did not serve successfully on the Worcester School Committee with Brian O'Connell without getting a thorough education in parliamentary procedure. It was an extended executive session in my first months on the Committee with him in 2010 that sent me off to learn it thoroughly myself.
I have Brian to thank for that.

Brian was a Worcester institution.  To paraphrase Hamlet speaking to Horatio of his own father: we will not see his like again.


Requiescat in pace

A budget exchange that may matter later

I didn't blog this last night (as I was out of battery), but there was a discussion later in the meeting that may matter later: Mr. Comparetto spoke to his item on the need for wraparound services and staff in every school, and of their being allowed to do their actual job rather than other things. Mr. Monfredo, responding, rather oddly remarked that while the Student Opportunity Act would get the district more money, it wouldn't be enough to get wraparound coordinators in every school.

...er, what? If the School Committee decides that's the most effective way of working on the issue of poverty in the schools, yes, there will absolutely be enough money for wraparound coordinators in every school. That's a pretty out-of-touch remark.

Mr. Foley said that he had been planning to wait to make a motion on the budget until the bill passed (wise), but since it had come up, he made a motion that either the full committee or the Finance and Operations subcommittee plan on holding a public hearing early on regarding use of the funds. Mayor Petty deflected it back to Foley, saying that it should probably be done by the subcommittee.

Miss Biancheria then stood to insist that it had to be done by the full committee, 'though her argument seemed to be about every member being included rather than about, say, public transparency.

I should note that Mr. Foley has brought this up more than once, most recently at the Legislative update held by the Worcester Educational Justice Alliance last week.

Anyway, as I've said elsewhere, we are going to need a more thorough and inclusive public budget process, and that was stepped towards last night.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Worcester School Committee periodic liveblog

On the agenda tonight is the state presenting on accountability and discipline, but there are also a good number of people presumably in reaction (of various kinds) to the student suspended at Forest Grove.
Petty: work together, and we can do better
"my understanding is the data has gone in a good direction...we have a pretty good school system"

Associate Commissioner of Accountability Rob Curtin
and the presentation just was shared with me and I have shared it here
who leads with his time at Clark
"all that I am presenting for you tonight" is under my purview
notes that he is also in charge of Comprehensive District Reviews, which was done in Worcester in 2017 and was never heard from again
"for the betterment of you all, I did not make this an 100 slide presentation"
"there's a lot of different ways to slice this data"
"that will allow you ask more questions of our office to provide you with information or to ask those questions of the superintendent as well"
will show most recent data that we have
data certified as of July, accountability data in September
all publicly available save the discipline data, not yet released
"won't see any comparison with state" as yet as it hasn't yet become public
"there are more MCAS slides as on other topics...the reason for that is we have a lot of different tests...it's a little difficult to fit it all on one slide"

next gen MCAS grades 3-8 look kinda flat over three years

"in the top half of partially meeting expectations"
"almost a meaningful difference in terms of improvement" in ELA
"more sort of neutral" in math over the three years
how does Worcester compare to other urban districts?
higher than a point, green
"the news is quite positive" for African-American students compared to the urban districts
"some really good news there"
"I would generall portray this as a difference between subjects" however
ELA "primarily overall" positive
"whereas in math Worcester does not compare as well" to urban districts across the Commonwealth
how have things changed over three years?
"meeting or exceeding...have increased" ELA and math
"where we'd like to see more movement" in not meeting expectations
ELA 1 in 5 not meeting
math between 1 in 4 and 1 in 5
the top has increased from the middle, not increase from the bottom
some really good news and some areas of concern:
grade 3 ELA: has increased by six over three years
no movement in 7th grade ELA
"across both subjects there are pockets of good news and places to ask questions"
"particularly good news is sixth grade math"
"data are made to lead to questions"
achievement gap has widened in both ELA and math but for different reasons between subjects
gap has widened in ELA because the top group has done exceptionally well
gap has widened in math because BOTH the top group has done well AND the others have fallen
science: "here is where there is certainly room for improvement"
grade 8: more than 1 in 4 not meeting expectations on the science test
first year in grade 10: right on par in ELA, in math "again the results are slightly lower"
"questions and room for improvement"
"achievement is important, but growth is important, too"
"our growth statistics are done compared to their academic peers"

"across the board...for the most part...the growth numbers are on the lower side of typical or the low growth category"
this is not good...growth should be where we're good
"a lot more low growth across the board in subgroups...compared to their academic peers...across the Commonwealth"

