Saturday, October 31, 2009

Municipal elections Tuesday

A reminder that the Worcester City Council does not met this week, as Tuesday is the municipal election! Please do VOTE!

The latest round of state cuts

The Governor announced his plan to eliminate the $600 million budget gap (for FY10, this year) earlier this week. What does it do to Worcester education?
  • Special education reimbursements are down (statewide by nearly $7 million); specifically, these are reimbursements for residential placements
  • Charter school tuition reimbursements are down (statewide by $5.1 million)
The regional districts took a real hit on transportation reimbursement: to encourage towns to regionalize, the state has picked up some of the cost of transporting (for example) all of the Paxton high schoolers to Holden every day. Not anymore.

I don't have the numbers for Worcester, but I assume that Brian Allen will be updating the School Committee about this at their Thursday meeting. (As yet, the agenda isn't posted)

Friday, October 30, 2009

Bob Melican, RIP

I see that the comments section over at the Telegram and Gazette have been busy today with fine words for Bob Melican, the former Northborough-Southborough Regional school superintendent who died this week. I'm glad that he's been getting those tributes.

Bob was my superintendent. He was one of two that I taught for, and he gave me a high standard by which to judge what a superintendent should be.

The day before school started every year, the teachers of the district would all pile into Algonquin's auditorium for some speaker, whom we all would inevitably resent for taking up time when we could be prepping for classes. That speaker would get done and Bob would get up to give us his new school year speech. And by the time he got done, you were glad you were there, and you were sure that this was going to be a great year.
He was on your side.
And he never forgot what it was to be a teacher: to be the one in the classroom with twenty-five pairs of eyes on you, depending on what you did and said. He knew how difficult and how draining it is, and he valued you for it. He was part of the team of people that were getting your students an education.
And he made you want to be there.
I can think of no higher praise for a superintendent than one who makes his teachers want to be there.

Thank you, Bob. I will miss you.

Race to the Top Hearings in Boston

As part of a series of hearings on Race to the Top funding, the Department of Education is holding hearings in Boston on November 12 and 13. This is regarding the second batch of RTTT funding, the assessment portion which would, according the notice, "provide for approximately $350 million in grants...for the development of common, high-quality assessments aligned with an applicant consortium's common set of K-12 standards that are internationally benchmarked and that build toward college and career readiness by the time of high school completion."

At least half the money awarded to winning states needs to go to what the DoE is calling "local educational agencies" (what would be districts if it did not specifically include charter schools), based on their relative shares of funding under Title 1.

You can find the issues they'll be addressing here in the Federal Register. It looks like the MCAS would need a major overhaul to qualify. (more on that later)

If you're interested in attending or speaking, you can find out what you need to do here.
You can also send in written testimony by December 5 to:
Office of Elementary and Secondary Education
Attention: Race to the Top Assessment Program -Public Input Meetings
U.S. Department of Education
400 Maryland Avenue, SW, room 3E108
Washington, D.C. 20202

or Subject line :"Race to the Top Assessment Program"

Monday, October 26, 2009

Look who's coming to dinner

Both Boston and Springfield are part of a national pilot program in which teachers come (after being invited!) to their students' homes for dinner:

The goal is to build stronger relationships between teachers and families in a quest to bolster parent volunteerism in school and involvement in their child’s education at home, as well as break down any misconceptions that parents and teachers might have about one another.

Boston, which is working in partnership with Harvard University, began its program two years ago and has expanded it to five elementary schools. It followed Springfield’s effort, which launched about five years ago as a partnership among that city’s teach ers union, a middle school, and the Pioneer Valley Project, a faith-based community-organizing group that works closely with parents. The program is now active at seven schools, including a high school.

The outreach - to several hundred families this year - is part of a strategy in these two cities to reverse a trend of parental disengagement. In both districts, parents rarely turn out for parent-teacher organization meetings, teacher conferences, and other activities at many schools.

