Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Open Meeting Law: Questions answered

  • PowerPoint only with presentation; but there is a video online
  • What about a joint meeting? Two postings?
  • if both bodies plan to deliberate, they both post, but it can be one posting
  • if a subcommittee meets after the full body meets, does it need its own posting? It can be a joint posting.
  • Is an ad-hoc committee of a school committee for naming a building a public body? It depends. If they haven't been delegated a task, that it may not be formal enough. Is it within the jurisdiction?
  • delegating areas of research? do you have a quorum and are you a subcommittee?
  • procedural deliberations public? Yes.
  • For public recruitment, if two people go, is it subject? Are they a quorum deliberating?
  • Consequences? Most common, tell what you did wrong, tell you how you should have done it, "go and sin now more" BUT if you do it again...
  • for remote participation: must be audible, can just use a conference call
  • municipal website can be where things are posted
  • final decision must be made publicly when it comes to candidates to consider
  • minutes of executive session approved in open session? Still an open issue. Approval done in executive session is still protected
  • Can co-sponsorship be published as part of the agenda? Clerk can request co-sponsorship, but it should be announced at the meeting. "If you are acting otherwise, you are acting as a conduit for deliberation"

  • Are AG's interpretations binding? Yes.
  • Executive officer determines remote participation
  • if there is public interest in an item, it's in your best interest to be sure it is properly posted
  • what if criminal misconduct is not related to their professional competency? Rights of purpose one
  • Detail of minutes? Back and forth of discussion and how issue was resolved
  • Can members of body be cc'ed on submitting an item. Yes, but without an opinion. Would counsel against it. Best practice is to send directly to the staff person.
  • Can rules be suspended for new business? Item "items not reasonably anticipated 48 hours in advance" Encourage public participation section; can end comment if new issues
  • what if the public body doesn't meet within the 14 days of the complaint? Encouraged to call meeting to deal with it. Can write a response explain need for extension.Should generally get together to discuss it.
  • How much detail must be given in posting of executive session? As much as reasonably possible without taking away reason for executive session."to the best extent possible what is to be discussed" There is a practical concern. Identifying union should be fine to list. Same deal with property: if naming it would have a detrimental affect, then don't name it.
  • if a meeting has been properly posted, but there is no quorum, what can be done? There's no meeting, but this is a question of the rules of the public body. 
  • is a review of personnel rules an executive session? Probably not (not covered)
  • should all role call votes be voted publicly? Best practice is yes. Can a member change a vote? Matter for the rules of the body.

Attorney General Open Meeting Law training

Open Meeting Law basics
1. Notice must be posted for meetings.
2. Meetings must be open to the public, unless the public body enters into executive session.
3. Minutes must be kept for public and executive session.
4. Public body members must be certified.
5. Complaint process

Level 5 schools to be taken over by the state

In other news today, the state will be taking over the four Level 5 schools. There are two in Boston-- Dever Elementary and Holland Elementary--one in Holyoke--Morgan Full Service Community--and one in New Bedford--John Parker Elementary.
If you read the coverage, it isn't clear yet just what that will look like for the schools.

Transitioning Spirit of Knowledge students

As you probably caught from today's paper, Spirit of Knowledge Charter School's board voted last night, 4-3, to surrender their charter and close the school.
As all but three of the students there are from Worcester, the majority of those students are our responsibility. We received an email from Superintendent Boone this morning which explained the transition plan for those students (note that they are in grades 7-12). I've included some of it below:
Originally, the parents would have received a letter from me on Monday welcoming them to WPS and sharing information about two open houses - one that was scheduled for last night at 6:30 pm and another that was planned for the afternoon of Thursday, October 31st. Friday, November 1st was planned to be a "jump start" day with students spending the day at the school they would attend to meet staff, finalize schedules, receive lockers, textbooks, etc. SOKCS promised that students would have available their current schedules and final first quarter report card to use during enrollment in WPS.  This is a good time for transition because our new grading quarter begins Monday, November 4th.

We will be working today to develop a new schedule for transition.  Additionally, we will have to work to notify parents since the school's closure means hand delivery of the letter to parents may not be possible. We have received the student enrollment information and will try to create a group in CONNECT ED to reach the parents by phone.  Two things impact a transition schedule that begins in the middle of the week - Halloween is tomorrow and holding an evening meeting will be virtually impossible as many of the staff who have been tapped to support the meetings have plans for their families and many who prefer to be at home that night.  The second issue focuses on holding an open house on Friday evening and the conflict wtih high school football games where principals and assistant principals are generally in attendance.  We have already identified the following core staff to support the open houses:  principals, assistant principals, guidance counselors, school adjustment counselors, DAB staff from ELL, special education and the curriculum liaisons.  A separate session for seniors is planned during the open house due to their very specialized needs siince the senior year has started.

This is a most unfortunate situation for the students and families at SOKCS.  Marco and I have met with principals twice to ensure that the transition occurs as seamlessly as possible.  John Hennessey is completing an analysis of bus routes, based on student addresses, to determine if any route adjustments will be required.  It is our hope to have students sitting in WPS classes by the middle of next week. Should any parents show up at our schools seeking enrollment prior to the open house, principals will welcome them and facilitate their enrollment and have them ready for classes as soon as possible.
And those students, all as students who come to us in the Worcester Public Schools, are most welcome. We will do our very best for and by them.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Curriculum update: professional development

Ganem: K-3
Second grade and third grade so far
grade by grade, all teachers from that grade level for three days
"really looking at the framework, looking at embedding the content"
"quite something to see all teachers from a grade level at every public school across Worcester"
binders; "everything a teacher needs to go from a three day institute and implement it all as well"
teachers feeling that they have a better and a deeper understanding of that
Biancheria: suggests adding IAs
working with Mark Brophy to see about that
many of them work two or three jobs, must consider in scheduling
don't want to see it be an inconvenience and challenge for them
Ganem: two days at start of school of PD for IAs as well
Monfredo: how is it being implemented?
Ganem: bringing them back to see what else they need: not going to be just a one shot
also instructional coaches
Monfredo looking for an update in January
building online community through Edmodo
personal relationship, as well to feel that they can access
plea here from me to not do this in a way that disrupts the classroom: that's three days the kids don't get back
Rodrigues: value of being together as a group

Curriculum update: mathmatics

Rodrigues: we need to look into different math pilots for the elementary level
piloting four programs right now
Thompson: asked across districts: what resource is being used? what are they planning to do for new MA standards?
most districts waiting and seeing, looking to see what publishers are going to put out
researched resources that are out there and what is being developed and how it aligns to standards
can't pilot in every school, piloting in 16 schools, all four quadrants, variety of sizes, diversity of need, departmentalization, pre-K or not, income level, interest level of teachers in the district, and instructional capacity
150 teachers, 4000 students, math resources advisory committee (includes teachers, principals, parents, special ed) met Oct. 15
this committee will create a list of criteria (beyond list of standards); then will take to pilot schools to see if piloting curriculum fits criteria
teachers piloting have had 2 days for PD, plus meetings beyond
plan to have teachers of a single grade talk to all others of that grade piloting
advisory committee meeting several more times
O'Connell: different approach from Common Core on mathmatics due to literacy
Mondfredo: four different companies? No, two
Houghton Mifflin:
Go Math
Math in Focus
Math Expressions
Pearson: Visions Math
Thompson: has been skeptic, looking for them actually embedded in the curriculum, "not just a label slapped on"
Biancheria: is this a fit for the future in terms of testing? (switch from MCAS to PARCC)
Thompson: the standards are "a huge opportunity for students as they progress through math in their lives...the assessment becomes secondary"
"focused about embedding practice standards"
"if that is happening, then the assessment becomes secondary"

Biancheria: do you have the tools (on professional development) that you need?
Thompson: teaching students habits of mind
show classrooms in which habits of mind are being taught
not only the piloting, "every teacher needs access to this"

Middle school honors

Admission depends on:
MCAS scores
MAP scores
Student grades
Teacher recommendations
Parent recommendations

In addition, schools may have other criteria. 

