Friday, February 27, 2009

And speaking of meetings

I'd heard some rumors of this one, but I just got an official notice:

Town Hall Community Forum

"a discussion of the state of the economy and its impact upon state and local budgets in Massachusetts"
A presentation by Michael Widmer, President of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, will be followed by a question and answer session.

Hosted by all twelve of central MA legislators
Tuesday, March 3
6:30 pm
South High Community School

First budget hearing

This got buried in one of the below entries; I wanted to be sure you all got it.

The first (pre-) budget hearing for the Worcester Public Schools FY10 budget is scheduled for:

Wednesday, April 1 (I kid you not!)
Worcester Technical High School

This is your chance to weigh in on what priorities the schools ought to be following as they set their FY10 budget (so far, it's $18 million in the hole).

Round of applause for Clive

As mentioned below, Jack Foley pointed out the significant cuts made in the schools over the past six years in answering the City Council's charges from Tuesday. Clive McFarlane lays out the numbers in print this morning. They aren't pretty.

Let's, PLEASE, get away from this insane, ridiculous attitude that somehow the "city" and the "schools" are separate entities. It's all the City of Worcester. The money is entirely allocated by the City Council; the specifics of the schools allocation happens to run through School Committee. To talk as if the schools are...well, Clive put it quite well:

Parents and teachers listening to Tuesday’s City Council meeting must have been stunned to hear some city councilors speak of the public schools with the covetousness and belligerence with which the leaders of a nation with a strong military and a sliding economy would probably speak of a neighboring country with a weak military and vast natural resources.

When was the last time the City Council had to ration its paper use? Meet in a room with a leaking roof? Depend on badly outdated materials for information? Use a bathroom without a working lock? Do you really want to have this conversation, Councilors?

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Transparency and finances

Foley, still on subcommittee report: Meeting with city and school financial people, trying to get the two in line with one another

"walked away feeling pretty strong about that relationship"
individual school budgets, grant budgets....much specificity

Foley on the defensive

Foley: all of us are struck by the municipal cuts made on the city side, governor decided not to cut 9C, CC decided on to cut midyear schools, "really appreciative of that"..."we are only subject to the revenues we get from the state and the federal government" (rehearses the drops that we know are coming, along with possible stimulus money)..."wait another month at least" for budget..."we've had our problems over the past six years"...688 positions cut, 8 schools closed, "we've also faced troubles over the past years"

First listening session April 1 for FY10 budget 7pm at Worcester Tech (Dr. Boone will be attending)

Business Subcommittee

Revisions on the website
Recommend all schools have their own sites that are well-maintained
The webmaster is now looking at the website and "looking at content management systems"
Rollout is expected this summer
Plan to include parent information section, including grades (hope to reduce cost)

South High pool: WEDF grant to repair?
next few years are devoted to Foley Stadium and there's only so much money

Supplemental agenda covers business subcommittee recommendation; they check halfway through the year to see what changes if any they need to make.

  • saving money on utilities: solar panels on South, lower oil cost
  • lower transporation
  • lower out-of-district costs
  • higher workers' comp (expected, as this is usually underfunded)
  • higher personal services (legal services, medical services for students)
  • higher school plant maintenance (things put off too long)

Curriculum Development Standing Committee report

Mr. Monfredo: Stats on graduation rates and college admission rates comparing men and significantly less likely to do both. Report is being forwarded to Dr. Boone, and some question as to what this should mean for the FY10 budget.
A series of requests coming out of this report: mentoring, small learning communities, professional development, parent liaisons..
"Worcester, The City That Reads" starting up next month (the book this year is The Adventure of Tom Sawyer); suggested that the WPS participate

  • Senior project program
  • Community service program
(both of the above suggested as additional requirements for graduation from high school)

Alternative Evening School at the Gerald Creamer Center

Here's one that shows what the money does and will give everyone a good feeling about the funding they do on this:
Two students, a teacher, and directors from the Alternative Evening School tonight doing a nice job of showing why such a program is necessary.

