Thursday, January 31, 2013

Live posting from TLSS

but I'll be leaving early to get to the exam/IB meeting...posting as we go
Mr. O'Connell is running through the order in which we'll be taking the items.

Starting with crew, and we're getting a correction on the total, which should read $155,207.
We have not received any corporate sponsorships for new shells, but we've received extensive assistance from various teams and local community organizations.
Athletic Director David Shea lauds the booster club and students for their fundraising efforts to keep the club going.
We're looking at a cost to the district, if the district were to fund, of $61,707 per year, covering salaries, buses, uniforms, gas, shell rental, insurance, food, and truck rental.
Biancheria is asking for a full budget for crew before April.
Shea notes that the crew team is a citywide team where the students are working together across the quadrants.
Biancheria asks how we recruit crew team members. Shea: no students rejected. Tryouts are publicized through athletic liaisons at each school, through other students, and through social media (!).
Freshmen through senior year; Biancheria requests how many from which school and grade level.
Monfredo speaks again of corporate sponsorship; Shea says we have not yet explored corporate sponsorship
Rodrigues says Boone is looking to funnel donations through WEDF.
O'Connell on the history of the crew team; his suggestion seen by the mayor at the time as "typical from someone coming out of a 'preppy' background."

Monfredo asks if we're talking to private preschools
Rodrigues, yes, there has also been talk of a summit, when we have our meetings, same people coming all of the time. Need for additional full day preschool
Biancheria: accept kindergartners from outside the city, but not preschoolers
have we always had a waiting list? Yes, for typically developing preschoolers, but number of students varies by building.
Meade-Montague: waiting list is kept at both school and district level, so that opening levels can be filled, should they become available.
Biancheria: do we ever not have a waiting list at particular schools? Yes, parents have three choices. If there is an opening in their second or third choice, they can go to that school.
Meade-Montague: there have been times that we've opened a new site in January; those parents are contacted first.
Biancheria asks what the program needs: Monfredo responds including students as full day students in the foundation budget
Rodrigues: early intervention three year olds drive the number of classes we have for preschool; sometimes have to find resources on the fly to open another classroom
At age 2.8, we project how many students are coming in, as any student with a signed IEP must be in our schools by their third birthday.
Biancheria: how are we projecting? murmur from staff that Brian Allen does those projections
Rodrigues speaks of projecting students turning three who are on IEPs
quarterly with early intervention providers
Biancheria: we are ready on their birthday (even if they turn three in March); imagines that not having transportation is a deterrent
charter schools dipping into our budget; "we should come first"
Colorio: neighbors whose child attends preschool, is there translation to help them navigate the system and getting their kid to school? Yes, from Rodrigues. Do we have a proactive system of getting them there?
O'Connell: consideration to full-day preschool programs, are we talking to day care providers?
Rodrigues: meet twice a year with groups
is there anyway that we can help them or they can help us?
Rodrigues: hopeful that Governor's agenda will allow for expanded options
Comment from a mom that typically developing children's parents aren't getting the same sort of support; what do you do with the kid at 11:30? Difficulty in organizing
note from administration that day care transportation can be organized from the private provider.
Woodland Academy and Lincoln Street both have full day preschool; the remainder of the 37 sites are half-day sites.
Waitlist varies from year to year. Sometimes the half day precludes families from applying.
Colorio: have we considered a 3/2 full day preschool (two full days, 3 half days, or vice versa).
HeadStart has over 700 students across the city with a waiting list, as well
O'Connell suggests something that lays out the options available to parents...perhaps through the regional school daycare providers
comments on the limited space we have for any expansion we have
note that Head Start is up for a cut under sequestration, now ticking down to March. If that cut went through, that would be eight of our Head Start teachers.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Passed for funding

The five accelerated repair projects approved for funding today! Look for work this summer!

Back to back meetings tomorrow

For those interested in all things WPS, we're having two meetings tomorrow night:

  • Teaching, Learning, and Student Supports is having their second meeting in two weeks tomorrow night at 5:30. You can find the agenda here (sorry, bad connection, link to follow). Two biggies on the agenda: an update on curriculum renewal, and the implementation on the Common Core standards (which are linked).We haven't yet seen the back-up on this, and there isn't one yet posted. There's also a review of the application process for preschool (timely!), crew team participation, and a bit on civics education. That will be broadcast live on Channel 11; it will be at the Durkin Administration Building on the 4th floor.
  • We're also having our next meeting of Mayor Petty's Ad-Hoc Committee on a possible IB and/or exam school. Please note that we are not issuing the final report tomorrow night. The Ad-Hoc committee will be reviewing two reports from administration: one from Mr. Perda regarding admissions, and one from Mr. Allen on budget. The committee will then vote to recess to executive session for the purposes of reviewing a draft report, which will be public next month. That meeting is at 7:30 in the Levi Lincoln room in City Hall (3rd floor, turn right). 

A few other notes from the MSBA board meeting

I stayed until the end, because it's good to know how these things work!

  • The MSBA board was assured at the meeting that Governor Patrick's proposal to rework how much the sales tax is and how it is distributed would not change the penny dedicated to MSBA. Good news!
  • Medford was charged by a board member with keeping in mind that their new and renovated science labs should mean a renewal of science professional development, so teachers could make the best use of the modern labs.
  • The Springfield Central High School project was listed under science labs, but the project is 12 new labs, renovation of 6 labs and a greenhouse, new roof, and a new sprinkler system. Of that, the state is funding $23.9 million of a total $32 million.
  • Brookline, which today was approved for feasibility for Edward Devotion (elementary) School, was lauded for having the wisdom to do a full enrollment study before presenting this school before the board. Brookline has grown by 30% over the past decade, and they have several times been before MSBA on varioius projects having to do with enrollment. They had been warned that they should really project full enrollment across the district before coming forward with more, which they did.
  • For those curious on how timelines are going, of the two districts that entered the feasibility phase for new or majorly renovated schools, Brookline was invited into eligibility last March, Georgetown last October. There is some chance that Nelson Place will be on the agenda for April's meeting, should all continue to roll forward.

