Monday, April 30, 2012


Please mark your calendar and spread the word!

  • On May 9 at 6 pm, the Finance and Operations standing committee will hold a public hearing on the FY13 budget at North High. Mark your calendar, bring a friend: we want to hear from you!
  • The Worcester Public Schools budget will be released to the School Committee and (online) to the public on Friday, June 1.
  • The Worcester School Committee will review and pass the FY13 budget on June 7 and June 21, both Thursday, at 4 pm at City Hall.
You are most welcome to attend!

Teach for America in Florida

Helpful article showing the "you want to do WHAT?" aspect of Teach for America, this time from Florida:
Concerned about teacher retention?
In August, about 100 Teach For America recruits will arrive to work as teachers in Duval County Public Schools. If past trends hold, as few as 11 of them will still be teaching here in traditional public schools five years from now.
How about budgeting?

Officials from those districts say the financial investment in recruitment and training, plus the replacement cost when those teachers leave, makes the program impractical given the limited funding for education...Cobb would have paid $8,000 per teacher to TFA for recruitment and training. Duval will use the federal grant money to pay TFA $3,000 per teacher for recruitment and training.
 Not an experiment we want to make, Worcester.

Eventful week

Quite a number of things going on this week for the Worcester Public Schools:
  • Tomorrow afternoon at 4:30 will be the official unveiling of the new bookmobile NAME at Holy Cross!
  • On Wednesday afternoon at 4 pm is a joint meeting of the Standing Committee on Finance and Operations (of the School Committee) with the Education Committee (of City Council) at City Hall. The agenda is of one item: capital repairs.
  • On Wednesday evening at 6 pm is the annual "Evening of Celebration" at Worcester Technical High School.
  • On Thursday evening at 7 pm is the regular meeting of the Worcester School Committee, again at City Hall.

Friday, April 27, 2012

More of a summary on FY13 thus far

When we last left you, we were facing a $1.3 million budget gap for FY13, which was being closed by a project cut of 19 elementary positions. Here's where last night, after much number crunching on the part of the finance department, ended up last night.

Expenses for FY13 are increasing by $17 million.
Funding (from state and city) is increasing by $11.4 million.
This leaves us with a budget gap of $5.6 million which is proposed to be closed by the following:

$1 million savings in building utilities*
$1 million in health insurance savings** 
$1 million in special ed tuition savings***
$0.6 million due to a cut of 6 teaching positions****
$0.5 million in one-time textbook expenses
$0.2 million in unemployment*****
$0.1 million in savings from ending the early retirement benefit
$0.1 million in savings from Jobs for Bay State Grads
$1.1 million from all other areas

May 9 at North High at 6 pm is the public comment session. Please come!

*(you might remember the Committee has set this aside for environmental work; you'll see that in the budget)
**continued savings due to migration due to health insurance changes in contract
***The biggest chunk of this due to a rate freeze from the special ed collaborative for member districts.
****3 elementary, 1 teaching assistant principal, 4 high school positions
*****if you don't lay people off, you don't have to pay unemployment.

FY13: teaching positions

As of right now, it is projected that 3 elementary positions would be cut.
It is projected that 6 secondary positions would be added.
I'll do a better summary of last night's full budget updates a bit later in the day.
Mark May 9 on your calendar: we're taking public comment at North High that evening on the budget.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Worcester Public Schools are on Facebook!

You can find them here!

community input on selecting principals

Colorio asks for a report on community input
(we have LOTS of principals open)

on North High

Biancheria asks for an update on the demo of the old North High
and the new playing fields and parking lot

Note that this has to go to the city, as they handle construction

two way bilingual programs

O'Connell wants us to consider them in French and in Mandarin Chinese...
except...the notion of the bilingual program works because some children already speak the language other than English (which is the point I just made)

report on MCAS testing

Biancheria asks for a report on issues and concerns of the last round of MCAS testing

...and the television studio

...there's one at Claremont. It's fallen into disuse.

library at Claremont Academy

The NEASC is concerned about the library at Claremont
"this is really an issue for funding and support for the school's library" from O'Connell

Local Education Account

You've got a check-off box on your tax bill. O'Connell asks how much is in there.

Revolving accounts

O'Connell wants a report on balances

Remembering E. Jay Tierney

who was on the committee from 1980-90
They voted in John Durkin
maintained the school district during Prop 2 1/2
"what a key force he was"

Teach for America and Boston Teacher Residency programs

encourage people to try out education
"in hopes that we find that people who don't usually" try education
has met with representation
"let's be very cautious about hiring people without experience"
"I wouldn't hire a TFA applicant over a teacher with experience"
a 20 year experiment on, largely, poor children of color (again)
do about as well as any other other untrained person with no background in education:
moreover, each TFA member costs the district an additional $5000/person
also depress reading scores of their pupils
motion to split
TFA passes 6-1
Boston Teacher Residency unanimous

Appreciation weeks!

Teacher Appreciation Week: May 7 to 11
Nurse Appreciation Week: May 7 to 11
is it the same? are they sharing this year?