Monfredo suggests calling it "The Creamer School of Second Chances" to a laugh.
In essence, these kids would not be graduating from high school if there were not such a program. The quote of the evening is the student saying, "I love to get up in the morning and say, 'I love to go to school!'"

Supplemental Agenda 3A

I'm leaving out the account numbers, and just giving here the tags. All of these are administrative recommendations to "consider" the following:

9-46: transfer $200,000 from Tuition to Personal Services
9-47: transfer $400,000 from Utilities to Personal Services
9-48: transfer $117,000 from Custodian Salaries to Workers' Compensation
9-49: transfer $48,150 from Health Insurance to Workers' Compensation
9-50: transfer $149,000 from Transportation OM to Workers' Compensation
9-51: transfer $53,000 from Unemployment Compensation to School Plant OM
9-52: transfer $25,000 from In-State Travel to School Plant OM
9-53: transfer $122,000 from Instructional Assistants to School Plant OM

Roll call on all taken together, based on the business subcommittee report, passes unanimously

Flat Stanley

Taking item 9-44 out of order: a student from St. Stephen's is here tonight with his principal, following his sending Flat Stanley to Mayor Lukes (who obviously was entertained enough to recommend that the public schools consider participating).

Mayor Lukes is now taking Flat Stanley, promising that she will be taking him a number of places in the coming two weeks, and promising to "do (her) homework".

Community Leader for Public Education

Neil and Cristina Heffernan"...developed a comprehensive computer program to help students practice their answers in the MCAS mathematics section"

A number of WPI students also worked on this.

The award is from the Massachusetts Associations of School Committees.

First honor: University Park Campus and Claremont Academy

University Park Campus School: Silver Medal
Claremont Academy: Bronze Medal

in U.S. News and World Report December 5, 2008 issue

Liveblogging the School Committee

Don't know how long we'll last here tonight as I have some young help, but I'm here liveblogging the School Committee. After Tuesday night's comments by various members of City Council regarding the use of funds on the school side, it will be interesting to see if there's any school response.

There's a number of congratulatory notes up tonight, plus the supplemental agenda (neither of which are on the web) has a bunch of monetary transfers, some of substantial funds. I'll type them up as I get a chance.

We're also running shorthanded tonight: both Mary Mullaney and Brian O'Connell are out tonight.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Why budgets matter

There were some fine words (and some disturbing ones) last night from President Obama on education. The words that struck me most, however, were ones in another part of the speech altogether:

In the next few days, I will submit a budget to Congress. So often, we have come to view these documents as simply numbers on a page or laundry lists of programs. I see this document differently. I see it as a vision for America — as a blueprint for our future.

This is why budgets matter.

Yes, yes, budget meetings are boring, and budgets are long, and who really understands what all those numbers mean?

If we can possibly escape our whining for a moment, though, what those numbers mean is nothing less than a community setting priorities: What really matters to us?

What matters to us we spend money on. How much money we spend demonstrates what we really think of something. Do we value safety? We spend money on police and fire departments. Do we value safe roads? We spend money on the Department of Public Works.

How much do we value education?
Moreover, what within education do we think is most important?

If we don't have enough money for everything--and we don't--we have to pick and choose: will we have small class sizes for elementary students? We need to increase the funds for elementary teachers. Do we value football? We have to pay for the coaches. Do we value buildings that aren't crumbling? We need to fund repairs. Libraries, nurses, books...they all cost money. They can't all be funded.

I think it's past time we stopped pretending that we can please everyone at least a little bit. We can't. We need to figure out what is absolutely necessary in educating our kids, and get rid of everything that isn't there. This doesn't mean those things can't be provided, but not on the public dollar. If something has a constituency but doesn't get public funds, then those who care can fund it privately. But it's time we stopped trying to do a bit of everything, and took our dollars and put them only where we get real education.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

When do we start paying attention?

Here's a troubling exchange from tonight's City Council meeting (with humble thanks, as always to Daily Worcesteria). Councilor Rosen here is question City Manager O'Brien about his planned early retirements:

Rosen: Why weren’t teachers included in early retirement?

O’Brien: A lot of stimulus money is going to education, and “there wasn’t a lot of interest” from the school department.

