Friday, June 28, 2013

No, you don't get to make up your own rules

According to a state judge in Connecticut, no, you don't get to make up your own certification program:
In her 27-page decision, the judge agreed with critics of Vallas that he had taken a "sham" course to become qualified to serve as superintendent.
"The evidence was overwhelming that from the start, efforts were made to accommodate the appointment of Vallas as superintendent of the Bridgeport public school system at every level," the judge ruled. "The court orders that Paul Vallas be removed from his office."
 Bridgeport needs a new superintendent.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

It's the first days off, and it's raining

While Nicole remains the undisputed queen of all things inexpensive to do with kids in Worcester, I'd thought, with the kids just off and it raining, that I'd pass along a few free/inexpensive things to do with kids the next few days:
  • tomorrow is the first of the Free Fun Fridays in Massachusetts. You can get in--for free!--to the Freedom Trail Foundation, Mass MOCA, the Stone Zoo, the Heritage Museums and Gardens, and our own Worcester Art Museum*! There are some specifics and some special events at some sites, so check out the link for tomorrow for more information. And if you haven't already done so, print the whole list and stick it on the fridge. If like me, you'd like to get your kids into more of the amazing stuff we have in Massachusetts, but get dizzy when getting the family starts to cost close to $100--this is your chance!
  • If you don't mind braving the rain, tomorrow is also the first of three $5 Fridays that Old Sturbridge Village is offering--everyone gets $5 admission! The other two dates are July 26 and August 23.
  • If you haven't already done so, you can sign your kids up for summer reading (you can do it online, but if you go down to the main branch, I hear they have tee shirts!). They also have a drop-in storytime tomorrow at 10 am.
  • On Saturday (rain or shine: it's under a tent!), the annual Big Dipper Festival is at Elm Park. From 10:30 am to 5:30 pm, it's all you can eat ice cream for $5, ages 10 and up; $1 ages 4-9; free under 4. In my house we call this "lunch." The kids think of this as mostly being about the ice cream, but it also happens to be an excellent cause: Children's Friend goes back to the era that gave us so many wonderful Worcester institutions (in their case, 1849), beginning as an institution that cared for orphaned and neglected children, they now offer mental health support of various kinds, as well as adoption services, and the totally amazing work they do in the Worcester Public Schools with our School-aged Mothers program. You can call ice cream a meal and feel good about it!
  • Farther afield (pun intended), Saturday is also Equine Day at Klem's out in Spencer. If anyone in your house is horse or tractor-crazy, you might want to take the drive west.
And enjoy your kids!

*which has free admission for all of July and August!

Ain't No Sunshine


You may have caught the article in yesterday's paper about some solar projects at six Worcester Public Schools. Alternatively, you may have caught the item on last week's City Council agenda on which the article is based. 
That last was the first I'd heard of it, which meant that I had a pretty good idea that we probably weren't going to be putting solar panels on six schools this summer (yes, we are kept better informed than that, and, rest assured, something that major is going up on the blog!). 

This afternoon, we received the following email from Superintendent Boone: 
The City Manager last week notified the City Council of solar projects at several WPS schools and this report appeared in yesterday’s Worcester Telegram.  While my administration supports alternative energy options for our schools, the City Manager’s report and the newspaper article failed to emphasize that these are all proposed projects.   
There are many benefits to this project and I look forward to actually discussing these projects with the City Manager in the near future.   
The report mentions that Sullivan Middle has been completed.  Actually, no work has been done at Sullivan Middle and significant roof work would be needed before solar panels could be installed.  The city does not intend to seal the existing roof as it is planning with the other schools due to costs at this site and that places this project in jeopardy.   
South High Community School has been identified in our Statement of Interest submittal to MSBA as our priority project.  We need determine the scope of MSBA work that may occur at the school before we invest in roof repairs and the installation of solar arrays on the roof of the school.  
The report states that roof sealing at these schools will occur this summer.  Once there is full agreement on a variety of outstanding issues, this work will commence, but this summer looks too aggressive.   
The ability to extend the existing roofs by another 20 years would allow us to use capital budget funds in other areas in the upcoming years and the potential of having reduced energy costs in our budget are certainly reasons that we will explore these projects, but my administration is undertaking a complete review and conducting due diligence before any work begins.  I intend to execute a memorandum of understanding to ensure all facets of these projects are known upfront.   
I intend to keep you informed of this potentially exciting work.  Since all of these projects are still proposed, we were not at a stage where we believed that an update was timely. 
Emphasis NOT added.

A bit more from me: we had to adjust this year's (FY13) accounts due to WPS not recooping as much money as was predicted from the already completed ESCo projects. We already had reason, but now have more to look very carefully at any major outlay of funds (and facilities resources) to see if the investment actually has a reasonable return. Thus far, we're not seeing those borne out.
We've also had excellent success of late with our MSBA submissions. If we have roof work to do (and, no argument from me, we do), overlooking an 80% reimbursement to jump the gun on solar panels doesn't make a lot of sense. The roof is the priority.
Finally, as Superintendent Boone says above: we just this spring submitted South as our number one priority for major renovation and replacement. I know we're serious about that. It doesn't look very serious, though, to have a proposal to put solar panels on the roof of a building that we're hoping to see a major rehab or rebuild on within the next few years. 

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

New ELL director

We have just received the following from Superintendent Boone:
Good Afternoon:  I am pleased to announce the appointment of Bertha-Elena Rojas as Manager of English Language Learners And Supplemental Support Services.  The appointment is effective July 1, 2013

Currently, Dr. Rojas serves as the person in charge of the Academic Center for Transition (at Chandler Magnet School). She holds a Master's in School Administration and Doctorate in Psychology. 

Last day! Except

...for Doherty, which has a half day tomorrow. Earlier this year, Doherty had an early dismissal due to a power outage. 

Thursday, June 20, 2013

And that's the FY14 budget passed

The FY14 passed in budget session, as amended by yesterday's memo. That's a budget that:
  • dealt with a $3 million hit in federal cuts due to sequestration
  • hired an additional 30 (as of yesterday) teachers
  • added a significant number of options for our high school students largely language and arts
  • added middle school intramural sports
  • added sixth grade at Worcester East Middle per their innovation plan
  • added additional sports opportunities for high school girls
  • found a net $2 million saved on special education as students are brought back into the system
  • adds three nurses, meaning we now not only have nurses at every school; the big ones have two!
  • began the five year cycle on replacing all the district's computers
  • funded rental space for the Chandler Magnet kindergarten thus keeping them from classes of 30
  • added a year to the dual language immersion program
  • added a network technician the ones who keep the system online and technology clerical trainer who gets principals, secretaries, and teachers up to speed on things like online report cards
  • managed a very slim 1% increase in utilities all that you'd expect from a school system of 50 buildings, 44 schools, nearly 25,000 students, and 4000 employees. 

Sorry, light agenda night

We had some nice honors tonight--including our last night with Sergio Paez before he goes off to be superintendent in Holyoke!--but much of the rest of the agenda passed with limited comment.
Ms. Colorio was elected to be our delegate to the MASC convention, with myself as alternate.
I commended the gymnastics backup we'd received to the administration, with an interest in perhaps having funding from the remaining free cash.
The superintendent's midyear report and evaluation is postponed to the July meeting.

Meeting complete by 8:30.

For those who look for it, here is our annual report on school choice, which came through via Friday letter on June 28. 

If you're wondering where everyone is

I should point out that we're down a couple of members: both Ms. Biancheria and Mr. Foley have ill parents.