Posting remotely

from the MSBA board meeting at ten, where our five accelerated repair projects will (we hope!) receive authorization to execute the project funding agreement. Of the $19.7 million being considered for execution, Worcester is $7,226,235. Other communities on the list (most for roof work) are Attleboro, Blackstone-Millville, Leominster, Norton, Quaboag, Southampton, Taunton, Wayland, Wilmington.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Return to federalism?

The National School Boards Association, meeting in Washington this week, today published a press release along with draft legislation calling for a return to a federalist model of educational policy:
The proposed legislation would ensure that the Department of Education’s actions are consistent with the specific intent of federal law and are educationally, operationally, and financially supportable at the local level. This would also establish several procedural steps that the Department of Education would need to take prior to initiating regulations, rules, grant requirements, guidance documents, and other regulatory materials.
The draft legislation is here. It reads in part:
 As the focus of the federal government in education has grown, the vital national interest in local self‐governance of local educational agencies has been weakened through federal agency regulation, grant conditions, guidance materials and other requirements that are either unnecessary to achieve the specific direction of legislation enacted by the United States Congress, or that impose unnecessary limits on the flexibility that local educational agencies need in order to meet local, state, and federal goals in education
More on Duncan before the NSBA conference here.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Getting kids in the door

Really want to know why we don't have more poor, urban kids of color in the sciences? Read this.

Legislative breakfast

Members of the Worcester School Committee met with members of our Legislative delegation this morning to talk about FY14, Governor Patrick's education proposals, preschool, and school building projects. The major message we received was one of waiting for more details and questions on how the state could pay for the Governor's proposals (and if the Legislature is willing to, as the plans are based on new or "anticipatory revenue.").
Senator Chandler recommended that we request a Joint Ways and Means hearing on the budget in Worcester this year and plan to testify at it.
We also heard from Mr. Allen that if the Governor's proposals of lifting the cap on counting our preschoolers and the additional $10,000 added to the cap on out-of-district educational placements both went through, it would mean $3.6 million to Worcester.
No, we won't be planning on that money.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Mass Budget on the Governor's Budget

The Mass Budget and Policy Center has posted their first look at the Governor's budget. Regarding education:
  • Chapter 70 is increasing $226.2 million above FY 2013 levels, however most of this will just cover cost growth: "MassBudget projects that maintenance costs for FY 2014 would total $167 million, leaving about $59 million of the Governor's proposed increase to fund expanded services."
  • The budget continues the so-called reforms of 2007, that increased the amount of money that quite a number of communities that may not be particularly high need get from the state.
  • Along with a substantial section on preschool (some of which may well affect Worcester), there's also a bit of a  list of other things: support for Gateway Cities (still unspecified what this is going to do, may be Worcester); adult basic ed for English language learners (again, could be us); extended learning time grants specifically for middle schools with a large population of low income students (again, sounds like Worcester); "targeted intervention in underperforming schools" which sounds (from that description) a lot like the School Improvement Grants, which came from the federal government. However good these causes, my main concern here is all of this sounds a lot like short term funds that go away after a few years, leaving us with new programs to find funding for.
  • Charter school reimbursement is going up by $9.8 million. The Board of Education, last February, approved four new schools, so that won't be enough to cover the difference. 
Last I heard, the Department of Revenue still hadn't posted the cherry sheet (Know why it's called a cherry sheet? The numbers were originally printed on cherry-colored paper...which would be pink? Maybe?) of the actual breakdown by municipality. Should they post that sooner rather than later, we should get an update specifically on Worcester. 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Nelson Place and accelerated repairs before Council

Transfer for MSBA accelerated repairs goes through!

Councilor O'Brien: prosperity of our schools, what the future of the city depends on
"things we've put off for far too long in our schools"
to finally build a new Nelson Place
Thanks City manager, Superintendent, and their teams
City Council, School Committee
Thanks to Steve Grossman
O'Brien has sent around a list of work that has already been done for schools across the city (coming out of F&O)
substantial renovations at 12 schools across the city
repairs that are already being done
five year plan for next schools
"how do we address the needs of our high schools"

Councilor Economou:
all very important items: front line of our education, future in the city of Worcester
sent to the joint committee (Education/F&O)

At City Council keep an eye on the MSBA items...