Is there an assumption here that the fed is going to save everything? Between this and the lack of planning for next year's budget, the school department is starting to look much behind the eight ball.

Rebranding (and having fun with) NCLB

Remember Secretary Arne Duncan asking for suggestions on what to call "No Child Left Behind"?

No sooner asked than granted.

Andrew Rotherman over on has been running a contest on renaming NCLB.

There are some straight answers, but plenty that show a bit more...dark humor in renaming.
A few of my favorites:

  • Double Back Around to Pick Up the Children We Left Behind Act
  • the Teach to the Test Act
  • the Could We Start Again Please Act
  • The Act of Contrition
  • Achieving America’s Reading, wRiting and aRithmatic Goals (AARRRG!)
  • "I think, if we can get his permission, we should rename it the Garrison Keillor Act. After all, NCLB is no more of a fictional construct than Lake Woebegon where “all the children are above average!” "

Monday, February 23, 2009

MA Secretary Reville at Worcester State this week

Massachusetts Secretary of Education Paul Reville is speaking at Worcester State College on Wednesday afternoon at 3:30 pm.

Reville will speak about, "Improving Student Performance in a Downturn Economy," in the Student Center Blue Lounge. The event is free and open to the public....Following his remarks, a town hall meeting format discussion with participants will be facilitated by WSC Education faculty and Phi Delta Kappa board members. As part of his presentation, Secretary Reville will be honored by the Central Mass Chapter of Phi Delta Kappa, a co-sponsor of the event, for his work in the field of education.

On charters, the MCAS, and education

Michael Mayo's column in yesterday's Boston Globe on what is happening with charter schools, the MCAS, and education:

In charters across the country, there's a movement toward "paternalistic schools," a term used favorably by David Whitman of the Fordham Institute. Their argument is that "urban" students need schools with the highest levels of student compliance and routine. In some of these schools, children don't speak from the moment they get off the bus until they get back on again. Others have disobedient students wear a certain-colored shirt and order other students to "shun" them. When we were starting our school, some of these schools were saying, "We're not for everyone." These schools continue to get enormously positive attention and deep private funding.

At Uphams Corner, we knew other approaches were valid, too, and we believed in the charter movement's philosophy of diversity and choice. Research and experience told us that the conditions for long-lasting achievement were the same for all people, young and old, "urban" and otherwise. We knew from our own teaching in city schools that compliance and routine are nowhere near as powerful at addressing the needs of all children than the cultivation of robust relationships, strong but nurturing boundaries, and enormous support for all aspects of a child's life.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Where the money goes: UPDATED

(I see that I've used similar titles before. Well, there's two things to follow: where the money comes from and where it goes!)

The New York Times cover story on Education Secretary Arne Duncan's powers under the stimulus bill is eye-opening:

Most of Mr. Duncan’s unusual power would come in disbursing a $54 billion stabilization fund intended to prevent public sector layoffs, mostly in schools. The bill sets aside $5 billion of that to reward states, districts and schools for setting high standards and narrowing achievement gaps between poor and affluent students. The law lets Mr. Duncan decide which states deserve awards and which programs merit special financing.
...Programs that tie teacher pay to classroom performance will most likely receive money, as will other approaches intended to raise teacher quality, including training efforts that pair novice instructors with veteran mentors, and after-school and weekend tutoring programs.

Between this and the questions over how the "shovel ready" money will be spent at the state level, there's a lot up for grabs here.

UPDATE: And here's the Christian Science Monitor making much the same point.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Federal stimulus bill as passed

(It won't be signed until later this week, but it does seem that's a given!)