O'Connell: any weighing?
Houlihan (principal at Burncoat Middle): no, students are different

Williams (principal at Forest Grove): it's flexible. Cited AVID students taking two honors, hoping to get them to full honors 

Monfredo: school of choice. Wishes to send information out to parents of fifth and sixth grade, Connect-ed to let people know.

Rodrigues: very important for families to know 

Biancheria: very positive things happening in the middle schools
Kids pleased with what is going on in the halls. How can we help you?

Williams says he'll take five more staff members 
Activities: intermural program. FG has 250 kids coming after school for sports
Biancheria: other opportunities? Programs you'd like to offer?
Houlihan: students who stay after for extra help.  Pockets of activities happening; transporting students home after activities, especially going into daylight savings.Would love to have the art agencies working after school working on site.
Biancheria: looking at transportation and the cost of transportation, how to get the students home
"that's a piece that we should bring to finance and operations; if we're not providing the bus, we need to provide the bus passes"
programs at the school
Rodrigues: next month working with middle school principals for after school activities
principals from arts magnet quadrant, looking at the quality and enhancement of the program
Monfredo: talk to Steve O'Neil at the WRTA

Teaching, Learning, and Student Supports meets at 5:30 today

You can find the agenda here.

It's a brief agenda tonight, as School Committee members are due over at tonight's forum at 7. There is (hurray!) an update on the curriculum review process; we haven't gotten a backup on that, so I don't know exactly what is being discussed.
There's also a response to my query on the criteria for admission to the middle school honors program.
And there's a response on the request by Miss Biancheria for a survey for chapter 74 teachers.

4th floor of the Durkin Administration Building at 20 Irving Street!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Speaking of student privacy, Senator Markey gets it

Nice one from our new(est) Massachusetts senator, Edward Markey, who recently sent a letter to Secretary Duncan, expressing concerns regarding the sharing of student information. He's sent them twelve questions, and asks for a response back by November 12.
As noted by EdWeek:
A former, longtime member of the U.S. House of Representatives, Markey's been a player in attempting to craft policies to protect student data for year. He was a co-author of the  Children's Online Privacy and Protection Act, which became law in 1998.
I'll be keeping an eye on this one.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Haven't had a chance to meet the candidates?

If you haven't yet had a chance to meet those running for Worcester School Committee--and we're getting down to crunch time now!--there is one last forum this week!
Tuesday, October 29 at 7 pm 
Room 201 of the Weller Academic Building (61 Sever Street)
The Worcester Educational Collaborative and the Worcester Chamber of Commerce 
are sponsoring a Town Hall Forum.

Still no progress on Spirit of Knowledge (with update)

No word of additional funding or credit, and this from this afternoon's emergency meeting:

(Kim Ring is the T&G reporter at the meeting.)

I've also gotten a few questions about what happens to assets if the school closed--the students have public school options, the teachers unfortunately lose their jobs, but what happens to the "stuff" of a school--and was directed to 603 CMR 1.13(8), which reads as follows:

(8) Upon the revocation, non-renewal, or voluntary return of a Commonwealth charter, title to all of the property of the charter school shall immediately vest in the Commonwealth, subject to the rights of any secured party holding a perfected security interest in the property of such charter school. Any funds remaining after the satisfaction of the charter school's obligations shall be deposited in the General Fund. 603 CMR 1.13(8) shall not apply to the extent the charter school or any other interested party demonstrates that charter school property was purchased solely by, or solely with funds paid to the school by, persons or entities other than the Commonwealth, in which case ownership of the property shall be transferred to such persons or entities, unless otherwise voted by the board of trustees.
Thus it largely goes to the state. The only thing I'm not clear on is if the bit about property "purchased solely by, or solely with funds paid to the school by,  persons or entities other than the Commonwealth" applies to the City of Worcester which, as it does for the Worcester Public Schools, has supplied approximately one-third of the funding of the school.
And thanks to those at the state for answering my email on a weekend!

UPDATE: Worcester Magazine's Walter Bird was also at the meeting. He has some additional information about finances, and he reports that the Board of Trustees is meeting Tuesday, and a vote regarding the school's future is expected at that time.

Friday, October 25, 2013

On Spirit of Knowledge financing

Today's T&G article and the Worcester Magazine coverage left me rather confused on how the Spirit of Knowledge's funding works (or doesn't). The school's trustees say that they need $200,000 to meet the next payroll, as they've spent their first quarter money, but that this is all that they need. So where is the money coming from? Or is it?
I asked a few questions.
The first quarter goes until the end of October (it began with the start of the fiscal year on July 1). Charter schools get their funding quarter by quarter, BUT: while the first quarter of funding is based on the projected student body numbers, the second quarter is based on their actual October 1 count.
Not only that, but any differential between the first and second quarters must be repaid.If they didn't have as many kids as they got money for, they have to give the money back.
Thus one would hope that the charter's budget would be based on the students that they knew they had, with money set aside to repay the state, if necessary, or to fund students, if they come. If they don't have any money to meet the October payroll, though, they not only haven't done that; they haven't even budgeted to meet current expenses from money on hand.
It's not clear to me, therefore, how the school is going to repay any line of credit, since they don't have the money to meet this quarter's expenses or to repay the state.

And I've said it before, but I'll say it again: the Worcester Public Schools will take Worcester students. Period.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

And on Spirit of Knowledge...

@telegramdotcom: Revealed at Spirit of Knowledge trustee meeting tonight that school lacks enough money to get through November.

Citizens for Public Schools presents DIANE RAVITCH

and my iPhone hot spot is working, so we'll do some liveblogging so long as the battery holds out. Posting as we go. We're also floating #cpsravitch as a Twitter hashtag.
Introduction by Ann O'Halloran, president of Citizens for Public Schools who hopes that Governor Patrick and others on Beacon Hill "will take a page from Diane's book--or several pages--and abandon policies that have failed"

Colleen Ritzer and Twitter

I have nothing profound to say about the death of Colleen Ritzer--I'm heartsick that any school once again has become a place of violence--but if you caught a glimpse of her and her teaching via Twitter, as I did, you may be interested in the thoughts of Ed DeHoratius here.

And right on cue...

