Friday, January 31, 2014

Turning around Boston Public Schools

Good news for those of us watching the latest rounds of turnarounds in Massachusetts schools: Edushyster is on it!

Anybody out there in Massachusetts education blogland want to tackle Holyoke?

Wondering what PARCC will look like? (and another dropout)

Should you be curious as to what the PARCC test will look like, you can find relevant information and links to practice items here.
Also, news this morning that Kentucky has dropped out of the PARCC. Letter as to why here.

Principal openings

You may have caught the article in today's T&G about the principal shifts for the end of this year. As these are all openings that will be happening at the end of this year, the replacement process is already underway. This involves two panels at the school: an initial screening panel, followed by an interview panel, which then forwards finalists to the superintendent (Chandler follows a somewhat different pattern, due to its status as a Level 4 school).
The openings for next year are:
  • Chandler Elementary
  • City View
  • Flagg Street
  • Lincoln Street
  • Rice Square
  • Vernon Hill
  • Sullivan Middle
Most of these are, as you saw, retirements, and, due to the experience of our principal staff, this is not an unusually high number.
And wishing Mr. DeFalco well on his new assignment in New Bedford!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Know Your Rights at the Worcester Youth Center

No inBloom for Massachusetts

Odd way to get the information, but we'll take it!
See the below exchange from Twitter this afternoon:

(I suppose we can parse "are not" vs. "are and will not" but we'll take the "No" for certain!)

It's Net School Spending calculation time!

Notice went out late (working at 6pm at DESE!) yesterday that the Net School Spending calculations for FY13 (actual) and FY14 (budgeted) have now been posted. You can download the chart yourself here or I've put it in my Dropbox here
We're in January, so the fiscal year finally matches the fiscal year again--we're in FY14 now. FY13 is the year that ended in June of 2013, but reporting out what was actually spent takes a full wrap-up of both WPS and City books.
Worcester is (always) community 348 on the list (the regionals are listed after the single town districts). For FY13, our net school spending was 99.3% of required spending, or 99.7% of foundation. The first percentage includes the carryover from not meeting net school spending requirements in previous years (by $2,243,503); the second is just from last year, which we didn't meet, either.
DESE also has our projected numbers for this current fiscal year (FY14). They've got us at $2,054,754 under where we should be, which is 99.3% of net school spending. You'll see, though, that this is all carryover from previous years, as the current budget is 100.1% of foundation.

More to come on this, as we should run some charts comparing us to other communities, but I wanted to get Worcester's numbers up right away!
And if you need a hand with figuring out your community, let me know!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

State of the Union 2014

While I did not watch last night, I did follow the conversation on Twitter (try #SOTU and #SOTUedu). The White House posted the full text here
The big questions beforehand were: would he mention Race to the Top? would he mention Common Core?
He started (to much reaction from teachers on the web) with a shout out to teachers:
Today in America, a teacher spent extra time with a student who needed it, and did her part to lift America’s graduation rate to its highest level in more than three decades.
Okay, list of Americans; you get a pass from me on rhetorical flourishes. The bulk of the education section--after economy and the environment--starts here:
 Five years ago, we set out to change the odds for all our kids...
Then he talks about college loans, which is generally beyond the scope of this blog, but I agree with those who think this could have been a great chance to talk about loan forgiveness (and if you haven't read this piece about how we could make public college free for everyone, you should).
Here's where some people lost their bets on if he'd mention Race to the Top (smart money was that he would, as he has every year):
 Race to the Top, with the help of governors from both parties, has helped states raise expectations and performance.  Teachers and principals in schools from Tennessee to Washington, D.C. are making big strides in preparing students with skills for the new economy – problem solving, critical thinking, science, technology, engineering, and math.
Oh,, Mr. President, it didn't. Even setting aside the debate over what exactly RTTT did to expectations (always a dicey thing to prove), you're way too early to talk about RTTT doing anything about performance. The Common Core just got implemented. Most of the tests haven't been used yet. It's simple cause and effect: changes take time. About all that's happened is a whole lot of money has been spent. And you should really read Bruce Baker  and Tom Loveless on what you can tell from NAEP results (surely we've got someone in the Department of Education doing that?).
And you caught that STEM mention, right?
Some of this change is hard.  It requires everything from more challenging curriculums and more demanding parents to better support for teachers and new ways to measure how well our kids think, not how well they can fill in a bubble on a test.  But it’s worth it – and it’s working. 
Ah, "more challenging curriculums". Sorry, if you bet that he would say "Common Core," you lost. That's as close as he gets. Notice that it's plural, because it's not a national curriculum; as we keep being told, it's a set of national standards.
Regarding the "curriculums" versus "curricula" debate, please see Kory Stamper on "octopi." 
"(M)ore demanding parents" is echoing his Secretary of Education who earlier this month essentially went after parental expectations of education as the new shadow enemy keeping our children from international excellence. That was in the same speech where Duncan derided the number of teachers who come from particular parts of the college graduating class, though, so the parental piece didn't get much coverage.
On bubble tests, we've been hearing for years that President Obama doesn't like them, and yet:

Not sure where the fivefold is; suffice to say it's getting worse rather than better.
On "worth it and working" please see above regarding Race to the Top. Also note the large number of demoralized teachers, the crisis in local education funding, and the one in four children in the U.S. living in poverty--all, I would argue, of significant import in talking about education and if and where it's working.
The problem is we’re still not reaching enough kids, and we’re not reaching them in time.  That has to change. 
Yes! Absolutely!
Research shows that one of the best investments we can make in a child’s life is high-quality early education.  Last year, I asked this Congress to help states make high-quality pre-K available to every four year-old.  As a parent as well as a President, I repeat that request tonight. But in the meantime, thirty states have raised pre-k funding on their own.  They know we can’t wait.  
Okay, no argument there, EXCEPT that starting with three year olds is already granting a major gap among kids. We've got to go earlier and work with families. However:
 So just as we worked with states to reform our schools, this year, we’ll invest in new partnerships with states and communities across the country in a race to the top for our youngest children.  And as Congress decides what it’s going to do, I’m going to pull together a coalition of elected officials, business leaders, and philanthropists willing to help more kids access the high-quality pre-K they need.
Not. Another. Race to the Top.
We're talking about three and four year olds. We are having absurd conversations about "performance" about TODDLERS. Have any of the people making these decisions talked to a four or a three year old lately?
We're going to have another competition for funding? Are we not sick--and I mean that literally--of this pitting of children and their educations against each other yet?
And, oh, look who we're going to ask to help: elected officials, business leaders, and philanthropists. Three groups--and I say this as part of one of them--that have demonstrated that they know a ridiculously small amount about what education needs, whilst having a ridiculous inflated sense of how much they know. WRONG CHOICE, Mr. President. It won't get you bold-faced names, but how about asking some preschool teachers? some parents of preschoolers? some child development specialists? some pediatricians?
You know, people who know about kids?
Last year, I also pledged to connect 99 percent of our students to high-speed broadband over the next four years.  Tonight, I can announce that with the support of the FCC and companies like Apple, Microsoft, Sprint, and Verizon, we’ve got a down payment to start connecting more than 15,000 schools and twenty million students over the next two years, without adding a dime to the deficit. 
Great, super, but the cynic in me points out that Verizon, Sprint and others are part of the reason that this has been hard and wonders what exactly they all want in exchange. And there are some things that government should pay for.
Then back to higher ed again--with an encouraging note about keeping young men of color on track (we'll have to see what that looks like)--before:
The bottom line is, Michelle and I want every child to have the same chance this country gave us. 
It's pretty clear that the President and Mrs. Obama had a lot going for them in terms of family support as they were growing up. It's not at all clear to me that he or his administration realize what a difference this makes in what happens to kids, or that he or they wish to do what they can for kids who don't have that.
Not to mention that the education that they are choosing for their daughters in no way reflects the education that he is moving the rest of the country towards.

Here we go: boiler for Worcester East Middle

Worcester East Middle School boiler APPROVED!
also note that all of the list below were also approved for their respective recommended actions

next round of MSBA Statements of Interest

Accelerated repairs due February 14; McCarthy says "get roses for the wife and get the SOIs in."
Accelerated repairs coming through in March and June meetings, core program in fall and winter.

Watch Connecticut on parental opt out rights

If you're following questions around opting out of state assessment (particularly with regards to new assessments), you'll want to look at what just came in from Connecticut.

Worcester East Middle before MSBA

Posting today from the Mass School Building Authority board meeting, where Worcester East Middle School's boiler replacement is on the agenda for authorization of the project funding agreement (aka: they're going to pay for, in our case, the 80% of the project).

Project total cost is $2,865,498 of which MSBA is recommending to their board payment of $2,064,010.

Also on the agenda for today are invitations to eligibility for Billerica, Carver, Hanover, Provincetown, Quincy, Somerville, and Stoughton.
Dedham is being invited to Feasibility for their Early Childhood Education Center.
And $37,611,713 in accelerated repair projects (including Worcester East Middle) are in for authorization of their project funding agreements; those are in 21 cities, towns, and districts.
Haverhill is putting forward a preferred schematic design for a $50 million new middle school.
Gloucester (West Parish School) and North Middlesex (for their high school) are being invited to project scope and budget. Gloucester's is a $39 million project and North Middlesex's an $89 million project.

I'll post as I have news!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Monday, January 27, 2014

Teaching, Learning, and Student Supports meets Thursday

The Standing Committee on Teaching, Learning, and Student Supports (of the Worcester School Committee) meets on Thursday, January 30 at 5:30 pm. You can find the agenda here.
On the agenda this week:

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Opting out of MCAS

It's taken me a bit to get back to this, but something was said at our December 5 School Committee meeting that I finally got a chance to go back to and find out more about this week.
It happened here, while Ms. Biancheria was clarifying what would happen if the district rolled forward with PARCC pilot testing--could parents still opt their children out?
Superintendent Boone agreed that they could, going on to say that parents could opt their child out of MCAS, as there was a code for this.

Well, that was new to me, so I asked a bit more about it, and it works like this: should a child (or a child's parents, on the child's behalf) refuse the MCAS, that gets coded as NTO, which is Not Tested Other.
Not only that BUT it need not count as a zero: so long as the school reports during the discrepancy reporting period that the child refused the test, the school can have that score removed from their accountability calculations.

NOTE (per questions below) that this does not change the state requirement around MCAS for high school graduation.

Crew team pancake breakfast

The Worcester Crew Team (we have one for the city) Booster Club is running a pancake breakfast next Saturday morning, February 1, 9-11 am at St. George's Church on Brattle Street. As the invitation we received put it:
 Proceeds from this event will support the Worcester Crew Booster Club for crew activities, including the purchasing of varsity jackets for the athletes that cannot afford them. The menu is as follows; all you can eat pancakes, juice, coffee, and any two slices of meat. Tickets will be $10 at the door; $5 for children under 10.
Crew is not an inexpensive sport, by any means, and it is due to the generosity of many, including the Booster Club, that they can stay on the water. If you can, please go support them!

Go figure!

I will freely admit: of all of the various reactions possible for City Manager Augustus to have to the publication of Governor Patrick's FY15 budget, this was not one I expected:
But Worcester City Manager Edward M. Augustus Jr. pointed out that is less than half a percent increase in local school aid, which combined with no increase in state funding for municipal operations will add millions more to the $11 million shortfall city officials had expected for the fiscal year beginning July 1. 
He started with the small increase in Chapter 70.
I do not recall ever hearing that be the first thing mentioned by a city manager.

If you actually want to know about playgrounds

Coming in on Tuesday's Council agenda:

11d. Request City Manager advise the Standing Committee on Youth, Parks and Recreation relative to the best approach for parents to take if they would want to add, replace or upgrade a school playground with new, safe and modern playground equipment. Further, request the City Manager inform the Committee what liability issues exist regarding the purchase, installation and use of such school playground equipment. (Rosen)
School playgrounds are handled by the WPS School Facilities office (which has a growing history and a clear process for working with parents who want to fundraise to upgrade their playgrounds). Short answer then: call Mr. Bedard!
Odd to see this one going to the Manager...hope the referral changes to either Joint Committee or through us to the Superintendent. We've been fighting to escape from the days when we asked each administration questions that properly go to the other! 