In some cases, they are too busy working multiple jobs, don’t have transportation to get to the school, or feel intimidated talking to teachers because of their own lack of education or a bad experience in school. In Boston, many parents who grew up during the tumultuous period of forced busing keep away from the schools because they harbor resentment or even mistrust of the system.

The visits are also designed to enlighten teachers, many of whom live outside the cities and may have false impressions about the neighborhoods in which their students live and what their home life might be like.
The NEA is the source of the original grant. While the districts haven't formally followed up, they have seen both increased parental involvement and improved grades.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

And if you don't believe me...

Here's Marion Brady's 10 False Assumptions on Race to the Top from the Washington Post.

"Human history," said H.G. Wells, "is a race between education and catastrophe."

If amateurs continue to control American education policy, put your money on catastrophe. It’s a sure thing.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

On saying 'no' to Race to the Top

One of the questions posed at last night's School Committee forum was "Yes or no: do you support Massachusetts applying for Race to the Top funding?"
(and, yes, Jordan Levy held us all to one word!)

Here's why I said no (and why you shouldn't sign any petition urging the passage of H.4163, 4164, or 4166):

In order for any child to get into a charter school in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, his parents have to put his name into a lottery. That takes time, effort, and knowledge. It takes, in short, the kind of parental involvement that is rightful lauded as being the single most important factor in a child's educational success.

What happens when you have an entire school of involved parents?
Kids succeed.
Or do they? Results on charters are mixed (you can look at the chart on MCAS scores for Worcester, if you like), much more so than one would like to see in such a self-selecting population. As covered in the T&G earlier this month, Worcester charters, while having a good economic cross-section of students, don't have the same distribution of special education and other students need special services.

H. 4163, if passed, would allow for a lifting of the cap on charters in Worcester. Why should you care?

It'll cost us millions of dollars.
At a time when the Worcester Public Schools are already facing a $26 million shortfall for next year, opening any new charter school would cost approximately $3 million. Only a small portion of that would come from the state, as no provision is made under any of these bills to change the way that charters are funded. There also is no provision in these bills to change the allocation of students to have it reflect the community in which the charter school is set up.

But, wait! you say. Wasn't this all about that Race to the Top money? Four billion dollars from the federal government?

At the end of the day, yes, 'though the governor was proposing readiness schools in the spring. That $4 billion is very tempting in tough budgetary times. Why should we say no?
  1. It reverses a hard-fought, exhaustively argued LOCAL decision made by the state legislature. Yes, they can decide otherwise, but the charter cap was put in place because of very real state concerns, none of which are changed by RTTT.
  2. It's a two year grant. In 2012, if these bills pass, we've got multiple new charter schools, and we're right back to the same place on funding.
  3. We might not get the money. Yes, perhaps the governor is close to the president. Maybe Secretary Duncan does want to give Massachusetts money. Or maybe the federal government really isn't happy with how Massachusetts has spent the federal money it's already gotten and doesn't want to give us more. It's a several million dollar gamble.
This also doesn't solve the real, ongoing problem once the focus of some educational advocacy groups, for real education funding reform. We're taking our eye off the ball, here, guys. Scrambling after two year money that costs us more in the long run is no way to run the Massachusetts educational system.
We know better than this.
At least, I hope we do.

Notes from the CPPAC forum

No commentary from me, as that wouldn't be fair, but I thought a few notes to add to the T&G's coverage by Jackie Reis would be helpful:

All candidates were asked the same two questions: what would be your top three budget priorities (keeping in mind the tough budget times) and what are your models for involving parents? It's difficult to summarize the answers to the second question, but here are what each gave as their answers for three priorities (and please, if I've poorly summarized, correct me!):

Dianna Biancheria:
1. money that goes "directly to the classroom"
2. professional support services
3. safety programs

Bob Bogigian:
1. classroom teachers, tutors, coaches, support personnel
2. staff development
3. school maintenance
(4. parent involvement...I think he made this part of 3 somehow)

Rob Diaz (who started by giving some numbers on national education spending):
1. job preservation
2. special ed, OT, PT services
3. upkeep of physical plant