You can get a look at what the stimulus bill will do for Massachusetts from the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center here, with the specifics on education funding here. In brief:
  • Massachusetts is expected to receive $813 million dollars specifically for education.
  • The money is to be used:
  1. To make up for cuts in K-12 education funding since FY08--this doesn't apply to Massachusetts, as the state hasn't made cuts from FY08 levels.
  2. To fund increases to funding under existing funding formulae--Chapter 70 (THE FOUNDATION FORMULA!) calls for an increase of $168 million for FY10 (and that plus an incremental increase for FY11). There also have been some reforms adopted to the funding system in 2007 which have been gradually phasing in; it's unclear what difference those reforms will make.
  3. To make up funding cut from higher education since FY08--FY09 is $35 million below FY08, and FY10 is $142 million below FY08.
  • It also looks like Massachusetts is going to get $181 million in flexible block grants to be used...well, that's what there's been some dispute about. Does the governor decide? the Legislature? But it's what the city (including the schools) put together their "shovel ready" proposals for last month.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Federal stimulus goes to conference committee

Here's the NEA flash:

February 10, 2009

Special Alert

Economic Recovery Bill Moves to “Conference Committee”

Tell Congress to Provide As Much for Education As Possible in Final Package
Today, the Senate passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Thanks to your e-mails to your Senators last week, the bill does include funding for education, although less than provided in the bill passed by the House of Representatives.
The House and Senate bills now move to a “conference committee,” which will work out differences between the two bills and bring a final agreement back to the House and Senate for a vote.
Contact your Members of Congress Today!

Tell Members of the House and Senate to support as much money as possible for education in the final economic recovery package.

A few closing notes

  • In his comments following the Manager's update, Councilor Palmieri made a point of speaking of "the very important work of schools" (one of the only councilors to mention the school side).
  • Councilor Haller asked what the affect of the loss of state funding would have on the city's obligations under the foundation funding formula. The manger's answer: $2 million less.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

School side reform

On a question from Councilor Petty about health care changes if they were applied to the school side:
75-25% would be a savings that would be "far more substantial" on the school side
Would need the EAW to agree, of course

no new police class

Police class will graduate, but will not be sworn in. Will save $500,000
That's 32 people

New update from the Manager: FY10 budget

We've got a supplemental agenda tonight, which is a report from the Manager on the latest on money.

To come up with $30.8 million for FY10, we'd need to layoff 1 in 3 on the city side.
85% of budget is personnel costs

Recommendations from Manager:
  1. extend pension schedule by ten years (would require home rule legislation) (would save $4.5 million)
  2. $2.5 million of snow removal...use one time school refunding (for construction we've already done) to pay for snow removal. This means it DOESN'T go to North, for example.
  3. health care trust fund (it comes through for us again! Stay healthy, people!) is also one time money $1.5 million to bond. Some of this goes to schools, some to city, and that means the employees get a health care payment holiday (like last year)
  4. 50 open positions stay open next year: $1.5 million
  5. case-by-case basis: $.5 million
reduced from $30.8 million to $20.3 million as of NOW

Intends to develop the FY10 budget on a $20.3 million deficit

What happens next:

"My intention to layoff 400 employees." He's going to start talking to the unions this week (not the EAW) about the layoffs, 'though he has already met with them earlier this week. He wants the cuts done by April 30.
He continues to say that all of this is pending the state and federal money. He repeats that we can't depend on those monies; we have to go with what we do know for certain.

Further suggestions:
He's talking again about health insurance reform in order to save monies, as well as a wage zero, and furlows, all of which need negotiations.
Fees increase: parking tickets, pay as you throw, home rule for early retirements (with positions left open)

Looking at elimination of entire departments, reorganization of departments, partnerships with not-for-profits...

Election calendar

Rosen wants to know when papers will be available
Papers will be ready at 8:45 am tomorrow morning at the Election Commission.

It passes as it stands without further discussion, so we WILL have a preliminary election in the city this year.

Petty suggests outsourcing

Friendly amendment passes

GMC Educational Access Account

Can we get the money back?

Mayor surrenders the chair.

"had an opportunity to learn last week...that there were moneies held in excess of $700,000...perhaps the school department doesn't need the money...asking what moneies are held in balance in that money." City has over $1 million in their account. Need a plan going forward. In other cities its included in one lump sum..."see some real that we have the other chamber ready for meetings...maybe the School Committee adding subcommittee meetings taped...which to me isn't understandable...there has to be much more transparency, openness, and accountability"

Concerned about transparency being hampered.