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Charter Experiences: Citizens for Public Schools forum

Roy Belson (Medford superintendent)
Cheyvonne Roberts and Bernice Funchess (charter school parents)
Karen Kast-McBride (BPS parent organizer)
Barrett Smith (former tutor, MATCH)
Charlie Gallo (Lynn SC)
James Blatchford (Lawrence SC)

Massachusetts angle: CPS forum on Charter Schools

Alain Jehlen on charter schools in Massachusetts
Roger Rice on ELL and charter schools
Jerry Mogel on students with disabilities and charter schools
Carlos Rojas on charter equity and accountability

Charter School forum: "Lessons from New Orleans Post-Katrina"

I'm at Madison Park High School in Roxbury this morning for a Citizens for Public Schools forum on charter schools, which includes a keynote on "Navigating Chartered Waters: Lessons from New Orleans Post-Katrina" and a community forum afterwards. I'll post my notes from the keynote here; I'm participating in the forum as a speaker, so I'll have to see how that works.
(Note that Chris Faraone, reporter extraordinaire, is here and you can find him on Twitter)

Friday, January 24, 2014

Cherry sheet for FY15

The Governor's budget came out on Wednesday, but we've had so much going on ourselves that I haven't posted on it. You will hear much much more about FY15 in the coming weeks--the Worcester School Committee's preliminary look is on February 6--but I pulled up the cherry sheet to look at big numbers:

FY14 total Chapter 70 $219,658,550
FY15 total Chapter 70 $220,569,583

(remember that total Chapter 70 also includes the funding for Worcester's charter schools (and doesn't add back in tuition reimbursement for them or for school choice), so this is not a fully WPS number)

So yes, the second number is higher than the first.
The difference--of $911,033--not even a million dollars, is an increase of less than half a percent.

There's certainly lots more that will go on in our budget than that, but this is not a great place to start.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Safe routes

query from Ms. Biancheria about safe routes to walk to school
Rodrigues reports that there is an active group working on this issue, has three pilot schools that are working on this
reporting back from task force
goes to Administration

Retroactive pay

O'Connell concerned that we voted retroactive pay "some months ago"
we voted December 19, for the record
Allen: recent round of conversation of negotiations were harmonious
EAW newsletter that went out yesterday indicated that retroactive pay would go out in March
increase in pay in checks that go out tomorrow
"We've met with the new city auditor recently to ask for a process to pay the retroactive"
"working cooperatively with City the manner he is able to do it"
"To suggest anything else would be misleading to our teachers"
Boone: payroll doesn't begin and end with us
"it is our goal to do it as rapidly as possible"
Mayor: if I remember, this has to happen every contract
Allen: only thing outstanding is retroactive
O'Connell requesting that it be expedited further
Novick: motion to file which takes precedent
O'Connell asks for it on a roll call: motion to file passes 5-2

request for a report on North High funding

Biancheria: discussion "with the former representative"
"didn't seem as though we were able to get any type of response...hope to have some clarification on the use of the funds, if they are available, and if there is a time frame as to when they are available"
Boone: it's a reconciliation
Allen: question is for FFE money relative to school building? expenditures have to be reconciled to see if there is remaining money
Biancheria: time frame for report?
Allen: city report, can't commit to time frame on their behalf, Mr. Zidelis is aware of it and has staff devoted to it
Biancheria: city has a problem with the state? state with schools? sense of urgency
Boone: reimbursement for construction goes to city
Mayor says that he will talk to the City Manager personally

Interested in our enrollment numbers?

...which would be this report, including percentages of poverty, race, and such?
Just sent to Accountability

List of all college admits

not my idea! Councilor Bergman gets the credit for this one!

text an uncleared sidewalk

the suggestion is going to the City Manager

$1.2 million to special education

Passes without discussion
Read the backup and you'll see why.

Anybody want to donate a bike rack?

Very few schools in the system have bike racks. The list is here.
Anybody want to donate one?

Recess supplies

I'm referring this list to PTOs and to CPPAC; check it out! Are some schools buying things that your school should?

summer feeding programs

Allen reports increased number of sites and increase programs for this coming summer
possible additional truck for this coming summer

One Library update

Superintendent Boone reports MOU finalized in next few weeks
will be brought to School Committee for informational purposes;we don't need to vote it
Those working in those schools have been CORI checked, as they are in the buildings

Reporting out: Joint committee and F&O

And I'm not going to take notes on this, as you've already seen them. This is the joint meeting that was held on December 18; notes here and following. 
Possibly the first some are hearing that we are under net school spending by $1.3M due to benefits of city administration not being able to be counted towards education spending.
Also, yesterday's F&O meeting, with Mr. Foley reporting out on addition of assistant principal at North High and special education increases.

Full committee approving quarterly transfers:

  • $135,000 from Custodians to Custodial Overtime
  • $95,000 from Maintenance Services to Custodial overtime
  • $50,000 from Maintenance Services to Maintenance Overtime
  • $80,000 from Administrative clerical to Support Overtime
  • $100,000 from Non-instructional support to Support Overtime--drivers
  • $10,000 from Non-instructional support to Bus monitor Overtime

Full committee approving Statements of Interest to send to the Mass School Building Authority 
Again, those are South High, Burncoat High, Doherty High for renovation/replacement
Clark Street, Goddard, Union Hill, West Tatnuck for window replacement

new year, new seats!

Superintendent                                 Mayor                              Clerk

Biancheria                                                                             O'Connell
Monfredo                                                                               Novick
Ramirez                                                                                  Foley

                                               public seats

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Finance and Operations: Capital equipment

report on capital equipment
Bedard: process
"critical path"
snowblower going down at a school is critical need (unlike a lawnmower, which can wait a day and be borrowed from another school)
replace six snowblowers a year (for 44 schools and 50 buildings and 394 acres)
parking lots plowed with pickups
"needed to ensure safety"
Novick: what would a reasonable budget look like?
if our snowblowers go down, we can't open the school
work with city, DPW, others on clearing?
Motion for a "reasonable budget" in a report for discussion with Joint committee

Finance and Operations: Playgrounds

inventory of 24 playgrounds through the district
each school has a specific report which have been sent to the building principals
summary of all reports
used UltiPlay Parks & Playgrounds, Inc
certified playground inspector "for safety concerns and deficiencies"
safety surfacing: rubber surfacing is more expensive and lasts longer
wood breaks down over time: not as deep as it should be
height deficiencies (slides, swings)
signage: new playgrounds given age appropriateness of structure
equipment and wear and tear
"most playgrounds are from different manufacturers"
trying to flush out that information
cost estimates: average of freshening up material, signage, equipment

Foley: motion to hold in committee to get a better idea of where we are come spring
Allen: PTO or group required of upkeep and maintenance of playground
"commitment doesn't end upon installation"
Novick asks that playground information be shared with PTOs and get a list of schools that don't have playgrounds accessible

Finance and Operations: Signage

schools that need additional signage so you can find your way in
addressed as budget funding permits
still needing signage: Wawecus, Canterbury, Grafton Street, Union Hill, Elm Park, Goddard