Jack Foley (who spoke of the past several years of cuts):
1. keeping class sizes down especially in K-2
2. AP classes
3. arts and music

John Monfredo:
1. preschool to grade 4 programs
2. AP classes & fine arts
3. school safety, including school nurses

Mary Mullaney:
1. Classroom teachers and sports personnel
2. & 3. arts, AP, and extra-curriculars

Tracy O'Connell Novick:
1. what keeps kids learning
2. what keeps kids safe
3. what we're legally liable for

Brian O'Connell:
1. classroom instruction (which he specified as "delivery of instruction")
2. staff development
3. buildings

Monday, October 19, 2009

Duncan's Town Hall meeting with teachers

Secretary Duncan is taking questions from teachers for this month's episode of "Education News Parents Can Use." The show airs Tuesday from 8 to 9 pm; it can be seen on the Dish networks, some PBS stations, and, in a first for this show, online.

"Education News Parents Can Use" airs every third Thursday of the month.

You can join the online conversation at the blog.

NOTE: There are 88 comments and growing as I post this. Read 'em! Here's hoping the secretary does!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

2009 city election forums

Two forums this week of interest in the 2009 Worcester election:

On Monday, October 19, join the Worcester chapter of Stand for Children at a forum for mayoral candidates from 7-9pm at the Beechwood Hotel. Remember that the mayor of Worcester serves as the chair of the School Committee!

On Wednesday, October 21, the Citywide Parents Planning and Advisory Board will hold a forum for School Committee candidates at from 7-9:30 at Worcester Technical High School. THIS IS THE FINAL SCHEDULED FORUM for School Committee candidates!

I'm told that at both events there will be some chance for questions from the audience.

Get yourself informed!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

That's a wrap

except that Monfredo has reminded everyone to vote on November 3
(to, I might add, joshing from his colleagues that he's campaigning and requests that we have a policy on that!)

Under suspension

Lukes, as is becoming a habit of hers, is putting an item under suspension.
Addresses of elected officials during school day: a policy
Now asking that this will include emails...a "committee to elect" has been emailing political advertisements to public employees
Is now looking for a policy on elected officials addressing schools or sending emails
"interference during the workday"

UPDATE: It's clear from today's Telegram and Gazette article that she was referring to Joe O'Brien, who has been campaigning outside of schools, but also apparently using school email addresses to contact supporters.

Update on HR subcommittee

Here's news: that blue ribbon task force on Human Resources will report back by the end of the month, according to Superintendent Boone.

Nominations to the Mass Association of School Committees

...their annual business meeting
Nomination of Brian O'Connell (who serves on the board)...and it's unanimous.

Alternate (at which the mayor tells Bogigian that O'Connell can't be nominated twice)
The superintendent asks that more members get involved in this conference (by which I take it that we usually only send one, rather than two as we could?).
Monfredo nominates himself


And for those of you who get this as a stream rather than read it all on the blog, I didn't get the new Chief Academic Officer's name correct in my initial post. It's Jeffery Mulqueen (not McQueen). I've corrected it now. And apologies to him!

Public comment on the budget

Whoops we seem to have not gotten to the public comment period! Suspension of rules to allow for it now

Parent of Flagg St and Forest Grove: happy with education children have received thus far. Buildings dilapidated. Music at Forest Grove cut. "Where do we send our kids as they go on to high school?" Have to have optimism. Have to provide a quality education. The School Committee can't make the decision on their own, reaching out to people around the community. Parents are exhausted by fundraising. Parents being involved makes Flagg a great school. "Why are we still in Worcester? My children are getting less and less and less." Her kids are now saying they don't like Worcester, don't like where they are.

Chair of Stand for Children: take exception to the line on no new charter schools. Don't believe problem is with charter schools. H4163 and 4164 which is the increase of charter funding of 9% to 18%...Duncan on Race to the Top. Ten states qualify, possibly, $430 million per state, half along Title 1 funds, magic $27 million...asks that School Committee to ask state to vote to increase charter schools.