Schoool adjustment counselor ratios

We've got a report on the ratio
Some concern here (voiced by Biancheria) about high ratios
coming back at budget

asking for an update on bullying

going to TLSS
Also a report on BRACE
Bullying Remediation and Court Education project: asking for a report


charging ever onward in working to get to foreign travel (including adding two days of allowed absence)
providing alternatives to silent lunches
requesting that we look at $13,000 for cheerleading equipment
safety at athletic events
adding PD for IA's (professional development for instructional assistants)
visual arts on curriculum review
 MassCore added
policies handbook on AP

Budget questions

Monfredo motion for a consideration of indirect cost rate of 1%
motion to contact the Senate regarding a full funding of the charter budget, by taking the money away from the additional $40 from the less needy districts
wants preschools, smaller classes

contact Senate
ALL urban centers should do likewise
budget which is predicated on 0% costs from the city: to eliminate the gap created
"roll that figure back to an average of 1%"
what would the administration do with the funds?
minimum level as minimum or absolute minimum
Are we subtracting and adding positions under Title III? Yes, we can fund teaching coaches but not office positions.
school choice: the money that comes to us this year to balance the budget
past year money we may choose to allocate

May 9 budget hearing
"city may be meeting its statutory requirements, but is not meeting" other agreements
16 teachers to be assigned as yet
"there will need to be some sort of reimbursement developed" from the grant reimbursement
city is taken a credit of $5.8 m : a percentage of all of their expenses
DESE would prefer that we take a per pupil cost rather than a percentage: would save

FY13 budget update

Boone: "I said to the committee that I would be asking the city for contribution above the minimum"

projected a $1.3 million deficit, but more challenging than in
"many budget drivers are different than they have been in the past"
 foundation budget is an "adequate" level of funding
budget amount per pupil varies: Worcester average is $11,434
per pupil rates are the same across the Commonwealth, with only a cost of living adjustment
foundation budget is calculated by LAST year's population
state determines how much the municipality can pay; they make up the difference
changes are by enrollment and by population
municipal contribution changes by municipal revenue increase
foundation budget increase of $12 m next year
local contribution increasing by $2.8 m; the state makes up the difference
of the $12m increase, $1.4m is charter and school choice
 WPS increase is $10.6 m

House Ways and Means budget:
additional $0 per pupil for the LEAST NEEDY communities
charter reimbursement funded at 74%
also $11.3 million for McKinney-Vento

City local aid has increased by $2.5 m, that brings up the city contribution by $750,000
is needed to get Worcester to minimum required spending

not clear what city will do in their budget
if they require the increase in city contribution, they will reduce our Ch. 70
but that reduction would put us below required minimum spending

FY12 shortfall is $223,299 which gets ADDED TO FY13

under Section 6 of Chapter 70, there are spending items that DO NOT count towards net school spending:
plus it includes the municipal costs the city gets to count towards contribution
NSS: 298,423,612
that's $750,000 (which is that increase in contribution): net zero

Have had agreements to put us $660,000 over NSS (that's the 0.2%)

Cost increases of $17 m
$5 m in cost reductions

employee salaries
reduction in grant funding
new positions
environmental work
retirement assessment
all other costs

2% increase in employee salary is below inflation and below urban centers (I missed that...something...aha! The Consumer Price Index for Northeast Urban areas)

grant changes:
EdJobs is gone
IDEA 1% reduced (that's 20 IAs)
Title III (8 office aides moved)
APIP grant: teacher training moving to the general fund
testing has to go from Title I
Title I (3% cut) and Title IIA (15% cut) moving 7 teachers to general fund
kindergarten grant being level funded moving 5.5 IAs to general fund

six more sped positions
five ESL
replace Jobs for Bay State grads funding (JBSG): 4 teachers
3 teachers at Goddard Scholars to add 6th grade
1 Mandarin teacher at Doherty
2 (grant funded) Ch. 74 Perkins funded teachers


adding 5 sped IAs, 4 ESL IAs, 2 K IAs
3 ESL tutors
3 clerical
2 custodian

Allen comments that he's never seen all three of these go down in the same year:
utilities down a million
health insurance down a million
special ed tuition (from in house services cutting $440,000 in tuition) down a million
cutting eight teacher positions
because layoffs are down, less unemployment

elementary class sizes average of 21.8
none greater than 29
24 classes of over 27
355 less than 23
191 23-26 students

no reduction in secondary courses
level funds $63 student supplies and $1 recess funding

funding above minimum:
career and tech courses of $1.5 m
MassCore $1.2 m
special ed compliance $1.3 m
ESL compliance $1 m
Total of $5 m over minimum

What to watch:
MassCore staffing needed regardless
ELL enrollment going up
running out of room in elementary schools
Tech support, maintenance and training
grant funding levels:: grants support staffing

Any savings as a result of the DESE finding on grant funding: $725,000 if the grant assessment were 1% (as historically)
Senate budget is coming

School Committee hears the budget on June 7 and 14 starting at 4

Innovation Schools vote

Lincoln Street
Worcester East Middle
pass unanimously

Novick: motion to send back to the committee
Does not meet our requirements under the merger of the vocational school with the district school system
Bureau of Labor Statistics: a shortage of skilled labor (not college degree...and college graduates are going without jobs)
MOTION: under the voke merger, we were to revitalize the Worcester Technical Institute two year post-grad program: we didn't. Inquire into what happened

Monfredo: praises the plan, motion to move the item

O'Connell: skilled labor
"significant gap"
 STEM on every front...