Statements of interest for MSBA

Foley: have had some significant work done these past few years
Allen runs through list of past two years of projects
"in conversation with MSBA, they invited us to change our submission on Worcester East Middle to now reflect...robust accelerated repair"
asked to remain in accelerated repair for just the boiler (as we think it will not last another year)
understand that it will be invited for full mechanical systems over a multi-year process
"significantly changes scope of work and investment"
does not require level of education spec planning (as Nelson Place does)
good news/bad news: much more work, but much longer
does free up money for over this summer, as only doing boiler this year
working with the city for dollars that are now being freed up; work that is not reimbursable by MSBA
some of those can happen this summer now instead
recommending that we submit three high schools for repair/replacement
new accelerated repair recommendations: Clark Street, Goddard, Union Hill, West Tatnuck, all for windows
"this is time sensitive" have to be approved by SC and Council
told that master plan needed to move forward
priority 1 based on needs assessment is South High, and remains so
Motions separately to submit three high schools for renovation/repair, and elementary schools for windows

Finance and Operations: FY14 quarterly (updated with a bit from North)

second quarter:
Allen: through the second quarter, amount expended to date in relation to budget amount
pretty specific projections by account
still a place where we're using some trends and information from other departments
similar deficit to first quarter deficit
takes into account new money due to closure of Spirit of Knowledge
much larger deficit in contracted services for special education services
number of students that we had anticipated last year, as we built internal capacity to serve students with autism
number of students who are new to the district or newly identified
still spending $700,000 less than we did last year; entire increase is due to new students to district and newly identified students
there was something here about adding a position at North High which I completely missed. UPDATE: An assistant principal has been added at North High, as was a request, and has been funded through attrition and vacancy factor savings in other accounts.
overall bottom line deficit
using $309,000 instructional materials to balance the budget ($10/pupil); "because this deficit is larger than it was in the first quarter, it appears that we will have to keep those dollars frozen to balance the budget"
Seale (special education): students constantly being identified over time
significant growth nationwide: 1 out of 50 students diagnosed with autism
required to provide specific services to those students
46% growth from 2010 of students with autism
students with multiple disabilities may require Home Applied Behavioral Analysis in addition; 31 students need such services (cannot do that in house)
Feb 2013: 594 students requiring direct ABA services
Dec 2013: 722 students requiring direct ABA services
128 new students that needed this level of services provided
161 students new to district with disabilities "unanticipated cost" (not just ADA, speech and language, one to one IAs, etc)
12 students out of district tuition=estimated $60,000 each
DESE has found that we are fiscally responsible for these students
hard to capture costs when responding to services beyond our control
Allen: significant budget challenge for us this year; no budget impact to school aside from held aside per pupil funding
FY15 will increase internal capacity again; what the cost impact will be
entire new money recommended for special education (tomorrow night)
recommended transfers today as well
Foley: great savings in special education in past few years
raw numbers here make that impossible
administration look at where students are coming from, and why
"don't have a whole lot of options...too bad we can't use it elsewhere"
out of district bill
Novick: pleased that we did increase internal capacity last year; imagine how much this would be costing us otherwise
workers comp? report from past years
Allen: "time to budget it at what our expenses would be"
Ramirez asks for clarification of what account funds which positions
transfers pass as recommended

Finance and Operations: Blue Ribbon Technology report

technology: Allen "as long as you're seated, you're prepared to hear some updated numbers on how much it would cost"
Walton: huge investment in technology last year: five year lease
by April, replaced all computers in district
33 schools have building-wide wireless; 14 schools do not (may have three to five access points)
approaching 10 years old; speed has increased to six times
wireless can't handle number of devices; wasn't built to handle that number of them
wireless for those that don't have it, plus bring schools that do have up to more dense coverage
$565,000 annually (on average)
dense coverage of 20 to 25 devices in every classroom citywide
also requires refreshing of technology; Worcester Tech, for example, is looking at that now
used to be nice, now is an expectation
have to have wireless first, plus decent capacity in district's capacity
question is do we want to do a district provided device, or a BYO device, or a combination?
what would be the standard device? Policy changes?
WPS have applied for $4.4 million
we have been approved for webhosting, telephone, and cellular
waiting for network and priority 2 parts, rewiring 23 buildings for improved wireless and basic maintenance
may not get priority 2
we can't rely on priority 2 funding
"there's some very good news in here"
School Committee acted quickly on technology intergration specialist, database trainer, network technician, plus funding of lease
student cellphone policy changed as recommended
still to be addressed on training and professional development
train the trainer model: two weeks of professional development for someone from each school, would be $142,000
also recommend adding additional staff: ideal world would have a technology person in each building ($3M annually)
educational technology liaison (as we have curricular liaisons)
5 network technicians & 7 computer technicians
recommendation to phase this in over 11 years: train the trainer, then add $142,000 (or so) per year
Foley: giving us a sense of the landscape out there
if we were going to fund technology at an appropriate level: given constraints of our budget, what can we do on here?
schools that don't have building-wide wireless are those that don't qualify for Erate due to lower percentage of free and reduced lunch meeting
Allen: FY15 budget report for meeting of Feb 6 will include
majority of communities still spending 120% of foundation budget
"what foundation budget dollars actually get you"
"what that actually yields in services to the school community"
Novick: priorities in hiring? computer technicians then network technicians
are any of our schools ready and willing to pilot a BYO device? Not convinced on one to one, but could be a tryout
Ramirez: support in place before train the trainer
Walton: we've gotten by for many years with refurbished computers
about three schools a week getting new computers
having new computers is going to make a real difference "instead of putting out fires"
be in a much better place technology-wise
using Discovery, YouTube for education, software, web-based email and other features
"maximizing the stuff that we already have"
Foley recommends referral to administration for budget

Finance and Operations: WRTA

bus passes for home to school transportation or for after school programs transportation
currently spend $143,000 per year
pay $1.35 rate which is the WRTA rate; most students require two tickets for transfer
"great demand for the use of these tickets"
Foley: how far does the demand exceed the supply?
implemented a tracking system for the schools; record use for which bus passes are distributed
"if I collect bus passes, I could use them for non-school use" (Foley)
Hennessey: each school uses them differently depending on what their needs are
now requesting a better feel per school as to what the usage is
Transportation purchases in bulk; schools request allotment
used more heavily for to and from school for alternative programs
working on school by school usage
Novick: no discount for us, no discount for students
other urban districts allow student ID to travel for free within particular hours
is it worth working with City Council to negotiate with WRTA (as City Manager sits on their board)?
cheaper for me to buy a CharlieCard (per ride) than what WPS is charged
Foley asks for a report on this and asks if we can refer to Joint Committee with City Council

