Saturday, May 31, 2014

"first take the plank out of your own eye..."

I kept having these words (it's Matthew 7:5) ringing in my head earlier this week, as the Worcester Public Schools' budget was before the City Council.
 ...first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye.
former English teacher...I think in quotes. 
This was the root of my query at our last School Committee regarding Human Resources: if we're going to talk about a schools/city HR merger, is there first going to be a discussion of the city internally merging their own Human Resources sections? The city has an HR division, but there's also HR staff in the library and in the DPW (from what I can find in the city budget).
Now, maybe there's a great reason for having HR staff in different city divisions. I don't know: I'm not a city councilor (and have no wish to be), this isn't under my purview, and I don't have standing to ask. I've also never heard it asked during budget or otherwise.
Likewise, there may be a reason for there to be finance staff, not only in the finance division, but in workforce central, the fire department, and the DPW (again, from what I can find); I don't know. I haven't heard anyone ask.
Thus, hearing a question on Tuesday about why the schools don't have our vehicles maintained by a city vehicle maintenance department is a little tough to take. The city has more than one vehicle maintenance department--DPW and police both have them, at least--and I didn't hear anyone ask why all the vehicles aren't fixed in one location.
And, again, maybe there's a reason for that. I haven't heard it discussed.
As for having the trash picked up by DPW: the city, too, is charged for trash pickup, but in the departmental breakouts, it's bundled into the "other personal services" section, so you can't find it without asking. So it's easy to miss that the city actually spends money on trash pickup. You can find it in the WPS budget--it's under "Facilities Ordinary Maintenance" on page 175-- because we have a breakout account by account, along with a school by school budget, rather than solely departmental budgets.
And again, maybe that's fine. It does mean you can't find trash removal without asking, though.
Finally, there's a reason why the body that votes the school budget also establishes the school district policies. We know, for example, the research around student transportation and dropout rates--it's usually found in the top reasons why students drop out--and we know how that ties to the budget. It's not a matter of faith for us; it's a matter of data.
So, by all means ask questions about our stuff. We're more than happy to answer. Just please, please know your own stuff first.

Nelson Place vote Monday

The Nelson Place building committee meets Monday on which plan goes forward to the state. The agenda for the meeting is posted here. Note that there are two votes being requested: not only the preferred schematic design, but also for a revised preliminary design proposal (which is a redo of a previous vote. Not sure what's going on there).
No presentation up yet, but I suspect, from what was said at the last meeting, that it's going to look something like one of the option C's in the last meeting.
7 pm at the school

Friday, May 30, 2014

For those of you downtown: the graduations are coming!

Tonight, Claremont Academy graduates. Next week, we start the big schools downtown.

All graduations start at 6 pm; graduates have to get there within the hour ahead. If you are downtown, there will be an invasion of capped and gown seniors, along with their families, sometime after 5 pm.
Tuesday (June 3): South High
Wednesday (June 4): Doherty Memorial
Friday (June 6): North High
Monday (June 9): Burncoat High

Wednesday, June 11 is Worcester Technical High School's graduation. President Obama is giving the graduation address at this ceremony. This ceremony is at 4pm, but all those attending must be inside the building by 3pm. Due to the President's attendance, this ceremony will be in the DCU arena itself, not the conference section. We have not heard yet how the President is coming into town, but expect things to be pretty crazy downtown from midafternoon on, and from whatever direction he's coming in from.

I'll post more information as I have it. 

Here come the marathon meetings: School Committee meets June 5

The first of our two long ones is this coming Thursday, June 5.
Remember that our June meetings are effectively double-headers: budget at 4, regular session at 7.
Thus, beginning at 4pm, we will be considering the FY15 Worcester Public Schools budget, beginning with the School Committee account (for our salaries, set by city charter) and continuing on from there.
We'll break at six for our executive session, and come back at 7pm for the regular agenda.