Parent of Nelson Place parents: seen parents move kids out of WPS through school choice, or move out of Worcester. Making a self-fulfilling prophecy. Echoes that parents are exhausted. Asks that whole city work together. Maybe we need to raise taxes, lobby city council. Not in this alone. Pushing me (out of Worcester)...forcing me to make this decision, but has to put her kids first. Look at Race to the Top creative in looking at grant money. Working with local businesses. Sacrifices shouldn't always be on the backs of our children.

Choral director at Burncoat High School: advocate for all the arts. "Arts are simultaniously the most basic and most elegant of our culture...all begins...with the arts" Don't lose sight of the development of the whole human being while pursuing test scores. He spoke significantly more eloquently than this...I just didn't get it all.

Grafton Street parent (just moved back to Worcester): has a child at K and 6 in Grafton St. Concerns about Worcester East Middle: should she let him go through WEM? A lot of the underprivileged schools get a bad rap. What are people afraid of? Why are we not asking parents if they have a skill or job they can offer to the school free of charge? Parents have vocational talents. Wonders about school choice.

On to the rest of the agenda...

...and the previously packed room empties out as Mr. O'Connell gives the report from the subcommittee on Curriculum

But here's something from that of interest to high school students: they're looking at the start time of high schools (studies from Minnesota)
flextime for teachers
JROTC at Tech and Doherty: Tech can't due to their schedule; is Doherty interested? (hang on, doesn't JROTC cost money?)
Math reports

CPPAC and PTO for parent resource centers

AH, and here's the parent survey, family involvement plan

Boone asks that the math portion not be dealt with in isolation, but pick up on last year's mathematic's group before moving forward

Lukes on FY11

"the public needs to know our reaction to it"
clear that education services, city government, both are going to change
important for schools to understand why city is in such a crisis
Don't expect to see any relief coming from the state, federal government ("unless they start printing money again with a stimulus package")
have to work with what we've got, rely on our own resources
tonight is the best scenario we're going to hear
crisis for two or three years, then economy will improve
Not a panic...students don't panic unless they see everyone else panicking
Lukes suggested that we cut out football during 2 1/2...never thought she's see such a reaction
Not going to be popular...the beginning of some very unpopular decisions
say "it's the best we can do, move on"

Hargrove on FY11

says O'Connell is hard to follow, he said everything she was going to say
work with legislators
different ways to deliver the services to our children
Like the image of weeding the garden
says allocation of money from city "is a moral issue"
she's sorry that she won't be here, been with schools for 65 years

O'Connell on FY11

he thinks the figures "may turn out to be too optimistic"
9c cuts this year, next year
fixed costs going up, possibly
state funding, city funding of foundation budget in danger
"may turn out to be even worse"

"a different type of thinking" evidenced by the presentation
should not just cut away slices of what we have
"let's not slice away with what we've been given..focus on what we, music, athletics, are vital"
extremely difficult to bring them back

a lot of advocacy in the coming year
grant funds, medicaid with city

"where in the priority of the City Council and the City Manager does education fall?"

Bogigian on FY11

asks that they expand on "continuous learning for adults"
Mulqueen "we are continuously improving the system...we have to get better at everything we do...bus driver, custodian, all have to get better at it"
That's what he means by adult learning

likes that the whole philosophy is based on the student

Monfredo on FY11

School choice...he wants it in the teacher account
$400,000 in the account right now, as much as $750,000
"see, we're already on a roll, we're already saving money"
Says he agrees with Boone that cutting a program takes forever to bring it back (which I'm pretty sure she did not actually say...)
Wants to meet with legislators
Work with Manager on Medicaid (which has been a frequent theme this week during School Committee forums), grant costs (that too)


says we'll have to resign ourselves to it being less excellent, not saying it's going to be abominable, but education is going to change in a negative way with a $26 million deficit

charter school freeze is "a no brainer"

how much money would the special ed freeze save? $750,000

Doesn't think ("all hell will break loose") the transportation mandate for all non-public school students will change, due to the political realities