Finance and Operations: school nutrition

Nutrition program funded through USDA "self-funded program" through federal and state funding plus user fees
school lunch price raised in accordance with federal law
"few in the state" that can say budget covers full operating costs
biggest line item increase is in equipment: replacement this year
Foley: ceiling price is ? $2.65, so increases over time for us, but it is a moving target
"enterprise account completely covering its costs" very rare: Worcester does it!
Novick: no laborer, done for budgetary reasons, but works ok
Farm Bill? Monitoring at this time

Board of ed agenda now posted. It looks as though they are voting on amendments to the educator licensure, beginning their consideration of changes to student discipline regs, and getting an update on the state budget, new virtual school, and new charter schools.

Two hour delay on Wednesday, January 22

Worcester Public Schools will open on a TWO HOUR DELAY today.
There is no morning preschool. Afternoon preschool will be held as usual.  

Be safe out there!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Quadrivium spaghetti dinner

We hope that you will be able to join us on Tuesday evening, January 28, when the BHS Quadrivium (Select Chorus) presents its second annual PASTA SUPPAH! Join us for a great pasta dinner with a raffle and entertainment provided by Quadrivium! All proceeds will go to the students members of Quadrivium as they prepare to represent the WPS and the City of Worcester at the Williamsburg Choral Festival on the campus of The College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, VA, April 3-6, 2014.

Where: Salem Covenant Church

Admission: $20 includes meal, beverages and dessert

Tickets are available from any Quadrivium member or by contacting Dave Twiss at Burncoat High School.

Worcester School Committee meets Thursday

The FIRST Worcester School Committee of the new term is on Thursday at 7pm. You can find the agenda here.
First of all, we have (as usual) an executive session at 6 pm. As I mentioned, the reasons for the executive session now are posted as part of the agenda (it's the final item). On Thursday, we have three disciplinary hearings, a grievance, negotiations with the Coordinator of Nurses (one on that list of positions whose contract is with the School Committee), and negotiations with the union of the administrative secretaries.
At 7 pm (or thereabouts), the public session begins.
We have a public petition regarding the naming of the new North High softball field.
We'll have both the Joint (F&O/Education) and Finance & Operations subcommittees reporting out (Remember, F&O meets tomorrow at 5 pm).
We have a beginning-of-year flurry of personnel items: resignations, appointments, transfers.
We have a response to some queries Mr. O'Connell had on preschool, including a list of service providers and options for the other half of the day.
At Miss Biancheria's request, we have a list of STEM events (she asked for February and March, but it looks as though this is the year).
We have a response on middle school sports.
My One Library item is on again, so I can ask a few questions (still no MOU, though, so I'm going to ask that we hold it again).
We have an extensive answer to Mr. Monfredo's questions on summer school and its efficacy.
We also have another preschool item coming back.
We have an answer to my question of where the $1 per pupil recess money went. (Bonus points to whomever put the chart together and added relevant clip art!)
We also have an answer to which schools have bike racks: Claremont Academy, North, South, Worcester Tech, Burncoat Middle, Sullivan Middle, Chandler Elementary, and Flagg Street. (Anyone out there who wants to work on this?)
We have a response from administration on dealing with increasing enrollment, as well as one on questions about items at North.
We also have the awaited FY14 additional budgetary allocation! And, sorry, it's not an exciting recommendation from administration, but it's a necessary one.
We have items coming in asking for honors and thanks!
We also have items asking that admin work with CPPAC on their annual expo and on parent enrichment activities, that the POW/MIA chair be available to schools for programs, that the process for using School Dude be reported on, that the WPD set up a text line for reporting unshoveled sidewalks, that we get a list of every school to which graduating seniors have been admitted, that we get a report on fitting out of North High (and remaining funds), that safe routes to schools be reported on, and that teachers get their retroactive pay in full at the next check.
Administration will be sending along new courses to subcommittee!
We have a prior year payment of $1072 and one of $3088.20 up for approval.
We also donations: $6408.01 to Lake View School from the parents; $1000 from National Grid for Doherty robotics; $500 from a Mobil retailer to Grafton Street.
And Mr. Monfredo wants to be sure that we celebrate Read Across America Day!
At City Hall at 7 pm and live on Channel 11!

Monday, January 20, 2014

State meetings next week

Two meetings of state interest next week:
  • On Monday night and Tuesday morning (1/27 & 1/28), the state Board of Education has its monthly meeting in Malden. The agenda is not yet posted; look for it later this week. 
  • On Wednesday (1/29), the board of the Mass School Building Authority meets on Boston. This agenda also will be posted later this week. 

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Finance and Operations meets Wednesday at 5!

The Standing Committee on Finance and Operations meets this Wednesday, January 22 at 5 pm. You can find the agenda here.
And welcome, Ms.Ramirez for her first meeting!
  • We're getting a report back from Administration (on a motion I filed) on fixing the pesky problem of knowing what door to go in
  • We have the Blue Ribbon Technology report up for consideration. You'll remember that we've funded the first round of computer rentals, so we'll be getting a progress report. With the needs we also have with the upcoming PARCC assessment coming in, there's some cross referencing we need to do here as well. And possibly capital funding.
  • We're sending both the FY14 budget and the FY14 capital budget to our joint committee with City Council.
  • WPS participated in the drafting of the 2013 Open Space and Recreation Plan, a document that the City is required to submit every seven years.
  • We have the usual quarterly budget report, with an update on all accounts. It looks to me that the big things here--beyond underfunding workers' comp, which you'll remember we discussed at our last meeting and are taking up again at this one--are special education costs and a few categories of overtime. 
  • We're getting an overview on the review of playgrounds that has happened. Schools do have the specifics for their own playgrounds; do keep in mind that this is a citywide view. I've already gotten some questions: if your school has a brand new playground, chances are that what you need is a sign and possibly better groundcover. 
  • Mr. O'Connell had a query on adding assistant principals
  • It's MSBA Statement of Interest time! The rebuild/renovate proposals remain the same: South at number one, with Burncoat and Doherty to follow. Proposed accelerated repairs for this year--all on windows--are Clark Street, Goddard, Union Hill, and West Tatnuck. Those have to pass out of F&O, through School Committee, then through City Council, and (in the case of the accelerated repairs) all by the first week of February.
  • Miss Biancheria inquired about WRTA bus passes
  • I've got some concerns about our snowblowers and lawnmowers. You have to read between the lines, but that's a worried Facilities department. 
  • And Mr. O'Connell referred the school nutrition account here, so we should get to have some conversation about school lunch!
It's a long one, but it all starts at 5 on Wednesday! Fourth floor of the Durkin Administration Building (or live on Channel 11). 

