Friday, December 30, 2011

2012-13 Standing Committee Assignments: Worcester School Committee

The Standing Committee assignments by Mayor-elect Petty are as follows:

Dianna Biancheria, Chairman
Tracy Novick, Vice-Chairman
Brian O’Connell

Jack Foley, Chairman
Donna Colorio, Vice-Chairman
Tracy Novick

John Monfredo, Chairman
Donna Colorio, Vice-Chairman
Jack Foley

Brian O’Connell, Chairman
John Monfredo, Vice-Chairman
Dianna Biancheria

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

City of Worcester Inauguration

All are invited to attend the Inaugural Exercises of the City of Worcester
Monday, January 2, 2012
3:00 pm 
North High School Auditorium 
140 Harrington Way, Worcester

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Jon Stewart takes on Obama's education policy

If haven't seen Jon Stewart push Melody Barnes, outgoing Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, on the Obama education policy, take a look:

He could have pushed her farther, and he could have pushed her harder, but he didn't let it sit.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Occupying Education

It isn't just the hold of Wall Street over the economy that Occupiers are questioning; they're looking at corporate control--rather than democratic control--of education. Great look at what's happening around the country (largely in districts without democratically-elected school boards) here.
h/t Schools Matter

Another one

The state investigation into Dougherty County, Georgia around cheating on exams is back. This is the same county that, after its own investigation, found no evidence of cheating. From the report (via Get Schooled):

Hundreds of school children were harmed by extensive cheating in the Dougherty County School System. In 11 schools, 18 educators admitted to cheating. We found cheating on the 2009 CRCT in all of the schools we examined. A total of 49 educators were involved in some form of misconduct or failure to perform their duty with regard to this test.
While we did not find that Superintendent Sally Whatley or her senior staff knew that crimes or other misconduct were occurring, they should have known and were ultimately responsible for accurately testing and assessing students in this system. In that duty, they failed. The 2009 erasure analysis, and other evidence, suggests that there were far more educators involved in cheating, but a fair analysis of the facts did not allow us to sufficiently establish the identity of every participant.
The statistics, and the individual student data, leave little room for any other reasonable explanation, save for cheating. For example, the percentage of flagged classrooms for DCSS is ten times higher than the state average.
A few things of note: the state investigation team was not from the education department. It was a former state attorney general, a former DA, and a special investigator. They were granted broad powers by the state. The intention of the state from the beginning was to make the results public (as was done in Atlanta), as well as hold accountable those adults who so remarkably failed in the public trust.
Not how it's been handled everywhere, but a credit to the state of Georgia.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Holiday decorations

donated for the Durkin Administration Building

Stakeholder group for Burncoat Prep

informing the School Committee about the make-up of the group:
Jeff Mulqueen will chair
ESE Designee: Erika Werner/Joan Tuttle
School Committee designee: Donna Colorio
Union designee: Howard Clash
School administrator: Brendan Keenan
Teacher: Beth Zeena-Dowd (Coach)
Parent from school: Jovanny Marinez
Social service rep: Tim Garvin (United Way)
Early Education and Care: Linda Granville
Community Memeber: Paul Hernandez
Teacher Kara King (Gr. 1)
District administration: Mary Meade-Montaque

Completed plan approved by April
being done under the current turnaround options (under NCLB); so, those same four choices:
  1. close the school
  2. restart the school under different management (aka: a charter)
  3. fire the principal
  4. fire half the staff and the principal
Coming, it sounds like, in January...

reducing the budget

O'Connell asks what the effect will be on classrooms of the IAs
"does this make a reduction in what we need?"
attrition, says Boone: "sum total of vacancy"
(money we saved by those jobs being open for a bit of time)
This is (again) what happens when the state Board of Ed authorizes additional charter schools and the Legislature level-funds the charter assessment budget: there's not enough money.

Additionally, should the charter numbers see any change (which they might, comparing projected enrollment to bodies in seats), the money will come back AFTER the Council votes the tax assessment (and thus the budget, finally), tonight. Thus any money that comes back, comes back to the city as free cash; it does not come to the schools.
Asking for a report on whatever change there is, once administration knows, so we can follow that money to City Hall (and ask for it back!)

somewhat related: questions around the city not meeting net school spending requirements
They haven't for FY11, and this year's budget does not make up the difference, as they are legally obligated to, so they are two years in abeyance.
The superintendent will be speaking to the city manager on this; we're forwarding this information to incoming City Council. Important to meet your legal obligations!

request for an early warning system for dropouts

is the request...Biancheria asks us to look at what we have, first.
"signaling the kids were doing..."
indicator factors from the state used to create early warning indicator reports by student, by school
includes attendence, test scores, support services
through support of Mass Graduation Initiative
a multidisciplinary team
"graduation improvement groups"
state looking at a similar process across all grade levels
Monfredo says he wants to look at the elementary level
Boone says we have (through attendence)

TLSS report

...but many of the items (including cheerleading and homeless students) are being held at the subcommittee level...

Teacher Evaluation Requirements

This will be going to negotiations (or at least some of it will), so we're getting something of an update. Specifics on implementing the regulations from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Ed are coming out on January 10, so there's only so much information we have now.
Level 4 districts and RTTT districts (we are both) have jumped on this early.
"The teachers will be a part of developing their goals"
Boone further notes that this will also change how we evaluate principals and all "instructional leaders," including the superintendent
The District Management Council will be facilitating the process, through state funding.

expanding PD for instructional assistants

The Mayor has asked about expanding professional development for instructional assistants. Some of our HR people met with the IAs in November regarding this.
"they are eager to have some professional development" and we get a list of issues that they run into in their daily lives. "Definitely enthusiasm"
Something to roll out for the next school year
The Mayor comments that some IAs have trouble taking courses, as many have second jobs (because the IA job does not pay a living wage).
"would like to propose that the committee consider...that they could gain points as they take these classes...they could become highly skilled"
"they can learn more..and they can earn a little bit more"

I'd missed this: outgoing chair of Chamber of Commerce comments

I haven't gotten all the way through the Sunday paper yet, so I just caught this now:
4. Insist on excellence in public education.

“The business community needs to insist on it,” he said. Then he said this: “We need to restore the public preparatory school system in the Worcester public schools if we want to have the middle class in our schools.”

Boston has such a system, and its schools are a case of the haves and have nots. A tiny sliver of the best of the best public school students pass the entrance exam to Boston Latin and Boston English, the two preparatory schools for public school students in Boston. They get into some of the best colleges and universities in the country. The vast majority of Boston’s public school students are left behind, with minimal skills. If Worcester is going to pursue a preparatory school system, it should create a new model, one that includes charter schools, pilot schools and other school types that do not require exams for entrance.
This isn't the first time I've heard this...

Committee appointment

Apparently, Mayor-elect Petty has appointed current Mayor O'Brien to the Education committee

I'm further told the committee appointments, both Council and School Committee side, will be coming out next week. Incoming-mayor Petty has met with each of us (or talked to us) regarding our preferences; committee chairmanships and positions are entirely at his discretion. 