"the plan as proposed here is a sound plan..."

Worcester School Committee: school choice

School choice hearing:
Monfredo makes a motion to ask if we should expand school choice
notes that $500,000 comes into the district from other districts
O'Connell mentions that we have some schools that have room and will have room
"take an aggressive tack towards school choice"
"Where there is space available ONLY"

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Online lunch payment letters on their way!

Watch your mailbox: you'll be getting a letter for each child enrolled in the Worcester Public Schools. In it is a number so you can "claim" your child through the Parent Team Online website. You'll first need to set up an account (one per family) and then claim your child or children.
You can then add money to that child's account for school lunch!
(Let me know what you think!)

Site Council training: coming up!

Site Council Training

with the

Massachusetts Association of

School Committees

May 15th 6pm-8pm

Fuller Conference Center

Mass College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences

25 Foster Street, Worcester, MA

Please register May 10th by calling Jamese Tatum at 508-757-5631 ext.222 

Comments on the exam school

By now you will have seen the announcement of the special committee to look at an exam school and International Baccalaureate program in Worcester. Mayor Petty has asked me to serve as chair. Per the mayor's announcement:
The special committee will study and report to the School Committee on the feasibility of establishing a school for 200 – 300 high achieving students in grades 9 – 12 to develop and promote academic excellence and leadership relevant to success in the 21st century.  Additionally, the special committee will explore an International Baccalaureate (IB) program for students in Worcester to help develop the intellectual, personal, emotional and social skills to live, learn, and work in a rapidly globalizing world. Included in the report will be an analysis of potential risks and benefits of such a school, a recommendation for a school focus, recommended criteria useful for identifying students for admission, and projected costs. 
My comments from the press conference after the break:

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

National Resolution on High-Stakes Testing

You may have seen that over 300 Texas school boards have adopted a resolution calling into question the pre-eminance that testing has taken in our school system.
Modeled off of that resolution, a coalition of education groups and activists (including me) have pulled together the following National Resolution on High-Stakes Testing for the endorsement of individuals, organizations, and local school boards:

WHEREAS, our nation's future well-being relies on a high-quality public education system that prepares all students for college, careers, citizenship and lifelong learning, and strengthens the nation's social and economic well-being; and

WHEREAS, our nation's school systems have been spending growing amounts of time, money and energy on high-stakes standardized testing, in which student performance on standardized tests is used to make major decisions affecting individual students, educators and schools; and

WHEREAS, the over-reliance on high-stakes standardized testing in state and federal accountability systems is undermining educational quality and equity in U.S. public schools by hampering educators' efforts to focus on the broad range of learning experiences that promote the innovation, creativity, problem solving, collaboration, communication, critical thinking and deep subject-matter knowledge that will allow students to thrive in a democracy and an increasingly global society and economy; and

WHEREAS, it is widely recognized that standardized testing is an inadequate and often unreliable measure of both student learning and educator effectiveness; and

WHEREAS, the over-emphasis on standardized testing has caused considerable collateral damage in too many schools, including narrowing the curriculum, teaching to the test, reducing love of learning, pushing students out of school, driving excellent teachers out of the profession, and undermining school climate; and

WHEREAS, high-stakes standardized testing has negative effects for students from all backgrounds, and especially for low-income students, English language learners, children of color, and those with disabilities; and

WHEREAS, the culture and structure of the systems in which students learn must change in order to foster engaging school experiences that promote joy in learning, depth of thought and breadth of knowledge for students; therefore be it

RESOLVED, that [your organization name] calls on the governor, state legislature and state education boards and administrators to reexamine public school accountability systems in this state, and to develop a system based on multiple forms of assessment which does not require extensive standardized testing, more accurately reflects the broad range of student learning, and is used to support students and improve schools; and

RESOLVED, that [your organization name] calls on the U.S. Congress and Administration to overhaul the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, currently known as the "No Child Left Behind Act," reduce the testing mandates, promote multiple forms of evidence of student learning and school quality in accountability, and not mandate any fixed role for the use of student test scores in evaluating educators.

You can sign on here.
More on this from Valerie Strauss, Diane Ravitch, and more on list-servs.

