Sunday, August 18, 2019

The 1619 project

To quote the opening of the project:
In August of 1619, a ship appeared on this horizon, near oint omfort, a coastal port in the British colony of Virginia. It carried more than 20 enslaved Africans, who were sold to the colonists. No aspect of the country that would be formed here has been untouched by the years of slavery that followed. On the 400th anniversary of this fateful moment, it is finally time to tell our story truthfully.
Nikole Hannah-Jones opens the collection with an essay that reviews American history from 1619 onward. As she says:
No one cherishes freedom more than those who have not had it.
There are essays, photography, poetry, and more.
Educators, please note that not only is the entire issue available for free online, lesson plans are also part of the Pulitzer Center's contribution.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Worcester School Committee election events

Someone stopped me downtown today to ask what events were coming up, so I thought I'd stick it here, as well. This is what I have; I'm sure more will be added:

  • Thursday, August 29; 5:30 pm: Commission on Disability Candidates' forum in the Levi Lincoln Room at City Hall
  • Tuesday, September 10: PRELIMINARY ELECTION (eliminates 1 of the 13 candidates)
  • Wednesday, September 25, 6:30 pm: League of Women Voters forum in the Sullivan Auditorium at Worcester State University
  • Tuesday, October 22, 7 pm: Worcester Regional Research Bureau forum which I don't seem to have any additional information on...
  • Wednesday, October 23, 6pm: NAACP forum at the Worcester Youth Center
  • Wednesday, October 30, noon: Worcester Senior Center, candidates' luncheon
  • Tuesday, November 5: ELECTION DAY! 

In case you needed this said again

Hey, money matters in educational outcomes! Go figure.
Here's four--yes FOUR--new studies from across the country demonstrating that.
Four new studies from different parts of the country have come to similar conclusions. In Texas and in Wisconsin, researchers found that spending more translated to higher test scores and boosted college enrollment. Two other studies — one looking at California and another looking across seven states — found that spending more money didn’t affect test scores in more affluent areas, but did boost test scores in higher-poverty districts. 
“All four studies find that increased school spending improves student outcomes,” said Jackson.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Worcester School Committee meets for mid-August

I'd honestly missed that this was happening entirely, and there isn't a whole lot on the agenda beyond allocating the funds over the FY20 budget as passed in June.
Note that as it is summertime, the meeting is at 4 pm.

There are some honors and recognitions.
The administration has sent along the admission policy of Worcester Tech. Note that these are subject to state approval, and DESE is reworking their guidance on them, with an eye towards equity. This probably should be up for reconsideration over the next few months, then. Note for homeschoolers: an "approved" homeschool program?

There are prior fiscal year payments
  • of $2,392.50 to EI US, LLC dba (doing business as) LearnWell, due to a name change.
  • of $896.00 to Providence Nursing Agency for CNAs
  • of $538.84 to Stevens Children’s Home Inc. dba (doing business as) Stevens Treatment Programs
Mr. O'Connell suggests commenting on " the proposed 'Revision of Categorical Eligibility in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)' issued by the US Department of Agriculture." The comment period closes September 23.

This item:
Request that the Administration provide a proposed budget for a multi-faceted staff diversity recruitment initiative, and to allocate funds to implement it from the additional state aid furnished by the FY20 State Budget as enacted during July.
...and this item:
Request that the Administration provide its plans for the allocation of the new funding from the State.

immediately surround what the School Committee had to know was coming: the administration's proposed FY20 adjustments.