School Committee Liveblog: coordinator of nursing

New Coordinator of School Nurses Anne M. Laverty appointed by the School Committee, per recommendation of the administration

also honoring Joe O'Brien (as it's his last meeting tonight)

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Worcester School Committee meets Monday

The Worcester School Committee has their (postponed) meeting on Monday at 5 pm at Worcester Technical High School. You can find the agenda here.
 Note that the several-times-held report of the superintendent on teacher evaluation is one of two reports; the other is a class size report for secondary schools.
We have a report coming in from Teaching, Learning, and Student Supports (they met Tuesday night; report not yet up).
We have some mid-year retirements/transfers/hirings.
We've received a list of who is on school site councils. Note that these are also now up on each school's website.
There are several requests for reports and honors.
We also, unfortunately, are having to reduce the budget. You'll find the report here. The short version (as I've mentioned here before) is that the Legislature level-funded the charter reimbursement account in the same year that the Board of Education added sixteen new charter schools, nine of which opened last year. There thus was not enough money in the account to go around. The state assured us on Tuesday that they thought that gap would either be smaller or close entirely; that will come too late for us, as we have to have solid numbers now.We have some money we're saving on utilities this year; otherwise, the money is coming from IAs, custodians, and instructional supplies: in other words, it's coming straight out of our classrooms.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

FY13 DESE budget forum

taking a few notes from the budget forum
Reville: to give you sense of the budget challenges we face as the Governor prepares his budget for FY13
begin by talking about budget overall, including restraints
then education in particular
then questions to comment on
not a legislative hearing, so much as a opportunity for a conversation

Monday, December 12, 2011

Poverty matters

Excellent op-ed today in the New York Times, pointing out what we've heard before and studies have confirmed again: poverty matters:
The correlation has been abundantly documented, notably by the famous Coleman Report in 1966. New research by Sean F. Reardon of Stanford University traces the achievement gap between children from high- and low-income families over the last 50 years and finds that it now far exceeds the gap between white and black students.
The author lays out the variety of reasons why this continues to be brushed aside (in some cases, by the very people one would hope would be fighting hardest to overcome it), and lays out some things that can, even with the current push to deny the realities of anything outside the school building, be done for children who need the support most.

UPDATE: Deb Meier's latest letter to Diane Ravitch discusses Professor Ladd's paper on this issue (of which her editorial is a summary).

Worcester School Committee meeting postponed to 12/19

Note that the Worcester School Committee meeting originally scheduled for this Thursday, December 15, has been postponed to Monday, December 19.
It will take place at 5 pm in the conference room at Worcester Technical High School.

The Worcester City Council will also meet that evening, at City Hall, at 7 pm.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Whose children are left behind?

Thanks to Teacher Ken at the Daily Kos for his highlighting of Diane Ravitch's address to the National Opportunity to Learn Education Summit yesterday. I'd really encourage you to read the whole thing, of which the theme is "Whose children are left behind?"

We know—or we should know—that poor and minority children should not have to depend on the good will and beneficence of the private sector to get a good education. The free market works very well in producing goods and services, but it works through competition. In competition, the weakest fall behind. The market does not produce equity. In the free market, there are a few winners and a lot of losers. Some corporate reformers today advocate that schools should be run like a stock portfolio: Keep the winners and sell the losers. Close schools where the students have low scores and open new ones. But this doesn’t help the students who are struggling. No student learns better because his school was closed; closing schools does not reduce the achievement gap. Poor kids get bounced from school to school. No one wants the ones with low scores because they threaten the reputation and survival of the school.
The goal of our education system should not be competition but equality of educational opportunity. There should not be a Race to the Top. What is the Top? Who will get there first? Will it be poor and minority students? Don’t count on it. The Top is already occupied by the children of the 1%.

Friday, December 9, 2011

City Council to consider school projects on December 19 (NOTE DATE CHANGE!)

Please save Monday, December 19 (NOTE DATE CHANGE!) for the Worcester City Council meeting at 7pm. On that agenda will be the Worcester Public Schools Statements of Interest. These need to be passed by the Worcester City Council before they can go to the state.
You can find the full list of projects being submitted this year here. The list by school is here. If you can come to the meeting, that would be excellent. If you cannot, please contact the councilors (you'll find their emails to the right) and express your support for these projects.
Thank you!

Worcester City Council cancelled for Tuesday

Please note that, out of respect for pending funeral arrangements for fallen Worcester Firefighter Jon Davies, the Worcester City Council meeting for Tuesday, December 13 has been cancelled.
There will be a meeting on December 20 with both a Council and a City Manager's agenda.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Public forum on the state FY13 budget

yes, already!
The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education will hold two forums on the FY13 budget:

Secretary Reville will present the context for the FY13 state budget and gather valuable comment from members of the public about their priorities for funding.  The forums will begin with a short overview presentation by the Secretary, followed by an opportunity for audience members to provide testimony to Secretary Reville and other members of the Patrick-Murray administration. Feedback received during these forums will help inform the development of the state's FY13 budget.
The two meetings will be held:
  1. Tuesday, December 13, 4:30 - 6:30 p.m.Worcester State University, Student Center
    486 Chandler Street
  2. Tuesday, December 20, 4:30 - 6:30 p.m.Department of Early Education and Care
    51 Sleeper Street, 4th Floor
Written testimony will also be accepted and can be mailed to the Executive Office of Education, 1 Ashburton Place, Room 1403, Boston, MA 02108. ATTN: Heather Johnson.

Voice of reason lost from the Board of Ed

I am really going to miss Jim McDermott being on the state Board of Ed.
He's entirely right on the state of education right now, though.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

School or prison?

Well worth reading Christopher Emdin on why students are being arrested in schools

Wide is the Gate(s)*

There's some strange things afoot with the latest round of Gates Foundation grants. In addition to continuing their grants for district/charter collaboration (I'm trying hard not to put that last word in quotes; it's warranted), they've given ALEC money for: educate and engage its membership on more efficient state budget approaches to drive greater student outcomes, as well as educate them on beneficial ways to recruit, retain, evaluate and compensate effective teaching based upon merit and achievement
It's worth reading the whole Crooks and Liars post above on ALEC and the ongoing push to privatize education, but also notice what ALEC's latest work is on:
 A package of model legislation opposing the common standards gained ground yesterday at the American Legislative Exchange Council.
 That would be the same Common Core standards...that the Gates Foundation just spent a whole lot of money developing and getting everyone to adopt.
Confused yet? It seems the Gates Foundation might be!

 h/t Ken Libby for the tweets on this on December 5
*Matthew 7:13,14 (again)


Friday, December 2, 2011

School repair and rehab projects

I thought it might be easier to sort through if you could just go to the school you're interested in, so I've loaded them as separate Google docs (the full backup is here).
Note that these are executive summaries, not the actual applications. Further note that the Green Repair program is a single page chart including 21 schools that need windows, roof, or boiler, or some combination of the three.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

South High partitions

request for partitions in South (as the ones that the building was built with)
Boone requests that this be referred to F&O
the superintendent points out that some of the half walls removed were required to be done so by the city
Allen further says that the work at South this summer required the removal of those temporary walls; we can't get new ones; we'd have to build new walls entirely
Biancheria asks if we have a timeframe, as what we have right now is not working for the kids that are there
Monfredo asks "what can be done?"

allowing the city to understand the budget

the request here is for an audit of the WPS budget, done by the Council and the City Manager
Foley points out that the city auditor, appointed by the City Council, oversees every penny spent by the Worcester Public Schools
this is in addition to the independent audits done by the those hired by the committee
Novick suggests recasting the item as, as suggested by O'Connell, this is actually about educating the Council regarding our budget
Boone supports
the item is amended, and then referred to Finance and Operations

Graduation requirements

There's a series of items here--on civics, science, and math--around which we're having some discussion regarding graduation requirements. Superintendent Boone is asking that they be taken together as part of the conversation regarding MassCORE.
Civics is being taken independently; the other two taken together.
I should note that part of the conversation here brought up the "college" track which does not track one for college. As courses are being reviewed, parents and students will receive close counseling regarding what courses get them where.