...comes, as forecasted by the T&G comment section, the "Spirit of Knowledge may have failed but that DOESN'T MEAN that charter schools are bad!" editorial from our stalwart charter supporters (right down to having relatives working in them!) at the Worcester Telegram and Gazette.

You know, guys, this would all be a bit more believable if the department and the Board actually vetted the applications of charter schools. Spirit of Knowledge got their charter--I was at the meeting--because they were the only ones left. The Lynn applicant was going to get them into legal trouble. The proponents didn't have a good history in managing schools; they didn't have a solid financial plan; they had little evidence that they were going to attract a solid and reflective student body.
But they got their charter, anyway.
Then, they had issues with how they were dealing with students, to the extent that parents finally went to the Worcester School Committee for help. Legally, of course, we had no authority. However, when next Spirit of Knowledge came before the Board, I went to the meeting and in essence said, "Do your job. You are their School Committee. Act like it."
And still, they kept their charter.
Even this year, when they were on probation, they reportedly had NOT A SINGLE VISIT from the state.
You can talk of oversight and reaction and such all you like. It's not panning out on the ground.

And it's the kids who get hurt.

report from Tuesday's Board of Ed meeting

While I was NOT able to attend Tuesday's Board of Ed meeting, Alain Jehlen was, and has sent along the following summary. Thanks, Alain!

PARCC is coming! PARCC is coming! Or is it?
It was standing room only at the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education meeting yesterday as parents and educators crowded in to demonstrate their opposition to two pending state decisions: a potential takeover of two Boston schools with low MCAS scores, and replacing the current MCAS exam with a new, even bigger battery of tests called PARCC.

The PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) tests are intended to show whether students are reaching the new national Common Core standards. They would be spread over two testing seasons, one in March and one near the end of the year. They would also expand mandatory state testing to two additional grades, 9 and 11.

With rare exceptions, students would take PARCC exams on computers.

State Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester has asked the state board to approve a transition timetable with field testing of PARCC items this school year, optional use of PARCC next year (each district would decide whether to use the new tests or MCAS), and PARCC required for all students except 10th graders in 2014-15.

Chester's plan prompted the Somerville School Committee to ask the board to back off and wait for the field test results before going any further. Two committee members, Adam Sweeting and committee chair Mary Jo Rossetti, carried that message to the board yesterday.

Sweeting reeled off a long list of major new state mandates that districts are required to carry out, with PARCC field testing the latest. "You should understand that at the receiving end of all these regulations there are real people who are overwhelmed," he said.

Rossetti, who is also president of the Mass. Assocation of School Committees, reported on a National School Boards Association conference where she heard New York officials describe the elaborate and expensive efforts they made -- $1.5 to $2 billion worth -- to make the transition to the new Common Core standards and to introduce a test similar to PARCC. Despite the heavy investment, scores plummeted dramatically, leading to a public backlash. The lesson: "Slow down. Bring school committees and teachers to the table," Rossetti said.

Commissioner Chester answered that he's not actually looking for a state board decision on PARCC for another two years.

Chester chairs the PARCC governing board, made up of the chief state school officers of the 16 states + Washington, DC, that are “governing” PARCC members.

[The PARCC website says, "Governing states have each committed to administer the PARCC assessments in the 2014-2015 school year."]

Citizens for Public Schools President Ann O'Halloran told the board that students are over-tested already and don't need more, especially not a test that will require third graders to type paragraphs on a computer keyboard.

She pointed out that other states that have switched to testing on computers have run into horrendous problems just trying to get the technology to work. Plus, she said, the computer format would hurt students who don't have computers and also many students with disabilities. And the PARCC items, althoughsupposedly designed to tap higher levels of reasoning, are not very different from MCAS items.

“Please don’t go ahead with this,” she said. “Look before you leap.”

Both the Mass. Association of School Committees and the Mass. Association of School Superintendents will consider resolutions at their annual joint conference in early November asking the state board not to rush into PARCC.

The state board will take up Chester's transition timeline again Nov. 19.

CPS has given three presentations on PARCC at community forums so far and we would be glad to do more. (Personal note: The three so far were organized by my wife, state Sen. Pat Jehlen.) Let us know if you’d like to host a forum.

To tell the state board what you think, you can use their joint email address: Please copy CPS,

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

On sharing student information

Perda: obtain written permission from parents prior to sharing information about students
practice is to use a letter
this is the practice when this falls outside those who already have consent to see and use student data
Those are:
  • school officials with legitimate educational interest
  • other schools to which a student is transferring
  • specified officials for audit or evaluation purposes
  • appropriate parties in connection with financial aid to a student
  • organizations conducting certain studies for or on behalf of the school
  • accrediting organizations
  • to comply with a judicial order or lawfully issued subpoena
  • appropriate officials in cases of health and safety emergencies
  • state and local authorities within the juvenile justice system
MOTION: request that administration come back with opt out language on parents opting out on student information sharing with outside vendors after consultation with legal that's mine
O'Connell suggests to discuss with MASC
Colorio: unclear on if we know what was allowed under change in FERPA
Novick: suggest that we add to previous item on Friday letter


DESE legal opinion on state mandated testing

which you can find here

DESE says covered by truancy laws
but what if student is in school?
MA Leg is explicit when opt out is to be given to parents, for example sex education
because that does not exist in MCAS
O'Connell: doesn't seem to have a lot of choice
Novick: doesn't seem to align with case law surrounding education rights, which general default to parents and students, rather than to the state
refer to MASC and City Solicitor for legal opinion

PARCC technology requirements

Walton: we have enough computers not only for this year, but for next (this is the first few pages of this)
need is for headsets; for enough headsets, need $49000 worth
number of devices: recommendation from IT is that all students be tested in labs (rather than those three computers at the back of the room)
chart of number of lab computers at each school: calculation by testing over 20 days, 15 days, 10 days, 5 days

201 CMR 17.00 compliance

Perda: "student privacy around records is something that the district takes very seriously."
both the right thing to do and the legal thing to do
"responsibility of my office to ensure compliance with these laws"
developed data sharing agreement with city solicitor's office
not all vendors are cooperative
some companies feel a statement that they will comply with FERPA is sufficient
opinion of the district that it is not enough, that vendor is responsible for complying with same laws (including state laws) as the district does
in virtually all cases, district makes an attempt to withhold student name
protection of student information
must be concerned beyond that, as cross data could ID students
Novick: request referral of this item to Governance to update student handbook around student rights under FERPA
request also list online of who has access to student information
item filed: list of vendors to be posted (and in Friday letter), policy sent to Governance

Accountability and Student Achievement meets at 5:30 it's live on Channel 11. We're talking about PARCC and technology, student privacy and data sharing...all very timely. You can find the agenda here.

Last year's school choice

I never posted on this when we received this last year, so I'm posting this here for me as much as anyone: the 2012-13 school choice report.
Possibly of interest in light of this report from Quaboag, which is trying to recruit students from surrounding districts.