The adopted FY20 budget has an additional $4.6M (net) coming to the Worcester Public Schools from the budget the School Committee adopted in June, which was based on the proposed House Ways and Means budget.
That looks like this:

Note that of the $24.4M increase over last year, $13.2M of that is coming in from inflation. It is only the next highest amount, $8.9M, that is coming in from Foundation Budget changes; this should answer Mr. Monfredo's later item requesting an update on the impact of the foundation budget. Let's remember that when we hear claims about what FY20 did. And also:
We continue to look forward to final passage of a new Foundation Budget formula that adopts funding for economically disadvantaged students at the highest possible level.
What is administration recommending the funding go to?
  • 6 instructional coaches "to provide instructional support and turnaround efforts" (there's that unannounced 'turnaround' again) at Burncoat High and Middle, Forest Grove, Sullivan, WEMS, and Challenge and Reach [$524,772]
  • 4 elementary teachers and 1 elementary assistant principal; no word on where, though one assumes the teachers are for lower class size [$447,310]
  • 5 ESL teachers, including the kindergarten dual language teacher for Woodland, which...had that not been budgeted for? [$437,310]
  • 2 special ed teachers plus the conversion of an early childhood teacher into dept head, plus a Deaf and hard of hearing team chair [$183,062]
  • 1 "health/drug" educator, which was advocated for during budget...I still have no idea what this person is to do, 'though there is an item requesting one following this on the agenda [$87,462]
  • 2 guidance counselors (half a postion each for Burncoat Middle and High, 1 at North) [$174,924]
  • 1 teacher at WEMS (no word for what) and converting Gerald Creamer Center evening adminstrator to a full time position (costing $2800) [$89,662]
  • 10 sped IAs [$366,055]
  • "an increase in middle school and freshman sports opportunities" with funding to support coaching, uniforms, supplies and transportation [$130,000]
  • 1 clerical for special ed "to support compliance and administrative support for the department" [$75,000]
  • 1 school-year clerical for the Fanning building, which doesn't have any [$39,672]
  • 1 grant information specialist [$70,000]
  • 1 school nurse (doesn't say where for) [$68,675]
  • additional time for English language proficiency testing in the Parent Information Center [$20,000]
  • 10 literacy tutors [$211,960]
  • PD for "focused instructional coaches, social emotional staff, technology training, CPI and restraint training, and CPR training" [$37,650]
  • dual language curriculum [$77,000]
  • an increase "in costs" for STAR assessment [$37,812]
  • "additional Chromebooks at the elementary and middle level" (no word on where or how many) plus computers for the additional staff here added [$396,000]
  • "to begin the process of developing an RFP for a new student information system and implementation process" which was already in the budget--I'll have to look up for how much--and now somehow we need MORE funding for? [$225,000]
  • nurse supplies which is overdue and underfunded [$19,862]
  • Sullivan security system upgrade which seems rather random [$160,000]
  • building maintenance: 
    • Sullivan Middle carpet [$140,000]
    • North High phones [$75,000]
    • Claremont additional lockers [$50,000]
    • sped office painting and carpet replacement [$8400]
  • shift of funds from Title I, which is coming through less than budgeted, plus positions have increased in cost (this is odd) [$455,269]
PLUS: the charter assessment came through AS BUDGETED, so the "in case" line isn't needed. That means that there is $350,000 available. Administration is recommending adding 10 IA positions for some of the kindergarten classes that don't have them. There are 89 K rooms, 63 positions, currently; this would get to 73, and the remaining 16 would be part of the plan for FY21.
Note that the final page attempts to tie this back to the strategic plan.

The Committee is asked to accept the following donations:
  • -$6,498.50 from various fundraising efforts at Woodland Academy
  • -$500.00 from EOS Foundation to Francis McGrath Elementary School for the 2019 Healthy Start Award
  • -$365.25 from Lifetouch to Chandler Magnet School
  • -$155.00 from various donors to the Patricia Falcone Memorial Scholarship
Mr. O'Connell wants to hang banners on lightpoles about the schools.

And there is an executive session "to discuss litigation with respect to CAS petition Bus Drivers" after the meeting. 