Fix America's Schools Today

Senate Bill No. 1597, which would appropriate $25 billion for infrastructure improvements, including school buildings

report of the Standing Committee on Finance and Operations

You've got most of this minimal notes from me...
I will note that the votes we are taking tonight on the Statements of Interests are heading to City Council for Tuesday night's meeting, with our hope of getting them in next week (?).
Mr. Foley notes that Nelson Place has already been voted and forward to MSBA (thus it will not be voted tonight)
O'Connell stops the vote to ask if the Worcester East Middle vote includes the auditorium. It certainly does!
And note that many of the Green Repair window projects are at the schools either built or repaired during the PCB era.
And yes, MSBA does need an individual vote (phrased correctly) for each school submitted.

Burncoat Prep uniforms

sorry, I should mention:
The uniform request is being sent back to the school, as Burncoat Prep is now a Level 4 school, so it's being sent back to their stakeholders' group.

Environmental Management System report

Presentation by Brian Allen on the environmental management system
A set of management processes and procedures to help an organization identify, assess, control, and reduce the environmental impact of its activities, products, or services.
Using UMass Lowell Service program, an environmental health and safety specialist, and Triumvirate Environmental Inc.
"more of a change in management issue than a technical fix"
reducing our risk of spills and incidents; wastes and emissions; costs; energy use; liability
benefiting: increased awareness of best practices; sustainability; awareness of energy efficiency and clean energy
Chemical cleanouts at 11 school labs have been done
Next we will be looking at school-specific issues, and providing additional training
Five subcommittees:
  • asbestos
  • hazardous materials
  • incident preparedness and response
  • inspections and corrective action
  • professional development and competency
20 schools constructed during the period from 1950-1978, when PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) were used; another 9 with major renovations during that time. Trivumvirate Environmental hired in Feb. 2010 to conduct a comprehensive facilities assessment regarding PCBs for all 29 buildings, along with ongoing work with EPA, throughout

Asian longhorned beetle presentation by Ginny Kingsbury

Ms. Kingsbury has been a vocal member of the public regarding the dangers of the Asian longhorned beetle. She is concerned that people are not aware that it remains a concern for the city of Worcester.
She stresses the responsibility of individuals to look for signs of the beetle and report them to the USDA (whom you can reach, locally, at 508-852-800). If you even think you see something that indicates a beetle, call them!
Ms. Kingsbury is asking that we be proactive in getting information around the beetle out to students.
Question if our trees have been checked (it sounds like some have, and we've had trees removed); we're also using contracted vendors that are trained and certified for moving debris within the city (which is now required by the USDA).
The motion is to refer to TLSS.

Goddard School grant

...which brings up that Goddard is (among much else, well covered in a presentation; preschool story hours--how cool!) reworking their report card, something of GREAT committee interest.

Worcester School Committee: honors for those improving grounds!

We're starting our meeting tonight by honoring the members of the Quinsig Village Advisory Committee, who enabled the building of a new playground at Quinsigamond School.
Councilor Clancy is announcing that they recently voted additional funds for capital improvements inside of Vernon Hill School and Quinsigamond School. (Hooray!)

We are also honoring District Attorney Early for the work he and his staff have done for improvements at schools around the district. (I should note that we got a list of the work that has been done and it went on for pages!)

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

F&O liveblog

students who reside less than two miles from the school they attend (as discussed in August; referred back to subcommittee)
List is of places that have bus transportation that are closer than two miles
Question of whether there are places that DPW action could resolve the safety issue (largely, not)
Secondary students are not required to be bussed, but we do, thus all the buses are on the road already, and so this costs nothing extra.
Security cameras
list of current cameras, compiling list of upgrades
notes made of schools that have cameras only at the front door; considering recommended upgrades, as needed by principals

FY11 Budget
final numbers

NYCoRE call for proposals

NYCoRE (the New York Collective of Radical Educators) has issued a call for proposals for their third annual conference. The conference this year is Saturday, March 24; the proposals are due January 3.
From the description of the conference theme:

Conference Theme: Education is a Right – Not Just for the Rich or White!
In New York City, public schools have faced merciless budget cuts, resulting in growing class sizes, lack of materials, and huge layoffs. These cuts disproportionately affect schools in communities of Color. Meanwhile, our state and local government continue to award huge contracts to private consulting firms, charter schools, and other corporations. Patterns of resource distribution reveal the values of those making the funding decisions. These patterns are telling in their prioritization of profit over people, as well as in their disregard for communities of Color.

Losing kids in the transition to middle school

EdWeek has a report on a new study on the transition to middle school being the particularly tough one:
For the Florida study, Mr. West and Guido Schwerdt, a researcher with the Ifo Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich in Germany, used the state’s longitudinal database to track more than 450,000 students in the state’s public schools who proceeded from grades 3 to 10 between 2000-01 and 2008-09.
They found students who attended elementary schools ending at grade 5 had an early edge over those attending K-8 schools in mathematics and language arts, but their performance in both subjects dropped dramatically when they switched to middle school in 6th grade. After the 6th grade transition, middle school students fell by .12 standard deviations in math and .09 standard deviations in reading compared with students at K-8 schools, and then that gap continued to widen throughout middle school and into high school.
Moreover, students who had attended a middle school were 18 percent more likely than students who attended a K-8 school before high school to not enroll in grade 10 after attending grade 9—an indicator that they may have dropped out.
You can read the study here.

Increases in students on free and reduced lunch

Excellent front page article in today's New York Times, calling attention to the growing number of students on free and reduced lunch.

Finance and Operations subcommittee meeting tonight

The Standing Committee on Finance and Operations meets tonight at 5 pm at the Durkin Administration Building. You can find the agenda here.Note that it's a subcommittee agenda; click the highlighted number to get the item with backup.
We'll be closing out the FY11 year, and doing the first quarter of the FY12 year.
We're setting the rental rates for North High School (and if you've ever wondered how much it costs to rent a school, you'll find the answer in the backup).
If you have an interest in the transportation of elementary students, there's an item is for you.
There's also an item on security cameras.

We're also reviewing, prior to consideration by the full committee tomorrow, the Statements of Interests for the Mass School Building Authority this year. In addition to Nelson Place (which has already been submitted), we're submitting applications for:
Worcester East Middle, Doherty, Burncoat, South, Tatnuck Magnet, Clark Street, Goddard, Flagg Street, Chandler Elementary, Burncoat Middle, Union Hill**, Worcester Arts Magnet, Jacob Hiatt Magnet, Elm Park, Grafton Street, Harlow Street*, Columbus Park, Sullivan Middle, Belmont Street, Canterbury, West Tatnuck, Chandler Magnet, Vernon Hill, Thorndyke Road, McGrath, Lake View, Lincoln Street, Caradonio, Mill Swan*, and Millbury Street*.