Spirit of Knowledge gets "daily monitoring"

I was not able to attend today's Board of Education meeting this morning in Malden, but luckily, Jackie Reis from the T&G was! In terms of Spirit of Knowledge (on which I am sure she will have more in the paper), we have the following:

I don't know what that means, and I don't know what difference it will make, but the state's record of giving the charter schools a pass over and over and over continues.

Monday, October 21, 2013

About that transfer from free cash...

...reported over the weekend: we're all remembering that the transfer to the Worcester Public Schools was in fact $172,000, not the $200,000 the City Manager is requesting Tuesday...right?

Also, from not being sure there will be any free cash to there being $9.1 million is, shall we say, a big difference.

No liveblog tonight

Due to illness and other complications, I will not be at the State of the Schools address tonight at North High.
Should you wish to attend, know that it is at 6 pm (and if you can't attend, it will be taped to be broadcast on Channel 11)!

Round up of interesting things to read

A slew of things that came through over the weekend of interest:

Friday, October 18, 2013

Interested in student privacy? Come to Accountability!

The Standing Committee on Accountability and Student Achievement meets next Tuesday, October 22, at 5:30 in room 410 of the Durkin Administration Building. We have several items coming back that have to do with student rights and student privacy:

gb #2-48 - Ms. Novick/Mr. Monfredo/Mr. O'Connell (February 8, 2012)  Request that the Administration provide an assessment report on Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) and highlight particularly both technology needs and the phasing out of the current state assessment.
    gb #3-115 - Ms. Novick/Mr. Monfredo (March 28, 2013)  Request administration ensure that the Worcester Public Schools' is abiding by 201 CMR 17.00 Standards for the Protection of Personal Information of Residents of the Commonwealth and further request administration share student information only with those who can demonstrate that they comply with 201 CMR 17.00.
        gb #3-116 - Ms. Novick/Mr. Monfredo/Ms. Colorio/Miss Biancheria (March 28, 2013) Request administration notify parents of any organization or agency with whom student or family information is shared and procedures for parents denying the sharing of their child's information.

        gb#3-275 - Ms. Novick (October 7, 2013) Request administration report on the DESE legal opinion regarding parental opt out of state mandated testing.

        Thursday, October 17, 2013

        21st Century grant for Sullivan

        Sullivan Middle: 21st Century with LEI and Non-Violent Solutions
        four different modules running between 8 and 10 weeks
        will include some Saturdays, and vacations, and will run during July
        50 students (have double the applicants)
        will follow students all the way through
        extend school day and school year

        Governance and Employee Issues

        I should perhaps note here that the Mayor has to be at another meeting tonight; O'Connell chairing, 'though he's now passed it off to Foley so he can speak on this report
        review here of the proposed procedure for co-sponsorship
        Administration moving forward with establishing Title I committee; looking for an update in May
        school of choice: students as ambassadors
        public relations plan asked for by Monfredo
        policy review: changes approved for section 1
        increasing circuit breaker formula: Bill H511
        health insurance to cover medically necessary expenses: Bill H901
        transitory student enrollment: Bill S239

        O'Connell: "we've had some obvious concerns and connection with co-sponsorship...practice is a benign one"
        "highly conservative approach"
        an approach that is to minimize any risk at all to the committee
        "we really could decide that we could do within those grounds"
        wants names added to agenda (which is explicitly forbidden by the AG's decision)
        important that we don't conduct a poll
        "a conservative middle course"
        "this is not a case where anyone is requesting co-sponsor"

        Novick: may be able to do so without deliberation, without consultation, cannot do so without directly defying the explicit finding of the Attorney General
        others may wish to make their stand in civil disobedience on the open meeting law: I do not
        urge adoption as proposed

        Foley: this would be a violation if the names were published

        Colorio: adopt as proposed from the meeting
        Mayor has reappeared behind me

        O'Connell: wants to talk to City Solicitor
        wants to know if it needs to made without a rule amendment (which would require a 2/3 vote)
        Also wants to refer his language to the City Solicitor

        Novick: change in procedure, not rules; rules don't cover filing of motions

        MOTION: refer to City Solicitor for his interpretation of the AG's letter, plus a ruling on the change of rules
        motion passes 5-2 to go to the City Solictor
        edit: I missed that the mayor had come back in partway through this, and I also tried to clear up what the motion was.

        Report of the joint committee: F&O/Education

        You can find the minutes and report out here.
        Foley: continuation of ongoing meetings between Education (City Council) and Finance &Operations (School Committee)
        notes that we are now over Net School Spending
        master facilities plan : specs being developed right now
        "will take quite a bit of time..."
        transportation specs finalized soon, report should come in next few months
        solar arrays coming in for six schools, generating up to 20% of electricity
        WEMS science lab should be finished by the end of the calendar year
        note the designer selection panel for Nelson Place meets on Tuesday at MSBA; building committee to meet soon
        Mayor convening a group to work on neighborhood safety in Main South
        Boone notes that we aren't talking about issues that are originating in the schools, but are coming into the schools from outside the schools
        "we as a school district do not have the authority to deal with non-school issues"
        "we will certainly do our part"

        Value-added and Student Growth models still a mess

        I haven't posted in some time about the new teacher evaluation method we're rolling out. While the goal setting and classroom observation pieces are happening now, Massachusetts has not yet moved to the linking of teacher evaluation to student test scores.
        That's still scheduled to happen, though, which is why I'd urge you to read Bruce Baker on what a mess these methods are. 
        The argument I've repeatedly heard in Massachusetts--including from the floor of our own School Committee--is that we're not doing value-added measurement, we're doing student growth measurement. Essentially, that means that we see where a kid is at the beginning of the year and see how far that kid has come over the course of the time with the teacher. While this sounds nice and clean, it turns out that it's even more of a mess than value-added.
        But don't believe me: go read Professor Baker:
        At this point, I’m increasingly of the opinion that even if there was a possible reasonable use of value-added and growth data for better understanding variations in schooling and classroom effects on measured learning, I no longer have any confidence that these reasonable uses can occur in the  current policy environment.

        Spirit of Knowledge before the Board of Ed next week

        Spirit of Knowledge Charter School, Worcester's most recently opened charter, is back before the Board of Ed next Tuesday. The school has been on probation since the spring due to lower than projected enrollment, low MCAS scores, and concerns about financial stability.
        The closest parallel to this the state has seen thus far is probably Gloucester Community Arts Charter, where the state voted to revoke the charter effective the end of this past school year, but the trustees of the school closed it in January; since its closure, State Auditor Suzanne Bump has issued a report critical of the fiscal management there.
        Generally, no one wants to close a school mid-year due to the utter turmoil it wrecks with (particularly) the students, not to mention the school district receiving them. That doesn't mean that it doesn't, or can't, happen.
        While long-term a closure would be a good thing, both for the school and for the district--note that Moody's last week reported that charter schools pose the greatest credit threat to economically weak urban area school districts--short term, it is not a happy thing for anyone.
        And while I hate to say I told you so...we did.