Update from the superintendent, and moving along through FY14

Boone reviews the memo that went out last night. 
posting as we go all in one post

Budget starts at 4

Final budget session starts at 4. Tonight, we stay until it is done!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

FY14 Budget update from Superintendent Boone

I have just received this update from Superintendent Boone, making recommended allocations of the additional $255,000 voted by the Worcester City Council, on the recommendation of City Manager O'Brien, last night.
The recommended allocation is as follows:
Increase 1 Elementary Teacher $ 69,285
Increase 9 Elementary Intervention Tutors $175,715
Increase School Safety $ 10,000

You'll recall that the intervention tutors were cut as a result of the Title I sequestration hit.
Regarding the elementary addition, Superintendent Boone says the following:
The FY14 budget already includes six elementary classroom positions not yet assigned until actual enrollments are known in late August. These positions will then be assigned to address class size issues that may occur through new student enrollment or student migration within the district. Even with these positions, we are anticipating 39 K-6 classrooms to have 27-30 students next year but having these unassigned positions at this point is essential to address enrollment spikes that may occur.
In particular, we have been closely monitoring the kindergarten enrollments at schools and recently the total kindergarten enrollment at Flagg Street School exceeds thirty students per class, primarily because 16 kindergarten students next year were allowed to attend the school through the voluntary transfer program (in-district school choice). Without the voluntary transfer students there would only be 44 students currently for next year.
Therefore, as a result of the enrollment now, we are taking steps now to restore a position that was reduced earlier in the proposed budget. This current year, the kindergarten enrollment at Flagg Street School is 50 students in three classes, resulting in an average class size of 17 students each. This represents the third lowest kindergarten class size average in the district.The enrollment increase to thirty students per class warrants a position at this time. No other school enrollments have exceeded thirty students so no further action on assigning positions will occur at this time. We will continue to monitor the enrollment status of each school on a weekly basis between now and the start of the school year and assign available positions when enrollment and available space warrants such action. 
Emphasis added throughout.

  • We are still projecting 39 classes at 27-29 students.
  • Flagg Street's kindergarten class is large due to in-district school choice (raising an obvious question regarding what's being allowed).
  • Six teachers are being held in reserve for August allocation (or earlier, if we know).
Note that, per City Council motion last week, $177,000 has been requested by the Council from free cash for the Worcester Public Schools. That money remains to be allocated (as we don't allocate until it gets passed!).

 We start budget session at 4 tomorrow!

Allocation time (and clearing up a few misconceptions)

Last night, the Worcester City Council passed the FY14 budget (as amended). That means it included an additional allocation of $255,000 of recognized McKinney-Vento reimbursement.
Let's pause for a moment here to be glad that the reimbursement of a WPS expense is being recognized by a WPS allocation. Excellent news.
That $255,000 is money that does not have a recommended allocation within the WPS budget, as we didn't yet have it at the time the budget came out. I'll expect that we'll see a recommended allocation sometime later today. I will share it once I have it.

As we await that, however, let's clear a few things up:
  • The Worcester Public Schools administration recommends allocations to the Worcester School Committee. Only the School Committee can actually make (by voting) the allocations. However:
  • The School Committee can only allocation into accounts. Those accounts are fairly big titles: things like "Teachers," "Nurses," "Facilities Ordinary Maintenance." 
  • The School Committee does not have the authority to allocate teachers to particular schools. We can ask; we can recommend; but we are barred by state law from getting into what is clearly the management issue of how many teachers are at each school.
  • On a related note: as of our budget hearing in mid-May, 39 classes citywide were projected to have between 27 and 30 kids in them next year. 
  • Since there, there may well have been changes: additional children register, some change schools, some are recommended to be held back. 
  • Should the administration recommend the hiring of additional teachers (and it would be additional teachers; there are no classroom teacher cuts in this budget), administration would assign those positions first to schools with a class of 30. If there are more to allocate, they would then look at the schools with classes of 29.
  • I should also point out: this budget cut 32 intervention tutors due to the sequestration cut in Title I for next year. I know that this is of grave concern, as well.
Again, I will post more as I have it!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Regarding the City Manager's evaluation

There have been several mentions of schools in City Manager O'Brien's annual evaluation by the Worcester City Council.
Among them, Councilor Rivera spoke of the contribution towards net school spending, mentioning it as one of her priorities from last year.
Councilor O'Brien closed with (as "most important") urging a better working relationship with the Worcester Public Schools, commenting that he understood that there was a natural tension, but that schools were the way forward, and that all options should be considered in creating a better working relationship.
Councilor Economou speaks of "meeting those goals on our schools."
Councilor Toomey says that it's "about adequate funding."

City budget passes

The FY14 city of Worcester budget has passed tonight, including the following amendment:
COMMUNICATION of the City Manager recommending Two Hundred Fifty Five thousand Dollars and No Cents ($255,000.00) in increased estimated local receipts from State Reimbursements, Revenue Account #454005, McKinney Vento, be appropriated to Account #500-91000, Worcester Public School Personal Services, to be used to increase the Fiscal 2014 Worcester Public Schools that are eligible for net school spending. (Tabled - Rushton June 11, 2013)
For those keeping track, that leaves us about $170,000 short of Net School Spending, 'though the Council has expressed their intention of putting $170,000 of free cash towards the FY14 Worcester Public Schools budget.

More on Ed Reform at 20

The Mass Budget and Policy Center has joined the birthday party (?) for the 1993 Ed Reform. Their main point?

The foundation budget should be reexamined in light of all that has changed.
If you've been following the Mass Budget's analysis of how the foundation budget has aged, much of this will not be a surprise. For example:

Note that Worcester's numbers on this are different; we've been depriving facilities,student supplies, and basically everything except teachers, special education, and health insurance.

You may not, however, have seen this one:

They further note:
The Hancock case was filed in 1999, charging that the state had not fulfilled its mandate to provide adequate education to all students as mandated in 1993's landmark McDuffy school finance case. While the court in Hancock found that the Legislature had made reasonable progress during the 1990s, it stressed in its written opinion that it anticipated that the process of education reform in Massachusetts to be ongoing and that state revenue support would continue to increase.
That hasn't happened.
And it should.

McKinney-Vento reimbursement allocation

Consideration of full FY14 budget is currently on the floor.

Less than quality work

Before you take too seriously the National Council on Teacher Quality* report on teacher preparation programs, please take a look at Linda Darling-Hammond's analysis of the report's...quality. Or lack thereof.

*as I believe I have said in the past: this is a bit like cutting down all the trees and building a "Maple Drive."