"more of a sense of direction than letting money pile up to over $700,000...sitting there, not doing anything..perhaps the city ought to take over the money" Praises the city side: "I'm afraid I can't say the same for the school side."

Chair asks for a time period.
Balances by next meeting. Plan in 30 days.

Meeting with Dr. Boone

at the request of Councilor Rushton

"Obviously the budget on the school side is a very serious matter...I hope we can meet with her...she'll be our leader from July 1 onward...recess to finance and such"

Mayor adds that a lot of time has been allocated to ceremonial functions in her next week's visit.

Mayor suggests her coming during her March 30th visit.

item 9d

"if it's timely" Councilor Rosen says. Ahhh, there's the rub...

"I would never hire another consultant at the tax payer's on the city, and especially the city side...there's a perceptive that the school hires many consultants at the tax payers' expense. I know the schools argue that they get many grants to hire consultants...I'd like that report, especially on the school sides...can see if the public perception is actually true..."

Amended to "funding sources"

Taxes pay for services

Somehow the above statement is something that sometimes seems to escape us in talking about budgets:

Taxes pay for services.

The money that plows our streets, pays our police officers, buys our firetrucks, heats our schools, inspects our restaurants, and keeps our libraries open are tax dollars.
Some are city tax dollars, some are state tax dollars, some are federal tax dollars, but they're all tax dollars. It isn't magic money that falls out of the sky; it comes from taxpayers.

This past Sunday's column by Nick Kotsopoulos (despite its misleading title) does a great job of laying out what this means.

What's in the Senate version of the stimulus bill?

Here's the best information I've gotten so far on what was in the Senate version of the stimulus bill in terms of education:

... would provide about $83 billion for child care, public schools and universities...tough bargaining can be expected later this week between House and Senate negotiators over the Senate’s decision to eliminate all of $20 billion in direct financing of school renovation, and over its trim of $40 billion from the House’s proposed $79 billion stabilization fund for states, much of which would be spent on schools and state universities
...Education Secretary
Arne Duncan said Monday that the $39 billion in aid to states proposed in the Senate bill was “not nearly as much as we need.” Addressing an audience of college administrators, Mr. Duncan said a forthcoming University of Washington study estimated that “almost 600,000 education jobs are at risk of state budget cuts.”

Again, of course, this is all up for negotiation between the Senate and House.

Homeless children on the rise around the country

This isn't a surprise, and it's related to the item on foreclosures tonight, but homelessness among children is on the rise around the country:

D.C. school officials have registered about 462 homeless students this school year, twice as many as the same time last year. Schools in Fairfax County, one of the country's most affluent areas, counted 1,314 homeless students early last month, up 20 percent from the same period last year.

I haven't heard a new count for Worcester for this year, but we've already heard that as of the fall, the number was rising.

Liveblogging City Council

As mentioned below, there are a few items up tonight that are education based. I'm here to hit those. I've also got a backlog of items from around the country to post.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Federal stimulus bill update

I don't have exact numbers on what's in and what's out, but I did just get this from the NEA which I thought worth passing along:

Thanks to your e-mails to your Senators last week, threatened cuts to education in the Senate economic recovery proposal were largely averted. A compromise reached this weekend leaves much of the education funding that flows directly to local school districts untouched.
The package includes funding flexible funding for local school districts, increased funding for Title I and special education, and tax credits to help school districts finance school modernization and repair.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

City Council agenda for Feb. 10: some attention being paid

A few items on the school side showing up on the City Council agenda for this Tuesday:

  • Item 8b, coming out of Health and Human Services: Request the City Manager request the Worcester Public Schools Superintendent provide a report consisting of a breakdown, particularly in the identified targeted areas, identifying the transfer rate of children in and out of schools over a five year period and compare it to the rest of the city. These are the areas that have the greatest numbers of foreclosures in the city.
  • Item 9h: Request City Manager request the incoming Worcester Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Boone meet in public session with City Council to discuss budget priorities during her next visit to Worcester. (Rushton) This gets us back to the transfer of power that the city has, with an interm superintendent setting a budget for a new superitendent who is somewhat involved already.
  • Item 9j: Request City Manager report on the unexpended funds currently held in the Worcester Public Schools GMC Educational Access Account and whether those monies can be reverted to the City's Access Channel Account. (Lukes) This is in reference (I think) to the conversation on Thursday's School Committee about televised School Committee subcommittee meetings and how to pay for them.