Teaching, Learning, and Student Support meeting

You can find the agenda here.
We've got a chair now, so we should be starting shortly...publishing as we go.
Starting with the report on school lunch
Options beyond the silent lunch, and question on the optimal time for lunch. I should note that we have several elementary principals here (Columbus Park, Norrback Ave, and Roosevelt); also, that our report has NO schools reporting silent lunches.
Rodrigues comments different schools have different spaces and different habits as a result.
"there are no set guidelines...routines and best practices....schools that have PBIS in the schools" handle behavior issues during lunch
Biancheria: staff and parents...some variations of times for lunches
"the idea of a silent lunch...not quiet time...children...eating for fifteen minutes, asked to be silent"
not working for the students..."glad that we received this...informative where we have lunchroom procedure or protocol"
Is the time getting to lunch included in this time? No, transition time is additional to the fifteen eating.
What is an indoor voice? Everyone socializing, but "as we would talk" not shouting out
Saying "speak at this level"
Biancheria: revamping meals so they are healthy..."takes a longer time to eat a healthier meal"
"don't want the students to be wolfing down their you think your fifteen minutes work for you?"
principals of Columbus Park and Roosevelt saying that kids can have extra time if they need it
commenting that it is enough time
food can be taken outside
Biancheria: the fifteen minutes begins when they are in the cafeteria
regarding recess: what made you decide for recess before or after lunch? Logistics (in the case of Roosevelt...and Columbus Park...and Norrback is nodding)
Monfredo: thanks principals for coming, thanks admin for report...setting protocol for lunchtime..."not one for quietness, because I don't think I could go through that myself"
Mention of Donna Lombardi and school nutrition
recess recommended for before lunch...benefits are greater
Novick: access to water, plowing of recess space (that's paved), and kids still losing recess for talking during lunch...comment from Rodrigues that specific hot spots come directly into administration
Biancheria: asks for some recommendations around school lunch and lunchroom, alternative suggestion for silent lunches
(We should perhaps point out that there is a mention of lunch and enough time in the district wellness policy.)
Some wrangling here about if we're talking about no silence at all or about a few minutes of silence as part of lunch...we've got a couple of opinions on this.
Rodrigues mentions the various types of buildings and varieties of staffing and how that boxes things in.
"in some of our schools we have to double up lunch....150 students in a room...transition safely...hard pressed at Norrback to be against a couple of minutes of a silent lunch...reinforce positive behavior"
Biancheria: schools that don't have cafeterias; can we do anything to let them eat somewhere other than their classrooms?
Rodrigues "limitations of schools"
Biancheria: "that were built in the era when kids walked home for lunch"
Berthiaume comments that lunches are quick in those schools; teachers and kids responsible for the cleaning of the space
Biancheria concerned about reports about not eating at your desk, lest things get in your food...that's what we're doing with our kids
Comments that it's a beginning

ON to 21st century learning grants and their locations:
You can find the locations and ELL program locations here
trying to combine sites to make them more cost efficient
after school programs have to apply (RFP) and meet certain requirements to be sure they 're meeting certain benchmark
"just not doing a blanket application; someone needs to be benefiting from these programs"
Monfredo: due to funding, limited to the sort of programs we can have; reach out to social agencies and churches for after school programs
recruiting...whatever we can do...children who really can use the extra help
would like more of our Level 3 schools to have the additional assistance
comment from the public that the 21st century grants tied into NCLB for children who were underserved; to set them up and encourage them to collaborate with community institutions for after-school access; not just for the children, also for the adults
Comments that she seems to know more about these grants than the city..."not planning and siting these schools where they need to be, not planning these partnerships"...lists some that  she thinks would be willing
need the after-school component
Paez: 24 partners for these programs, all are personally interviewed by him
adult basic education at multiple sites
Comment back that there are waiting list...Paez comments that if six or more adults contact him, he will open a class (ELL, GED)
Coming attractions: next TLSS meeting, report coming on what's being done at our Level 3 schools from our reworking of the Title I grants under the NCLB waiver
Paez: preparation for opportunities in neighborhoods that most need it
Rodrigues: level what we can apply for; need matching from partnerships
rules change, it's somewhat quirky
Barnes: funding cycle, site specific, some roll off over time and become competitive, longer going sites
...and that's where I'm going to need to duck out to get to Council...

Rebellion in Seattle

I'm behind on posting updates on this one!
A boycott of the MAP (Measures of Academic Progress) test at Garfield High School in Seattle announced last week by teachers has now spread to several other Seattle schools:
Eleven teachers at ORCA K-8, a Seattle alternative school, are boycotting along with the Garfield teachers, and some at Salmon Bay K-8 are considering doing the same.  Teachers at other Seattle schools also have sent letters of support for the protesting teachers, as have a number of other groups.  They include the Garfield PTSA, the Garfield High student government, the Seattle Student Senate, the Seattle Education Association and Parents Across America’s Seattle chapter.
A statement supporting the boycott was released over the weekend by nationally-known education leaders, including Jonathan Kozol, Yong Zhao, Karen Lewis, Brian Jones, Nancy Carlsson-Paige and a growing list of others; you can sign a petition in support here.
One of the teachers boycotting wrote a column explaining why:

Seattle’s ninth- and 10th-grade students already take five state-required standardized tests, with 11th- and 12th-graders taking three. Seattle Public Schools staff admitted to a Garfield teacher the MAP test is not valid at the high-school level, because the margin of error is greater than expected gains.
In addition, teachers are forbidden to see contents of the MAP test so they can’t prepare students. Teachers who have looked over the shoulders of students taking the test can tell you that it asks questions students are not expected by state standards to learn until later grades.
If you are in the Seattle area, there is a rally tomorrow in support of the teachers.

Tantasqua continues to resist the Common Core

Tantasqua has continued its push against the implementation of the Common Core standards, currently being phased in across the state (including Worcester) as a part of the state's acceptance of Race to the Top funds.* The Tantasqua school committee is (remarkably) unified in its view that the Core is a watering down of the Massachusetts state frameworks, developed as a result of the 1993 Education Reform Act.

*to be clear: the funds were not contingent on the change being made. However, Massachusetts did not receive funds in the first round of the Race to the Top competition, in large part due to the state's refusal to accept these standards. After the state board voted in favor, Massachusetts received funds in the second round.