In several cases, these SoIs including work already completed this summer, or work planned for this upcoming summer. It also includes, in many cases, windows for buildings that did not get them under the plan from Honeywell. It also includes the auditoriums at Burncoat Middle and Worcester East Middle.

We further are applying for updated science labs (these are a separate application process) for the three high schools and for Worcester East Middle (again, work already planned. Originally, MSBA was not going to consider middle school applications; they now are).

Again, 5pm, Durkin Administration Building, 4th floor, or on Channel 11!

*Head Start location
 **including a replacement for the now-defunct boiler

Monday, November 28, 2011

We have a new member!

Congratulations to Donna Colorio, who will take the sixth seat on the Worcester School Committee.

Hey, guess who's now a PAC?

Stand for Children!
Not only that, they've now joined forces (check the addresses) with our old friends, Democrats for Education Reform (hereafter, DFER). You'll remember that this comes (not coincidentally) at exactly the same time as Stand's atrocious ballot initiative, tying all decisions around teachers to student test scores (it's called, with the ed reformers' genius for Orwellian language* "Great Teachers Great Schools").
Gee, you think they're planning on spending some money?

*and totally lack of attention to punctuation. But I digress.

Reading roundup

Here's a few that have come across my desk that I'd recommend reading:
  • If you've missed the New York state principals' rebellion over their new evaluation system, you can catch up on it here. Best quote:
    Katie Zahedi, principal of Linden Avenue Middle School in Red Hook in Dutchess County. said the training session she attended was “two days of total nonsense.”
    “I have a Ph.D., I’m in a school every day, and some consultant is supposed to be teaching me to do evaluations,” she said. “It takes your breath away it’s so awful.”
    She said one good thing about the new evaluation system was that it had united teachers, principals and administrators in their contempt for the state education department.
    Remember that New York set a percent that test scores would count (40%). And yes, the "building the airplane in the air" analogy is in there, too. Should you wish to join them, you can sign here.
  • On entirely the other end of the spectrum, there's a good piece today about the renewed recognition in the importance of giving kids time with blocks.
  • You may have caught Thomas Friedman's column regarding the findings of the Program for International Student Assessment around successful parent involvement. It turns out it necessarily what you'd think: 
    ...on average, the score point difference in reading that is associated with parental involvement is largest when parents read a book with their child, when they talk about things they have done during the day, and when they tell stories to their children.
  • Seattle is reporting in on their fighting the good fight (and winning!) out there against the corporatizing of public education. Rock on, Seattle!

Recount day! UPDATED

I've got a huge backlog of things to catch up come!

It is recount day for the Worcester School Committee. Note that every city ballot will be counted for all School Committee candidates.
You can watch it live here.

7:30 UPDATE: And if you're awaiting results, I'm told they are currently adding totals, and it could be awhile yet.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Trouble in the Wellesley business office

The Wellesley Public Schools business manager has been put on administrative leave, a week after the superintendent announced she'd be resigning the end of the year due to irregularities found in the business office.
Berdell, who has been employed by the town for 26 years, came under fire following the discovery last spring of about $169,000 in uncollected school lunch debt. An audit triggered by the discovery found sloppy bookkeeping practices in the business office. No misappropriation was discovered...
 Recently, the School Department came in for more criticism for approving payments totaling about $100,000 to two employees to compensate them for unused vacation time. Berdell was owed $86,000, which she will receive over a two-year period, said Wong.
As the schools were expected to ask for a Prop. 2 1/2 override this spring, they've got their hands full.

Why teach anything else?

If you only get judged on your English and math scores, why teach anything else?

Sunday, November 20, 2011

If the supercommittee fails

...the news isn't good for federal education funding:
According to the budget office, education funding would be subject to reductions ranging from 7.8 percent (in 2013) to 5.5 percent (in 2021).
What does that really mean for students?
In a letter sent last month to the supercommittee, the National Education Association said a 7.8 percent cut in fiscal year 2013 would mean a reduction in $3.54 billion in education funding. That includes:
*$1.1 billion from Title I, a federal program that provides additional resources to disadvantaged students. This would impact almost 1.5 million students
*$896 million from the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act, affecting more than a half-million students, and
*$590 million from Head Start, affecting more than 75,000 young children.
Not good.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Waiver review board has one familiar name

EdWeek has the list, and it includes outgoing deputy commissioner for Massachusetts, Karla Brooks Baehr.
(widely regarded by those of all stripes as "getting it," so a good choice.I'll keep you posted as I learn more about the others.)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Very much not liveblog of School Committee

I have not yet gotten the password to log in at Tech, so no liveblog tonight. (Also, the bronchitis has taken my voice, so not many comments from me tonight, either!) A few notes in retrospect, however:

 As expected, the reconsideration of  Superintendent Boone's contract failed, 3-4. (And should you wonder, Mr. O'Connell more-or-less made the arguments I would have regarding timing, previous contracts, and concerns.)
 The School Committee voted raises for non-unionized personnel of 2% effective July
We got the elementary class size report. Per previous conversations, the big classes are due to lack of space in those schools. Mr. Allen explained that we are not yet at capacity--there is still space in some schools, which the Parent Information Center is letting parents know of--but that we will need to begin having conversations around the space. We'll also get a middle and high school report on class size.
We voted to accept the (popular) Fresh Fruits and Vegetables Program grant.
The teacher evaluation item was held (as we got to it at 10 pm) for the second meeting running...hopefully December 1?


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

New round of Level 4s

Sorry for the lack of posting: I've come down with a doozy of a post-election, post-MASC bout with bronchitis.
The news of the day is the latest round of level 4 schools being announced by the state, including Worcester's Burncoat Prep. As Burncoat Prep was in the midst of creating an innovation plan (jointly with Lincoln Street), we are, as NECN explains, in a bit of a no-man's-land regarding the need for a turnaround plan. This after (as the T&G covers) a vote of no confidence in the principal. (I don't know what measures were taken in the building after the vote; I intend to ask.)
The big news on the Level 4 front comes from Lawrence, however, where Mayor Lantigua is calling for a state takeover of the entire school system after the state added three more schools to the two that Lawrence already had in that designation. Lawrence is between superintendents (their last one was indited), and, as of last Tuesday, has four newly-elected School Committee members.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Some funny points from Parliamentary Procedure