On the agenda:
  • honoring the teacher of the year and finalists (as announced last night)
  • recognizing the students who are going to the international DECA conference
  • The report of the Superintendent is the mid-cycle report (no back-up as yet...)
  • We have a boatload of recognitions and congratulations on this agenda, so I'd recommend you take a look at them all!
  • And speaking of which, we are being asked to vote acceptance of the donations from EOS for our universal school breakfast programs. 
  • We're being asked to accept the $75,000 state planning grant for Claremont Academy's innovation plan.
  • We're being asked to accept the $51,753 state grant for math and science (which looks like it's for professional development? But I'll ask).
  • We're being asked to accept the $94,292 state grant for academic support and learning (which is for getting kids to pass MCAS? I think?).
  • We have the annual request that the Superintendent be allowed the discretion to transfer funds as needed within the budget to close the fiscal year.
  • Mr. O'Connell wants to review the second grade pedestrian safety training with an eye to expansion (as yet it's a pilot). 
  • He's also, per the opinion received this week from the Mass Association of School Committees that this is a policy decision, suggesting that the Worcester School Committee vote to use the MCAS rather than the PARCC next spring. The early submission deadline on that is June 30.
  • I have three items, all asking that we look at what it would mean to bump back secondary school start times (through the research, through the impact on teaching and learning, and through operations), all heading off to subcommittees.
  • And I've asked for what the calculation would look like if the foundation budget funded actual enrollment of special education, rather than the flat percentage that it does now.

He said what?!

I know I already pointed you over to EduShyster earlier this week, but, if you're in Massachusetts (or, even if you're not), you probably want to go read what our Commissioner of Education apparently said about teachers at Level 5 schools this week.
I would suggest that the Commissioner owes not only those teachers, but all teachers across the Commonwealth, an apology. 

settling the budget in conference committee

Reading the MassBudget analysis of differences between the House and Senate budgets that remain to be settled in conference committee. As the Chapter 70 funding was settled ahead of time, the big numbers have already been settled. The biggest differences are district reimbursements (more heavily funded Senate side) and grants (ELT and kindergarten, both funded more heavily by the House).
Of note for districts like Lynn, that have not been counting teacher retirement towards Net School Spending: both included language to phase in counting it. MassBudget notes:
While this change will equalize district spending requirements, it will ultimately allow many communities to spend less on public education. 
...and that's not good. 

Thursday, May 29, 2014

What to do first?

If you're wondering which accounts will be heard in which order by the Worcester School Committee, you can find the (suggested) order here:

Budget hearings are June 5 and 19 and start at 4!

Spending more leads to better student outcomes

We already knew this, but we've got yet another paper concluding that spending more on education of poor students leads to better student outcomes.
From the EdWeek report:
For low-income students who spent all 12 years of school in districts that increased spending by 20 percent, graduation rates rose by 23 percentage points. Due to the measurement error or “noise” found in almost any study of this type, the effect could, very plausibly, be as low as 8.7 percentage points and as high as 37 percentage points. The estimates are based on the study’s analysis of 15,000 children born between 1955 and 1985. All account for a host of other potential explanations, such as school desegregation, War on Poverty programs, and demographic changes.
The paper’s analysis also found that low-income children who were exposed to a 20 percent spending increase for their entire school careers attained nearly a full year of additional education after high school. (That estimate ranged from about four months to 1½ years.)
Between the ages of 25 and 45, these same children were 20 percentage points less likely to fall into poverty during any given year. (Estimates vary from 8 percentage points to 31 percentage points.) Their individual wages were 25 percent higher than they would have been without the changes, with estimates ranging from 3 percent to 45 percent, according to the paper. And their family incomes were 52 percent higher, with estimates ranging from 17 percent to 86 percent.
Please, someone get this to DESE!