In an election year, people are asking what we're going to cut
400 teachers is 10 teachers per school
What can we tell people who ask us what we are going to do?
She asks for "a general world view"

Boone says that "we share the concern and the pain we anticipate going forward"
References CAO Mulqueen's "start budget with the students in the center"
What are we mandated to provide? What does Worcester feel is important in education?
a minimal education will cause parents who have options to look elsewhere (further decimating the tax base)
"stretching the band to the breaking point...our chance to weed the garden"
If it isn't contributing overall, we'll have to take it off the table
cuts that are very transparent, clear what drives the decision
Need to hear the voices of the community on quality education, rather than individual projects or programs
May still need to cut THIS year

Foley on the budget

says that "this only confirms that Ms. Hargrove is the smartest person in the room here tonight" (referring to her not running for re-election)
Jokes that he liked the earlier meetings "as at least then we had heat"

Stimulus dollars: that's why we did not have cuts last January (of $19 million)

Foley asks Allen:
For Fy10, how much are we spending on charters? $21 million goes to charters; $4 million of that comes from the state. $2.5 million for any new charter school in the city
charters would cripple the further

City contribution declined by $3.1 million (recalculation of spending, and recalculation of foundation)

Foley suggests that looking at the transportation contract (up for renewal next year)


  • Watching the state budget (9c cuts by Nov 4)
  • joint meeting with City Council on Nov 10 at 5:30
  • Priority setting and listening
  • State budget in mid-January

back to CAO Mulqueen

Think of these as opportunities rather than challenges
"how can we leverage change in the system?"
Delivering a 21st century education in the system
link systems of of accountablility to increase the value of WPS for their families and the community
The superintendent says we are looking for "a student-centered balanced budget"

Legislative suggestions

Ch. 70 allocation
no new charters
freeze sped tuition
eliminate transportation for all non-public schools
change the pension schedule


Brian Allen on this year's budget first: state budget projected to be $600 million short. Budget cuts for THIS year are still possible.
There are still $170 million of ARRA (stimulus) money left...if they use it now, there will be nothing left for next year.
Allen reviews that the foundation budget is based on our enrollment and the inflation factor.
This year $264.3 million
We'd be in the hole for $24 million this year if it weren't for stimulus money (Allen reviews how). Three kinds of ARRA funds used to fill the hole of funding.
Expect to use the rest of the $8.1 million this year to fill at least part of the hole.
ARRA used to "shore up the budget"
Reminder from Allen that a complete report on the use of the stimulus is avaliable as an attachment to the July School Committee agenda (which isn't a live link, but you can find the agenda here)

For FY11 foundation would be expected to grow by $11.3 million ($3 million in new students (290) AND IF THERE WERE A NORMAL INFLATION RATE of 2%). Of course, it isn't a regular year, as witness by the non-growth of inflation.
Cost increases of about $10 million (insurance by $3 million; $2.5 million of transportation; $2 million in salaries; $1 million in sped...etc)

We probably won't have $15 million in ARRA
Charter school reimbursement will go down by a milllion
Ch. 70 level funded
City contribution would be expected to go up by $2.2 million (this depends on state aid, or 9C funds)
AND Ch. 70 may well not be level funded
AND the foundation formula right now is in fact negative (due to the inflation rate of -.5)

State grant funding, circuit breaker, charter school reimbursement, and federal grants could all be in danger of being cut, as well.

Making lemonade out of lemons

...from the Chief Academic Officer, Jeffrey Mulqueen, now presenting to School Committee on next year's budget.

reframe making WPS the choice from a problem into an opportunity

What has NCLB done?

While Massachusetts students top the nation in math scores in the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the New York Times points out the larger picture:
The latest results on the most important nationwide math test show that student achievement grew faster during the years before the Bush-era No Child Left Behind law, when states were dominant in education policy, than over the years since, when the federal law has become a powerful force in classrooms.
There's also a graph.

While David Driscoll (and when did he become the chairman of the National Assessment Governing Board?) cites the lack of knowledge and preparation in math by teachers, that doesn't explain why we were doing better before NCLB.