Regarding security

I've received comments from a number of directions, including on this blog, from parents and others with particular concerns about particular schools. Please know that I have read all of them, have passed them along to administration, and will follow up on them.
(I'm not posting them publicly, because I'd just as soon information about such vulnerabilities not be available online.)

One Today

The following is the poem Richard Blanco wrote and recited at yesterday's Presidential Inauguration. Along with being a civil engineer, Blanco is a teacher, thus the school-related imagery. 

One sun rose on us today, kindled over our shores,
peeking over the Smokies, greeting the faces
of the Great Lakes, spreading a simple truth
across the Great Plains, then charging across the Rockies.
One light, waking up rooftops, under each one, a story
told by our silent gestures moving behind windows.

My face, your face, millions of faces in morning's mirrors,
each one yawning to life, crescendoing into our day:
pencil-yellow school buses, the rhythm of traffic lights,
fruit stands: apples, limes, and oranges arrayed like rainbows
begging our praise. Silver trucks heavy with oil or paper—
bricks or milk, teeming over highways alongside us,
on our way to clean tables, read ledgers, or save lives—
to teach geometry, or ring-up groceries as my mother did
for twenty years, so I could write this poem.

All of us as vital as the one light we move through,
the same light on blackboards with lessons for the day:
equations to solve, history to question, or atoms imagined,
the "I have a dream" we keep dreaming,
or the impossible vocabulary of sorrow that won't explain
the empty desks of twenty children marked absent
today, and forever. Many prayers, but one light
breathing color into stained glass windows,
life into the faces of bronze statues, warmth
onto the steps of our museums and park benches
as mothers watch children slide into the day.

One ground. Our ground, rooting us to every stalk
of corn, every head of wheat sown by sweat
and hands, hands gleaning coal or planting windmills
in deserts and hilltops that keep us warm, hands
digging trenches, routing pipes and cables, hands
as worn as my father's cutting sugarcane
so my brother and I could have books and shoes.

The dust of farms and deserts, cities and plains
mingled by one wind—our breath. Breathe. Hear it
through the day's gorgeous din of honking cabs,
buses launching down avenues, the symphony
of footsteps, guitars, and screeching subways,
the unexpected song bird on your clothes line.

Hear: squeaky playground swings, trains whistling,
or whispers across café tables, Hear: the doors we open
for each other all day, saying: hello, shalom,
buon giorno, howdy, namaste, or buenos días
in the language my mother taught me—in every language
spoken into one wind carrying our lives
without prejudice, as these words break from my lips.

One sky: since the Appalachians and Sierras claimed
their majesty, and the Mississippi and Colorado worked
their way to the sea. Thank the work of our hands:
weaving steel into bridges, finishing one more report
for the boss on time, stitching another wound
or uniform, the first brush stroke on a portrait,
or the last floor on the Freedom Tower
jutting into a sky that yields to our resilience.

One sky, toward which we sometimes lift our eyes
tired from work: some days guessing at the weather
of our lives, some days giving thanks for a love
that loves you back, sometimes praising a mother
who knew how to give, or forgiving a father
who couldn't give what you wanted.

We head home: through the gloss of rain or weight
of snow, or the plum blush of dusk, but always—home,
always under one sky, our sky. And always one moon
like a silent drum tapping on every rooftop
and every window, of one country—all of us—
facing the stars
hope—a new constellation
waiting for us to map it,
waiting for us to name it—together.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. regarding education

“To save man from the mass of propaganda, in my opinion, is one of the chief aims of education. Education must enable one to sift and weigh evidence, to discern the true from the false, the real from the unreal, and the facts from the fiction. The function of education, therefore, is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically.”

Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Morehouse College newspaper, 1947

Saturday, January 19, 2013

a few more notes on the budget

...yes, no doubt of many...

  • We are not entering the year with a (structural) deficit. In other words, if we did just precisely what we are doing this year and did it next year, we could cover all of the contractual increases of about $10 million with the projected FY14 foundation budget increase (due to 409 additional students and a 1.55% inflation increase) of $12.5 million (having subtracted out the $1 million for charter and school choice tuition).THIS TIME LAST YEAR, we were $1.3 million in deficit. This time in 2011, we were $6.69 million in deficit. In 2010, we had a $26 million deficit, which went down to $14 million. I thought so: I've never been on the School Committee when we have not started the budget conversation at a deficit. 
  • We can't do just exactly what we are doing this year, though. We have the need for more special education buses and service providers (legally required under students' IEPs). Those 409 additional students need teachers, and they're not only in elementary school; they're in middle school. We currently have 970 more students learning English than we did last year. We're not going to just be able to take this year's numbers, add the contractual increases, and pass a budget. 
As always, more to come!

And speaking of local blogs...

Annie is a WORCESTER TEACHER (hooray!) and she's been putting together a "best practices" blog here.  She is looking for submissions, so if you have something you're doing in the classroom that is working well, go tell her about!
And while Annie and I have friends in common, I don't know her, but I love what she's doing.

New Massachusetts education blog

Grasping at Sporks, with a focus on standardized testing.
You might look at her take on the math MCAS with a recently-arrived student, still very much learning English.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Meetings coming up next week

Two meetings coming up later this week:
  • we have a Teaching, Learning, and Student Supports subcommittee meeting on Tuesday at 5:30. School lunch policies (length and conditions under which they operate), internships for college students, and English Language Learning locations  under the 21st Century Learning grant are on that agenda.
  • we have a legislative breakfast on Friday at 8 am . This is in the All-purpose room at Worcester Technical High School. On that agenda: an update on school buildings, preschool, and FY14 budget. And as a quorum of the School Committee will be attending, this is a public meeting. 