Common Core report from the Research Bureau

Reading the new report out from the Research Bureau on the Common Core, I'd say that I have two issues (which is good, actually!):
  • It's a little too eager to buy the party lines on Common Core: it was state generated! it was the result of education policy makers wanting it! the funding had nothing to do with the outcome! ...and so forth. I know there's a wish not to be a conspiracy theorist here, guys, but let's not be too naive, either.
  • Very specifically, to issue a report on the Common Core in Massachusetts without mentioning that the first round Race to the Top application did NOT accept the Common Core, and was rejected, while the second round DID accept the Common Core, and got the money, is a big oversight. That, and the teacher evaluation piece, were the only two changes, and it was the two sections the fed was most critical of in the first application. That's not a coincidence; it's also not unconnected to a massive infusion of federal dollars.
EDIT: For more on the report, you can read Steve Foskett's coverage here, which also includes my not-very-dramatic view on the standards and their impact. 
Appreciate the change in tone from the Research Bureau, there, though! 

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

RIP Maya Angelou

“Any book that helps a child to form a habit of reading, to make reading one of his deep and continuing needs, is good for him.” 
― Maya Angelou

Speaking of expanding educational excellence to all students

...or whatever the line was that was circulating last week around lifting the cap on charter schools, take a look at the stats EduShyster dug up on graduation rates of Boston charters.

Now what?

So, last night the Worcester City Council passed the recommended Worcester Public Schools' budget amount for next year. That puts us $1.1 million over required for FY15, but due to the carryover from this year, it is $2.3 million under required spending all together. This will also necessitate budget cuts across the board, from teachers, to clerical staff, to custodians, to administrators. And we're not increasing in a myriad of places we should: we're not buying new textbooks, increasing student supplies, putting the money into facilities maintenance we should, rebuilding or creating programs in gifted & talented, adding the support staff we need, and so forth.
Now what?
The City Council is currently passing the budget in finance committee; they don't have a budget until they pass each account in finance, recess from finance to regular session, and pass the bottom line. I expect that this will happen next week. I don't expect that there will be any changes (most particularly for the schools) during that, however.
As the Worcester School Committee begins budget sessions next Thursday (also at 4), we'll be taking up a budget with those cuts, therefore, and I don't see that we have much of a choice but to make them.
The one thing to keep an eye on is this, as expressed by Councilor Rushton last night:

Keep in mind that when city free cash is certified (after the close of FY14, which happens in July; usually early fall), free cash will include whatever the state has passed or passes for funding for schools for FY14 since the Council passed the budget. The increased charter reimbursement? The McKinney-Vento reimbursement? Those are school allocations sent to the city, but they'll be sitting city accounts until certification. We should at the very least expect to see that money come to the schools, as the state intended.
That won't be probably until after the start of school, so it will probably be too late for teaching staff. For staffing next year, last night's line item is what we live with, I fear.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

You are invited...

WPS budget before Council: FY15 edition

posting as we go...
awaiting a quorum...
Petty: first session is Worcester Public Schools

City Council hears the WPS account today at 4

It is a meeting that is public: 4 pm at City Hall.
Note, as always: the City Council approves the bottom line allocation to the Worcester Public Schools; the Worcester School Committee approves the internal allocations.
Yes, I'll be there and blogging!
Edit for a few more reminders: The City Council is meeting in Finance Committee, which is where they review and pass (or not) each account. The Council may approve each account, or cut from the account, or hold it, or send it back to the City Manager; they may not add to any account.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Thursday, May 22, 2014

I see the spin is "will not impact Worcester"

Here's how H4091 will.

It does impact the Worcester Public Schools in a number of ways: 
1. Those Level 3 schools that the Commissioner can designate as "challenge" schools, thus requiring an expensive (unfunded), time-consuming, and disruptive process that could require teachers to reapply for their jobs--that will hit Worcester. And having a school designated as "challenge" will absolutely scare away parents.
2. Any increase in the charter cap lowers the amount of reimbursement that every system in the state gets for its schools, including Worcester, currently at 63% of reimbursement. 
3. The lowest ten percent, yes, currently does not include Worcester. However, given that the system that decides which schools are is anything but scientific, it could be.  

And that's just off the top of my head. 