Worcester School Committee meets on Thursday

The Worcester School Committee meets this Thursday for our last school year meeting.
We'll start in budget session at 4 pm with account 500-91133, School Nurses, to which it is proposed that we add three (hurray!). And do recall that no account of the budget is officially passed until the whole budget is passed by the School Committee meeting in budget session, and then by the School Committee meeting in regular session.
We'll recess to exec at 6, and be back at 7 (or thereabouts) for our regular session, for which you can find the agenda here.
As it is the last regular session, we have a large number of recognitions coming through (including this year's nurse and teacher of the year award winners). It's also the last meeting of Sergio Paez, who is heading off to be the superintendent of Holyoke. I've also just learned that Kaitlyn Furcinitti, who is coming through in recognition of her music scholarship, is going to be playing the National Anthem on the cello for us!
We have Governance and Employee Issues coming back with their report on the policies review.
We've also got a series of reports from last week's budget session, including a question on federal grant funding, what we have for gymnastics equipment, and what we might need to run a gymnastics team. If you're interested, take a look at that and let me know what you think.
We've got a response coming back to the Center for Nonviolent Solutions teacher course (that it's being publicized).
There is a proposal coming in from Mr. O'Connell and Mr. Monfredo that we comment on proposed regulation on school lunches (though the back-up is a letter from two majority members of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, and I can't find the proposed regulation...a little confused on this one).
We have several proposed congratulations.
We're being asked to receive a donation to the Worcester Tech plumbing department from the Donald Martineau, Sr. Memorial Fund.
We're doing our annual selection of a delegate and an alternate to the Mass Association of School Committee annual meeting in November (willing to bet this one is coming in from Dr. Friel; if we register early, we save money!).
I've asked that the City Manager report on the short and long term benefits of contributing to an Other Post-Employment Benefits trust fund (that's OPEB; a report we haven't seen).
We're being asked by adminstration to consider all items filed by the School Committee in light of the FY14 budget (this is the annual "you know that these things aren't free" reminder).
We're supposed to be getting a mid-year report from Superintendent Boone relative to her goals prior to the meeting on Thursday. I'll post once I have it.
And then my item, below, (which apparently Mr. O'Connell contacted the clerk to co-sponsor) regarding questions on the One Library system.

Also, a reminder: we'll return to budget session after our regular session if we haven't completed the budget when we recess to exec at 6. We will, however, pass our budget, one way or the other, on Thursday night.

Monday, June 17, 2013


To Bruce O'Connell, WPS 2013 Teacher of the Year!
Bruce teaches English at the Creamer Center. 
And no, not related to me or to Brian. 

One Library press conference

And Finz is here. posting as we go
Petty: "another great announcement for the city of Worcester"
Thanks everyone for being here today
"very positive impact on Worcester's youth...One City, One Library...little collaboration, working to get things done"
"things don't happen by accident...really amazes me how things get started...a couple of people have an idea, get talking...happened almost by accident"
"having library open during the day and also by night for the neighborhood"
Patty Eppinger: "all of our show"
"exciting time for Worcester...lots of positive energy, heading in a great direction"
"when we see a need, we don't just walk away, we try to get things done"
"critical to have our children have access to books, technology and professionals"
score higher on standardized achievement tests in reading
third grade
"many needs in our community..pulled in many directions...think to benefit everyone"
several months: "a group of very dedicated, very hard working volunteers...libraries back to schools and neighborhood"
worldwide system of resources, librarians, library staff
"all have a stake in helping our children and our neighborhood"
not exactly as accidentally as the Mayor referenced
....WPL Foundation, WEDF, WPL, WPS, UMass-Med, CM, WEC
MCAS scores on
"two reasons: to thank build and maintain the libraries that exist in our libraries today"
"four school-based children services branches opening in the fall, one per quadrant"
"update existing" technology...books, facilities,
"offer new programs that will make reading fun"
open to neighboring public when schools are not in session
"we all believe this will be a win-win situation"
sites chosen for "a variety of" neighborhoods, access from an outside entrance, parking
Plus a second Libby solely for children's services
asking principals to come forward
Principals of Tatnuck Magnet, Roosevelt, Burncoat Prep, and Goddard
"have graciously opened their schools to us"
cites O'Brien
CM O'Brien: "wonderful to be here"
"not looking forward to ice and snow"
"amazing work in our public schools"
volunteers are "a foundation that we hope to build upon"
improve access to all that our library has to offer to all of our citizens
"uniquely positioned to go and innovative way"
"children achieving their grade level reading ability"
Private/public partnership like no other
schools and libraries are "working together" to how they work on hours, staffing, access
current PILOT from WPI, Clark,
UMass-Med for $700,000 in materials
private support from WPL Foundation "going forward"
thanks subcommittee that "analyzed statistics on grade level reading
"pleased to announce the designated solely for library services...additional $250,000 towards this goal"
$1.25 million for year one
"some things take time, and age like fine wine"
Leary from UMass-Med
kids growing up in Worcester and staying here
used to be to work in the mills
45% of employment is higher ed and health care
STEM fields: early literacy
"very happy to participate, happy for you to have me hear today"
"would not happen without the 100% support of our superintendent"
Boone: share in the excitement of all on this stage here today
on my mind since I've been here, "I know was on the agenda of the School Committee prior to that"
"libraries not just places where we house books and we check them in and out"
"where lifelong learning really takes hold"
sister of an elementary librarian
rolling up sleeves
"when you have a vision, you have to bring something of substance to the table"
front-loading success...moving away from remediation
proactive stance
initial sites for this intiative
"every school has its unique do we use that to create the best for the schools and the community"
principals: hours, role of librarian in schools
still going to take a great deal to close the gap on hours and services
volunteers cited and thanks
"sibling of Libby"
"large school system and going to take a lot of effort to get where we need"
reading levels of 3rd and 4th grade boys used to calculate the number of prison beds are needed
"great and exciting day for the city of Worcester" and the Worcester Public Schools
Susan Gately: (president of WPL board)
proud to be part of the city of Worcester
"loveable, liveable city that we have"
"work together on the board with these big ideas"
cites library director for her "big ideas"
"really great ideas, resourceful, creative, responsive, impactful, bold"
four branches
"more reach with little Libby"
well-spent city resources: "I hope that we'll see more of all of you as we work to see this really great idea come together"
Leslie Fish (president of WPL Foundation)
"when the City Manager came and presented this idea to the WPL Foundation, not only did the Board immediately vote on it, a member wanted it to go down on this as 'enthusiastically'"
sent children to WPS, access to libraries
"superior resources of the Worcester Public Library...seems to be no other"
"going to raise the matching funds to complete infrastructure needs for this year"
working with WEDF to get the funds for the "little Libby"
comments that One City, One Library is up online (it's not...yet)
Rebecca Alt, library organizer from Tatnuck Magnet: parent volunteers at our school that is "an amazing group of people ever"
"to see our kids day in and day out enjoying it...such a highlight of being a parent at this school"
"this is incredible..makes what we did this year worth it, let's us breathe a little"

In closing, Patty Eppinger notes that this will cost $2 M for the first year, and thus far they have $1.25 M

How 'bout we get our facts straight before we face them?

It is time once again for our periodic lament that the Telegram and Gazette editorial page writers do not watch the meetings or read the documents on which they opine.
There was a fairly extensive exchange on transportation during the City Council meeting on first week of June (scroll down to "Lukes"), which was actually based on questions from the Research Bureau report.
Barring that, you could always look at "Transportation" in the FY14 Worcester Public Schools budget.
If you did, you would find that:
Durham School Services is both the Regular Education and Special Education transportation provider. FY14 is the fourth year of a five year contract with Durham School Services.
aka: the vast majority of WPS transportation is already privatized (don't let the fact that the buses say "Worcester Public Schools" fool you; that's contractually required).

You'd also see (as has been covered several times; see, for example, the presentation the joint Education/Finance & Operations committee got on transportation earlier this year) that the only buses the Worcester Public Schools run internally are ones where midday transportation is required (that's slide 22). It is cheaper, when we need a midday route, to run it in house rather than contract it out.
And that's checked frequently.