  • there's no such thing as a friendly amendment (once the motion is on the floor, it belongs to the assembly)
  • tabling requires a majority, but the table is cleared at the end of the meeting 
  • a vote may be rescinded if the action has not gone into affect
  • the agenda is the property of the committee (not the clerk, the chair, or the superintendent)
  • if it "reasonably could not be anticipated" it may be added from the floor
  • any ruling of the chair may be overruled by a majority vote
  • a point of order is a "point of parliamentary inquiry"
  • parliamentary procedure is not a book called Robert's Rules of Order (there are other options)
  • the chair may participate and the chair may vote; it is traditional for the chair to yield the gavel when he wishes to speak
  • any member of the School Committee may convene the meeting and the first action of a meeting (in the absence of the Chair and Vice Chair) should be to elect a temporary chair
  • know the order of precedence of motions
  • passage of a motion to adjourn does not end the meeting; when the chair declares the meeting adjourned, the meeting is over
  • the chair needs to keep the order of the meeting (including during public comment)
  • draft minutes are public as soon as the meeting ends; executive session minutes are public as soon as the reason for it being in executive session is over
  • main motion, subsidiary motion, privileged motion, incidental motion
Rules of remote participation in meetings will be released Monday.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Mass School Building Authority update

Katherine Craven, outgoing Executive Director (leaving December 1) of the Mass School Building Authority
Jack McCarthy, interm Executive Director
McCarthy comes from Inspector General's office
"no secrets at the School Building Authority"

Tony Wagner, Global Achievement Gap

Tony Wagner, Harvard Graduate School of Education, author of The Global Achievement Gap
 to help the public understand what it means to be an educated adult in the 21st century
there's some great stuff here! Worth it!

Suzanne Bump, State Auditor

she's pretty popular around here now due to her finding on the requirement on McKinney-Vento funding
Also, the work on the educational collaboratives
"it's all about integrity and public confidence"

President of the National School Boards Association

speaking here of public education being under attack
speaks of push to privatize, to pull money away from schools
Chester Finn on school boards:
"this sense of urgency provides a catalyst for us to move"
"cultivate a culture of caring...make sure our work is about cultivating curiosity, wonder, passion"
"not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire"
"we've got to start yelling about our successes"
"a great cornerstone of our democracy"

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Posting from the conference

I'll be posting from the Mass Association of School Committees conference starting tomorrow. My colleagues chose to elect me as the Worcester delegate to the assembly on Friday.

Saturday, November 5, 2011


As much as one hates to correct the editorial board when they're praising your work...
Several times this campaign season, the notion of an independent audit of the Worcester Public Schools finances has come up; most recently, it was endorsed by the Worcester Telegram and Gazette in their editorial regarding the School Committee race:
An independent audit of the school budget has the potential to break that impasse, giving school and municipal officials a single set of facts upon which to base future discussions and establish spending priorities.
 Would that it were true; if it were, this would have already happened.

The Worcester Public Schools are independently audited every year. In fact, it happens twice: once by a group looking just into school finance application of "agreed-upon procedures" (see my notes from that here) and once by the independent auditor that is brought in by the city annually (notes from that here). This was discussed not only by the School Committee, but also by the City Council.
You can find links to the reports here discussed off of this agenda.

This all costs the Worcester Public Schools more than two teachers' salaries.
This is also in addition to all WPS finances being under the eagle eye of the city's own independent (he is appointed by the City Council and explicitly does not report to the City Manager) auditor, which is part of what the city contribution is to the Worcester Public Schools.
Let's keep those suggestions on improving transparency and public accountability coming; let's just try to make them new ones, eh?

Turning around

Some excellent points here  from Philadelphia on turnaround schools:

The District should be convening public discussions and working seriously to address several key, unanswered questions:
  • Have communities embraced the educational models?
  • Are we seeing indicators of academic improvement on measures besides state tests?
  • What are the pros and cons of shuffling entire teaching staffs?
  • What must happen to sustain improvements over time?
  • Can some of these models be scaled up? How will we pay for that?
    How can we ensure that the students with greatest need are served? 
Also, I really hope someone's looking into that allegation of bullying leadership. That's no good.

Pennies from heaven

There's a front page New York Times story today on districts being wooed by Apple:
In visits the officials described as inspirational, they checked out the company’s latest gadgets, discussed the instructional value of computers with high-level Apple executives and engineers, and dined with them and other educators at trendy restaurants. Apple paid for meals and their stay at a nearby inn.
The visits paid off for Apple too — to the tune of $1.2 million in sales. In September, Little Falls handed out iPads to 1,700 of its 2,500 students at a celebration in the school gym. And a few days earlier, 200 teachers got a pep talk via video chat from an Apple executive whom the school superintendent had come to know during his company visits.
This is part of a big trend by technology companies to make money off of school districts, even as there's some question about how much difference technology makes in how students learn:
The sales pitches come as questions persist about how effective high-tech products can be at improving student achievement. The companies say their products engage students and prepare them for a digital future, while some academics say technology is not fulfilling its promise.
I found this interesting in light of a press release that Houghton Mifflin Harcourt put out this week around the contract they have with the district around the innovation and Level 4 schools. Frankly, we've been seeing a lot of HMH people: they've been at School Committee meetings, press briefings (where they've provided the muffins), and elsewhere. (And if I'm seeing a lot of them, you can bet that our administrators are seeing even more of them!)
I don't at all mean that we've been bought by a basket of muffins; I don't think that's the case. There is a lot of money flying around (in this case, Race to the Top funds for the innovation and Level 4 schools), and companies are going straight after it. My fear is that what we're doing is spending the money as fast as we get it (or even faster; the RTTT money isn't actually in yet), without taking nearly enough time and care to make sure that it actually does what it's supposed to do. I raised this question (and I wasn't alone), but administration was definitely sold, as demonstrated in the press release:
"The opportunity to implement a comprehensive technology platform that gives students, parents and teachers greater connectivity is at the crux of our interest," said Dr. Jeffrey Mulqueen, Chief Academic Officer, Worcester Public Schools. "Pinpoint allows us to break free from time and place, allowing teachers and parents to work more productively."
That's the theory. We don't actually know that yet.

Friday, November 4, 2011

But wait! There's more!

Yes, there was actually a whole meeting that went on after that!
The Superintendent's goals were approved as previously posted.
We had a brief update on the Level 4 schools teacher evaluation process; there's more coming on this at the next meeting. And thanks to the teachers for their insights on this!
We also had a very interesting presentation on Advanced Placement in the Worcester Public Schools. Both Mr. Perda's presentation on APs in general and Mr. Orlov's presentation on the Mass Math and Science Initiative are up online.
The Teaching, Learning, and Student Support report was approved as written.
Along with several request for reports, we unanimously approved the ("ironically named") Strengthening our Schools amendment to the state Casino bill.This would set a floor in the amount of state funding that a school system gets: every system, regardless of community wealth and thus community ability to contribute, would get a minimum of 17.5% of their budget from the state. This is entirely contrary to the purposes of the funding formula in the 1993 ed reform law, and, at a time when we are acutely aware that there are only so many resources to go around, not wise. 
We also accepted innovation funding grant (of $190,000; a bit concerned about the $100/hr we're looking at for consultants there; we're getting more back on that) and the donation I mentioned earlier today of $50,000 to Union Hill.

Next meeting on November 17!