Burncoat Prep Level 4 plan (not-so-liveblog)

One item on the agenda here tonight: the Burncoat Prep turnaround plan. Note that the plan is due Tuesday, April 24, so there is no opportunity for a rewrite.
Deadline for application for federal funds
wanted to have it with regular agenda, but deadline before then

Team composed of 50% teachers
central office really comes together as a support team
original draft was initial work
rubric to write to; draft given on Friday
state deadline is tomorrow

submitted a two page report to Mulqueen and new principal, including on preschool, summer programs, building relationships

still have a few concerns with this
looking at a very tight budget; additional staff being put on
  • 0.2 social worker
  • 0.5 librarian
  • lead teacher
  • wraparound coordinator
$184,000 in salaries from grant
doesn't include extended day money
probably could have additional tutors or IAs in classroom; could help with ratio
about 10% increase in staff overall in budget
what does culturally competent mean? How do you measure it?

He begins by reminding us to "make sure we turn the fridge back on" (which we've turned off here at Nelson Place due to noise)
wraparound do deal with issues that teachers and principals deal with every day: hopefully can deal with issues parents have
"if we reach in a real positive fashion, parents will come to the table"
"keep in mind...they've taken on an inordinate number of students with special needs...50% do not come from Burncoat Prep"
find places in their neighborhood schools for these children
redesign should be dispersing those children properly to their home schools

"committed to excellence"
"sound practical logical ideas that have been used before"
Two schools in the city that did not have libraries are Level 4 schools
community participation: that's vital
expand into summer programs, prekindergarten

appointment of new principal
"it appeared that this change in staff would not take place until there a transitional period and how is that going to work?"
new principal begins July 1
Boone: planning has to occur now, before principal change
students are bussed in, but aren't coming from a distance: fine line of a few minutes
"wonderful that we're discussing having parents engaged in the school"
Do we see parents not only coming to the school, but some community function that will take them away from the school but into the community?
We might find that parents do not have their own transportation to the school...perhaps we can have events in the community
"began to level that expectation by having meetings at Great Brook Valley"
transportation offered and interpreter services
"biggest concern I have with this particular school"

correction on p.6: there's actually a smaller percentage of African-American students at the school than in the district
agree with Colorio on wraparound coordinator: have a child at a school with one, unproven model, "want real data before I vote another $70,000 position"
demographic data so out of line with the rest of the district; this is an even larger issue than Level 4 status, and is dealt nowhere in the plan
plan mentions majority of children come from Great Brook Valley, then discusses crime
"more to Great Brook Valley than crime, challenges and otherwise"
60% Latino school in a district that is 38.4% Latino
"those children are bussed; this does not reflect a neighborhood"
choice that the committee has made on lines of cachement area: have created a segregated school
Uncomfortable conversation, but one we need to have
Also, plan speaks of two way communication: that means parents talk back
where are they talking back? Very concerning

Boone: neighborhood, housing patterns
O'Connell: children in Burncoat Prep's neighborhood don't attend Burncoat Prep; how to attract them back?

Petty: supports plan, moving right direction

Plan voted through 5-2, Colorio and Novick against

Notes to come

I do have notes from last night's meeting (Nelson Place was built up to bomb shelter standards, so no internet for me last night), and I'll post them as soon as my kids are on the bus.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Nelson Place library

There was a press conference at Nelson Place School tonight to announce the donation of cataloging software and volunteer hours from the Consortium of colleges in Worcester.
That's Mayor Petty addressing those attending.

School Committee meets tonight!

There will be a special meeting of the Worcester School Committee this evening to consider the Level 4 plan for Burncoat Prep. You can find the plan here.
The meeting is being held at Nelson Place School* at 7:30 in the school cafeteria.

*because there's a press conference at Nelson Place about their library at 7, and most of the committee was going to be there, anyway!

Disproportion and Discipline: Examining the Data: NSBA

Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights "answering questions about fundamental fairness"
self-reported information from districts across the country: database here:
from districts that educate 85% of our students: large sample

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Growing up too fast already

Great post by Ira David Socol on recess and playgrounds for middle school and high school

Building Community Consensus to Finance School Construction in a Down Economy: NSBA

combination of board members, superintendent, and architects on this one
"You're either interested in this topic, or you've got tickets to the game and the weather's not cooperating"

Legal pitfalls of technology use: NSBA

Note that this is directed at school board members, but much of this applies to basically anyone in the public eye or publicly employed
Publishing as we go... 

Sal Khan, Khan Academy: NSBA

I promised our tech department that I'd take notes! Publishing as I go, and, as usual, italics are mine...
With thanks to fellow NSBA conference tweeters, some cons on Khan (pun intended) links first:
On the "robot teacher" model
On why the flipped classroom is a problem
On learning math by video (or not)
(Also, great real-time conversation going on around this under the #NSBAConf hashtag)

National Legislative Update: NSBA

National Legislative Updates
"why should I be concerned? Federal government only provides 10% of national education funding."
Nonetheless, the federal government has a very active role.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Erasing the opportunity gap: NSBA

This one is from someone from the Austin, TX school district and someone from Appleseed
publishing as I go
"The Same Starting Line: Erasing the Opportunity Gap Between Poor and Middle Class Children"
 "What is it that you as board members are offering poor kids versus what's being offered middle class families?"

