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!)