Late notes from 11/3/11: Superintendent Melinda Boone's contract vote

Two housekeeping points: another reminder that for the foreseeable future, our meetings are at Worcester Technical High School over on Skyline Drive. Also, we had a new rendition of the National Anthem last night, which I believe was recorded by the Worcester All City Chorus.
The first item taken up (coming out of executive session, where it has been for six weeks) was Superintendent Boone's contract. The contract as approved by a 4-3 vote is for three years, running through June 30, 2015. It has 2% raises for each of the three years, with the first effective July 1 of 2012 (and the July 1's thereafter). As Superintendent Boone's current salary is $180,000--she waived contractual raises on July 1, 2010 and 2011--that will mean a salary of $183,600 as of next July, $187,272 July of 2013, and $191,017.44 July of 2014.
A few other changes: goals are now to be proposed by September 30, approved by the School Committee by October 31, and the annual evaluation will take place by June 30, in each case annually. The contract continues to contain 20 days of vacation, but now includes bereavement leave, funeral leave, and 3 personal days. Termination by either party is now 120 days.
The School Committee meeting is not yet posted online, but it will be here once it is.I do wish I'd been able to liveblog the voting portion of the meeting, as each member explained their position. 

Thank you!

Much gratitude from all of us for a $50,000 donation to Union Hill School for the basketball court and field trips.

I got to see part of the slide show of the lower elementary grades at Davis Farmland. Excellent stuff! Also, super quote from Marie Morse in the Telegram and Gazette.

Thursday, November 3, 2011


The lack of liveblog was not intention; I couldn't get on the WiFi at the Tech school. Notes to come!
Superintendent Boone's contract passed 4-3, but may be brought up again in two weeks, as the vote to suspend the rules to reconsider needs two-thirds, and went 4-3.

Draft of Superintendent Boone's goals

I've posted the updated draft of the superintendent's goals here, for those interested. This will be discussed tonight at the Worcester School Committee meeting.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Reprint those bumper stickers!

I refer to the Mass Teachers Association bumper stickers that say "Massachusetts Students are Number 1 THREE YEARS IN A ROW!"
Well, we're up to four:
According to the 2011 NAEP results, Massachusetts students ranked first alone among states in 4th grade reading and in 8th grade mathematics, and tied for first in 4th grade math and 8th grade reading. Massachusetts 4th graders scored higher in reading since the last test in 2009, and scores held steady for 4th graders in mathematics and for 8th graders in reading and mathematics.  
...Overall, Massachusetts 4th graders had an average scaled score of 237 in reading, higher than in 2009 (234) and above the national average of 220. In mathematics, 4th graders scored 253, holding steady since 2009 (252) and higher than the national average of 240. At grade 8, Massachusetts students scored 275 in reading, holding steady since 2009 (274) but higher than the national average of 264. In mathematics, 8th graders scored 299, the same as in 2009 and higher than the national average of 283.
(Sorry, this is all from the press release of the Department of Ed, which I got in an email. No link)
(New York, by contrast, has had a second year of going backwards.)
Hechinger has a good point on poverty.
The Quick and the Ed is worth reading, but misses that the concerns around standardized testing wouldn't be measured by an, ah, standardized test.
Valarie Strauss adds needed perspective.

Worcester School Committee meeting tomorrow

A reminder that due to the construction at the City Hall parking garage, this meeting will be at Worcester Tech, 4th floor, Harrington Room.
The Worcester School Committee meets at 7pm. You can find the agenda here.
There are two reports of the superintendent this week: one on AP and AVID, and one on the new teacher evaluation system. The backups are not yet up.
TLSS has a subcommittee report, at least in part regarding school safety.
We're getting a new math liaison.
The North High punch list is up.
There have been some suggestions made, and now there's a revised edition of the superintendent's goals to consider.
And we've got $190,000 up for an acceptance vote.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

All schools are back up!

Clark Street and Norrback are back online!
Back to school Wednesday for all!

School tomorrow but stayed tuned

There will be a 6pm update on individual schools, as Norrback, Flagg, and Clark Street remain without power.

Tuesday morning update

I've just received the following message from Superintendent Boone. No word on tomorrow yet. 

Progress is being made with the restoration of power to schools.  As of this email, power has been restored to WTHS, Tatnuck, May Street, and Chandler Magnet.

Schools still without power are:  Flagg, Clark Street, Norrback, Nelson Place, Woodward Day and the Foley Athletic Complex.

All hanging limbs on school property will be addressed today.  Obviously, there will be piles of debris set aside on school sites until those can be removed.

Forest Grove Middle School continues to operate as a shelter for the city due to the number of homes still without power.

John Hennessy and several bus drivers are out not riding routes to determine any areas that may have street conditions that would create difficulty for buses to travel and any areas that may make it difficult for walkers to navigate.  There are some ongoing problems with traffic lights, mainly in areas where power has not been restored.

Brian Allen, Jim Bedard, Jack Navin and others in school plant are out visiting various school sites to monitor and support our cleanup efforts and other repairs/intervention that may be needed at schools.

Our Emergency Response Team is working very closely with Dave Clemons and the City’s Emergency Team to share information and receive updates.  We are also working closely with National Grid.

Kudos to all in Finance and Operations, including our custodians and tradespeople, who are assisting with our recovery efforts to reopen schools as soon as possible.

As indicated in yesterday’s message, I will be making a decision regarding school status by 4:00 pm today and I will provide another update at that time.

Monday, October 31, 2011

No school for Tuesday in Worcester

We still have EIGHT schools without power, and National Grid expects that we will remain that way through tomorrow.
There will be a decision for Wednesday by 4pm tomorrow. It may be that some will go back before all can.

Monday, 1pm update

We received an update at 1pm this afternoon with the following information from Superintendent Boone:
School was called off for today due to lack of power and downed branches and wires.
We have 12 schools without power today, in most cases becasue their neighborhood is without power. One school does have its own wires down; several others have branches and wires around them down. School plant staff is working on that now.
After discussions with National Grid and the city, administration will be meeting later this afternoon to decide on school for tomorrow.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Worcester Public Schools canceled Monday: Updated! Again!

Don't wait to see it on the WPS website, as the site runs out of a school without has been rebooted and it's now up.
It's on the Twitter feed, too!
However, still working on the Connect-ED. Don't wait for it!

Forest Grove opens at 5pm an emergency Red Cross shelter. As National Grid is saying you should not plan on getting power back if you are among the 29% that do not have it now, get yourself some place warm. The forecast is for a low of 20 tonight.

Postponing trick-or-treating

Worcester is requesting that trick-or-rewarded wait until Thursday.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

We aren't teaching enough science in elementary school

Right. *
So, what are we going to do about that?

*also true of social studies.

Beyond academics

What looks like a hopeful conversation in New York City yesterday around what supports are needed for schools with high rates of poverty:
Supports should target students in school, through teachers, they said, but they shouldn’t be purely academic.
Those supports, panel members said, range from teaching students skills to calm down during a rage to helping parents access social services they might not even know they are eligible for.
Note that isn't quite the wraparound zone idea coming through the Promise Neighborhood and Race to the Top, as it's working directly with kids in school on non-academics (along with what might be covered by wraparound services). The notion that there are things beyond the math and reading scores that need to be a focus is new, or, as was commented on during the discussion, not well communicated.

Snow coming!