School Boards' Last Stand : NSBA

on the title: reference intended?
Note that this is being presented by perspectives from North Carolina, Washington, Illinois, and New York
"need to know your full environment before you make decisions"
"I've never seen a wreck like we're having"

Strategic Master Planning (school buildings) NSBA

publishing as I go...
Three district examples: Tiverton, RI; Groton, CT; Waterbury, CT.
Tiverton and Groton on declining enrollment; Waterbury increasing

Friday, April 20, 2012

National School Boards conference!

A bit of a warning: I'll be liveblogging from the NSBA (National School Boards Association) conference, which is in Boston this weekend, tomorrow through Monday. Posts (and tweets!) to follow!
You can follow the tweets from there by searching #NSBAConf.

About those School Improvement plans

A couple of good things to look at on SIG funds and plans:
  • Most of the money from our SIG grants for our Level 4 schools is going for the state required extended learning time. Worth reading is this column on extended day.
  • Hechinger has a good round-up on where the money's going, the extent to which it's making any difference, and what happens next.
I was asked last week "What happens when the money goes away?" I don't have an answer to that.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The House Ways and Means Budget increases funding regressively

You might remember that the foundation formula came out of a lawsuit filed on behalf of children in Massachusetts whose education was not being equitably funded.
Children from places like Worcester.
There's a reason why communities like Worcester get more funding from the state: there's a greater proportion of need in urban communities.

So a flat increase in ed funding necessarily is regressive, and contrary to the very reason why we have a foundation formula.
Unfortunately, the House Ways and Means much-touted $40/student increase is exactly that.The below chart from Mass Budget and Policy tells the story:

Yes, that means more of this money is going to wealthier communities.
Call your reps!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

City's been overcharging the schools on grants

The Worcester Public Schools have been awaiting a legal decision from the state regarding the city's indirect charge on grants received on behalf of the schools by the city. The charge had been 1%, as voted by the school committee. Three years ago, the city unilaterally raised that to 3%.
The state has now come back with this legal decision. It finds the following:
  • the maximum allowable charge is 2.65% (as set by DESE)
  • further, " would be contrary to purpose of establishing principles of allowable costs for federal funds if the indirect cost rate proposed to and accepted by the USED could be ignored."
  • "The school committee, which applies for and receives subgrants of federal funds from ESE, possesses the exclusive authority to decide whether and to what extent it will charge indirect costs to subgrants."
The School Committee will take up "whether and to what extent" the city's indirect costs will be during the budget.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Spring gardening

I got a bit of weeding done this morning up at Union Hill on the flower bed. It's doing really well!
(Note that weeding was a bit of a trick as the bed is behind the fence around the temporary boiler.)

At one point, this was the only bit of green they had; now there's much more!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Claremont vote

By now you will have seen that I voted with the majority on the 5-2 vote to impact bargain involuntary transfer of teachers at Claremont Academy.
Because I don't think it's fair to any teacher that he or she end up in a school undergoing radical transformation with new expectations without getting a chance to opt out, I voted for the motion to impact bargain.
I would not have done so without knowing and having great trust in the new leadership and the emphasis Mr. Hall places on collaborative leadership (he's the only principal I know of who insists on teaching as well). Claremont (as Clive McFarlane covered well yesterday) has a history of a new great idea or person coming in with energy, but that having now backup or support from anywhere else, and it then fading away. That's not fair to anyone.
Note (again) that no teacher at Claremont is losing his or her job. They are being asked to reapply to Claremont or to teach at another school in the system.
I understand that this is upsetting for teachers reapplying for jobs at Claremont or elsewhere. Every time we do reshuffling of people into positions--which happens every year--it's upsetting.
It's also upsetting to have a new administration come in with sweeping changes--summer PD, no more tracking--and be expected to simply adapt. That's not fair. If that isn't a system that teachers want to participate in, it's fair that they be given a chance to say "no thanks" and get it before the first round bid list comes out, so they can get the clearest shot of where they'd like to go. The principal gets some choice; the teachers get some choice. No August surprises.
And that's why I voted for this.

I'll also add that there are projected to be jobs lost this year. They're elementary jobs, 19 of them, and it will result in over 50 classes of 27 to 29 kids. That is something that is even more upsetting than any of the above. 


Worcester Public Schools graduations are as follows:

High Schools (all at DCU Center unless noted):
May 25, 11 am, St. Casmir Alternative at St. Casmir's Church
May 25, 10 am, Creamer Center at Worcester State
June 4, 6 pm, Worcester Tech
June 5, 6 pm, South High
June 6, 6 pm, Doherty
June 7, 6 pm, North High
June 8,  6 pm, Burncoat High
June 11, 6 pm, Claremont Academy at Atwood Hall, Clark
June 12, 6 pm, UPCS at Atwood Hall, Clark
June 13, 7 pm, Adult Learning Center at Forest Grove

Middle schools all graduate on the last day of school--June 19--at their own school, with the exception of UPCS, which uses Jefferson 320 at Clark.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

A slogan to run on

Well, now here's a slogan to print in all in the re-election materials:

Leominster mayor: Low school spending not my fault
Rowlands said the School Department is $246,000 under the net school spending, and that Leominster is one of only 20 communities in the state that failed to meet spending needs. 
Richard said Mazzarella's administration is not interested in blaming anybody but insisted the problem is not at City Hall.
Mazzarella's administration develops the budget, and the School Department has autonomy for managing and spending the money, Richard said."The budget I submitted to the City Council met net school spending, so we at least met, if not exceeded, net school spending, so it was really a spending issue," Mazzarella said.