So, please: by all means, make suggestions at improvements. Just get your facts straight first.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

One Library item

The following appears on the agenda for Thursday:

gb #3-202  -   Ms. Novick/Mr. O'Connell
                        (June 11, 2013)
Request the administration and the administration of the Worcester Public Library report on the proposed “One Library” system regarding (but not limited to) the following: 
  • the process and criteria used to rank and select possible sites
  • how the growing enrollment of the Worcester Public Schools will be handled in light of the space restrictions
  • who will hire the librarians, to whom they will answer, whose hiring requirements and certifications will be met, and how these librarians will be evaluated
  • whether and to what extent the librarians will be part of the faculty of the school, teaching students research skills, attending faculty and curriculum meetings, and integrating curriculum into the library
  • whether libraries will be open to the public before, during, or after school hours, or outside of the school year
  • who will maintain and clean the library space
  • which entity will pay for utilities and other associated costs of the library space
  • how such space will be secured to the rest of the school building, and who will have and control access to the rest of the building
  • what the budgetary impact will be on the Worcester Public Schools, both in terms of dollars and in terms of state spending requirements
  • what the budgetary impact will be on the Worcester Public Library, both in terms of dollars and in terms of state spending requirements
  • what impact, if any, such use of space will have on the reimbursement of projects by the Massachusetts School Building Authority
  • who will have ownership of current school library resources, including books owned by the school libraries, and whether and to what extent any school library resources be available for interlibrary loan (within or outside Worcester)
  • what access to the library students will have during mandated state testing, given both space restraints and the state regulation requiring only school employees be in a school building during state testing
  • how any dissolution of these proposed libraries will be handled vis-a-vis the Worcester Public Schools

Friday, June 14, 2013

Special ed advisory board

The state special ed advisory board is in need of new members:
  Special Education Advisory Council: ESE is recruiting new members to serve three-year terms on the Special Education Advisory Council. The council, which has been in existence for more than 30 years, consists of parents and professionals who provide guidance to ESE on matters relating to special education policy. Individuals who are interested in applying to serve on the council should submit a letter of interest and resume to Sarah Whitman by Friday, July 12, 2013. For more info on the council, go to

DESE on requiring computers

This came through this afternoon in the Commissioner's weekly update:  

Provision of Instructional Supplies, Including Tablets or Computers:
ESE has received a number of questions related to whether Massachusetts public schools may require students to purchase tablets or computers. Generally speaking, public schools may not charge a fee for students to enroll or to participate in required or elective courses given for academic credit. Under Chapter 71, Section 48<> of the Massachusetts General Laws, school districts must purchase at public expense textbooks and other instructional materials and supplies intended for use and re-use over a period of years. Districts then in turn "loan" those instructional materials free of charge to students, who must return them at the end of the school year.

The exception to this general rule is consumable supplies – those supplies that typically are used up by students during the course of the year. Schools may ask students to supply their own notebooks or binders, papers, pencils and pens, and tissues. ESE does advise schools to keep these types of consumable materials on hand so that students who do not have such supplies will not miss any instruction.

In contrast, costly tools such as a tablet or other computer or graphing calculator fall in the category of instructional materials and supplies that, similar to textbooks, are intended for schools to purchase and use and re-use over a period of years.  If such technology is required, the school may encourage each student to purchase these devices. Students are likely to do so because they may need those devices for future classes and other use outside of school. We advise schools to be prepared to provide such devices free of charge to students whose families do not choose to buy them or cannot afford to do so. If students need such devices to complete out-of-school assignments, schools must provide that access.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Small fire at Worcester Tech tonight

Small fire tonight at Worcester Technical High School in the culinary arts department apparently caused by the dryer. It is out, cleanup is underway, and school will proceed as normal tomorrow. 

Worcester School Committee policies: posting as we go

The Governance and Employee Issues subcommittee is meeting today to work on our review of the Worcester School Committee policies. You can find the first section that we're reviewing here.

Monfredo: review of all policies of the Worcester Public Schools by Mass Association of School Committees; this is the first of many meetings, as we'll take this in pieces
policy change is an ongoing process
should outline the procedures of the school committee, should be clear, be updated regularly, and easily accessible to staff and the public

Carrara (from MASC): if MASC has a policy that may be more up to date, both with be presented
sources are giving for each section (WPS or some cases, ours is theirs)
Don't use figures and names in policies, as those tend to change on an annual basis
Federal government recommends that a discrimination person be appointed (and named)
regulations are not policies; "not how you're going to do it, as that belongs to the superintendent"
"You're the what, and the superintendent and administration is the how"
Try to keep you legal, try to keep you away from doing what you ought not
Legal references are cited at the bottom
Charters are not put in the policy manual itself, 'though they will need to be cited as a source
(the municipal charter covers, for example, how our meetings are chaired, how chairs are elected, and so forth)
"when you make changes, if you send it to us, we automatically put it up for you"
"policy should be on your agenda almost every meeting"
all updates must be voted, but some are mandated by state law or regulation
will meet every four to six weeks: section G, I, J are very large, as they are instruction, students, and employees

School District Legal Status
statutory law
include reference to MGL and Constitution
need a bit of inclusion of WPS history
People and their School District:
separate regulation/procedure document urged
could we have a procedural manual?
working to separate procedure from policy
maintain same coding as policy, as they correspond
some reference to where you can find the procedures
person to whom non-discrimination complaints are issued
question to link to our procedures from our policies: MASC doesn't have the ability to link to a procedures manual
apparently MASC is limited in what they can link to by the contract they have with their web (outsourced) people
Monfredo: decide on a later date
Luster comments that policy and procedure has been combined in the past; not sure that all areas are covered
Carrera comments that several policies are combined in our policies that MASC would recommend that we separate
Monfredo comments that keeping all of the nondiscrimination policy and procedure together in one thing so it can all be found together
Sexual Harassment:
question around user friendliness of current policy vs MASC policy
what is sexual harassment is spelled out by the current Worcester policy
Motion to adopt MASC's policy
Sexual Harassment Grievance Procedure
should keep these and should keep them in your manual
should we clarify which policy is for whom?
students can use either procedure, 'though students can use either
Mission statement needs to be rewritten
Approval of non-smoking policy
CORI information
question on the fingerprinting change
MASC's attorney is saying wait on policy change on that

And here, alas, I had to leave, as it was school pickup time, and just as we were getting into the operational bit! Oh, well. This will report out to the full committee next Thursday.

Summer reading is up!

If you check the front page of the Worcester Public Schools website, the summer reading is now posted! Remember, there are no specific assigned books in Worcester; the lists of authors are for your information.
And be sure you check our the new writing assignments!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Twenty years after Ed Reform

Twenty years ago this month, the 1993 Ed Reform Act passed the Massachusetts Legislature.* So, twenty years in, how are we doing? Citizens for Public Schools has a report out today answer that question. Taking a look at the executive summary, CPS finds:

  • The foundation budget, after twenty years, no longer accurately reflects the cost to provide a quality education that can enable all students to succeed. 
  • On the MCAS, significant gaps remain among student groups based on race, poverty, ethnicity, language and special needs, with some gaps stagnant and some increasing.
  • National research and surveys of Massachusetts teachers found the focus on preparing students for high-stakes MCAS tests has contributed to a narrowing of school curricula, most severely in districts serving low-income students. 
  • Commonwealth charter schools have not contributed to equity of educational quality and resources.

They also propose solutions.

*just ahead of a court judgment finding that the state was not equitably funding schools. Yes, these are related.

We're not at 100% yet

...but we're close. The budget that just passed City Council finance committee has $253,000 additional allocation for the Worcester Public Schools.
The City Council has also passed a motion requesting that the City Manager allocate $172,000 from free cash (when it is settled in 7-10 days) to entirely close the budget gap.
The City Council has expressed an intention to hold the budget at the Council level until they have received a response back the Worcester Public Schools from DESE regarding if OPEB counts towards Net School Spending. 