Chapter 70 calculations coming

As you heard last night:

The Chapter 70 state aid and required local contribution calculations for each municipality and district will be posted on ESE's school finance webpage at next Wednesday, Jan. 23, following the release of the Governor's House 1 budget proposal. As always, districts are advised to construct their local budgets with sufficient flexibility to accommodate the changes that typically occur in the state budget process. 
(This from the Commissioner today.)

Nelson Place has a building committee

...and the City Council is being asked to adopt a loan order for the 20% share (plus environmental remediation) of the accelerated repairs on this coming Tuesday's Council agenda. If you can't get the city council back-up, I've also loaded the City  Manager's memo here
This is the work at Caradonio New Citizens, May Street, Lake View, Jacob Hiatt, and Chandler Magnet. Note that the replacement of all the windows at Chandler Magnet is such an extensive bit of work that they're projecting that it may take both this coming summer and the summer after.
The building committee for Nelson Place has also now been set, which was the last remaining piece of what is needed to apply for the next step in MSBA's process. MSBA's board next meets on January 30. Much of this committee is somewhat fill-in-the-blank, as there are required people; the neighbors and the parents are the new information there.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Read Across America Day is March 1

And you can read more about it here!
Or here.

Enrollment report

which is here.
In some ways, a continuation of the class size information in the budget report.
The questions on de-isolation (page 12) is of concern; as the superintendent notes, there are significant differences among our school populations in poverty level, as well, of more concern

requesting a report on where we are with de-isolation and also an update on our magnet schools: which ones are magnets, which ones are operating, how many kids are going to them as magnets...

Request for a civil service exam

...for custodians.
Luster notes that we've asked for a civil service exam for both clerical and for custodians for a number of years; city did a clerical one last year, city says they won't do another one for any number of years.
O'Connell notes that this could go on indefinitely.
Mayor asks if the state could facilitate
Luster concedes that it's a lot to do; we are hiring and do interview.

Principal contracts

We have a list of number of work weeks, work year, and the dates of the contract expiration.

Principals that are new are coming on as 52 week principals; no additional time added to current principals as it would add cost.

EAW president

apologizes for not being at the last meeting
thanks the mayor and the superintendent for going up to talk to the teachers at North
teachers would like to be further engaged in the solution: so that everyone feels they've been heard
glad that safety "was big on the agenda today"
will forward MTA's Legislative agenda to us
to get much needed dollars to our needy kids

Comments from the committee

Monfredo: IAs for kindergarten and for preschool
3 year plan to phase in IAs in Level 4 and 3 schools

O'Connell: motions:

  • report on federal grants by the Congress on March 1 (this is sequestration: the answer is approximately 26 teachers, with 8 of those teachers coming out of Head Start)
  • consider terminating our request for reimbursement for Medicaid (that means the city would lose $2 million)
  • consider if we should conduct an annual actuarial review
  • recommendation for us for an appropriate charge for us to our grants
Mayor here questions if the schools need their own actuarial evaluation, noting that the city does one

Foley: beginning of the process, take a long look at this issue
"not as bad as it was several years ago"
glad we've reached some common ground with council
how do we bring more money into our public schools
promises listening sessions over the next several months (start weighing in now!)
asking for a joint session with Council education committee notes on my part

Biancheria: summer school offerings?
either federal budget cuts or sequestration could impact federal budget cuts or sequestration; if that happened, we'd still want to run programs
school safety and playground equipment: asks that those be separate
Boone: both are questions around safety "a potential for harm or injury"
dollar per student: could we get the dollar amount per pupil?
Allen: will be included in Governor's budget (the FY14 rates)

Petty notes that this is preliminary budget, with more conversation to come
also notes his support of the Governor's budget

Preliminary budget estimates: FY14

You can find this presentation here. Posting as we go...
Reminder from the superintendent that our budget is based on House 1
Governor's education platform and state of the state message
"not a draft budget but a preliminary budget discussion"
How to structure a priority session for the school committee
Allen: budget drivers
2/3 of our budget from the state
recent 9C cuts and other cuts to education, though none that impact our current budget
the state has always fully funded charter reimbursement
currently the circuit breaker is at 70%, charter school reimbursement is at 83%
questions around the kindergarten grant: funds about 1/2 of our kindergarten IAs

MassBudget projects a $1.2 billion deficit
"some warning signs for us to look at"
DESE reconfiguring how communities get money, all of which make it look like Worcester
"Have not factored any change in kindergarten grant"...could mean an increase for us
Governor's FY14 education budget preview, none of which are included in our assumptions (exception: fully funding Ch. 70)
lifting cap on number of preschool students (currently count only 2x the times of normally developing students versus special education students...I think...)
not what we've been suggesting which is including pre-K in Chapter 70 aid
increases assumed cost of average out-of-cost sped placements (as sped costs are ESTIMATES, not actual): we don't have a number on that
$25/pupil minimum aid NOT APPLICABLE TO WORCESTER
fully funding target aid NOT APPLICABLE TO WORCESTER

even at level funding, we have a gap of $1 million due to increases (contractual, health insurance)
up to $3 million cuts in federal entitlement grants
decline of about 12% in federal grants since FY04
How we spend our grants (largely on positions): coaches, IAs, tutors

City Contribution:
will be in Governor's projection: reminder here that transportation increases have to be funded but are not included in Net School Spending

up 409 students since last year
reminder not to read much into preschool number as that number increases over time (as kids turn 3)
all other grades up; not driven by K, but by middle school
ELL grows by 13.8% (970 students)
Low income up 663 students (up 3.5%): now 74% free and reduced lunch level
We're now a bigger district than when we closed eight schools