So one of two things happened here: either the Council really didn't pass a budget that didn't meet Net School Spending requirements (which--ahem--has been known to happen) OR the city did meet NSS, but the schools didn't spend all that was allocated to them.
Guess who the one person who would be partly responsible in EITHER case, though?
Yep. Mayor Mazzarella. He chairs both committees, both of which have ultimate financial responsibility.

Can we agree that cutting it so close on NSS might not be the best way to deal with funding public education? That we're not really supposed to be in some fight to the death over who can possibly spend the least amount on educating the next generation? Particularly when we know that the foundation budget (which is the calculation that gives us NSS) is underfunded statewide by at least $2.1 billion?

with thanks for the link to one without a blog. 

First look at HWM budget for Worcester FY13

We're still awaiting a cherry sheet from DESE, but in the meantime, we've received this evening the following information from Mr. Allen (emphasis mine):
The House Ways and Means (HWM) budget was released today.  According to the state budget documents, our Chapter 70 state aid is the same amount that was included in the Governor’s budget in January at $210,364,137.   It is interesting to note that the HWM budget includes a $40 per pupil “minimum aid” to ensure that all communities receive some increase in Chapter 70.  There is no additional funds for Worcester resulting from this “minimum aid”.  The budget also provides funds to some communities to reduce their local contribution target share down to the statutory cap of 82.5% in accordance with changes made in 2007.  Again, this funding does not provide increases for Worcester.

Budget time!

House Ways and Means is out!
(corrected. thanks.)

What, you don't have this day marked on your calendar?!

No commentary as yet; I'll post as I have it. Awaiting DESE cherry sheets this afternoon.


Beyond the comments I've already made, there isn't much any of us can say, due to it being in negotiations and thus in executive session. I post the following for those interested:

Here is the memo that went to Claremont's faculty yesterday.

Here is the letter that went to parents yesterday.

UPDATE: Two points of clarification, as I keep seeing and hearing questions on these:
  • teachers have contracts with the district, not with the school, thus the reapplication is to teaching at Claremont, not to teaching in WPS at all. (No one is being fired; this is called "involuntary transfer" per the contract.)
  • as of right now, there are no layoffs projected for secondary teachers for FY13; we need to keep the teachers we have to serve the number of students we have. 

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Testimony on H3883

Good morning.

My name is Tracy O'Connell Novick and I am Vice-Chair of the Worcester School Committee.

I am a former Massachusetts public school teacher, a parent of three daughters in the Worcester Public Schools, and a former member of Stand for Children.

Notes on Stand for Children ballot measure: H3883

These are my notes from 10 am until I left at 1; there were still people remaining to testify when I left. Apologies for not getting more names; if you've got them, please send them along. As per usual, editorial italics are mine.

Blooms, budgets, and bills

Spring at the State House

At the State House

I'm at the State House in Boston today, testifying before the Joint Committee on Education regarding H3883, which is the Stand for Children ballot measure, only as a bill.
I took notes right up until I left at one, and I'll post those and my own testimony just as soon as I get my netbook back to a power outlet!

Monday, April 9, 2012

"They roared their terrible roars....

...and gnashed their terrible teeth..."
Pretty awesome.
UPDATE: Even better.

Facilities work update

I've just scanned in the memo (page 1; page 2)  the School Committee received on Friday with an update on the summer 2011 project work. You might remember that there was some work that didn't get finished by school opening.
  • Clark Street: has eight classrooms with new flooring; eleven renovated bathrooms; new lockers; new water fountains; and much painting. There's a bit of painting still to go; otherwise, Clark Street is done.
  • Goddard: Goddard has the old "bathrooms in the basement" set-up in the older building (that's the left-hand one, if you're standing on Richards Street). Those bathrooms have had a really nice renovation (and props to the staff and students for dealing with limited bathroom access for December and January!), which are now done. A similar renovation is being done in the newer (right) building once school gets out for the summer. Painting is now done throughout the building. 
  • Tatnuck Magnet: two major bathroom renovations this summer. There will also be new flooring installed this summer in some areas.
  • Worcester East Middle Schools: on the science labs...they've been sent out to bid more than once. We were also denied funding under MSBA (who, alas, went with "only high school" for their secondary science lab renovation funding!). The Worcester Public Schools is currently waiting to have the City Manager authorize the remainder of the $3 million allocated for school building rehabilitation ($1.3 million remains), before this work can proceed.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Check the evidence

Just a few quick things on today's T&G editorial:
  • The Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice's document cited is not a study; it's a 2010 review of all available peer-reviewed research on Teach for America. You might call it a study of studies. 
  • As TFA has now been around for 20 years, we have a track record to look at prior to leaping to embrace "innovative" ideas. As a data-driven district, we can do no less.