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Associate Commissioner of Education Keith Westrich resigns

How it is that Universal Hub has this first, I don’t know, but nonetheless:
Keith Westrich, associate commissioner for the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, who long worked on programs to get high-school kids ready for life after graduation, was placed on leave and then retired after his name was published in a list of former "clergy with substantiated allegations of sexual abuse of a minor" issued by the Archdiocese of St. Louis.
That list, which came out three weeks ago, is here. On it, we find that Westrich was "removed from ministry," after being ordained in 1981, which is a fairly recent ordination. He was not, however, laicized; in other words, the Archdiocese didn't say he isn't a priest anymore, 'though he may have had his preaching faculties removed (so he couldn't serve in ministry).
The MassLive report is here. The Boston Globe doesn’t have much more. NECN reports here.
His name has already been removed from DESE’s employee rolls. EDITED TO ADD: yes, one needs to be CORI'd to work at DESE, but this wouldn't turn up on a CORI check, as there's been no legal action up until now.
Obvious question, of course, is if his responsibilities included anything directly with students, to which the Globe has only this:
It was not immediately Tuesday clear how long Westrich had worked for the agency, or what his specific duties entailed.
I have yet to see any response to that. That would be really important and someone should find out.
EDITED TO ADD: as was raised last week in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch coverage:
The St. Louis list omits the whereabouts of living priests, which concerned Barbara Dorris, a former director of the advocacy group SNAP.
“If you’re going to put out this list and it’s going to be useful, we also need to know where are these guys now and what are they doing?” she said. “Are they working near schools?”
Note that the Archdiocese has turned over that list to the Missouri Attorney General, where the investigation is ongoing. 
More as I have it.

UPDATED after I thought about this more overnight:
The above question, if his work entailed working directly with students is very, very relevant and someone really needs to push DESE on that. Further, in Boston University's online bio, he came to DESE from a position as Director of the Boston Private Industry Council’s nationally recognized ProTech program, which is a student internship program. The same question thus needs to be asked there, and whereever it is that he worked between his time leaving the Archdiocese and that position.

But from a best practices standpoint, here's what's bothering me this morning:
It seems clear from DESE's statement that, while they were ready for the question, they weren't going to release anything on their own. If we have learned ANYTHING from the Roman Catholic church's (lack of) handling of such allegations, shouldn't it be that letting people simply move on without public comment allows the issue to continue?
Was DESE simply going to let one of their top officials quietly move on after a creditable allegation of sexual assault of a minor surfaced? This is our K-12 education agency. THAT IS NOT OKAY.

This shouldn't have to be said, but much in the way the Catholic church violated one of its core tenets in not protecting children, the Department not putting the safety of children explicitly first in this violates its core responsibility.

Seattle Public Schools revise their dress code

This is good:
Seattle Public Schools' new policy, in contrast, puts the beholder in charge: "Students and staff are responsible for managing their personal distractions," it reads.  
It also calls for staff to avoid "dress-coding" students in front of their peers, which has been common practice for years, leading to embarrassment.
The new district policy indicates that enforcement of the dress code must not "create disparities, reinforce or increase marginalization of any group, nor will it be more strictly enforced against students because of racial identity, ethnicity, gender identity, gender expression, gender nonconformity, sexual orientation, cultural or religious identity, household income, body size/type, or body maturity." 
The district's acting head attorney, Ronald Boy, said the dress code is something he'd long hoped to make modern - and equitable. “My hope is that we are able to not waste time in school addressing things that just don't matter," Boy said.
You can read the text of the new code here. It includes this directive to staff:
Students shall not be disciplined or removed from class as a consequence for wearing attire in violation of this policy unless the attire creates a substantial disruption to the educational environment, poses a hazard to the health or safety of others, or factors into a student behavior rule violation such as malicious harassment or the prohibition on harassment, intimidation, and bullying. Further, no student shall be referred to as “a distraction” due to their appearance or attire.

Worcester School Committee candidates' forum Thursday evening at Worcester State

While the actual candidacy stuff is over on, I'll post Worcester election stuff here as it is relevant. 

Thursday, August 15 at 6 pm in the Blue Lounge at the Worcester State Student Center
Co-sponsored by Worcester State, the YWCA, the League of Women Voters, MWPC, and MAWOCC