Inflation factor of 1.55% (it was 3.65%): that works out to 4.5 million dollars over what it would be if it were the same as last year

projected budget of $312,451,952
which is an increase of $13.5 million from this year
with $12.5 for WPS ($1m to charter and choice)

salaries increase $2.5 million
health insurance up 8% would be $3.2 million (we'll'll remember that this was off last year)
tuition $2.5 million (no longer a tuition freeze with the collaborative; this also includes money for the Gateway to College program with QCC)
transportation $500,000
retirement assessment $800,000
other cost centers $500,000

...which is $10 million increase

other areas:
raises are $2.1 million for every 1%
OPEB: city wants $3 million
additional 6 buses for sped $500,000
class size in elementary additional 21 teachers: $1.6m
class size in middle school: 15 teachers: $1.1m
MassCore: $1.1m
leasing computers $1.1m
special ed 30 positions $1.7m
ELL 16 positions $1m
MassCore textbooks: $500,000
6 nurses (3 more for larger schools; fulltime nurses for the alternative programs): $300,000
6 school adjustment counselors $500,000
summer school funding (as we're losing funding) $500,000

...which is about $15 million in need with $2.5 million to spend
DOES not include:
school safety and playground equipment
rental of space due to class size (not talking about opening of new schools; adding space close by)
Exam/IB planning year
PCB next steps (approx. $1m FY13)

if no changes in the number of elementary teachers:
334 classes of under 23 (57%)
208 classes of 23-6 (36%)
31 classes of 27-30 (6%)
6 classes of 30 or more (ALL IN ONE SCHOOL) (1%)

if we add the 21 teachers, all classes below 26 students

$27 million of "school of choice spending" 9% over foundation

chart of where families go who choose to leave Worcester for another district under school choice:
Berlin/Boylston $42.5% over foundation
West Boylston $31.6% over foundation
Auburn 21% over foundation
Wachusett 11.7% over foundation
Leicester 2.5% over foundation

Can't just carry forward FY13 into FY14: changes that need to occur
not a recommendation or a presentation

Governor's budget on January 23
House budget in April
Senate budget in May
Budget to Worcester School Committee on May 3

Administrative safety committee

...will be reporting to the School Committee in executive session at the next meeting on February 7. Thus a number of items this evening being referred to executive session for reporting out then.

First look at FY14

Tonight's report of the superintendent, which is a first look at FY14, is now posted.
We only got it at noon, so I've only just glanced through it myself. Comments welcome!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Doherty's back

The Board of Health cleared the kitchen and prep areas at Doherty today, and tomorrow we'll resume normal operations there.

Know of a GREAT principal?

Educational Leadership magazine is looking for stories of great principals. You can submit yours here.

Governor Patrick proposes increased funding (in targeted areas) for education

Yesterday, Governor Patrick proposed increased education funding in particular areas. The focus is on early (very early: birth to age 5) childhood ed, middle school learning time, and college costs.
As always, let me first laud the attention to funding in education. This is right and useful.
These also could be some useful areas to target: while I don't focus on college on this blog, the costs of college have gotten outrageous and have made it well beyond reach of families who could benefit. Middle school is a time that I continue to think that we still haven't quite figured out how best to serve; we should be very thoughtful and cautious about time increases, but the attention is useful. Early childhood ed is the time when we can do the most good with smaller resources, and I'm particularly pleased to see us extending that so young, as gaps among children open remarkably early.
This does feel, unfortunately, as though we are once again attempting to solve problems that lie well outside of education by putting more attention on education, however. Lots of children who come to us with what gets termed an "achievement gap" have families that need better access to food, to housing, to health care. Lots of children are never going to attend preschool, even if we have the space--and let me add, they shouldn't have to. Lots of parents could use assistance in how to talk to kids, how to let kids play, so as to have them well prepared for school, but also for life beyond school.
And this early childhood focus is not, I fear, going to do any of that.
The governor also announced yesterday that, while he intends to fully fund Chapter 70, he also: also proposing a nearly $226 million increase in Chapter 70 local aid which will hold every district harmless for aid; keep every district at foundation levels of spending; finish the Chapter 70 equity reforms of 2007; guarantee an increase of $25 per pupil for every district; and increase the assumed cost of the average out-of-district special education placement for school districts.
emphasis mine
In other words, this will continue the inequity that kicked in with the so-called reform of 2007, which was a turning away from the fundamental principle behind the foundation formula: that districts are funded inequitably and that the state's role is to fix that. That doesn't mean that every district gets the same amount. That doesn't mean that every district gets a piece of the pie. That means the districts that need the most help get the most help.

No, Worcester will not see that $25 per pupil. As there is no mention here of charter funding reform, one assumes that we will again get hit by charter schools not being fully funded. And it will be districts that least need the aid that get the increases.

This is not progressive government, and it is not what the foundation formula set out to solve.

Worcester School Committee meets this Thursday

The Worcester School Committee meets this Thursday, January 17. You can find the agenda here.
We're being asked to reopen negotiations with the EAW units A and B; that's our teachers. And if it seems as though we just voted a new contract: we did, but our teachers were working under an expired contract, so the new one expires in June. 
We'll also being hearing from union president Len Zaluskas.
We have a number of congratulations and thanks going out to students, to schools, and to community groups.
There are a large number of security items filed by various members. All of these are being sent to administration, and I'm told they'll be taken up at our next meeting in executive session.
We have two reports of note: the report of the superintendent this week is the first of the FY14 budget reports. The back-up is not yet posted (I suspect we'll get it later today).
The second is the 2012-13 enrollment report. We're getting this now due largely to miscommunication on my part (sorry!). This gives the overall enrollment by school, including ethnic and other breakdowns; the enrollment by class in both elementary and secondary classrooms. There is LOTS to talk about here, and I'd urge you to give it a look (and post to come on this!).
7 pm tomorrow at City Hall!