AND: it looks like we have an election calendar up for a vote!

Could it be...outside the schools' control?

Now here's something you don't often hear: a superintendent questioning the closing of the so-called "achievement gap."

Palo Alto Superintendent Kevin Skelly is calling the total elimination of the gap "the triumph of hope over experience." Palo Alto would certainly have the experience to speak of:

"It's just not possible for the average kid who comes to this country in seventh or eighth grade, or even third grade, without a word of English and parents with little formal education, to match the achievement levels of kids whose mom has a Ph.D. in English from Stanford and can afford to stay home and spend time supplementing the education of her kids."

He's not, please note, saying that we shouldn't work with the kids who have a background not condusive to testing well. He is, however, saying that we are doing all involved a disservice to continue to speak of the eliminating the gap while never acknowledging what goes into creating that gap. Only some of this is under the control of the public schools.

Friday, February 6, 2009


This just in from the NEA:

February 6, 2009
Education funding in the proposed economic recovery package is in serious danger. An amendment being offered by Senators Nelson (D-NE) and Collins (R-ME) would drastically reduce the education funding in the economic recovery package.
This funding is very important. It will help save jobs and put more money immediately into struggling local economies. It will also reduce pressure on state budgets so more cuts to important programs can be avoided.
The Nelson-Collins amendment would cut one-half of the funds allocated for:
  • Flexible funds to local school districts ($39 billion)
  • Special education/IDEA ($6.8 billion)
  • Title I ($6.5 billion)
  • Head Start ($1 billion)
  • Teacher Quality grants ($50 million)
These cuts would undermine the intent of the economic recovery package to take pressure off state budgets stretched to their limits and infuse critically needed resources immediately into local communities. See how the amendment would impact funding for your state.
Contact your Senators Today!
Tell Members of the Senate to VOTE NO on the Nelson-Collins amendment and to pass the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act with the education funding intact.

Stay tuned for the listening tour

Some hopeful words from the new Secretary of Education Arne Duncan in this US News and World Report interview:

Duncan says he is concerned about overtesting but he thinks states could solve the problem by developing better tests. He also wants to help them develop better data management systems that help teachers track individual student progress. "If you have great assessments and real-time data for teachers and parents that say these are [the student's] strengths and weaknesses, that's a real healthy thing," he says."

Asked if he will push for passage of a new version of NCLB, Duncan says that he first wants to go on a cross-country listening tour and that he hopes that Congress will reauthorize a new version of the law late in the year. "Having lived with this, I have a good sense of what makes sense and what doesn't," he says. "But I want to be clear that I want to get out there and learn from people. And I think ultimately we should rebrand [the law]."

Asked what he would call a new version of the law, Duncan answered, "Don't know yet. I'm open to ideas."


I did have to chuckle darkly at his assessment of what he's saving with the stimulus package, though; Worcester's already cut teachers, librarians (we have them only in high school and middle school now, and that took a fight), and councilors.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Stimulus package

Mr. O'Connell is bringing up the stimulus package: To discuss an appropriate allocation of the sums ($32,931,000) which would be allocated to the Worcester Public Schools (for Title 1-A, construction and IDEA) through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, in the version approved on January 29 by the House Appropriations Committee.

There'd be money for Title I, construction (lots of roof repair, if you remember), and IDEA, he's asking that they talk about how that money would change things if it passed.

He's asking that the Administration start working on it. The Mayor asks about supplementing vs. supplanting

On public openness

Mayor Lukes is suggesting that all standing committee meetings be held after work hours and at City Hall to be televised. An attempt to get more members of the public to them, it seems!