Full budget being approved in finance committee

...including an increase in the WPS budget of $253,000

Note that the budget must then be passed by Council in order for the budget to be passed.

Worcester Public Schools budget back at Council : posting as we go

Petty: "maybe our final night on the schools budget"
Dawn Johnson: "my voice is the voice of parents who are maybe too busy to follow the budget"
"I know that I've made a difference in the life of a Worcester public schools student"
"tired and aggravated that once again we need to beg for money to try to provide an education"
$80 below the state average on administrative expensive (in house)
charges from city to schools for administrative costs
"and while we're talking about $3 million, that's how much money the city gets for services the Worcester Public Schools provide...why do we even bother filling out the paperwork?"
$5.53/$1000 of taxes goes to the Worcester Public Schools
"I want the Worcester Public Schools to be everyone's school of choice"
bottom 2% of net school spending across the state: "Shame on us"

Item from City Manager O'Brien:
"been active in conversation with me since last week"
"little room for opportunity"
desire to narrow the gap: right now it's about $430,000
"within the 2014, we do expect...debate between House and Senate...McKinney-Vento reimbursement"
"have used House version, lower reimbursement: estimated $253,000"
money transferred once it comes in
assuming the money comes in, that would leave a gap of $172,000
Commit to work to fill gap from free cash
"to have us at zero, once we have that number hard and fast"

Motion from Eddy: Request the City Manager appropriate $173,000 out of free cash to address the spending gap

That would bring it to hundred percent

Worcester City Council : budget part 3

...starts at 5!

One what?

You may have seen an invitation circulating regarding an event next Monday at Tatnuck Magnet School, to wit:

The Worcester Public Library and the
Worcester Public Library Foundation are excited to
announce the launch of a creative, new partnership with the City of Worcester and the Worcester Public Schools!
Monday, June 17, 2013 at 3:30 p.m.
Tatnuck Magnet School, 1083 Pleasant Street

So what's up?
Hey, I'm wondering, too. All the School Committee members have gotten on this was a brief heads-up (which made this all sound a bit more out there than this!) during our one-on-one budget meetings.

Here's what I know thus far: the city is proposing--or, I should say, pushing ahead on--a plan to locate children somewhat-branch libraries in some of our schools. It's being referred to as the "One Library" system.
Or so I'm told.
Discussions on this have been entirely private: there has been no discussion with the School Committee and no discussion with the Worcester Public Library board (the two public bodies that oversee the respective involved).
I have seen no mention of funding beyond what can be gleaned from the city budget this year.
I have seen no discussion of the severe space crunch the Worcester Public Schools are under, which will only get worse with our growing enrollment.
I have been part of no conversations around the allocation of city or school resources or the sustainability of this project.
I have seen no remarks on what impact this will have on Net School Spending; I have seen that this will be counted, by the city, as library spending for state requirements.
I have seen nothing regarding the lines of authority on hiring, evaluation, firing, and the like on the employees involved.
I have seen nothing on securing our buildings to the public (which, if you recall, is why we no longer have polling places in schools).
I have seen nothing, in short, that deals with the real world considerations of any such plan.

I thought we had more time to ask questions on this--silly me--and I was respecting our usual refraining from filing a lot of items during budget. Believe me, I'll be asking about this.
Of course, it will be after whatever announcement is made next week.

Council hears the budget: Round 3 tonight at 5!

If you are able, please consider joining us at City Council tonight at 5 pm as they hear the Worcester Public Schools portion of their budget. Both WPS and Economic Development were held last week to this, after some positive-sounding comments from councilors regarding reaching foundation this year.

Whether or not you can make it this evening, I would urge you (as always) to reach out to the City Council (whose contact information can be found at the right->>>>) regarding the city thus far failing to meet the minimum legal obligation we have for funding the Worcester Public Schools.
As a reminder:

  • Worcester is $427,000 under the legal minimum
  • This puts us in the bottom 2% statewide when it comes to state funding of education
  • The statewide average is 14% over the legal minimum

Friday, June 7, 2013

New principal at Quinsigamond Elementary

I have just received the following from  Superintendent Boone:

I am pleased to announce the appointment of Margaret Doyle as principal of Quinsigamond Elementary School effective the 2013-14 school year.  Ms. Doyle currently serves as principal of Thorndyke Road Elementary, a position she has held since 2009. I will forward her resume to you on Monday. With this appointment, we will be posting the prinicipal position for Thorndyke Road and undertaking a full search for that position, including a stakeholder group of teachers and parents.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Indirect cost rate for state and federal grant

city is taking 3%
opinion of DESE is that the school committee sets the rate, which we have set at 1% for a few years
Foley: looking for a ruling on this, continue with 1%, push conflict towards resolution
Monfredo: moves that we set 0%
Biancheria: why are we bringing up this up; aren't we awaiting a legal opinion?
Boone: DESE says that this is the responsibility of the School Committee. It is required that we do this for grant applications
Biancheria: doesn't actually set the rate, because the city will still take 3
Boone: need to do this for the grants
4-3 on 1%

Student policy handbook

the Mayor tries again for "approve on a roll call"
O'Connell: wishes to keep Rule 4; "doing so in part to prevent students from being suspended from school for tardies...should in fact prevent students from being suspended for tardiness...rule is simple and direct"
(The rules don't require suspension; they require discipline.)
"This rule is one of the buwarks of keeping students in school...leave that rule in place"
modify our rule with cellular telephones
current policy is that phones stay in their lockers
concerned with students contacting people outside of the school
now a concern such that people can contact people outside the school
asks that we keep the rule as it is

Mayor suggests keeping to just these two issues for this discussion

Novick: supports keeping tardiness
all it means is that it's a disciplinary issue
cell phones are in the building: we're only fooling ourselves if we think that this is actually being implemented; all it's doing is driving our assistant principals crazy
this doesn't mean it's free reign on cell phones; it just makes them subject to the same discretion as any other possible distraction in the schools

Biancheria: keep tardiness in
"if we can maybe work a little on this this evening" on celll phone language

"this could go on forever tonight...tardiness doesn't bother me one way or the other"
cell phone "we're about ten years behind on technology...we want our kids to have cell phones in the schools...they're educational devices"
come up with some kind of a policy that is common sense
"I don't want to leave my expensive cell phone in my locker"
"I think striking it is better than leaving it in the book"

Monfredo: "we have to go back to the school principals with us trying to deal with in the schools"
"that poses a major problem in our schools"
truancy: "our major concern was that we didn't want kids suspended because of that"

Colorio "I get texts every day from our schools"
would like to have a revision in our schools for our schools
"have to teach these kids some kind of responsibility"

Cell phones prohibition deleted
Tardiness stays in

Opt out procedure reading as "Students whose parents opt them out of state or district standardized assessment will not be academically penalized or face disciplinary action except as prohibited by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts or by the United States" passes

Display of data will be create a new set of procedures by administration.
Passes, and reconsideration fails.

We've got a policy handbook!

Exam / IB report

which, again, is here
Petty: thank Novick for the excellent job she did.
"I think you did a great job and you should be proud of that"
"excellent committee"
"no interference by the Mayor or the Superintendent"
"these are people we should keep track of"
learned a lot from this
"I think the whole purpose of this report...we're almost on the same page...provide academic excellence...provide that rigor...the exam is one part of the whole make the schools better...what our goal will be"
To administration for recommendation by the end of the calendar year
"goal here is not to hurt any of the high schools"
"when I asked Mr. Allen for $5 million next year...I think he was laughing at me"
ask Manager to come up money in the capital budget

And I can't type out all that I said here, but as I've told them directly: my thanks to the committee. A varied group, they trusted each other, were patient with each other, heard each other out, and worked well together. I really appreciate all that they did this past year. 