No school today

There is no school today in Worcester.
Stay safe and enjoy the day off!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Update on the fire at Doherty

From an update we received last night:

The recovery efforts, including painting of the kitchen/prep area, are on schedule.  After the final coat of paint tomorrow and last cleaning of kitchen equipment, we hope to have the health department inspect and clear the kitchen/prep area for use later this week. The meal serving plan implemented today will continue until the kitchen is back online.The Worcester Fire Department is conducting the investigation into the fire.  Preliminary information seems to indicate a potential malfunction of the dryer that possibly resulted in it not shutting off at the end of the cycle, thus causing it to run until it overheated starting the fire.  We are taking action to remind all schools that all dryers should be turned off/complete the cycle before personnel leave the building. We will provide the next update once the health department has cleared the kitchen for normal operations.

Principal openings for next fall

We've received the posted (for Fall 2013) openings for principals of Elm Park Community School, Nelson Place School, and Canterbury Street School.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Update on Doherty

This came through this afternoon:

Cleanup operations continue to progress very well at Doherty. A custodial team that inludes custodians from Doherty and others from around the district are doing a great job in getting the cafteria cleaned of smoke, soot and water. Additionally, the kitchen/prep equipment is being cleaned by members of the school nutrition team. The kitchen/prep area will require painting which will occur on tomorrow, Monday, January 14th. The areas for painting are also being prepared for the painting. Donna Lombardi has been working closely with the health department officials to determine which food items/commodities may be retained and those that have to be discarded. The electrician and other tradesmen are doing their work to ensure effective operations for students and staff tomorrow.

Ms. Lombardi has finalized a plan to have entrees prepared at WTHS for serving and fresh fruits and vegetables will be secured from other school sites to support meals. The faculty dining room will serve as the prep/serving area until the kitchen recovery has been completed and that area is approved for food prep and service again.

Small fire at Doherty last night

A clothes dryer caused a small fire in a room adjoining the cafeteria early this morning. The fire suppression system worked, the fire was limited in scope, and cleanup is starting this morning.
No change for school tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Pediatricians on recess:

Published on the first of the year, this policy statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics cites the crucial role of recess in child development and education. From the abstract:
Recess serves as a necessary break from the rigors of concentrated, academic challenges in the classroom. But equally important is the fact that safe and well-supervised recess offers cognitive, social, emotional, and physical benefits that may not be fully appreciated when a decision is made to diminish it. Recess is unique from, and a complement to, physical education—not a substitute for it. The American Academy of Pediatrics believes that recess is a crucial and necessary component of a child’s development and, as such, it should not be withheld for punitive or academic reasons.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Massachusetts asks for a waiver on School Improvement Grants: WEIGH IN!

I'm still working out exactly what this could mean for the Worcester Public Schools, but the state plans, in applying for their next round of School Improvement Grants (you'll remember that this is the money that comes along with Level 4 schools should you follow the state's requirements), to ask for waivers to some pieces of the federal requirements. What I've managed to gather so far:

  • They want longer to spend the money they have; they're asking to be able to spend it through 2016.
  • They want to be able to have schoolwide Title I programs in schools that has a smaller number than 40% poverty.
  • They want to exclude very small schools (because if you have one kid have a bad day, you can send the whole thing skewed).
  • Finally (or first, but this is the part I'm still figuring out), they want to stop excluding secondary schools that use Title I funds from the first tier from which Level 4 schools are drawn.
Should you have a thought on any of this, the state is taking comments until January 14. 

Online school lunch fees are going up

The Worcester Public Schools have been notified that effective January 1 all electronic check payments will have a 25 cent fee. In other words, if you are using your checking account to pay for school lunch, every payment you make will cost a quarter. This fee is coming from Unibank.
This information is on the WPS parent portal, but lest you be caught off guard...

What's going on with WPS email?

I've heard from several teachers who've been having trouble getting into their email this past week. Today, the School Committee received the following from IT:
Over the recent holiday break, the IT department installed a new email server for the district. to date, we have migrated over 1,100 accounts to the new email server. Those on the new email server should find the service very fast. Those not yet on the new email server will still experience delays. We are migrating over 100 accounts per night to the new email server, but the size of the mailboxes is causing the process to take additional time. We expect to have every email account moved over in the next several weeks. While accounts are being moved over, the user will experience some down time. We are only moving accounts after regular school hours to reduce the load on the current email server. 
Currently, the best way to access email for every user is using Webmail. The Webmail interface works better than Outlook right now, so all users will likely see better performance using Webmail. Once all are moved over, the experience for everyone should be much better.  

Thursday, January 3, 2013

School funding court findings

Just before Christmas, the Washington Supreme Court found that the state legislature isn't working hard enough to fulfill their responsibilities on school funding:
In January, the Supreme Court ruled the state isn’t meeting its constitutional obligation to amply pay for basic education. In the past decade, education spending has gone from close to 50 percent to just above 40 percent of the state budget, despite the fact that some education spending is protected by the constitution.State lawmakers have in recent years been dealing with large budget deficits, and earlier this year they cut $300 million in state funding.The Supreme Court has given the Legislature until 2018 to fix the problem, but it wants to see yearly reports that “demonstrate steady progress.”
It will be interesting to see if the Legislature makes any progress for this coming fiscal year.