"MCAS are the primary driver in our accountability system"
BUT THERE IS MORE as any of you who follow this know: new system
44 schools included in the accountability system
31 schools not requiring assistance or intervention
13 require assistance or intervention: 10 because they are in the lowest 10% in the state; 3 due to a subgroup or more
"there's always going to be a lowest 10%"
the three "had one of the lowest performing subgroups in the state"
"on the extreme positive side" two schools of recognition: West Tatnuck and Belmont Street
"very interesting trend among the schools in Worcester"
there are 10 schools in the lowest ten percent: there is a range of schools across the district,
a range of performance across the district
er, I fear this may be as a result of our not having particularly integrated elementary schools
17 had a higher percentile in 2018 than in 2017
"in addition to thinking about schools...we also do the same for subgroups"
"a real range of performance among your subgroups across the district"
"there are six schools where the Hispanic students in that school are among the lowest performing in the state...but eight schools in which the Hispanic students in which they're the highest performing subgroups in the state"
"a real testiment ot what's happening"

"a core component is how the school is doing compared to itself"
3/4 of schools either are making substantial progress towards their progress or meeting targets in 2019
though I am going to observe that the number of schools that MET progress fell 2019 versus 2018


disciplinary data:
"please, there's a lot of different questions we could have answered here"
"I understand there is a clamoring for additional information, and I'd be happy to answer those questions either with the district or on behalf of the district"
discipline: in school, out of school, emergency removal
at highest level, it is lower than it has been at any point over the past five years
gaps among students being disciplined by race and ethnicity
"those are still significant numbers, and I am sure there are still discussions to be had" about the rates
still over 1000 Hispanic students being disciplined in the 2019
"certainly improvement, while still concentrating on high numbers of students who are being disciplined across the district"
lower numbers than in 2018 by subgroup
"you have improvement from 2018 but there are still major difference that exist between groups even between the types of discipline"
the 1.4% of students who had an emergency removal, a decrease from 1.8% from 2018
"represents a very high percentage compared to the rest of the state"
0.2% for the state in 2018
someone just said "Daaaamn"
chart now shows numbers sorted out on why students are being suspended
"while my main goal here is to present the facts to you without a whole lot of conjecture"
the number of non-criminal non-violent non-drug reasons
most of them are "some sort of...violating school rules" and such
"but it seems to me that there's at least room for examinating a very high number of non-violent non-criminal non-drug offenses in Worcester"
interrupted here by applause
"and whether or not there's other forms that don't involve removing a student from instruction"

real interesting story on chronic absenteeism
missing at least 10% of their days
just under 15% of students were missing at least 10% of their days in a given school year
"students missed less instructional time than other urban districts across the Commonwealth"
the numbers are actually improving
"quite high but lower than other urban districts across the Commonwealth"
"less than 10% of students in elementary school are missing 10% of their days" and those numbers have come down
"and you've seen dramatic improvement across the races"
"but you have a very different story in high school"
while the numbers have come down
"you have more than 1 in 5 students" missing 10% of their days
"attention can be really focused on the high school"

"My mantra is if we can make it public, we should make it public"
"if there are additional information...my email is there"

Petty: non-drug non-violent non-criminal offenses "we should really dig into"
asks for comparison with urban districts
"look at programs later on"
"have this on a semi-annual...have this again and invite you back!"
things we're doing well but we "can't ignore those things that we have to improve"
Petty: not sure how to do, maybe have a special meeting

Foley: this really warrants much more discussion at future meetings
"you can cross-tabulate a lot of this on the website"
"would love to see breakdown by poverty and is that an overriding factor"
"seeing a movement of a cohort" through "is a trend sometimes"
"students with disability, their performance is very very low"
"challenges we're still facing"
Curtin: something to be investigated here and what's happening among different subgroups among different schools
Foley: "we need to have a conversation about emergency removals...what constitutes an emergency removal, why are we so much higher than the rest of the state"
"I don't know what is occuring to cause the removal of a student from school"
"large number of non-drug non-violent offenses...how can work as a district to keep more of those students in school"
"we have to find a way to keep those students in school"
to applause
The superintendent is referencing a change in the law...there was no change in the law
high rates in October and in May and she's...inventing reasons why?
Superintendent's Advisory Council is making welcoming school books, she says
every school is planning an additional event in October to make school more welcoming
"and we had a tremendous decrease from '16-17"
Foley: "there's a difference between the way Worcester is applying the protocols than other districts across the state"
Binienda: "we have repeated school violations..and that tends to be a catchbasin...so this year, we're being more specific" about the reason for the suspensions
so like cutting class and then they're suspended for that

sorry Monfredo spoke there and he wanted to know about poverty and homelessness and then he was pleased by ELA scores but not in math