And, yes, the WPS plows are ready.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Auditor finds education costs for homeless kids must be covered by state

As you may have seen, State Auditor Suzanne Bump has found that the busing and education requirements of the McKinney-Vento Act, as complied with by the state, are an unfunded mandate. McKinney-Vento requires that students who are homeless and are living outside their home district be given transportation back to their home district, if their families wishes; students also have extra support services. Under this ruling, districts may apply for a waiver of the requirements or (as is more likely) may work with the Legislature to fund what is estimated at $6.3 million statewide in combined education and transportation costs each year.
You may recall that Worcester saw some substantial increases for FY11 for homeless students, particularly around transportation, and that it came up in this year's budget conversation for FY12. No, I don't know how much money we're spending on this now (good question for the first quarter report!), but it sounds like we've got something else to work with the Legislative delegation on!

Money to be made

...around the new teacher evaluation systems, and the race is on.

School Committee meeting location change!

Please note that due to the construction at City Hall, all meetings of the Worcester School Committee through March 2012 will be held at Worcester Technical High School. In most cases, they will be in the first floor conference room (right across the hall from the auditorium). The one exception is this coming Thursday, November 3; that meeting will be on the fourth floor in the Harrington Room (turn left once through the doors, take the stairs or elevator to the 4th floor; it's the corner tower room).

I should perhaps say that we strive to keep the meetings televised. For Channel 11, that limits us to City Hall, Tech, and the 4th floor of the administration building.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

NCLB waiver transparency?

Not so much.

Series on using federal funds

Admittedly, this is possibly not of general interest, but I suspect that a few of my regular readers will find it of interest:
Rick Hess is out of town; while he's away, his column is being guest-written by Melissa Junge and Sheara Krvaric, who are lawyers at the Federal Education Group. They're writing on federal education funding. If "supplement/supplant" and "time and effort" are familiar terms to you, you may find it of interest. Their first entry is on compliance, the next on supplement/supplant, next on time and effort, and today on implementation (particularly around cooperation with private schools).

Nightmare on North Broad Street

Think you're having a tough budget year? Philadelphia's CFO yesterday:
announced almost $17 million in possible new cuts, then said there’s still another $22 million left to go.
That's on top of $590 million in budget "adjustments" already made.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

NCTQ doesn't like our new evaluation system

...according to their latest report, but, before we get too concerned, let's remember who it is we're talking about here. They're not exactly an evenhanded arbiter. Also, what they're criticizing sounds like praise to me:

Massachusetts' new regulations do not require student performance measures to be a "significant" factor in teacher evaluations. And, the regulations leave too much discretion and too many details to individual evaluators to choose student achievement measures and make decisions about what constitutes satisfactory student growth.
So...not locking in on student test scores being a huge chunk, and local administrative discretion. Sounds right to me.

Monday, October 24, 2011

The funding equity lawsuits are coming

Texas has just had an equity in funding lawsuit filed:
The TTSFC petition to the court relies on the earlier Texas cases, Edgewood and West Orange Cove, and alleges that the latest state budget is a reverse Robin Hood, taking from the poor to give to the rich. Plaintiffs ask the court to declare that the school finance system: violates the "efficiency" and "suitable provision" parts of the Texas Constitution; creates an unconstitutional state tax; and, fails to provide legally required "equal protection" to students in low-wealth districts.
Likewise, in California:

The lawsuit, filed in San Francisco Superior Court, alleges that Gov. Jerry Brown and lawmakers improperly disregarded Proposition 98’s minimum funding guarantee for education when they diverted billions of dollars in general fund revenues that should have gone to public schools, using the money to pay for other state services instead. Proposition 98, a constitutional amendment approved by voters in 1988, contains provisions that permit temporary diversions in times of fiscal crisis, but it clearly requires the state to repay the money.
And elsewhere:
Parents, students, and school districts have also challenged funding cuts in New Jersey, North Carolina, and Kansas. Others would like to do the same in lots of states.

Court orders in New Jersey and North Carolina ordered those states to restore certain funding, and the Kansas case is preparing for trial. The NC decision is on appeal.

(h/t Schools Matter)

State of the Schools address not-so-liveblog

valuable thing discovered this evening; there isn't QUITE enough signal strength for WiFi in the auditorium at North High. Call is in from admin on that one.
With apologies: I got there a bit late from another meeting...

“Banner at Jonas Clark hall “Challenge Convention”
WPS challenging convention, not simply complying with requirements

Implementation of comprehensive accountability system

chart showing enrollment approaching 2008-09, gaining students
38% Latino, 35% white, 18% African-American
percent low income increased (70%, up 7% since 2007)
33% ELL students

Liveblogging State of the Schools

Tonight at 7pm, Superintendent Boone will be delivering the second "State of Schools" address at North High. You can watch it on Channel 11.
I'll be there, and I'll liveblog it and the community responses.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Coordinator of School Nurses interviews: UPDATED

Interviews for this position will take place at the Governance and Employee Issues subcommittee meeting on Tuesday afternoon at 4pm on the fourth floor of the Durkin Administration Building.

(yes, this position is hired by the School Committee) 

UPDATE: This meeting was postponed. I'll post when it has been rescheduled.

out of committee

The Elementary and Secondary Education Act renewal is out of the Senate subcommittee on a 15-7 vote (read that link for the conditions under which Senator Bennett of Colorado will eat the bill.) The President is not thrilled with the "teacher accountability" pieces of the bill (much drumbeat there on "accountability" and the global economy).
EdWeek's rundown of the big points of the bill:

It would keep the NCLB law’s regime of testing students in grades 3 through 8 and once in high school. And it would retain the law’s focus on breaking out achievement data for various subgroups of students, including racial minorities, students with disabilities, and English-language learners.
But the version approved by the committee after a two-day markup also would drastically scale back the accountability system at the heart of the NCLB law, which was approved with broad bipartisan support in 2001. Among other changes, the panel's bill would:
• Scrap the law’s signature yardstick, known as Adequate Yearly Progress, or AYP.
• Put a halt to federally-directed interventions for all but the lowest performing schools and schools with persistent achievement gaps between low-income.
• Lay out a series of federal interventions for turning around the lowest-performing schools based in part on the administrations regulations for the School Improvement Grant program.
• Call on states to craft college-and-career standards, but not require them to join the Common Core State Initiative, which nearly all states already have done; and
• Streamline the Department of Education by consolidating 82 programs into about 40 broader baskets of funding.

...which means, I fear, that we're looking at something like many of the worst parts of NCLB crossed with some of the big problems with Race to the Top.
It's moving. There's hope it can be brought to the floor soon, with a push to reconcile by Christmas.

More from Denver

via the Nation
(And PS: Emily Sirota's website is here. You can donate to her here.)

Friday, October 21, 2011

What I missed in the notes last night

  • We had several principals there, two of whom spoke on district initiatives.
  • A draft of the 2011-2012 Superintendent's Goals came out of the Ad-hoc committee for full committee consideration. It's been held for the next meeting (and if you have thoughts, get in touch with a committee member!).
  • We accepted several donations, including year two of the donations from Millbury Savings Bank to Quinsigamond School and Vernon Hill School.
  • The Major Taylor curriculum was referred to Teaching, Learning, and Student Supports.
  • We got a report back on career days.
  • We've not yet hired a librarian for Union Hill and Chandler Elementary, because there's a shortage of elementary librarians.