School Committee tonight!

The current members of the School Committee who are running for re-election have already had a long week, as there have been forums Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday nights (in fact, two last night!). Tonight is their regularly scheduled meeting.
The big news tonight is they are inviting the public to attend for a listening session on the FY11 budget (sorry for not posting about this earlier; I only found out last night). What is usually the superintendent's report portion will be the budget projection for next year (last I heard, we're looking at a $26 million shortfall) and then they will open the floor to the public.
If you've got a thought about what should or should not be included next year, here's your chance!

I will be there and blogging it!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The downfalls of zero tolerance

A question posed at last night's School Committee debate by Brendan Melican cited the falling homicide rates and asked about Clive McFarlane's column of September 11 discussing the number of students that were arrested in school. Specifically, he raised the concern about the number of students, arrested not for threatening violence but for "disturbing school assembly" or "disorderly conduct" charges.
A timely question.
Yesterday's New York Times carried a story from Delaware about a six year old currently suspended from school for bringing in a camping utensil with which to eat his lunch. He was so excited about joining Cub Scouts that he brought it into school...and thus ran afowl of a zero tolerance policy on weapons in schools.
Now it's clear from the article that the state of Delaware has already been dealing with the more ridiculous ways in which a zero tolerance policy can come home to roost; a girl was expelled last year for having a knife for cutting her birthday cake in school, and lawmakers have been working to make the law more flexible.
The danger here is creating a system, in Worcester and around the country, in which the judicial system is brought in when we ought to still be in the realm of the disciplinary system (if, as in the Delaware case, even that). To bring a police officer in to deal with a kid misbehaving in assembly, or to suspend a six year old excited about Scouts, is to badly overreact. It also gets kids involved in the criminal justice system who don't belong there, and it eats up resources that could be better spent elsewhere.
This warrants a reconsideration.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Krugman on the danger of the economic crisis to education

This is similar to the point made (in brief) by Robert Reich, but Paul Krugman makes it at greater length:

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the United States economy lost 273,000 jobs last month. Of those lost jobs, 29,000 were in state and local education, bringing the total losses in that category over the past five months to 143,000. That may not sound like much, but education is one of those areas that should, and normally does, keep growing even during a recession. Markets may be troubled, but that’s no reason to stop teaching our children. Yet that’s exactly what we’re doing.

There’s no mystery about what’s going on: education is mainly the responsibility of state and local governments, which are in dire fiscal straits. Adequate federal aid could have made a big difference. But while some aid has been provided, it has made up only a fraction of the shortfall. In part, that’s because back in February centrist senators insisted on stripping much of that aid from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, a k a the stimulus bill.

As a result, education is on the chopping block.
Remember, though, that neither local nor state governments may run a deficit (with the small exception in Massachusetts of snow removal). Krugman's answer?

First of all, Congress needs to undo the sins of February, and approve another big round of aid to state governments. We don’t have to call it a stimulus, but it would be a very effective way to create or save thousands of jobs. And it would, at the same time, be an investment in our future.

Beyond that, we need to wake up and realize that one of the keys to our nation’s historic success is now a wasting asset. Education made America great; neglect of education can reverse the process.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Latinos in higher education

In a city in which 36% of our public school population is Latino, the survey results released Tuesday by the Pew Hispanic Center merit real notice.
Of those surveyed, a majority spoke of the importance of higher education, but when it comes to getting that education, markedly fewer succeed in getting it or even planning on getting it.
The study points up the large number of students who describe needing to support family as a reason for leaving school before getting a college degree. There also have been some various articles recently on the gap between getting to college (or into college) and having what you need to succeed there. This isn't always academic; it can be about filling out financial aid forms, getting what you need for dorm rooms, having what you need in the way of supplies.