Likewise, today's New York Times pointed out, in an article laying out education recommendations going to Governor Cuomo, that New York is likewise not funding education as required:
Several observers said that the commission’s ideas came at a time when the state owed roughly $5 billion in aid to poor school districts, under a 2007 agreement that followed a lawsuit and a Court of Appeals ruling.
So...watching FY14...

Local food with Worcester kindergartners

Mass Farm to School has a post up on some of our Worcester kindergartners having squash (from Breezy Gardens in Leicester) pancakes with maple syrup (from Green Roof Sugar House in Rutland) at school last month. The kids got to bring some squash and cider home, too!
More photos up on the Worcester Kindergarten Initiative Facebook page!

Caradonio New Citizens back up and running

Update this morning from school facilities: the heat has been restored to the entire building as of last night, and the students and faculty returned there today.
Thanks to Sullivan Middle for your flexibility yesterday!

UPDATED: And the buses all started on time this morning!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Tis the season: most read posts

This seems to be the season in which these sorts of blog posts go up, so, for those who might be interested in a bit of a glimpse behind the curtain, I offer the following from my Google Analytics information
  • The top "post," far and away, representing half of the traffic this blog got last year, is the front page. There clearly are many of you out there who simply have the page bookmarked (or on autofill) and come by from time to time to see what's new. I try to be faithful to these sorts of readers; you've no doubt noticed that my posting in some ways mirrors the school calendar, in that it slows down in the summer, picks up during the school year, with a bit of a slowdown over school breaks, but I try not to leave you staring at the same top post for too many days without something new appearing. Thanks for coming by!
  • The most read post on its own merits was the post simply congratulating Jeff Mulqueen on his new position as superintendent of the Pentucket Regional School District. Not surprising, as it represented a change in leadership for two districts (and many of those readers were coming in from the North Shore).
  • Next most read was the post linking to the video of the Boston School Committee meeting in which the retiring principal of Marshall Elementary, Teresa Harvey-Jackson, called out the committee and the administration for their lack of support for the school, which the administration has now made a charter school. 
  • Third up in the blog list was the Mass Budget and Policy Center presentation last January at the State House on the inadequacy of the foundation formula.
  • Fourth for the year (but still getting hits; this is a hot topic) a round-up of links on our incoming Secretary of Education in Massachusetts, Matt Malone. 
  • Fifth, notes from last March's Mass Association of School Committees Day on the Hill. In part due to this making the MASC rounds from those who couldn't make it.
  • Remember pink slime?  
  • We had two kids missing on Vernon Hill last January as well. Thanks to some sharp-eyed neighbors, they were found before it got too late. And please: kids need to know that they can go to grown-ups for help if they're lost.
  • Eighth, I posted my notes from the testimony before the Joint Committee on Education last April on the Stand for Children ballot initiative that wasn't, H3883. Unfortunately, of course, much that was horrid about this bill is with us now as our state-mandated teacher evaluation system.
  • Superintendent Carol Johnson in Boston had a rough year, but, as this post points out, the one thing that matters on the BPS administration is Mayor Menino's opinion of it. 
  • And rounding out the top ten? A post linking to the article on what we in the U.S. keep ignoring about Finland's success. 
A few more notes for those interested:
  • Any time school finance in Worcester is being talked about, those posts get plenty of hits.
  • Any time we have complications of any kind in the Worcester Public Schools--water being shut off, school being closed due to snow, schools losing heat--people are interested and come here for information. 
  • And the School Committee meeting liveblogs are popular on Thursday nights and Friday mornings.
Coming up this year? 
I can promise fewer interruptions in meeting liveblogs, as Mr. O'Connell took over as vice-chair as of yesterday! I'll continue to get our public updates from admin up as soon as I can post them. Clearly, we'll need to keep a close eye on sequestration, FY14 budgeting on all levels, city funding of WPS, the NCLB waivers, implementation of the Common Core standards, the reworking of the WPS curriculum, PARCC testing...and so forth!
Thanks for reading. And happy new year!

Cold weather consequences

It is cold outside, and, per an email from Mr. Allen this evening, the Worcester Public Schools have seen a few consequences. To wit:

  • The Caradonio New Citizens Center was without heat today after the boiler failed and the lines consequently froze. NCC is getting a new boiler this summer--they've already been approved by MSBA--but while we get their building heat, the school, today through Friday, will be at Sullivan.
  • And diesel engines, you may have heard, don't like the cold. To quote Mr. Allen directly:
Durham did have a problem with a number of their school buses today. They had started and moved all of them on Monday to clear their yard of snow and there were no problems that day. This morning they had several drivers and mechanics come in early to start the buses, as they do when overnight temperatures are 23 degrees or below. Some of the buses would not start, the air brakes froze on others, and still others would not go into either drive or reverse gear. As a result, and after our discussions with them today, Durham will have additional mechanics and “bus starters” on duty early tomorrow and beyond due to the expected continuance of extremely low overnight temperatures. They will also have extra new batteries available in case that is the cause for a bus not starting. Although we do not pay for routes that do not run, we recognize and have stressed upon Durham the significant inconvenience and hardship that late or no transportation has on our students and their families.

More to come as needed, but please do bundle up your kids!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Just so we're clear on the so-called fiscal cliff...

...the cuts to education wouldn't take place until FY14, and are part of sequestration...which was put off until March.
Yes, that means it isn't over yet.
Just as a reminder: a cut of this size in Worcester's federal grants is equivalent to 24 teachers.
(edited: 24 teachers is not just Title I, but all the federal grants up for funding for FY14.)