        Wednesday, October 16, 2013

        No more BMI letters

        The state is still requiring the measurements, but no longer are districts going to be required to send home letters on Body Mass Index:
        Schools complained that it was too expensive to mail the letters as required, so they often sent them home in students’ backpacks. That sometimes led to inadvertent disclosure of the information to other students and teasing, officials have said.
        In addition, such letters, intended to foster conversations between parents and their child’s physician about weight and exercise, appear not to help stem childhood obesity rates, according to a 2011 study of a similar program in the California public schools.
        The new rules eliminate the required parental notification and instead, allow school districts to make the information available to parents or guardians upon written request.

        Somerville School Committee passes PARCC resolution

        Last night, the Somerville School Committee unanimously passed the following resolution:

        WHERAS:  the Somerville School Committee questions the reliability, validity, and equivalency of the PARCC test when compared to the MCAS test;  
        NOW, THEREFORE: The Somerville School Committee voices its opposition to the roll-out plans for the PARCC test and requests that the Massachusetts Board of Education delay the vote to accept the PARCC test for one year until after the field tests have been completed and the results analyzed and, 
         FURTHER: That the Secretary to the School Committee convey the content of this motion to the Massachusetts Board of Education, the Secretary of Education, the Commissioner of Education and to the elected state representatives representing Somerville.
        I should perhaps point out that the plan the Commissioner presented to the Board of Ed called for them to vote on adopting PARCC only  after the results of the 2015 tests (which would be half MCAS, half PARCC) are known.

        Know of an outstanding municipal employee?

        If you know of an outstanding municipal employee in Worcester County, please consider a nomination for the Thomas S. Green Award, awarded each year by the Research Bureau. Nomination forms can be found here.
        • Municipal employees in Worcester County
        • Exceptional competence and efficient handling of all assigned responsibilities.
        • Willing performance of tasks above and beyond the call of duty.
        • Friendly, helpful, and cooperative attitude toward the public and fellow employees.
        • Important, but not required, volunteer community service outside the scope of job-related responsibilities.   

        Clarifying the "confusing gibberish": open meeting law and co-sponsorship

        As my notes from yesterday have left some of you wondering just where we are with the co-sponsorship bit, here is the procedure approved the Standing Committee on Governance and Employee Issues yesterday. It will be taken up by the full committee tomorrow night.

        • Members of the committee send items directly to the School Committee clerk (with no cc).
        • Once all items are in (our items are due by noon Wednesday, the week before we meet), items are emailed out to all members.
        • Members directly respond to the clerk (again, with no cc) if they wish to co-sponsor any items.
        • The agenda will be printed with each item sponsored ONLY by the original filer.
        • The clerk will announce co-sponsorship when the chair reads the item at the meeting.
        This is what was laid out by the Attorney General in her finding regarding co-sponsorship after the Open Meeting Law complaint against the City Council, and what City Solicitor Moore took us through yesterday at the meeting.

        And if you EVER don't understand what I've posted, please say so! The whole point here is to clarify rather than to obscure.

        Tuesday, October 15, 2013

        Worcester School Committee meets Thursday

        The Worcester School Committee meets Thursday. You can find the agenda here. 
        We're thanking Hanover for the donation of a playground to Wawecus, and we're honoring both Roberta Schaefer and Maureen Binienda.
        We have both Finance & Operations and Governance & Employees Issues subcommittees reporting out.
        There are a few staffing changes coming through (normal for October).
        We are being asked to accept a Target donation of $28.76.
        We have several recognitions going forward: Worcester Tech, and the Distinguished Alumni and Friends.
        We're being asked to accept a donation for Worcester Tech of $5501.
        We're being asked to accept a 21st Century Learning grant of $145,000 for the Center for Non-violent Solutions.
        We have several requests for reports: the recess spending, the feasibility of expanding gym to year round for all, expanding Let's Go WEMS for gym, the legal opinion on parental opt out, bike racks (or where they aren't), and a protocol for pedestrian accidents around schools (and yes, those are all mine. I had a few meetings last week...)
        7 pm at City Hall!

        Open Meeting Law: co-sponsorship

        Monfredo chairs this committee, Colorio and Foley the other members; Solicitor Moore is here to respond.
        Monfredo: asks Moore if a blind copy of all agenda items be sent out on Wednesday to all members so members may then get back to the clerk if they wish to co-sponsor
        Moore: that would comply. The essence of this from the Attorney General, who is the enforcing agent...any communication that involves a quorum of the committee that expresses an opinion...then it becomes a violation of the Open Meeting Law

        Governance and Employee Issues meets at noon

        You can find the agenda here.
        I don't actually sit on this committee, so I'm not sure why the noon meeting time. I do know that City Solicitor Moore is expected to talk about the Open Meeting Law issue with co-sponsoring items prior to the public meeting, and I believe we're expecting someone from the state association for the work on policy.
        I'll be posting!

        Thursday, October 10, 2013

        "I even want education for your children as well"

        In case you haven't already seen it, Malala Yousafzai was on Jon Stewart this week, talking about education.Well worth watching.

        Flu clinics!

        Help out our herd immunity: get immunized!

        2:00 – 4:00 P.M.
        WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 13, 2013 3:30 – 5:30 P.M.
        TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 12, 2013 3:30 – 5:30 P.M.
        THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 21, 2013 3:00 – 5:00 P.M.


        Tuesday, October 8, 2013

        No delegation of transfer authority

        Just came through over the Mass Association of School Committees list-serv:
        A school committee may not adopt a policy permitting the school superintendent to approve budget transfers of up to $3,000. The power to transfer amounts between line items in the school operating budgets belongs exclusively to the school committee under G.L. Ch. 71 §34, and it cannot be delegated to any other municipal board or officer.

        Five year technology investments

        You can find the backup here
        including five year lease to replace all 7000 computers and LCDs, beginning in October
        we've requested $4.4 million in Erate this year, of which $1.1 million is priority 1
        wireless projects is priority 2 by Erate measures
        bandwidth capacity would potentially be an issue with whole school or multigrade testing (PARCC) at once
        devices are not covered under Erate
        some districts are purchasing devices with data plans on them COUNT on Erate, and thus are beating the system (and thus using up a lot of money)
        relative strength of wifi throughout buildings certainly being looked at

        SAGE update this summer (Student Attendance Grades and Enrollment) system: request for report of the superintendent

        Facilities projects update

        Worcester East Middle: bid out, permits going into place, construction will begin once permits are in place; plan is to have it done by the end of the calendar year
        Heard Street roof: bid awarded, permits going in place, 6-8 week window (but depends on weather)
        Vernon Hill masonry DONE: had to take the Vernon Hill sign down as part of that

        New Citizens has all new windows, caulking, new shades, new boiler, just final punch list items; just need to do the doors, that will start next weekend
        Lake View windows are in; still doing caulking and trim, happening second shift; then will start doors in
        May Street some windows are out for masonry work (lower level); gym windows are in; window work will begin again once Lake View is done, then doors after that
        Chandler Magnet gym windows are in, finishing work now; main building is for NEXT year; intending to get windows in on site, try to do some work during non-pupil periods if possible, then finish next summer
        Jacob Hiatt: new boiler and such is IN

        Next summer's projects are in schematic design phase, and that's due this week to MSBA (that's Columbus Park, WEMS, WAMS, and Tatnuck Magnet)