What's next for Nelson Place

So last night, the Worcester School Committee unanimously confirmed Nelson Place as our first priority school. The administration will be confirming that with the Mass School Building Authority in the next few days.
Then we wait.
We could hear back as early as January from the state.
Should the Mass School Building Authority Board vote Nelson Place into the pipeline, we would be notified, and then the city would have 270 days to meet their eligibility requirements. Those include setting up a building committee, gathering enrollment figures, and having the superintendent, city manager, and the chair of the school committee sign a certificate of compliance.
We also would need the City Council to vote the funds for a feasibility study. The feasibility study is eligible for the state reimbursement (probably 80% for Worcester), but it is reimbursement, so the city has to front the money.
The city has a year to complete the feasibility study.

I will post more as I hear more.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Mass School Building Authority submissions (and here comes Nelson Place)

Allen: Statement(s) of Interests submittals going to Finance and Operations
note that there is a new science lab initiative this year (Worcester East Middle and others?)
Green Repair (which we submitted three plans to last year; more coming this year?): limited to boilers, roofs, and windows
traditional Statements of Interest
any project that was filed in FY11 that has not changed can simply be recertified
"working with the City Manager...developing some funding discussions..begin in relatively short order"

Foley:  as it stands right now, we can certainly do a reaffirmation of Nelson Place
MOTION: to reaffirm Nelson Place as our first choice schools (and refer all else)
 Passes unanimously

Biancheria asks if getting state money on Worcester East Middle would slow it down
Allen says potentially slow it down, "in our best interest to leverage state funding" at 80% reimbursement, possibly allowing more work to be done at Worcester East Middle
Biancheria doesn't want to see it get lost
Allen: bid results are much higher than amount budgeted by city capital funds, thus having the state pick up 80% could make this all work out

technical difficulties

Sorry, the WiFi has been funky tonight, so notes are scattered...I'll try to do a wrap-up tomorrow on what might have been missed.

School Nutrition presentation

Child nutrition report
National school lunch act created in 1946 as “a nutritional safety net”
families that qualify for food stamps automatically qualify for school lunch
plus income qualification from application
reimbursements are entirely from state/federal reimbursement plus food sales
enrollement of 24,368
free 15,894
reduced 1508
71% of the population free/reduced
15,867 lunches served a day of which 13,154 are free
trending upward (up to 72% as of today)
regulations are changing as implementing under the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010
mandatory protein
decreased required fat content
Many of the requirements are already being met
expanded breakfast program at 15 elementary schools: breakfast provided to all students in the classroom (schools with 80% or greater free/reduced eligibility)
all juices citrus or vegetable based
protein from sunflower seeds and soynuts
equals nutritional playing field for all students
specifications on weekly requirements of vegetables; increased consumption
increased accessibility to minimally processed foods
requiring students to take fruits or vegetables
reduction in average sodium content (25% for breakfast and 54% for lunch)
added 6 cents for lunch, but no increase in reimbursement for breakfast
required to raise equity in lunch prices
access to free potable water
Massachusetts: Nutrition Standards for Competitive Foods and Beverages Sold
water for free; milk fat-free or low-fat; n more than 8oz milk; no more than 22g of sugar per 8oz.
USDA fruit and vegetable program in 13 elementary schools during the school day in the classroom
must be uncooked and minimally processed: many are local
Farm-to-School: fruits and vegetables with a preference for locally grown
pilot in kindergarten initiative: 325 K students in 13 classrooms
 specialty crop grant

Monfredo: Bake sales: only at night or after school? under MA guidelines
Lombardi notes that these (and others) are still in debate
Monfredo suggests coming up with options for other rewards (and sales)
O'Connell: asks if we're using state and federal funds to supplement fully paid lunch
Allen: producing the meal for less than we're getting for federal reimbursement
paid meals a very small percentage of total
prices of paid lunches increased this past year due to federal requirement: paid price must equal free and reduced reimbursement
additional resources to improve quality of food
Is there an issue of kids who do not get lunch at all?
will there be kids who do not buy lunch at all?
Boone points out lots of kids bring their lunches
Lombardi: students who bring lunch though they are free eligible
scheduling lunches for maximizing programs
if our prices go up, will there be more kids that don't buy lunch (who would have paid before)?

Novick asks about online payment of school lunches: maybe by the turn of the year (hurrah!)
the trick is not only to get the food served, but to get the kids eating it, which we are successful at
something we do well

North auditorium

Petition before the committee to name the auditorium after the alumni of North High.
Passes unanimously.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Wholly unuseful chart, Batman!*

You may have seen this chart on the front page of today's Telegram & Gazette, accompanying an article on education funding.
Wow. I'm not clear on what some of those columns even mean.
The first column seems to be some sort of per-pupil required average minimum, something which would vary widely by population, as it costs more to fund the education of children who have special education, English language, or other needs, and the state acknowledges this in their requirements. Worcester thus would have a higher number in this column than Weston, having, as we do, significantly higher numbers of higher need pupils. It's thus a fairly meaningless number, as all it's really telling you is that Worcester has higher numbers of more expensive educational needs, which I think we all knew.
The second number, actual average spending, takes the above not-really-relevant comparison, and compounds the error by tossing the grant funding in on top of our per pupil funding. Grant funding always sounds like lots of fun money, but public voting of grants has (I hope!) demonstrated that much of this money is extremely encumbered. We can't take Title II money and use it for elementary nurses, or Title I money and use it for science labs. Money for particular things has to go to those particular things, and grant funds are going to after school programs, teacher training, school nutrition, and instructional assistants.
This is different than municipal funds, which are not restricted. If the city decides it wants nurses in every elementary school, or languages more widely taught, it can pay for them out of municipal funds.

For the point of this article--is the city doing enough when it comes to education funding, in the opinion of those running for School Committee?--a chart making the comparison of this graph would be useful, one which shows how much the actual municipality is doing when it comes to education funding. This would include, certainly, what the state requires; it would also include what the municipality does VOLUNTARILY.

How much does Worcester spend over foundation? For FY11, 0.1%.

The chart you need to make this comparison is here. (If you can't get the dropout menu to work, Worcester is LEA number 348.) The column all the way to the right, "Percent Over/Under" is the one to read down. You'll see that Worcester has only broken 1% over foundation once in the past nine years (and plenty of us have clear memories of the work we did to get the city contribution up to that 1.5%, too).

To make the comparisons the T&G did:
Weston (LEA # 330) was at 80% over foundation last year.
Cambridge (LEA # 49) chose to spend 86.2% over foundation.
Boston (LEA # 35) was at 9.9% over.
Springfield (LEA # 281) was under last year, by 2%.
Fitchburg (LEA # 97) was at 1.9% over last year.

A few more of possible interest:
Framingham (LEA # 100) 41.8%
Pittsfield (LEA # 236) 12.7%
Fall River (LEA # 95) 3.2%
Lowell (LEA # 160) 1.7%
Holyoke (LEA # 137) 2%
Southbridge (LEA # 277) 9.7%
Chicopee (LEA # 61) 1.9%

My point with this last list is this: you don't even need to go after the high numbers in the wealthy suburban districts. Compare us with other urban areas, who face the identical fiscal challenges, state budget cuts, and balancing acts on taxation.
We don't come close to measuring up on what we do for our kids in Worcester.

*the pun is not as painful as the chart. Honest.