Summer Reading

Dr. Rodrigues comments that so long as the reading is of student choice, and is pleasurable, then what we are concerned with that the students are engaged with reading throughout the summer.
So if your child wants to read three five hundred page books this summer, and that's what they're reading all summer, that's great. Have them engage in the written and creative assignments on their books, and all is good. 

School lunch prices raised

That makes it $1.65 for next year.

Superintendent's evaluation process

You can find the recommendations here.
The proposal here is that the Superintendent will make a mid-cycle report on her goals (the goals from November 3, 2011) with the first evaluation being held next November.

Novick: suggestion that a mid-cycle review be included in the process for this year. Also an amendment that all individual evaluations be part of the discussion at the public evaluation. Also pointing out that the timeline does put evaluation mid-election every other year.

Foley: a mid-cycle review makes sense will be incorporated; avoids the election cycle (they thought of that)

O'Connell: very much in keeping with the discussion of the Ad-hoc committee

passes as amended

Open Meeting Law violation

Open Meeting Law violation is being sent to the City Solicitor and the City Manager for a response.

Revisions to the policy manual

We're working with MASC to revision all of the policies (that's the first draft) for the Worcester Public Schools. Once we get through them, they'll all be up online (hooray!).

First meeting on this is next Thursday at noon in Governance and Employee Issues committee.

Worcester Tech Commandos

who won the VEX World Robotics Championship in California

Eftalia Economou is with us tonight

Eftalia is a first grader at Nelson Place School, and she is a winner the statewide "My Ideal School" contest, sponsored by the Massachusetts School Building Authority  and Treasurer Steven Grossman.
She also did an excellent job of reading her essay on why her school is her ideal school.

Day by Day subs; supplemental programs; coaches; athletic OM

I'd just like to comment here that the AC is on and it is FREEZING
Colorio: jump in number of subs since 2007
Luster: quality individuals to continue instruction
"best effort that administration was able to do"
Novick asks: concerns with substitutes should go to the building principals or to HR
Biancheria asks about salary
Luster: ability to pay (this is less than local)
Supplemental programs
O'Connell: PE for Creamer evening
only for students in the program?
Boone: open to students across the district
asks for a report
Monfredo: returnee program: how many students are in that?
Gribouski: 18 students this year, pilot year
as they finish, more students can access the program
extending through the summer
have students finish their credits over the summer and graduate by fall
Biancheria: could streamline costs of translators
community schools (Clark St, Canterbury, Elm Park, and Quinsigamond): what we consider a community school program? What are we offering?
back-and-forth and had a number of conversations
Boone comments that there was a report in TLSS on community schools; asks that it be reviewed
was there any change?
Boone: description has not changed; grants that have sunset (ed?)
Biancheria: "they have not changed their rates since 1994" (WPD)
additions to the Creamer Center of sped and ELL as well as the school adjustment counselor, can't find it in the site based budget
Luster: they are system-wide employees, they don't show up at the school budget
Allen: not a position, it's additional time (at $30/hour)
Gribouski: they're an hourly rate; both in evening program or credit recovery program
Novick: translation: how's it going?
we've added two languages! Twi and Patois (that's to Spanish, Portguese,Vietnamese, Albanian, and Arabic)
Colorio: if we aren't using services, will it be less?
O'Connell: do we assume everyone will field a team?
Allen: blanket amount, not sport or school
Shea: notes that some of girls soccer teams did not have enough numbers; softball in the spring (JV)
look at increasing participation for female athletes throughout the district
O'Connell: great success at citywide teams: should we switch some of these to individual high schools?
Shea: where we have seen it, we have tried to do so
O'Connell: can have both citywide and school-by-school teams? Yes.
asks for a report in spring for expanding sports teams
Colorio: middle school expansion: boys and girls basketball in winter
Shea: asked to go from Sept to May: intermurals throughout the year in three sessions
what are the sports? soccer, tennis, baseball, softball, floor hockey...all space dependant
working with principals
Biancheria: cheerleader advisers under athletes as they should be
bowling which is run as an after school program
Athletic OM:
Novick: requesting a report on gymnastics equipment throughout the district, including location and condition
the Title IX survey showed girls most interested in gymnastics; major expense is equipment
complaint on MIAA costs, which Boone shares (I told her she had my support to lead a revolution)
supplies being cut due to purchase of new helmets last year
costs of rental of ice time and pool: underfunded
Colorio: urging gate revenue increase: get more people to games
Monfredo: could we look at the cost of a citywide gymnastics team?
rental of Foley Stadium sign
Allen: has been bid out four or five times with no success
O'Connell: how about an RFP?
Biancheria: report on athletic transportation; dollars spent by school
Shea: could be broken down by season, hard to do by school...Durham
Allen: can do in house
gate receipts offset costs in account: general spent on game officials

This is it for today!

Educational support; printing and postage; out of state travel

Colorio: credit recovery lab:got moved to this account?
Allen: for clarity
works at North High
Biancheria: compares to North High's line item
change in salary from last year to this: decrease in salary
Allen: not the same person
Boone: moved the location of this person's pay to educational support
Allen: there was a retirement
move happened last year; change was noted in quarterly reports
Printing and postage approved
In-state travel approved
Out-of-state travel
Biancheria: zero to $5,000
grants no longer covering the expense
Boone: was not zero; it was reflected in a grant budget
being reflected in an operations budget
Biancheria: tax-based dollars of $5000
Luster: "happy to have the opportunity to discuss the Worcester Public Schools teacher recruitment program"
plan to attend a job fair in Chicago: to benefit from loss of teaching positions there
3 to 4 out of state fairs for national recruitment
Biancheria: Chicago an excellent location to begin the process
"don't have an issue with recruitment"
"also reads staff development" ('though that line item is set at zero)
Luster: "can barely manage our recruitment efforts with $5000"
Allen: staff development and personnel office both are in here, but none of the money is for staff development (which it says in line B)
Colorio: how many teachers are recruited this way?
Petty suggests "success rate": getting a report
O'Connell: recruitment trips out of grant funds?
Allen: Title IIA funds used for recruitment
O'Connell: still have Title IIA funds available? still exists but in a reduced form
Allen: 8% reduction, as across the board

Other Insurance, Retirement, workers comp, health insurance, unemployment

Other insurance passes
O'Connell: early retirement incentive: how many people did that?
Petty asks if the numbers have to be there forever
Allen being paid back over
Workers Comp
Foley: talked about at our Finance meeting
"this is an account that we have traditionally dabbled in...also traditionally underbudgeted"
$952,300 "pretty aggressive number"
would support recommendation
O'Connell: have our settlements put us in a place where people will be collecting less now?
Allen: no
people were not necessarily collecting at the time that we settled
"In no year in the last five years have we spent anything less than $1.2 million"
O'Connell: inclined to leave with administration
Health insurance:
O'Connell: anything from city to adjust rates?
Allen: calculated : now under by $100,000
O'Connell: any suggestions?
Allen: to resolve in first quarter report
Biancheria: grant funded employees have their health insurance also grant funded
O'Connell: are we assuming a number?
Allen: 29-30 week basis; if you look annually, need $100,000
teachers returning, long-term subs need this
32 tutors eligible..
"full exposure is greater than the amount budgeted here" (by about $500,000)
O'Connell: hope that in the upturn in the economy could get employment
Allen: usually use health insurance savings to cover unemployment costs; cannot happen with tutors (as they don't get health insurance