        Nelson Place: Tishman Construction is the OPM, working on the architect, proposals are in
        reviewing for architect: meeting is on October 22
        Once that happens, then the building committee will be meeting
        then review of all options, taking three or four months; narrow down to three choices from which city and schools will choose (looking to submit to MSBA in March)
        that will go to MSBA Board vote

        Allen notes that we may not submit four projects to MSBA next year, as we have work that cannot be covered by MSBA that is most urgent
        Bedard notes removal of oil tanks, for example
        Allen: estimate on those projects will be brought back to joint committee

        Physical plant updates: ESCo

        ESCo projects: additional solar array projects at six schools
        working out details at how projects would work
        solar arrays at Belmont St, Chandler Magnet, Elm Park, North, Roosevelt, and South High
        (Sullivan Middle and Worcester Tech have them already)
        roofs need to be resealed; extends roof warranties on these schools for 20 more years (except for South is not getting resealed)
        city has some debt services on these projects
        estimates that 20% of electricity will be provided by solar arrays for these schools
        13 cents per kilowat
        50% for supply, 50% for electricity
        continuing to pay city for supply rate for the electricity which city will use to pay off bonds
        rest is seen as savings to WPS on utilities cost
        note here from me that this takes a capital expense and converts it to a utility expense (which counts as net school spending), that the city is essentially charging the schools for a capital project
        South High is not being resealed, removal and replacement of solar panels is included in agreement
        city pays for the solar panels, city retains ownership of solar panels

        Transportation study

        Allen: scope of services put together: advertised in the next week or so
        RFP: reviewing the efficiency and optimization of our transportation
        including consequences to decisions that we've made

        Facilities master plan

        Allen: MSBA looking for a masters facilities plan as we move forward
        begun developing specifications of what that will look like: hope to complete in the next month
        then select through RFP
        educations specs, facilities specs, enrollment projection as well
        conversation with MSBA to make sure that it will meet what we're looking for
        hope to have something--aka, the specs-- for group to review by  December
        would expect the master plan to take many months to put together
        looking for a long-term strategy for the facilities of our schools
        balance local decision making with MSBA's role in approving facilities

        Joint F&O/Education meeting : budget

        Foley: "at a point where we haven't been for several years: above the net school spending floor"
        talk in the future about moving it forward as we can
        Allen: dollars appropriated last week
        $172,000 was the remaining gap at the time
        "these numbers changed based on a number of variables"
        gap earlier this month was $40,000 under NSS
        full $172,000 was recommended and approved
        now $130,000 above NSS
        provided three teaching positions "that were really needed to address class size and teacher load" at the secondary level
        final charter school reimbursement numbers were lower from the state (that usually means we have to reduce our budget); city manager using last year's reimbursement to hold budget harmless for the second year in a row: "Small but significant victories in keeping teachers in the classroom"
        sequestration hitting our grants assumed full 8.5% cut; came in with less of a cut, so added 7 teachers
        "some relatively good news on our budget since the City Council last heard it in June"
        14 new positions hired since June
        Foley points out the $400,000 increase in city administration charged against WPS
        Allen: increase across city departments; biggest increase in IT
        sitting with DESE on what level of expenses should be counted against NSS
        direct expenses for those departments plus share of city budget increasing
        O'Brien: discussion of our long-term strategy to some target above foundation

        WPS fun bus fact of the day

        In light of the BPS bus drivers strike:

        • The Boston Public Schools use 650 buses to transport 33,000 students daily.
        • The Worcester Public Schools use 96 large buses buses plus less than 50 smaller buses to transport 11,600 students daily.

        Keep that in mind when you hear the conversation around the purported need for a WPS transportation study.

        Three school districts from Massachusetts applied for District RTTT

        They're Boston, Lawrence, and North Brookfield.
        There's only $200 million nationwide available this time.

        And today in City business

        Things you only discover by reading the City Council agenda:

        • apparently, there's going to be a ribbon cutting for the new library at Roosevelt Elementary on October 30. No, we still don't have answers on security, hiring, review of personnel, cleaning, ownership, or long-term funding, but yes, there's going to be a ribbon cutting. 
        • a pilot on Safe Routes to Schools is kicking off tomorrow at Canterbury, Vernon Hill, and Grafton Street tomorrow, which is International Walk to School Day!
        And I hope you're celebrating that, if you can!

        Monday, October 7, 2013

        Move over, inBloom. Meet Footsteps2Brilliance!

        yes, I thought the name was a fake, too. It's not

        You'll possibly remember how we've been concerned about inBloom? And here? And how we're left in this limbo on if Massachusetts is going forward or not?

        Meet Footsteps2Brilliance*!

        Introduced at a Board of Ed meeting back in September of 2012--I'm assuming as part of an Early Learning Challenge grant proposal**--Footsteps2Brilliance puts itself forward to solve the most vexing problem of early childhood ed in the state:
        In order for this model to scale effectively, Massachusetts must be able to obtain parental consent to collect child data. 
        And that's attached to this fascinating illustration of a circle labeled "Early Childhood Information System" with the agencies involved listed as:

        • DPH: Department of Public Health
        • CTF: Children's Trust Fund
        • DHCD: Department of Housing and Community Development
        • DTA: Department of Transitional Assistance
        • DCF: Department of Children and Families
        • EEC: Early Education and Care
        • DMH: Department of Mental Health
        • DESE: Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
        • DHE: Department of Higher Education
        Clearly, the intent is going to be to share information among the agencies "for the good of the child," though you'll notice as you go through the PowerPoint that the idea that information is going to be shared with anyone other than the teacher is never again spoken or pulled out. A quick look at the above list and minimal imagination gives some nightmare scenarios with the above sharing information along and with local public schools (public schools sharing with housing? mental health sharing with transitional assistance? and so on).
        And again, the very first thing that F2B is selling the state on is the ease with which they can collect parental consent (page 3):

        Footsteps2Brilliance™has developed a proprietary biometrics technology that will allow the Commonwealth to collect a parent’s digital signature on consent forms from any smart mobile phone, tablet, or computer, thus allowing the Commonwealth to collect the data necessary to provide families and childcare agencies with the resources they need to help every child. This electronic process of collecting parental consent conforms to Massachusetts’ digital signature laws (see page 10, section F),and is a fraction of the cost of paper related expenses. It also massively reduces the extraordinary time associated with physically submitting, handling,and storing bulky consent forms.
        Fascinating to note, incidentally, that you can search all over the F2B website, and find nary a mention of this particular aspect of the program.One of the least informative websites, ever.
        Much of the rest of the presentation goes into what you will read about on the website: mobile apps that parents can download that kids can play with that then upload data about those kids to their teachers (and whoever else, as it doesn't say). If you Google "Footsteps2Brilliance apps" and start scanning reviews, you'll find that many of them read...alike. Make of that what you will.
        In their presentation before the BoE, however, F2B cited instead "opinion leaders," namely, the superintendents of Revere, Everett, Malden, and Winthrop. While I personally don't find 53.8% saying it "could be helpful to our students" much of a sales point, someone obviously did. And at $4.4 million, what a bargain!
        Lo, and behold, which schools do we find mentioned in this news from last week as being the three adopters of Footsteps2Brilliance? Revere, Everett, and Malden! No word on Winthrop. Note in the news article: much talk of reading and of gaming, but NOTHING of the data collection or of parent consent.
        I don't think that was accidental.