Friday, January 17, 2014


Did you see that the Worcester Kindergarten Initiative (with our great partners, REC YouthGrow) made the USDA blog today?

New Orleans teachers win in appeals court

I retweeted this decision today, but I'm concerned at how little attention I'm seeing it get in the news. Big deal, folks! 
In a decision that may well bankrupt the school district (once they sort out who's going to pay for it), 7000 former New Orleans teachers won in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals today. appeals court has decided that the School Board wrongly terminated more than 7,000 teachers after Hurricane Katrina. Those teachers were not given due process, and many teachers had the right to be rehired as jobs opened up in the first years after the storm, the court said in a unanimous opinion.
The teachers were laid off after Hurricane Katrina as part of the massive reorganization of the school district, that resulted in a district today in which nearly all children attend charter schools. The court decision awards the teachers two to three years of back pay, an amount that lawyers said during the appeal could total $1.5 billion.
If you can listen, NPR's coverage is excellent, as they've interviewed Sarah Carr, who has been following New Orleans since Katrina (and wrote the book).

I think it's also important to remember that Secretary Duncan in 2010 commented that the hurricane was "the best thing to happen to the education system in New Orleans."


More nominations! This just in from the Mass Department of Elementary and Secondary Education:
The Department is now accepting nominations for the following educator recognition programs: the 2015 Massachusetts Teacher of the Year, the 2014 Massachusetts History Teacher of the Year, the 2014 Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching, the 2014 George Washington Teachers' Institute, and the 2014 Distinguished Elementary Educators. To learn more about these programs, go to

Billing other districts for retirement

This article from Quabbin* caught my eye this morning, regarding one district billing another for retirement costs of those who retired from one district, but worked previously in another. We have had some discussion about this in Worcester, but I couldn't quite recall where we had left it.
I inquired of the city this morning, and Worcester is billing and being billed for retirees, both for retirement and for health insurance.

*Also, is it just me, or has the T&G stepped up their local meetings coverage? Reporters writing full articles lately: good stuff!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Spell is old news

A correction on that post from earlier in the week:

 Although the First Coast News article carried a posting date of January 9, 2014, and presented the information as a current news item, Legal Clips learned later that the events recounted in the article occurred during 1999-2000.
Linking to the correction in the original post

FY15 budget : WPS public notice

The principals have begun having their meetings with central administration regarding the FY15 budget. This means that numbers will be beginning to circulate regarding FY15.

To wit, a few reminders:

  • There is no FY15 budget until it has been passed by the full Worcester School Committee on June 19. Anything prior to that is a recommended budget.
  • Meetings between principals and central administration use the best numbers currently available, particularly for projected enrollment. Staffing (in particular) is based on these numbers. 
  • The Worcester School Committee will be getting a preliminary budget update on February 6; this will be based, also, on the best numbers that we have at this time. The recommended budget will be sent to the School Committee and be available to the public in mid-May. There will be two public meetings regarding the budget, plus at least one public F&O hearing on the budget prior to those.
By all means, get in touch. But don't panic.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Reading the Spencer-East Brookfield report

I've been perusing the DESE report on Spencer-East Brookfield, as reported on by the T&G last night. In terms of School Committee responsibilities, I'd say it's eye-opening.

In particular, on page 14, under "Challenges and Areas of Growth," the first finding is:
The school committee did not carry out important responsibilities to oversee the school district budget and hold the former superintendent accountable for performing his responsibilities.    
A. According to the school committee members, they had not fulfilled their responsibilities in that they had not overseen the former superintendent as they should have. Some examples mentioned by school committee members were:   1. not asking for detailed information or questioning or challenging the former superintendent about the proposed fiscal year 2013 school budget and the manner in which it was prepared;   2. not following past practice and having a school committee member or the superintendent present the budget at the annual town meeting;   3. not inquiring about or approving new positions added to the school department staff;   4. not holding the district accountable for providing complete monthly expenditure accounts from August to November 2012; and   5. not evaluating the former superintendent. 
As deliberating and passing the budget, and evaluating the superintendent are two of the main three roles of the School Committee, that's a devastating assessment.

Regarding the particular budgetary complications of Spencer-East Brookfield, the report (page 13) says this:
A. The former business administrator reported to the then school committee chair that the fiscal year 2013 budget prepared by the superintendent had serious errors. The business administrator was dismissed by the superintendent at the beginning of fiscal year 2013 over the objections of the school committee. 
emphasis mine.
The business administrator was ignored by the superintendent regarding the budget, took the matter to the next level of authority, and then lost his job for it.
I have to say I'm a little confused by this; business official contracts are with the School Committee, not the superintendent, so it's not clear to me how this happened. 

If you saw the December 4 meeting of the Worcester School Committee, you heard John Crafton from the Mass Association of School Business Officials come in and talk about our CFO in Worcester, Brian Allen. A lot of what he spoke about that evening was integrity. Rightfully so, of course, because the job of managing millions of dollars of public funds to provide basic services to children is one that embodies incredible trust of the community in that or in those individuals. It's the professional--the business manager--who knows where the dollars can and can't be used, knows when the money is coming in and going out, and ultimately knows if the budget's going to work at all.
The line of responsibility ultimately, and legally, is with the School Committee, though. It is up to the School Committee to know enough--or to learn enough to know enough--to ask where the money is being used, to ask when and where it's coming from, and to figure out if the budget's going to work. If you don't get trained (as required under the Ed Reform Act), then you may not know that's your job. If you don't go to sessions, or don't ask questions, or don't press for more information, even, or, I would say, especially if that's not popular, then you can't possibly know enough to decide if the budget allocations are right and if the budget is doing the best you can with what you have to get where you want to be.
That is a basic part of the job, though. School committees in Massachusetts vote the budget. It's what we're elected to do. We owe our jobs the same integrity that is required of our financial managers.
As Henry Clay put it in 1829:
Government is a trust, and the officers of the government are trustees; and both the trust and the trustees are created for the benefit of the people.