I've just finished reading The Hardest Questions Aren't on the Test by Linda F. Nathan, the principal of the Boston Arts Academy. I'll be posting at greater length on what she describes, but she talks of having students who are unable to get a form signed, or coming up with the admission fee. There can be very small things which are enough to keep a person out of college who otherwise could get there and succeed there. We need to figure out how to keep those stumbling blocks out of the way of our kids.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

MA budget gap for FY11 of $2.24 BILLION

yes, that is billion with a b, unfortunately.

Today's release from Mass Budget points out first that Mass revenue is currently $212 million for where it should be for the first quarter, which means we are probably going to be seeing cuts this year.

And then there's next year...
Demand for services (health care and otherwise) is likely to go up next year, particularly if the economic situation does not improve. The release also points out that some of last year's budget gap was closed with one-time sources, which will not be avaliable next year.

And then there's a hint of FY12...

Read the caterpillar for the record!

As reported here and elsewhere, today is "Read for the Record" day, when teachers, parents, librarians, and community leaders across the country all read the same book to mark the "largest shared reading experience." The event is an effort to bring attention to early childhood literacy.
This year's book is Eric Carle's The Very Hungry Caterpillar.
You can read the book yourself, or you can hear Eric Carle read it.

And once you've read it, you can take a quiz to see if you were really paying attention to what the caterpillar ate!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Mayoral forum on education

Stand for Children is holding a mayoral forum exclusively on education:

All four mayoral candidates are attending. Learn about their priorities for Worcester Public Schools before heading to the polls on November 3rd. The evening will include time to meet the candidates, hear from them about their priorities, and ask them questions.

Stand for Children's Worcester Mayoral Candidate Forum
Monday, October 19, 2009
6:30 – 7:00 PM Meet the candidates, 7:00 – 8:30 PM Program
The Beechwood Hotel: 363 Plantation St. Worcester, MA 01605

Candidates need to hear that citizens and parents value our public schools. Attend on October 19 to show your support for Worcester’s children.

This is also a great opportunity to meet new Central Massachusetts Organizer, Jabián Gutiérrez.

Space is limited, so please RSVP to Jabián at or by calling 508-831-8797.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

From Council

Councilor Rosen just threw a big wrench in the works here tonight by taking Section 19 (which provides for coalition bargaining for retirees) OFF THE TABLE (where it's been since March). He's done that in response to a motion (under suspension) from Councilor Petty capping retirees health insurance rate at 30%. He said he wanted to have a real conversation.

UPDATED: After a great deal of talking (including testimony from Virginia Ryan, former EAW president), Rosen tabled his motion (thus re-tabling Section 19?), and Petty's motion was put off to next week. Stay tuned...


Coalition for the Revitalization of Education in Worcester
signing on as supporters of the vision statement (which I fear is not online)
Proposed that it is tabled, sent out via email, and possibly approved at the next meeting

report from the Parent Information Center

8 from Iraq
9 from Iran
5 or 4 from Somalia
ALL at the Parent Information Center today (registering for school)
70 different languages in the city of Worcester

thinks it would be appropriate to have someone from ELL or other adjustment people from administration talk about these kids and the challenges they are facing
also special ed
more kids coming from Trinity Lutheran (18 more children from Iraq coming in) in the next month

Parental governance

Massachusetts has a school council handbook. A few things we're noting:
  • site council members are to be elected by the parent organization of the school (not appointed, for example)
  • site council is to review school improvement plan and review the school budget
  • members of site council are to co-chair with principal
  • PTO's, incidentally, are to be run BY PARENTS

Looking at what sort of support is being provided for parental organziations, what are the rights and responsibilities and how well they are being carried out by the Worcester organizations. Looking at national websites and handbooks.

Question about training for PTOs.

PTO is supposed to elect site council; synergy in the parent involvement. Two are to work together. How to better implement at school level. Law implies that more is going on than is actually covered in the law. Each aspect of the site council is to be represented by an elected member of that aspect (parents, teachers, students (at high school level)).

Some hope that the planned January meeting will feed into those concerns and plans.

Principals were trained on school site councils. Partnering principals with parents.