Mrs. Mullaney is standing to object; she says that taping their meeting at Tech cost several hundred dollars. "We're the school side, not the city side...DAB is the home of the School department. This is our place. Television cameras can lead to discussion that is more circumspect and guarded...grandstanding. I believe very strongly that a school system operates on a different timetable..." Speaks of principals and other school personnel on the agenda.."really onerous" for principals and others to come. "have a system that has worked well...would prefer not to tinker with a system that has worked well...many people would have to come on their own time and would have to be compensated. There are financial implications." Evenings are for families...She's asking that it be refered to Business.

Mr. Monfredo agrees philosophically...would like it refered to Administration for a cost breakdown.

Mr. O'Connell is standing to speak of openness in spending the public's money. "Our best to present those to the public through television. Cable TV is our best means of accomplishing just that...step in the right direction." He's also wondering why it would cost money. Seconding the referral to Administration.

Mayor Lukes points out that subcommittee meetings are on the fourth floor of the DAB with no public television..."given the fact that this is the worst financial crisis in our give as much detail in our budget, agenda...for anyone to say that it's a burden deserves not to be in government...the burdens of being in public office are becoming much more...City Council has gotten involved in the schools...given those kinds of pressures, there is every argument that we have to be as open with the public as possible." On funding, the city has the contract with Charter in front of it. The school department gets money through it. She asks Brian Allen to explain how money we've gotten for educational access.

$215,000 a year from Charter. Used to support Channel 11 and Homework Hotline. Charges for the meeting spoken of by Mrs. Mullaney will be charged to that account (it isn't tax levy funds)

Back to the Mayor: the money is there to make the meetings public..."if we can have our School Committee meetings in City Hall at night, we can have our subcommittee meetings" at the same time and the same place. "We have a duty to be responsive to the public"

Mr. Monfredo asks if we can retrofit DAB with cameras...speaks of difficulty in scheduling City Hall. Mr. Allen will look into it.

Mr. Foley: nighttime is easier for me. If we were to use those dollars elsewhere, we'd be reallocating them. Mr. Allen: if we were to retrofit DAB, yes. If we were to use a school studio, then no, as that's what the money was allocated for in FY09 budget. Mr. Foley is concerned about impact on staff, also costs of hourly employees. Speaks of the televised budget meetings, for complete transparency in the budget process.

Back to Mr. O'Connell: could we have students to the filming?

Interm Superintendent Louglin stands to address this. Nice things to say about the students involved, involved in negotiating Charter contract.

Mayor Lukes is wondering why this is so difficult on the school side. "It seems there is a real resistance to change, and frankly, I find it disturbing."

Mrs. Mullaney "doesn't mean to be negative. i guess after years of experience of this...subcommittees that last 15 minutes...what math book to use...not that they aren't of interest to people...I meant nothing, I was not trying to be a contrarian about this, but if things have worked...perhaps on a case-by-case basis. Things don't rise to the level of being televised...take serious note of how we structure our subcommittee meetings."

Mr. Bogigian: agrees with televised meetings. Concerned with people coming to meetings, wouldn't it be easier for people to watch them at home? "I find it hard to believe that an adminstrator or teacher would object to coming to a meeting at night...we do this for the children. I agree with you. It should be televised"

Mayor is asking for a vote (refusing the referrals), amended to "other locations avaliable for taping": Motion passes, 4-3, as does reconsideration.

working on openness

On the continuing push for information, item 9-14, is asking for a list of how much money is coming from grants and how that money is being used.
There is a request for they want people who are hired by vendors working for the Worcester Public Schools?
The Mayor says she wants people they issue W-2 to.
She's looking, she says, for our legal responsibility, under school reform, for these people.

School choice money to teachers

Mr. Monfredo is speaking on an item to take the school choice money and sending it to next year's teachers' account.

It's over $400,000.

There's an added recommendation that the district begin advertising school choice early this year, to perhaps increase the number of kids in Worcester from surrounding districts.

Question on school lunches

There's a discussion going on around the nutrition program, and the Mayor has asked a somewhat tangental question: kids who owe as little as $4 are fed cereal instead of lunch. She asks about that.

Brian Allen says that there is now a process being worked on to look at if those kids now eligible for free or reduced lunch.

The Mayor also asks about food waste; she's asking for a report.