School Committee account, crossing guards account, school clerical

Pass School Committee
Crossing guards: request by Biancheria to review the location of crossing guards before the fall
Boone: standing item requesting that
School clerical:
Colorio: are most of the positions stationary? is there an increase in salary?
Allen: had to lay off a number of people due to civil service requirements
new people, lower salaries
substitute coverage for secretaries (Novick question): Allen comments probably underfunded, account is a recent addition to this budget
Biancheria: are we looking at average or the accurate number?
Allen: actual salaries for next year
O'Connell: conversion to a full year at Claremont
Allen: level of service to school has not changed: account has
Administrative clerical:
Colorio: is the average salary that much higher for these secretaries?
Allen: school clerk works a school year; administration works a full year
all under collective bargaining agreement
O'Connell: grant position cut due to sequestration
Allen: grant level support to grants and nutrition
clerks assigned to work on grants will be charged to a grant account
is a net reduction in one position in finance and operations
Biancheria: systems administration
compare 2013 to 2014: is this an actual cost or is this an average costs?
Allen: FY14 represents the actual cost as projected
Boone: larger number of people, an average is more accurate; smaller number is more accurate
Biancheria: looking at actual, accurate numbers
Boone: numbers were accurate in terms of financing and planning
different approach
Allen: talking about two different things
FY13 as well as FY14 represents (both) accurate numbers
location based budget is done on average salaries, because we don't actually know who's going to be in which position in which school
Biancheria: Durkin Administration building brought to her attention by Councilors
changes in line items

WPS FY14 budget: posting as we go

The Mayor makes a motion to approve...
Boone: School Committee entering deliberations in the budget
"nearly four hours worth of conversation with the City Council" over the past two weeks
great strides in understanding of the funding formula
"gleaned major priorities across multiple groups...everything we would like to see in this budget is not there...real revenue issue..facing declining grant dollars at the state and federal level...sequestration"
"weren't able to add everything to the budget...34 additional employees all at the school based level"
1% of budget on central administration
have adjusted bottom line effectively
"have helped this city significantly during these difficult budget times"
"look forward to the day when we no longer are debating getting to net school spending"

Monfredo: research continues to show that a striving city needs a strong educational system
since 2002, closed eight schools, laid off over 800 employees, cut preschool to half a day
bottom 2% of cities and towns in getting to our educational needs
average across the state is 14% above the foundation
Leicester is 5% above foundation (of those nearby)
when will we give more education?
City Council is considering a budget that is illegal
grant processing fee, Medicaid, McKinney-Vento
added together "City is using our revenue to increase their bottom line:

Colorio: resources on the front line
"need to seriously consider streamlining our administration"
moving money back to tutors that administration is proposing to cut
"eliminating programs that are only doing mediocre"
"seriously consider the transfer of funds back to the front lines"

Petty: Council has brought down the gap to half of what it was
review how the city uses the fees on its budget
2008: cut local aid on city

O'Connell: "detailed budget...truly is a starting point for us..."
allocation rests with the School Committee
bringing dollars out of non-instructional areas
"very concerned when we lose instructional positions such as tutors"
find dollars in the non-instructional areas and bring them back into the classroom

Budget consideration starts at 4!

Please join us (or tune in) as we begin consideration of the Worcester Public Schools FY14 budget at 4 pm today. You can find the budget here. The order of accounts considered (the "road map") is here.

We will consider budget accounts until about 6 pm, at which point, the committee will recess to executive session. We will come back to public session for our regular meeting (agenda here) at 7 pm.
This is the first of two budget sessions; we will be back at 4 pm on June 20.

New courses being considered for next year

Three Dimensional Design
 Advanced Three Dimensional Design
Digital Media Research
African American Studies
Financial Literacy 
Arts Appreciation & Critique
Class Guitar
Community Arts Internship
Dance for Fitness
Introduction of Music Theory
Introduction of Music History
Introduction to Theatre
Percussion Ensemble

These are proposed courses; the schools then can look at their teaching staff to see if they have the expertise and staff to teach that course. 
Rodrigues comments that this is atypically late in the year for the courses to be considered; that to redraft the course description sheet
Biancheria pushing to be sure that the courses are presented to students so they know that it is available
wondering how the course enrollment will look (now a motion)

The report is out!

As you may have seen in today's paper, the exam/IB report from Mayor Petty's Ad-Hoc committee is out!
It is posted as a backup for tonight's Worcester School Committee agenda and can be found here.

We did spend a great deal of time carefully crafting well-researched answers to the Mayor's charge, so if you are interested in this issue, I'd urge you not to only read/listen to the coverage; do read it yourself.

I'm particularly proud of the introductory section, which starts on page 7.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Summer reading and summer programs

Teaching, Learning, and Student Supports currently being running by vice-chair Monfredo
Rodrigues: meeting with community members to see how summer school could be an extension of various programs across the city
How to best mobilize the community on the importance of summer reading
Some (super cute) posters that will be going up across the city to emphasize summer reading; the slogan is "Best thing about summer is having more time to read."
list of authors is a suggested list
a "menu" of options for responding to summer reading*: Biancheria "fabulous ideas, fabulous ideas!"
Monfredo: number of books: consider going by pages rather than number of books
"don't want summer school program to be a drop-in center"
drawing students back into school as if they miss time
is there a plan if attendance drops off? Yes, Rodrigues says.
curriculum an engaging one
signs on buses about summer reading
summer school data? Rodrigues: pre and post format of assessment

Biancheria: appreciate the work put in, different creative ideas
connect-Ed messages
any incentives? It was discussed...passes for art museum, Ecotarium, movies

O'Connell: books that you enjoy as well as books that students can learn from
Like the time and effort that went into that

Motion is to file and have the summer reading move forward as proposed

*grades preK- grade 2: 5 books, parent log to fill out

grades 3-6 : 5 books to read: pick one for each book

  • illustrate your favorite part
  • design a postcard
  • create a character sketch
  • write a letter to a character
  • write a letter to the author
  • write a journal or diary event using a character
  • design a book jacket
grades 7-8: 3 books to read
  • download and fill out a double-entry journal (first book read)
  • illustrate a role from a scene in the book; then explain what you drew and why you drew it (second book read)
then choose
  • letter to the author
  • comic strip of favorite scene
  • rewrite the ending of the book
  • retell the story from the character's point of view
  • PowerPoint summary (of at least 10 slides)
  • write a song or poem
  • write a movie script or play about one chapter of the book
  • interpret a scene into a video
grades 9-12: 3 books to read
  • double entry journal (as above) (for first book read)
  • compare /contrast this text to any other you have read; supply evidence from reading (for second book)
  • read and complete a creative project (a poem, script, drawing, photograph, video) (for third book)


...meets momentarily, and it's going to be a short one, as much of the committee is going to Doherty's graduation.