Website presentation at CPPAC going to be tech-free tonight, without the PowerPoint presentation.
Karen Norton is going to talk through what she was talking about.
Web people met with parents, students, principals, administration, EAW...compiled a wishlist.
The part that's up now is the main piece of it, but more will be added.
"" is the new address, "thought it was a bit more catchy"
Each school has their own site: ex:
School fusion is the system being used: "allows to share resources"
Principals can update their own sites, have passwords, 'though many haven't done much with it yet. Flagg Street ( has, updating calendar ('though I'm noticing that it is loading s-l-o-w-l-y).
Each site has some differences (between elementary and middle and high schools) in design.
Guidance section is being built now, college planning section. Announcements feature is working for all sites.
There's an archive of news and announcements, too.

On each site there's a staff directory link and a classroom link (as asked for by CPPAC).
Teachers can create a classroom website, if they choose.

Worcester education channel streaming online.

Right now, teachers are being given access to their sites (not mandated by contract, so it can't be mandated as yet, but offered).
Any group that wants to use space (CPPAC, PTO sites)

The website CAN do grades but will not do grades as yet.

Question on a community calendar added? Eventually.
How are we letting people know about this? There is administrative report.
Signed on with School Fusion in February, site up on August 31.
Is there a way of helping teachers who aren't as up-to-speed on technology? Two sections in the professional development catalog, not enough teachers to fill the second section.
Some of the computers in the schools just don't work. How can we help you make it work in the buildings? We got computers after the census last time...hmmm...the census is next year.

Know Your School Night

The School Committee is asking for parents to give input on the current format of "Know Your School Night." If you have any thoughts, you can pass them along to your CPPAC representative (or comment here, and I'll pass them along).

Would you rather have it in the daytime? Have one on one conferences instead?

Mayoral debate on education

Stand for Children is hosting a mayoral debate exclusively on education on Monday, October 19
Meet and greet at 6:30, debate starts at 7

At the Beechwood Hotel

CPPAC for October

Tonight's main presenter is Karen Norton, who will be presenting on the Worcester Public Schools website.

Apparently, there are some technical difficulties on that...intro's first tonight.

Duncan on Colbert

I don't know how many of you were able to catch Secretary Duncan on Stephen Colbert the other night. I just found it myself now. Clearly, the administration is trying to be sure that the RTTT doesn't get swallowed up by the health care debate.
Hat tip to whomever wrote the line making ed reform all about making more money for Colbert. Now if we could get Duncan to stop using the "agrarian calendar" line...

Friday, October 2, 2009

September's numbers

Here's part of Professor Robert Reich's post on September's unemployment numbers:
Here's one of the most depressing statistics I've seen (if you need any additional ones): Some 15,600 teachers didn't return to work in September. They were laid off. So our classrooms are bigger, we have fewer teachers, and our students are presumably learning less -- at the very time when they need to be learning more than ever.

And that's the FY10 budget crunch...

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Compiling more on the Broad Institute

I was sent a link this morning to this website .
The author (a bit vitriolic) writes from Oakland, which has had a series of Broad Institute-trained administrators. Broad graduates are now throughout the country, including, of course, Worcester's new superintendent, Melinda Boone.

I've been concerned by the views expressed by Eli Broad...he's certainly part of the billionare push to privatize, charterize, and otherwise undemocraticize education in this country (leading in part to mayoral takeovers of public schools in New York City, Chicago, and Boston, for example). I've also been concerned by what I've heard, not from Superintendent Boone herself, but from those from the Broad Institute that have been brought in (during the School Committee retreat, for example, with the emphasis on enforced consensus and that infamous "making cars" factory model). Centralization of power (vested, in mayoral control cities, in the chancellor [Klein in New York, Rhee in D.C.]) which by MA state law resides (largely) in the school committee (dismissed as not having "time or expertise" to make correct decisions) is also a troubling direction.

Note, here, that those messages came from the Broad presenter himself, not from Boone. How much of this is her belief remains to be seen. Also, it remains to be seen the level at which Broad itself will continue to be part of our system; the pattern elsewhere is a heavy level of involvement.