        So where does that leave us? Clearly, someone has signed up for this. It's not clear that the state did, as Malden, anyway, is paying for it for itself. However, if you look again at that final chart, F2B's goal is clear: all the cities, anyway.
        Consider this a heads up.

        *Just what is the deal with these trying to be hip vendors? Why must words be run together? Why must everything be in this cutsie text speak? If you're attempting to sell to educational institutions, could you possibly SPELL?!
        **I can't tell. Those are posted on the .gov site, which is down due to the government shutdown.

        Joint Finance & Operations and Education meeting tomorrow

        Just a reminder: there is a joint meeting of the Finance & Operations committee (School Committee) and Education committee (City Council) tomorrow at 4:30 pm. We're hosting this time, so it's at the Durkin Administration Building. 
        (Go in the door from the parking lot, take the elevator (or stairs) to the fourth floor, and follow the signs across the building.)
        The only backup on our agenda is the supplemental agenda from last week (that's the $172,000, plus other budgetary adjustments).
        And for those of you who can't get enough of finance stuff: I'd expect a (just) F&O meeting sometime later this month for the quarterly report. 

        Checks for school nutrition are okay, for now

        Due to our still wrangling with getting the school nutrition computers syncing with the student info systems, and thus not being able to take online payment, WPS will--for now--take checks to add funds to student lunch accounts.

        Checks should be made payable to the City of Worcester; please add student name/ID to the memo area of the check.

        Note that ANYONE can do this; you need not have "claimed" your student online. 

        And cash also always works. 

        Friday, October 4, 2013

        PARCC info post

        I've gotten some questions this morning on PARCC field testing, so I'm putting this all together in one place.
        The presentation we got last night is here.
        The list of classes and schools scheduled for spring field testing in Worcester is here. That chart also specifies either ELA or math, and says either "PBA," "EOY," or both. That's for Performanced-Based Assessment, End of Year Assessment, or both.

        Performance Based Assessment: March 24-April 11
        End of Year: May 5- June 6

        The bit that I've cited about opting out of testing "except as prohibited by" state or federal law is on page 18 of the WPS Student Handbook

        Send along questions if you've got them!

        Happy World Smile Day!

        About field testing...

        The T&G has a good summary of who said what last night on PARCC field testing.

        I should clarify one thing: our intent is to opt our one daughter who is scheduled for field testing out of that in the spring, as she doesn't need that on top of MCAS. While we every year give our kids the opportunity to opt out of state testing (and offer to take up that fight with the state), thus far they've always said they wanted to be part of it, largely (and isn't this interesting) to help out their schools. But we aren't doing PARCC field testing on top of that.

        The argument that I didn't make last night is that I absolutely agree that field testing needs to be a part of any new testing system. But Pearson, the company that makes the PARCC, is a multi-BILLION dollar company. They do not need the voluntary labor of hundreds of our kids--a million across the country--plus untold teachers, IAs, principals, and administrators to try out their test.

        They could pay for it, and they could do this all on somebody else's time.

        Thursday, October 3, 2013

        Supplemental agenda: budget!

        Again, you can find the backup here!
        City now over NSS for the first time since 2010
        Boone: obviously, we have greater needs
        critical secondary needs: recommendation to school committee
        ask School Committee to support resolution
        O'Connell : note of appreciation to Council
        where will positions be?
        Boone: pretty close to exactly where they need to be
        "reticent to say which schools, lest they get really excited ahead of it"
        teaching load of 125 cap; class loads exceeding that
        O'Connell: is it disruptive to switch classes? Boone: some students will have a new teacher
        instrument lessons? Could we use some of these funds for that now? Suggestion to hold the item pending administrative report on costs of adding that
        Allen: can we refer instrument lessons to F&O? Other outstanding items in F&O, could be added in quarterly budget process
        instrumental lessons referred
        Boone: hope that we won't hold up hiring teachers

        Petty: "the school budget has so many outside month, we won't be at net school spending"
        think the commitment from the Manager was one time because the budget wasn't really set
        even after the figuring that $40,000 was the hole
        Council did it to bring down class sizes
        "my commitment was that this would go to teachers"

        Foley: thanks mayor for leadership
        joint meetings "we've established an awful lot of common ground"
        understand what Net School Spending is about, what it means, "that clarity is so important"
        they want the money to be targeted as well
        can possibly deal with remaining schools through other means

        I mentioned what I said in my earlier post, including that not cutting our budget on charter reimbursement is a big deal. To my questions: the answers are yes, a charter school reimbursement in July is unusual; and the earlier city administrative number was an error. 

        Biancheria: attended Tuesday evening's meeting to thank the City Council, Mayor, City Manager
        Have seen different areas to dedicate money to
        "this was not something that they took lightly"
        $172,000 is not the cure all
        donation of $25,000 for cafeteria tables from an outside source
        could we do that for instrument lessons?

        passes unanimously
        with reconsideration so that it can be implemented tomorrow

        Instrument lessons

        sorry, doing a terrible job taking notes on this one.
        We've got only a few elementary schools that don't have free instrument lessons
        Foley: Looks like we've only got five schools missing

        O'Connell wants to talk about this along with the budget transfers

        as per usual, I'm not signed onto this (still waiting to change the rules to align with the OML!) but signing on now

        Petty comments that he played the trumpet in the Worcester Public Schools

        NOTE: Later on in the meeting, this item was, at the suggestion of Mr. Allen, sent to F&O to be taken up at our quarterly report meeting,  probably in late October.

        School Committee members on PARCC

        I just made two motions: 

        • To ask that we petition the legislature, governor, and state board to waive our accountability system until the switch is live
        • Until such a time as an action is completed, the Worcester Public Schools will not field test the PARCC

        Report of the Superintendent on PARCC

        The presentation is here.
        Boone: "the purpose of my presentation tonight is neither to defend nor comment on the PARCC"
        simply giving an update

        October 9 is International Walk to School Day!

        And you are hereby encouraged by Mayor Petty to observe it!

        Tonight's Supplemental Agenda (or that $172,000)

        My apologies for not getting this up yesterday, which is when we on School Committee got it. I was in a bit of an accident yesterday (not too serious, but, yes, if you're watching tonight, I do have a few stitches on my chin), and so I didn't get to it.

        I've posted the full item--agenda notice, backup memo from the superintendent, proposed motion, and memo from the City Manager to Council--here. There are in fact more changes and additions than simply the transfer from Council that came through on Tuesday night:

        • There has been a (not unusual) "city aid goes down, city contribution goes down, Chapter 70 aid goes up" change.
        • There has been a (not unusual) adjustment in our charter reimbursement and charter assessment. However, due to a late reimbursement (and that IS weird; I need to ask about that), the city has agreed to hold WPS harmless to what would otherwise be a legally-allowed $265,984 decrease in budget (which I think we can agree might actually be a bigger deal than the $172,000 everyone spoke about on Tuesday).
        • The city's administrative charge has gone up by $192,981 since June (again, more to come on that).
        • And the $172,000, which administration is recommending go to hire three additional secondary teachers (we've got classes above thirty in some of the high schools).
        More to come on all of this, but do take a look at the memo!