Friday, April 6, 2012

FY13 budget update

We received an FY13 budget update last night (which will be found up online here soon; if it doesn't in the next few hours, I'll scan my copy in and post it).
UPDATE: Page 1 of the memo. Page 2.
Principals have now met with administration and are going back to their schools with news; that's where this is coming from.
  • First, keep in mind that THERE IS NO FINAL DECISION REGARDING BUDGET UNTIL THE SCHOOL COMMITTEE VOTES IN JUNE. Administration recommends a budget, but the School Committee passes it. In other words: Yes, you should get in touch with us!
  • Second, we don't have all of the final recommendations from administration as yet. We'll get a more complete update after the House comes out with their budget next week. Because we are so heavily dependent on state aid, we wait to see where that is heading before we get too complete in outlines.We'll get a final budget to fully consider in May.
  • Third, the budget gaps stands at $1.3 million. 
 The big news:
  • Administration is projecting a reduction of up to 19 elementary positions next year. With continued growing enrollment, that will create more than 50 classrooms (out of 555 K-6 classrooms) with 27 to 29 students
Can I suggest that getting in touch with the City Council about net school spending (which we have been under for two years running) would also be helpful?
Happy to take comments and questions here as well as elsewhere.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

well, I warned you...

I can blog and participate, but I can't blog and chair!

Sorry, totally didn't get that

but the pink slime letter got held until the next meeting on a 5-2 vote (Petty and Novick voting no)
Largely, Mr. O'Connell feels that the matter is best left to the USDA who have said it is safe.

UPDATE: But, thanks to the wonders to Channel 11, here is just those 10 minutes of the meeting:

Innovation plans hearing

Note that this is a public hearing tonight: the School Committee will not vote tonight.
Len Zalauskas: "not happy" in the way it rolled out
He'd asked to participate, but was not allowed to
"very fine plan, and they did a fine job"
law is clear..."if you're on one of those committees, you're supposed to help write the plan"
"wanted to bring that to your attention"
 "no one bids in there, anyway..."
some issues that need to be dealt with in these plans
"let's get it right"
"the gold standard is UPCS...and that's about Worcester East Middle...the other one is much worst"

Ted Coughlin:
who knew he lived in Shrewsbury?
"embed more STEM in the Worcester Technical High School curriculum"
and we've got a STEM education video...

workforce investment board president from Northboro
gap that's twofold in the emerging workforce
soft skills: communication, teamwork, time management
hands on skills:
"evolving labor market requires more than a high school diploma"
"becoming the underpinning of most of our industry"
80% of jobs created over the next decade are estimated to require math and science skills
"Massachusetts forgotten middle skills job"
support for Tech's plan

current sophomore reviews her plans for the rest of her high school

Zalauskas: "I'm not sure any of these people actually read this plan"
should be rejected and be revised
work year and work load: union's attorney questions who voted: faculty or teachers
there's a question as to who voted on the plan
2/3 vote of the teachers required by Act Relative to the Achievement Gap  
(section 8 deals with innovation plans)
(That's here: " the applicant shall submit the innovation plan to teachers in the school that is proposed for conversion for approval by secret ballot within 30 days. A two-thirds vote of the teachers shall be required to approve the plan.")
"president and superintendent can't collude to subvert the law"
first time the plan was put forward, it was rejected
"basically solid, but is it legal?"

O'Connell requests a legal opinion on the vote at Worcester Tech prior to the School Committee vote at the end of April
also comments on collaborative nature of the planning process: people need materials well ahead of time before a vote

Worcester School Committee meeting TONIGHT!

And we're back downtown.
You can find the agenda here. The report of the Superintendent tonight is the presentation by the three proposed innovation schools: Lincoln Street, Worcester East Middle, and Worcester Technical High School.
The Standing Committee on Accountability is reporting back.
We are getting a few reports back from Administration, and we're proposing a few recognitions.
There are a number of sizable grants coming in, including some on a supplemental.
7 pm, City Hall!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Fire next to South High


"Hired Guns on Astroturf"

Ed reformers liven up their websites with photographs of happy-looking school children, many of them minorities: the kids are busy at work or smiling into the camera. Meanwhile, their self-appointed benefactors ally with politicians who are slashing school budgets, cutting social services and benefits, gutting jobs programs, undercutting health-care reform, pummeling public sector unions, and passing laws that make it harder for the children’s parents to vote. The disconnect between what ed reformers claim to be doing for low-income children and what they actually bring about boggles the mind.

Dissent magazine this month: read it.

Expensive mistakes

I walked out of last night's event with a colleague from one of our suburbs. I asked him, "So, when are you guys going to bring Teach for America to your town?"
And then when we stopped laughing...
Because this is another bright idea that we're inflicting on high poverty students who can least afford it. The suburbs are not going to stop hiring well-educated, well-trained, experienced teachers for scantily trained college grads with no experience. That would be ridiculous.