Comparetto: see two school systems here
look at implementing alternative practices in discipline

McCullough: one of the things I'd like to see is consistency across the district
"it's been a concern of mine...so we're not seeing disparities across the district"
see students removed from the environment but not the school
"and work towards that goal"
"perhaps part of the strategic plan is to hold policy forum" and perhaps get additional data from the state

Biancheria: why are schools recognized as a school of recognition?
both were for high growth
and I think she just suggested we should teach to the test for science

Petty "have a meeting to really dissect" the non-drug non-violent non-criminal offenses
"maybe we can get a report on that"

Binienda "really feel that was an excellent report on progress"
"with that I want to thank my staff that's here"
thank the School Committee

student rep: asks why there are fewer subgroups than schools (essentially why every school doesn't have them)
Curtin: not enough students in tested grades
asks about seventh grade: follows it down
"I'd hestitate to comment on specific grades"
asks why detentions aren't included
Curtin: first, we don't collect it
"we also don't think of it as a loss of instruction"
"I tend to focus my remarks around the instructional loss"

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Worcester School Committee meets Thursday, October 17

The agenda is here.
I've somewhat piecemeal posted on this already: there's a response on district technology, which I wrote about here, and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education is coming to present, which I noted over here.
Besides the recognitions and the administration forwarding the hirings, resignations, and retirements of staff (this looks like the opening of school list), on the agenda is:
There are two prior year payments: $4,659.53 to Stetson School Inc. for services rendered from June 1, 2019 through June 30, 2019 and $84,985.56 to The Learning Center for the Deaf for services rendered from July 2018 to June 2019.
There is a request to approve the following donations:–

  • $300.00 to the George and Marie Maloney Scholarship Fund from various donors
  • $10,000 to Rice Square Elementary School for the Seena Levy Reading Fund from Steven & Andrew Levy in memory of their mother, Seena, former 2nd grade reading teacher at Rice Square Elementary School. The donation is intended for the purchase of books for the Rice Square library.
  • $320.00 to Worcester Technical High School from the Greater Worcester Community Foundation/Thurston E. Solomon & Everett J. Morter Memorial Fund designated for the Skills USA Program.
  • $560.00 to Worcester Technical High School from the Greater Worcester Community Foundation/Saul A. Seder Fund designated for participation in the Skills USA.
  • $5,985.00 to Worcester Technical High School from the Greater Worcester Community Foundation/Sarah Daniels Pettit & William O. Pettit, Jr. Fund.
  • $40.55 to the Worcester Public Schools from a donor

Miss Biancheria and Mr. Monfredo request "that the Administration investigate ways to market the accomplishments of the Worcester Public Schools by more media press releases and by encouraging schools to forward outstanding events taking place at their schools to the media."
They also want the district to look for more parking.
Also, information on sex trafficking
And, a report on Worcester Tech's evening courses
And, a report on "collaboration between the unions and the Worcester Public Schools in the formulation and execution of various articulation agreements that lead to the awarding of certificates to the students "

Mr. Comparetto and Mr. Monfredo are requesting reports on wraparound services, school health clinics, Family Resource Centers, and Mr. Comparetto further requests a homeless liaison, wraparound coordinators at all schools, a CityConnects program, and policy forums on homelessness.

Did I mention that the DESE department coming out to do the report is the same department that does the Comprehensive District Review that observed and called out the requests for reports from School Committee members, how time intensive they were, and how much they were entirely not concerned with the central work of district governance? It is. 

There is a request to approve nurses.

There is a 6 pm Executive Session for litigation with Steamfitters and Tradesmen.

Yes, I'll be there. Blog to come

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Not this week

...looks like the school funding bill isn't coming up this week:

Worcester Citywide Parent group calendar for the year

For those who don't get the CPPAC emails, the first meeting is tomorrow night, and here's the calendar for the rest of the year:

  • October 16th Parent Agenda Items and Open Time for Candidates for School Committee to speak
  • November 13th State of the Schools Address at Durkin Administration Building, 20 Irving Street Worcester, MA 01606 5:30-8:30 PM 
  • January 8th Guest speaker Sarah Kyriazis presenting on Technology Plan 
  • March 11th Guest speaker Brian Allen presenting the on Budget 
  • May 13th Guest speakers Dr. O’Neil and Superintendent Binienda presenting on the year end review
November is interesting: there hasn't been a State of the Schools in some time.
Also, not the fault of CPPAC, but at least two of the comprehensive high schools are having their parents' nights tomorrow.