First (state) look at FY15

The Mass Budget and Policy Center has their first look at FY15, and it's not looking good:
As the FY 2015 Budget process begins, that gap now stands at approximately $514 million.
The Governor's budget comes out at the end of this month; the Worcester School Committee is scheduled to get a preliminary budget update at our February 6th meeting.

Kansas City, here we come?

If you're interested in urban education, you should be keeping an eye on what's going on in Kansas City. Bruce Baker breaks it apart today.
This past week, the good citizens of Kansas City and Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education were graced with one of the most vacuous manifestos on education reform I’ve read in a really long time. Yes, on my blog, I’ve pontificated about numerous other vacuous manifestos that often take the form of blog posts and op-eds which I suspect have little substantive influence over actual policies.
But this one is a little different. This report by an organization calling itself CEE, or Cities for Education Entrepreneurship Trust, in collaboration with Public Impact, is a bit more serious. No more credible, but more serious, in that it is assumed that state policymakers in Missouri might actually act on the report’s recommendations.
as always with Professor Baker, go read the rest!

UPDATE: His point here on privatizing of public resources, is, I think, right on the mark and should concern us all:
And taxpayers may find increasingly that documents and information (and meetings) they perceived as publicly accessible, are not, as organizations shift key roles responsibilities under private governance in order to shield them from public disclosure.

Senator Markey introducing legislation on student privacy!

Hey, more good signs from the Massachusetts junior senator:
 Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) today announced plans to introduce legislation in the coming weeks to ensure that safeguards are in place for students data shared with third parties. Recent changes to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) have allowed for the increased sharing and use of student data in the private sector...

“Putting students’ sensitive information in private hands raises a number of concerns about the privacy rights of parents and their kids, some who may be as young as five years old,” said Senator Markey, a member of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee. “The time to act is now, before parents lose control of their children’s personal information. Parents, not private companies, have the right to control personal information about their children. We should help student scholars make the grade, not help companies make a sale. I look forward to working with my colleagues to introduce and pass this important and timely legislation.”
You can see Markey's remarks here.
Glad I complimented him on his actions on this at the city inauguration! 

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

State report on Spencer-East Brookfield: UPDATED WITH LINK

Report from tonight's School Committee meeting:
From the report, it appears the then-chairman of the school committee was warned about the problem by an employee of the business office but did not tell the school committee, "for fear of reprisal by the superintendent against the employee." The chairman requested expenditure reports and was provided them each month but without a list of encumbrances. The report does not name the chairman, nor say when the warning was given. 

Rest of the article here:

The last agenda posted for Spencer-East Brookfield is here; I haven't managed to turn up last night's agenda or the state report itself. I'll post if I do.

UPDATE: Haven't had a chance to look at it yet, but the report they're referencing is up online here.

Student suspended in Oklahoma for allegedly casting a spell on a teacher: CORRECTED

Yes, really:
The suit charges that in December 2013 Bushyhead summoned Blackbear to his office where he interrogated her about her interest in Wicca.  The suit claims that although Blackbear, under intense pressure, said she might be a Wiccan, she is in fact Roman Catholic.  It also states: “The interview culminated with Defendant Bushyhead accusing Plaintiff, Brandi Blackbear, of casting spells causing (a teacher at the school) … to be sick and to be hospitalized.”
The suit also alleges that Bushyhead told Blackbear ”that she was an immediate threat to the school and summarily suspended her for what he arbitrarily determined to be a disruption of the education process.”  In addition, the suit asserts the school district violated Blackbear’s civil rights by seizing notebooks she used to write horror stories and barring her from drawing or wearing signs of the pagan religion Wicca.
We'll just file this under "Things I'm Glad I'm Not Being Briefed in on."
CORRECTION: It appears that this is old news.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Do you have an excellent principal?

Nominations are currently open for the Thomas Passios Outstanding Principal of the Year award:
The Thomas Passios Outstanding Principal of the Year nominations are being sought. This award is presented every year to an outstanding principal nominated by parents, teachers, superintendents or principals. The recipient of this award also becomes the NAESP National Distinguished Principal from Massachusetts. 
The Thomas C. Passios Outstanding Principal Award was established in 1979 to honor the memory of an outstanding school leader. The award is presented annually at the MESPA Spring Conference by the Commissioner of Education to an elementary and middle-level principal who has demonstrated clear leadership in developing successful programs for children and teachers, exceptional dedication to education, outstanding professionalism and an unselfish attitude toward helping others.
If that sounds like someone you know, click on the above link for information about the nominations.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Success in pre (pre) school

Missed this when it came out last week.
Apropos of the early education post from earlier this week, this study, looking at the effect early childhood ed has on income-based education gaps, is really encouraging. (The study is actually a few years old, but it appears to have only been published at the end of this past year.) To wit:
Projecting IHDP impacts to the U.S. population’s IQ and achievement trajectories suggests that such a program offered to low-income children would essentially eliminate the income-based gap at age three and between a third and three-quarters of the age five and age eight gaps.
More here from ThinkProgress.
So, can we get someone to put some money behind this, rather than, say, snazzy new testing programs? Please?

Charter School Forum January 25

Citizens for Public Schools is hosting a forum on charter schools on Saturday, January 25.
The panel will address issues around charter schools and English language learners and students with disabilities, as well as a summary of findings from CPS's June reportTwenty Years After Education Reform: Choosing a Path Forward To Equity and Excellence For All. A second session will feature testimony about the charter school experiences of parents, teachers and students and a community discussion. The forum will close with a session to share ideas about how to address charter schools and other issues of equity in public education
The forum is at Madison Park High School in Boston. The program begins at 9:30 am and will be completed by 12:30.
Registration is open here.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Economou asks about parental communication

The City Council agenda for January 14 is now posted. One item, coming from Councilor Economou, is related to the Worcester Public Schools:
8b. Request the Mayor request the Superintendent of the Public Schools provide the City Council with the details and protocols for automated and staff responses to parents of Worcester Public School students as to when and how issues are responded to and notifications are made. (Economou)
I suspect that probably has to do with this issue at Nelson Place earlier this week.

Next F&O meeting

...scheduled for Wednesday, January 22 at 5 pm.

What did Mayor Marty Walsh say about education?