Federal grant audit and other audits

Foley: fewer and fewer recommendations coming forward over time as we change to fit them
Allen: these are not even all of our audits
"This year's management letter does not have any findings for the School Department; these are all city-side findings."
have in the past included student activity accounts; Sullivan and Rogers engaged to review how we do them
majority of findings resulting in the indirect cost rate legal dispute
(this is the city taking 3% when we've authorized their taking 1%)
purchase orders going through a process to be sure they aren't disbarred from doing business
"we assume the city does that check" as we pay them to do
"we will also do the check" now
Foley: "The city did not comply with allowable costs..."
notes that the city is citing HUD in how they are setting their takings

Accept and file

agreed upon accountants' report
change in how costs are reported (reflecting DESE categories)
details of which account categories go into which account
costs reported to state go into those categories: to make sure how we are spending our dollars as we are to do
"we've looked at the way you're spending the dollars and you're following the state guidelines"

administrative charges of city administration called out as not having been updated since 2007
Allen notes that we have an outstanding item on renegotiating the administration agreement; that the city and schools have already met an impasse, and seeking input from DESE
Foley: looking a cuts in Head Start, tutors, IAs...losing $900,000 a year due to the 3% rather than 1%
Allen: "those are positions"

Medicaid no-cost review

Public Consulting Group repeatedly found that we have a "very efficient School Based Medicaid claiming process"
Allen: been doing in-house since it was created
a group that does this as business found how efficient we are
will take information and apply to our process
no cost savings found, as this work is done by essential personnel (so regardless, we couldn't outsource, but there isn't any point, as we're doing it so well)
Foley notes that there is an irony, as none of this money is seen by the public schools; it goes to the city general fund (which we contribute to so very well!)

Third quarter report

Day by day subs is projected as a deficit $73,249
coaches at a surplus of $19,631
summer school days now surplus of $210,000 (all of summer school days are now next fiscal year)
crossing guard added at Grafton and Hamilton street and one at Apricot and Goddard Memorial (deficit of $6,997)
need substitute nurses; increasing nurses next year
transportation increasing: adding out-of-district transportation (due to IEP)
deficit in workers' comp (as per always)
personal services up for translation and legal consultation
in-state travel (which is largely for teachers who are at multiple schools)
increase in price of gasoline
projected deficit in utilities as we have not seen the ESCo savings projected: "somewhat puzzling as to why those savings have not occurred"

Allen: workers' comp is annually underfunded, unemployment account underfunded, tuition account has been in deficit due to cost of third party services (bringing them back in will not necessarily mean that we don't need them any longer)
FY14 will fully use the unemployment just on tutors
School Committee should know that there may well be need for transfers again next year
request for transfers for end of fiscal year on tomorrow night's agenda

Foley: dally with workers' compensation and unemployment: already under-budgeting them

Novick: good to see responsiveness of administration to school need on crossing guards
concern with low amount of money left in facilities budget at this point in the year; investment of state in our buildings; need to do our part as well
Allen: districts underspending across the state; generally found to be spending not as much as needed in teachers, but not true in Worcester
underspending in facilities, support staff, administration
question as to where to find the money

Gates Lane parking

14 spaces leased in parking lot across the street
we have over 120 staff that work in the building; we have less than 75 parking spaces
Gates Lane hosts an autism program, with many parents in and out of the building
these are not foreign invaders, these are parents and WPS staff that are parking the neighborhood
owe them a defense of access to their school
Motion to ask for notification whenever parking is limited around a school

School lunch prices

school reimbursement rate is $2.59
we eventually need to charge that
raising it by a nickel a year
this would bring the price to $1.65
Increase is going for equipment
nutrition is not subject to sequestration
approved for additional 6 cents as well
loss of $100,000 in revenue due to loss of Head Start
equipment increase: replacement of POS system which is currently on the Windows XP system
also makes in compatible with new SAGE
will not make any difference in online payment system

price increase passes

WPS input into the City's Open Space and Recreation plan

and we have Rob Antonelli from city Parks and Rec here
Allen: "you read about net school spending and budget hearings when it comes to the city, but the schools have very strong relationships with city departments...very strong relationship with city and parks"
new playgrounds at Quinsig and Gates Lane
"in that spirit, I see the school department being very willing and able to work with parks"
Antonelli: 20 public hearings across the city regarding the master plan
in the process of putting together a lot of the pieces of what those guidelines are
five year plan that was initially developed through Conservation and Recreation
city is required to have one for state and federal grants
state decided to extend the program for additional two years; now a seven year program
"not as crisp" when done in house, so outsourced this year
open space records in many different locations; no central repository for mapping
Weston and Sampson putting it all on one format
making sure all of the properties correct; surveys and maps of properties
draft document for some time longer; draft going in mid-June (must have in for grant eligibility in July)
revisions are nearly always required by the state
several upcoming meetings at end of June, beginning of July
approval by Council in the fall
inventory of school department facilities: needs updating and correcting
Looking to include:

  • inventory of outdoor recreation facilities at schools
  • condition assessment and access allowed to public facilities
Parks are assessed for their condition as part of the open space master plan
  • are there a planned capital improvements plan at school facilities to put into the plan?
  • changes in delivery of maintenance...could also be included in the plan to give the public better information about maintenance of properties
public survey was completed in May; will have results in next week or so
  • is their room for further collaboration? beyond what is already being done
Foley: draft document submitting to state will include only listing of schools; no action items as with other properties
Antonelli: there are open spaces in public schools
Foley: suggestion that we keep this here and discuss the upkeep and needs of fields
Antonelli: to include short and long term goals over the next seven years; we would like to do X by this date
Foley: putting a plan together to look at this
Colorio: clarifying what the plan is, how the grant cycle works, looking at lines of access and trails
If trails are being connected, properties are looked at, sidewalks looked at
Novick: if it's in the plan, it can be grant funded; our needs making the list
what about swimming due to loss of students?
Whale's Tale program: looking to bring back and note, due to need of water safety
Tech School students working on the vernal pools
need for trail maps: getting people to these: "People don't even know that we have a waterfall in Worcester"
Things that people don't even know that we have

talking to various city departments about the information on their end...need that information as part of our document
"when they go for a grant...they can say...'it's included in the open space plan'..incorporates more and better collaboration with city departments and maybe gives them a leg up on communities that maybe didn't have that"
makes it a stronger plan: makes it a much better document
Allen: intent is to include all WPS properties in the open space plan, and then rolling forward to identify access and condition

Finance and Operations meets..

...very shortly...

This makes nine accelerated repairs for Worcester

And we're in!!
Expect to see those projects as early as next summer!

As a reminder: these projects are:

  • Columbus Park: windows and boiler
  • Tatnuck Magnet: windows
  • Worcester Arts Magnet: windows
  • Worcester East Middle: roof, windows, boiler

Best estimate we have right now is we're looking at projects totalling about $15 million.

Accelerated repair projects

Graph of when submissions came in; let's say that there is a big spike at the very end.
Springfield submitted 12. 
Worcester submitted 7. 
(That's the top two.)
A number of districts submitted 5. 
43 of 57 receiving site visits are being considered today. 
(There are a LOT of roofs on here.)
Note that Boston submitted four, which the board is glad to see. 
Pembroke has four schools on; Quincy has three; Springfield has four; Stoughton has three; Westford two; and Worcester has four schools. 

MSBA meeting...

Just began. There are a boatload of districts being considered today for accelerated repair.  Executive Director Jack McCarthy speaks of the "Herculean task" in getting the accelerated repairs on this agenda. He says the rebuild/reconstruct will be on the October agenda (or that's the goal).
Review of past few months. 
Treasurer Grossman speaking of importance of technology but need for support of it, and also for schools that are not doing accelerated repair or major renovation. 
(He's referencing Sherwood Middle School in Shrewsbury, plus Billerica). 
Taunton dropping a boiler replacement. 
Scituate being invited to feasibility for their intermediate school (they're looking at a change in grade arrangements as part of the plan). 

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

WPS order of accounts

As per usual, the Worcester School Committee will consider the accounts in an order that is not that of the actual budget book. It can be hard to follow...
...unless you have the "budget road map."