Not to mention that paying TFA $5000 per corps member (over and above a step 1 teacher's salary) is a complete waste of public funds.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Speaking of Teach for America

At tonight's Worcester Regional Research Bureau event, we heard from Teach for America and the Boston Teachers' Residency program, in addition to contributions from Assumption's education department and myself.
In the interests of full disclosure (and in case it becomes a local issue), here are the resources I used in my response:
The most comprehensive look on Teach for America to date is the Great Lakes Center review of the evidence that came out in 2010.It exhaustively goes through the research available. Among other conclusions: TFA corps members do about as well as other teachers with no training or background in education and that they improve at about the same rates with two exceptions: in some cases they are marginally better at teaching their students math, and in several cases, there is a worrying negative impact on reading that persists over time. TFA is no longer serving students in underserved districts. Teacher persistence rate in actual classroom teaching,, when the numbers are dug down. somewhere around 20 to 15 percent of teachers remaining after five years.There is lots more there; if you read nothing else, go through that one.
This is included in that review, but  Linda Darling-Hammond on how teacher preparation makes a huge difference is here. This has lead to an ongoing attack on Darling-Hammond by TFA, incidentally.
A run through of the research TFA offers in support and how it...doesn't support can be found here. Seriously, there's a reason why we need to require statistic classes.
I borrowed Gary Rubenstein's line about every TFA corps member owning their district a third year due to the lousy job they did the first year from here 
Jim Horn does his usual good job of pointing out that far too much of this is being predicated on test scores, anyway, here.
A good run through of the somewhat crazy assumptions behind the very idea of TFA, also pointing out the harm that this does (and from a Canadian perspective) is here.
In addition to personal experience and much of what I've read and learned elsewhere, my argument on mutual development of teacher excellence was informed by Anthony Cody's blog post from last week on school turnaround.
I have not read Learning on Other People's Kids, but the title says much. Press release on the book is here.
A whole new set of questions is raised by Barbara Miner in her article for Rethinking Schools.What is the policy drive behind TFA? Where does all the money go? And what is going on with their 501 (c) 4?

For those interested: the forum was taped by channel 13 and will, I am told, be up online as well.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Account 500130-92000

Bruce Baker points out the legal challenges ahead for all we districts now stuck evaluating teachers on Student Growth Percentiles:’s much, much easier to explain in court that SGPs make no attempt whatsoever to estimate that portion of student growth that is under the control of, therefore attributable to, the teacher (see here for more explanation of this).  As such, it is, on its face, inappropriate to dismiss the teacher on the basis of a low classroom (or teacher) aggregate student growth metric like SGP. Note also that even if integrated into a “multiple measures” evaluation model, if the SGP data becomes the tipping point or significant basis for such decisions, the entire system becomes vulnerable to challenge.
 Can I suggest a close look at the legal fees line item for FY13 and going forward?

Don't Mess With

...John Kuhn:
This government has allowed state testing to become a perversion, growing like Johnson grass through the garden of learning and choking to death all knowledge that isn't on the test, killing ancient wisdom like debate, logic, and ethics--deep human learning that once provided this state a renewable crop of leaders who knew courage instead of expedience, truth instead of spin, and personal risk for the public good instead of personal enrichment and reelection at all costs.

This government has neglected the classics and has called on our children to become technicians instead of humans, regurgitators of math and science facts, who produce well-rounded bubbles in place of well-rounded souls; it has sought to make our children quantifiable shells of people, their guiding light of curiosity snuffed out by an idiot's opinion of what constitutes a human education.

You really have to read the whole thing, though.
And remember: Kuhn is a superintendent.

You asked, WPS answered: School Nutrition

Given the recent attention to school nutrition, I've gotten some additional questions on how the Worcester Public Schools handles feeding our students. I passed them off to Donna Lombardi, Director of School Nutrition (who falls into my personal category of " People who you never see or hear of who are doing vital work really well"), who passed back the following information:
It helps to know that we have schools that have kitchens and schools that do not. 
Beef ("pink slime" free) is on the menu every other week in elementary schools; twice a week in the secondary schools. 
I was asked how we handle vegetarian options:
At our schools without kitchens (which is most of our elementary schools) we "always have sunflower butter/jelly sandwiches on whole grain and yogurt every day.  There is also the cereal and yogurt option every day.   We are working on (and it is just about finished) a granola with sunflower seeds (contribution to the protein requirement) that if paired w/yogurt, fruit, veg, and milk would qualify as a reimbursable meal.  I am working on making the new granola meal an option at the schools – yogurt parfait."
At our elementary schools with kitchens, we have another option: "when the staff prepares the entrée, there is generally a version without meat 2-3 x per week: grilled cheese, rotini/sauce, pizza, rice & beans, etc."
Secondary schools (middle and high) have a vegetarian entrée every day.  Some of the student have asked for “vegan” and under the new regulations, we can use tofu for the protein requirement, so we are starting to work on a tofu entree.
In terms of allergies, our kitchens are peanut-free (thus the sunflower butter/jelly option above). Other allergies are handled on a student-by-student basis.
And...letters go out next week to all elementary students about online meal payment!
Thanks, Donna!