Motion approved

That means that:
School will be held on March 13 and Good Friday.
On March 9 through March 12, and March 16 through March 18, school will run for an additional 45 minutes.
Should there be any snow days during February, school will run an additional 45 minutes for an additional eight days (the following M-Th of the following two weeks)

O'Connell on snow days

Mr. O'Connell speaking of 11 school districts requesting a modified MCAS schedule to give maximum time to prepare, asking here for the superintendent to summarize the conversation she had with the DoE on this.

Mathematics for another week.
No wiggle room on MCAS for grade 10

School Calendar

(This one isn't on the agenda)

Subcommittee report on calendar by Mary Mullaney:

Any days before January 21 need to be made up any way they can...going more days, vacations, Saturdays....

After those days, schools may "bank days" by going an extra 45 minutes for 8 days.

Recommendation that March 13 and Good Friday both now be school days. That puts our last day of school at June 23, bumped to June 24 for last week's snow day.

School banking recommended to run March 9 for 8 days (no Fridays). Those days would be 45 minutes longer.
An additional snow storm in February would extend the banking an additional two weeks.

How to use that time?
Working on MCAS, working AP...for secondary level, principals use it to maximum advantage. Elementary days are simply extended.


One thing you may have noticed if you've been reading those signboards outside of schools in Worcester is the "Focus." Each school now has a focus of learning. The School Committee is currently hearing a presentation by the principal, a teacher, and several students from the Goddard School on their focus.
Good comment here from Mr. Foley following the presentation: as each school has now agreed (as a faculty) on a school focus, he asks that the School Committee be told if there are things needed by particular schools under their foci. In other words, if a school has established a priority, the School Committee should financially be supporting them, and considering that in creating the budget.

Liveblogging the School Committee

Dr. Melinda Boone is attending her first Worcester School Committee tonight, as she is in town for her first visit to the city as Superintendent-elect. The Burncoat chorus, singing the National Anthem, added another number in her honor:
Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these broken wings and learn to fly
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to arise.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

What happens this year?

As we've been working out below, the change in state aid means that the city's responsibilities under the foundation formula change. It seems, however, that the City Manager, at least, is NOT going to recommend cutting school funding partway through the year. From his memo* to the City Council last night:

Much like the Governor's recommendations, it is clear this City Council will want to mitigate any mid-year disruptions to our classrooms and therefore will stand firm in maintaining our "pre 9-C" levels of funding to the WPS through June 30, 2009. I concur, without question, and I will proceed accordingly with all projections and recommended actions to balance the FY2009 budget.

This might be a good time to let the Manager and the City Councilors know that you absolutely concur that mid-year budget cuts to the schools would be disastrous!

*I believe this link is correct, but I can't get it to load. Let me know if it isn't right and you'd like it.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

lost state funds

The City Manager is reporting at tonight's City Council meeting that, if Governor Patrick's proposal passes, the city schools will lose $2 million. (I'm not liveblogging this, so you'll need to scroll down through Daily Worcesteria's report on the entire meeting.)


Monday, February 2, 2009

Progressive Education Reading

Looking for a progressive view on some of the latest in education publishing? The latest edition of Book Smarts is now online. In this issue:

* Special Feature: An Interview with Christopher Robins
Robbins, C. G. (2008). Expelling Hope: The Assault on
Youth and the Militarization of Schooling.
Albany, NY: SUNY Press.

* Whitaker, S. (2007). Advocacy for School Leaders:
Becoming a Strong Voice for Education.
Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

* Bousquet, Marc (2008) How the University Works:
Higher Education and the Low Wage Nation.
NY: New York University Press.

* McGuinn, Patrick (2006) No Child Left Behind and the
Transformation of Federal Education Policy, 1965-2005.
Lawrence, Kansas: University Press of Kansas.

* Boyles, Deron (Ed.) (2008) The Corporate Assault on Youth:
Commercialism, Exploitation, and the End of Innocence.
NY: Peter Lang.

* Welner, K. G. (2008). NeoVouchers: The Emergence of
Tuition Tax Credits for Private Schooling.
Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.