        Wednesday, October 2, 2013

        Worcester School Committee meets Thursday!

        The Worcester School Committee meets Thursday at 7 pm at City Hall. You can find the agenda here.
        First off, a nice round of thank yous and honors: recognizing Hanover for donating the new playground at Wawecus, recognizing Shelia Harrity's recent selection by NASSP as their principal of the year, acknowledging Worcester Tech for their being named a Blue Ribbon School, and recognizing Garrett Levesque from Burncoat for being selected to participate in the All-National Honor Ensemble. Good stuff! Here's hoping that Garrett plays for us as well!
        The report of the Superintendent is on the new PARCC test; we also have a response to frequently asked questions and the list of classes and hours that the state is proposing to pilot the PARCC at in Worcester. Take a look and WEIGH IN if this is of interest to you (you can even come to the meeting and ask for a suspension of the rules for public comment).
        We have a few more appointments coming in, including Mr. Ganem's as Manager of Staff Development.
        We're being asked to prior fiscal year payments in the amount of $965.59 for special education transportation; for $125 for a bus for North High; for $498 for several athletic officials; for $368.80 for a police detail for freshman orientation at Worcester Technical High School.
        Mr. Monfredo is asking for a report on the new changes to MGL Chapter 222 around student exclusions.
        We're being asked to accept a donation of a camera surveillance system to Nelson Place School.
        We're asking administration for a report on options to expand music lessons to all elementary schools.
        And we're setting a date to thank the Quinsigamond Land Task Force for buying new cafeteria tables for Vernon Hill School.

        Also, coming attractions: there is a joint F&O/Education subcommittee meeting on TUESDAY at 4:30 at the Durkin Administration Building. Expect to talk budget and facilities! 

        "not expecting any immediate impact on any of our programs during the short term"

        Confirmation today from Chief Financial and Operations Officer Brian Allen that we are okay short term in the shutdown:
        In summary, MA DESE indicated that the majority of the federal awards was appropriated last year by the federal government and has been fully authorized the federal cash draw system. The only exceptions are the October 2013 installments for Title I, Title IIA, IDEA, and Perkins awards and Nutrition awards. If there is a delay in receiving the October award letters, there will be a corresponding delay in ESE's ability to increase the current grants to LEAs to the full year amount. USED has announced it is prioritizing the obligation of their October installments and we are hopeful that districts will not experience a disruption of their full 2013-14 school year awards.
        With regards to Head Start, their notification indicates that they will continue processing grant drawdown request during the shutdown. Since we have received our grant award for this year prior to the gap in funding, we may continue to draw funds from prior awards during an appropriations lapse.
        Therefore, we are not expecting any immediate impact on any of our programs during the short term. If the federal government shutdown is prolonged (several months), this may pose funding challenges in the future. 

        Tuesday, October 1, 2013

        Transfer passes unanimously

        $172,000 to WPS
        Note: that's about 2.5 teachers

        Council comments on transfer

        O'Brien, thanks the Mayor, the Manager, Councilor Eddy "real support for public education"
        First time "in four years, it may be five"
        "important moment for me as we're making a real strong commitment to public education"
        this is operational but "important investments in technology and school facilities, in partnership with our friends in state government...very important investments"

        Eddy, echo O'Brien "this doesn't happen...happy to make this motion..working together with the superintendent"
        "certainly not where we want to end"
        talking to people "on the west side and on the southwest side of the, service, and schools"
        middle class

        Economou thanks Mayor, Manager
        "the number one thing I hear going door to door"
        strong education base "everything else will follow"
        look forward to working further in the years to come

        Rushton "this is the starting point to increase the funding of our schools"
        national award winning schools
        "over 500 new children came in...people are opting in not opting out of our school system"

        Palmieri: "echoing my colleagues is one thing; the results are another"
        "what a great education means to each  child...not only for better students, mover for economic development"
        continue to help and assist schools, school department, teachers, and students
        "can't think of a better place to invest at this time"

        Lukes: "wonder what kind of a message we are sending...only so many dollars to go around...are we robbing Peter to pay Paul?"
        free cash "very low this year"
        runs numbers which appear to miss that Chapter 70 funds come through the city from the state...
        "how much had you originally set aside in your plan to pay for these fixed costs?"
        CM O'Brien "I'm not sure I understand the question..."thanks Mayor and Superintendent
        NSS "a goal, symbolic"
        move money from the contingency "one time money" to school salaries to lower class sizes
        $40,000 delta that we had to achieve to get to net school spending
        "stuck to that commitment to get to $172,000 'though the need was $40,000"
        "we are going to have to begin to make some difficult decisions"
        lists schools then public safety, parks
        "a step, a symbolic step...we've got work ahead"
        "I'm not being optimistic"
        "had planned to put $5 million aside for OPEB..and we didn't get to a conclusion on the schools contribution and if it would count towards net school spending"
        "defying the statistics across the country"
        "long term strategic move now instead of in ten years"
        deposits into OPEB
        Lukes "likely that we're going in the same direction as other cities and not funding our OPEB and our pension liabilities, then?"
        O'Brien: "just the opposite"
        Lukes "when we keep taking money out and there's only so much money to go around"

        Toomey "incredibly important in a community like ours to fund education"
        "came from the bright side over there, in the Worcester Public Schools"
        leadership, careful accounting
        "incredibly important that folks don't look at this in a negative way, but as an economic vehicle"

        O'Brien (for a second time): "it's a good thing (not a bad thing) that we've worked together to close that deficit"
        "making smart investments in school infrastructure"

        Petty: report on for Thursday night for exactly how the money is being expended

        Roll call: unanimously passes

        Biancheria on the additional funds

        Thanks the Council, the Mayor and the City Manager for their support for education, and for the ongoing conversation with School Committee regarding the funding. Welcomes their input ahead of the allocation on Thursday night.

        At Council tonight!

        Here at Council tonight for the recommended transfer of $172,000 to WPS salaries!
        I'll blog any comments from Councilors, administration, or otherwise.

        I'll just note here that $172,000 is about 2.5 teachers.

        Homecoming weekend!

        It is Homecoming weekend for our four quadrant high schools!
        Friday's athletic schedule:
        (It won't all fit in my columns, so you'll need to click; the farthest right columns is where and when the game takes place.)


        Oct 4
        V Girls Volleyball

        Oct 4
        V Field Hockey

        Oct 4
        V Boys Soccer

        Oct 4
        V Girls Soccer

        Oct 4
        V Football

        And Saturday's:


        Oct 5
        V Field Hockey

        Oct 5
        V Boys Soccer
        Foley Turf


        Oct 5
        V Girls Soccer
        Foley Turf


        Oct 5
        V Football

        If you follow Worcester Tech football, that game is at Nashoba Tech at 7 on Saturday.