As education played a big role in Boston's mayor's race this past fall, I was interested to see what the winner in that contest, Marty Walsh, had to say about education in his inaugural address earlier this week.
In terms of issues, he started with public safety and then moved to education as the second thing to address. The segue is here:
We have to make our communities safer to secure a future of opportunity for our kids. But that’s not all. We have to make sure every kid gets a great education.
So far so good...what does that mean?
Every kid in every neighborhood deserves the chance for a pathway to higher education or a good career. Every kid in Boston deserves a great education that will give them the opportunity to get ahead.
Well, someone on his staff has at least been in the "college and career" lingo loop. Being able to make a living is certainly part of what education is about, 'though I do like to see public officials in particular acknowledge that we live in a democracy and the schoolchildren of today are the voters of tomorrow. Narrowly restricting education in this vision isn't healthy for schools or for democracy

The biggest issue facing Boston right now is that they don't have a superintendent. There had been some question if Mayor Menino would try to rush the appointment to be sure it was his to make; honorably, he did not. Thus, it is left to Walsh, who appoints the School Committee who hires the superintendent, to do so:
Tomorrow, I will begin conversations with our school committee to launch a nationwide search for the next Superintendent of the Boston Public Schools. Our acting Superintendent, John McDonough, deserves our thanks for his capable, steady leadership in a tough job – he has earned mine.
I want our next superintendent to be a proven urban education leader who shares my commitment to eliminating the achievement gap, universal early education, high school reform, inclusion programs, dual language programs, a new approach to school construction, and expanded, high quality career and technical training. 
A nationwide search is good (and hopeful). I've gotten somewhat leery of "proven education leader" in combination with an immediate reference to the "achievement gap" and "reform," as that reads like our friends from Broad again. There's no indication one way or the other on that, but if you're in Boston, it's certainly something to watch for.
 I'll be interested to see where he goes with early childhood ed, as it's already become the big issue in New York City for Mayor DeBlasio (who came in with a plan to pay for it). Is this going to be another attempt to expand preschool, which is great but not enough? Or is this going to incorporate some of what we know about child development and look at kids younger than three?
I have no idea what he means by "high school reform" unless it has to do with the relationships the exam schools have with the rest of the system; if it is, that'll be a hot button issue.
Inclusion programs--special education? or language?--again, not clear. Dual language programs would be a great thing for Boston to further capitalize on, if they're willing to support them. Let's come back to school construction (as he does). Career and technical training is shaping up to the 2014 political deal; looks as though Treasurer Grossman is going after this one in the gubernatorial race. Provided that his thought is that Boston has the same difficulty Worcester does--kids who could really use the vocational training aren't getting it, due to the way the admissions process for vo-tech ed is now set up in the state--it's worth tackling. Simply expanding without looking a setup is not enough, though.
After giving an example of what he means (from Roxbury), he goes back to early childhood education:
Study after study has told us that universal early education and these other changes can be transformative. They give every child a more equal chance to thrive and succeed. Yes, these things cost money – but we must find a way.
While "study after study" is certainly with him on the importance of early education, I'm not sure which "other changes" he's referencing when he says that they "can be transformative."  And I'd feel a little bit more assured that he means this if he had some reference to how he'd pay for it. While no one (or virtually no one) expects a spreadsheet at the inaugural, he's going to be starting his budget for FY15 now. Someone needs to have a thought.
And speaking of the budget:
Education spending is the biggest piece of our city budget*. So we start with this principle: Every dollar we spend on education must be put to best and most effective use. That’s why I will work with the school committee and acting superintendent to commission a Performance Audit of our school department – a close look not just at where the money is going, but whether it is being spent most effectively and efficiently.
Taking a quick perusal of the budget memos and presentations that the BPS office has been sending to the School Committee, I have some questions myself (mainly, where's the rest of it?). I'll be interested in seeing who he pulls in for a performance audit; if he gets some knowledgeable school finance people in, it could be worthwhile, but if this is one of those "let's learn from business" groups, it could well be a waste of time.
Finally, as promised, back to school construction:
And we can change the way Boston pays for school construction, renovation, and maintenance – another major expense. As a legislator, I supported the creation of the Massachusetts School Building Authority to ensure a fair, transparent and accountable process to make quality school buildings available to every child.
Now, as Mayor, I will work to make sure Boston secures its share of equitable state funding as part of a plan to rebuild its long‐neglected and antiquated school buildings.
Let's quickly clear up that MSBA does not pay for maintenance of school buildlings; he's going to have to tackle that one internally.  MSBA does provide funding for "construction (and) renovation."

Words that strike fear in the heart of everyone west of 128: anyone in Boston talking about "mak(ing) sure Boston secures its share of" anything. You might remember that Boston doesn't have a great record with MSBA right now; that letter spells out a number of school buildings that Boston chose to close in which MSBA had some interest. They don't like wasting their money.
And that was before Boston proposed what would be the most expensive school built in the state. I'd take that as a call for anyone who has any interest in schools being built or repaired anywhere other than Boston proper to keep right on top of this, lest we find MSBA's funding staying right there by the State House.

We'll keep watching.

*for FY14, the City of Boston's budget is $2.6 billion; Boston Public Schools' is $934 million.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

New year, new term

I had intended to post this last week, but with technology challenges and snow days, and such, I haven't gotten to it until now.

As we start 2014 and a new term on the School Committee, a few blog resolutions:

  • I'll continue to pass along information that I get, particularly from the Worcester Public Schools, as soon as it's public. You saw that yesterday! I know many of you come here to get the other side of the story, or the full story, or to figure out what is going on. The era of smart phones has made this easier than ever; I'll keep pushing on that.
  • I'll continue to liveblog Worcester School Committee meetings, subcommittee meetings that I attend (I am assigned to Finance & Operations, and to Accountability, but I try to attend most of the other two as well), and pertinent city and state hearings and meetings as I attend them.
  • If I get several of the same question from people, or if the answer I get from a constituent question seems of more general interest, I'll be sure and post that. And as one of last year's most read posts was "You Ask, We Answer" on school nutrition, we'll keep them coming.
  • I fell off a bit in posting on state and national issues towards the end of last year; I'll work to pick that up again.
  • Also, remember that you can find me on Twitter, where I often will link to items that I don't have much of a comment on, and on Facebook, where I've set up the "follow" option (and all of my education-related posts are public). 
And, as always, please pass along your questions! Thanks for reading!

District governance in a democracy

I was glad to see, in this EdWeek article regarding changing models of district governance, this note of caution sounded:
With state takeovers and the growth of charter-management organizations without local boards, "decisions about local schools are now being made in a nondemocratic way by people far from the community, who are responding to market incentives that may not be well-aligned with the interests of the most vulnerable children in the community," Mr. Welner said.