Senate is through the education amendments

The Mass Senate has gotten through the education budget amendments (you can track the actions on amendments on this page) and it looks as though most of the proposed funding increases have failed. The foundation budget commission, as I posted yesterday, passed, but no increase in:
  • McKinney-Vento transportation reimbursement
  • charter school reimbursement
  • regional transportation
  • innovation schools
  • alternative education
  • quality kindergarten
The effort to study the Common Core "curriculum" failed, as did the effort to pause the PARCC test. 
Studying having the John and Abigail Adams Scholarship applying to fees as well as tuition passed, though! 

Following the charter et all bill?

Then please note that H4091 becomes H4108.
And it will probably have an "S" number when/if it shows up in the Senate.
Or, as I said yesterday on Twitter, you could just continue to refer to it as "that awful charter bill," as I do. 

Creamer Center graduates today

...all save Joseph Safo Agyare, who was shot and killed last Saturday night.

I wish I had something profound to say that could make sense of this, but there isn't anything.
Scott Croteau put it well when he wrote that Joe's parents were planning his graduation party, and now they are planning his funeral. 
This just should not happen. 

H 4091 passes the House

I regret to inform you that H 4091 passed the House yesterday, with the only amendment being one that allows for extracurricular activities of one set of schools to be used by students of the other (charter/public).
I am particularly saddened by the 'yes' votes of Worcester Representatives Jim O'Day, Dan Donahue, and John Mahoney, which are votes to allow the Commissioner to push "turnaround" status on our Level 3 schools (by declaring them "challenge" schools; and note that this is most of the schools in Worcester), to take up to 23% of public school budgets and send them to charters (not Worcester now, but no guarantees about later), to allow districts in receivership to use private funds for a two track teacher pay system, and to allow those districts to pass budgets without public transparency.
I can't explain it otherwise. This is an anti-public education vote.
Thank you to Rep. Keefe for her 'no' vote. The 'no' votes may have been in the minority yesterday, but they were right.
I think Rep. Denise Provost of Somerville said it best:

...because what we saw yesterday certainly wasn't.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Foundation budget review commission

unanimously approved by the state Senate today! Through both houses, then. 

Regarding the charter bill

Here's the letter I sent to our Worcester representatives last night: please note that the bill's number has changed to 4091:
I write today to urge you to vote no on House 3984, scheduled to come to the floor tomorrow. It is a bill that is bad for Worcester.
Most notably, of course, the bill lifts the cap on the spending on charter schools in the bottom 10% of districts. While this group does not currently include Worcester, please note that this is not a scientific assignment system (to learn more on this, I've posted an explanation here). In short: it isn't now, but it could be, and it could be without much regard to what our children are actually doing in our schools. Were that to happen, up to nearly a quarter of public school funds could be expended on charter schools. This would, to be blunt, be the death knell of these districts. You would kill public education in any district in which this happened. 

There is much more to the bill than the charter schools, and these are also of concern. In brief:
  • a Commissioner-controlled "challenge" school designation, which will require extensive state-managed redesign work, the sort of the work that was required of our Level 4 schools. This is a massive, disruptive, and expensive process for a district; while it has gone well in Worcester, we have strained our resources with three. To have such a state-directed process at more of our schools, with the associated meetings and reports, and with no talk of funding, is not a productive idea. Moreover, please note that the "challenge" designation could require all teachers to reapply for their positions; I believe the AFL-CIO has already weighed in with you on this. We as a district are already working hard at all of our schools, including our Level 3 schools. We most assuredly do not need the Commissioner's intervention in them.
  • to go back to charters for a moment: while there is language in here about backfilling of student openings, of open lotteries and much else that might (and I stress MIGHT) make charter schools more reflective of student enrollment in their districts, that language applies only to new charter schools. Current charter schools, such as the two in Worcester, are free to continue to have a student body that is not reflective of the general Worcester population of students. In our case, this is most notable in special education, where students are told that their needs can better be met by the public schools. They are not serving all students, and this bill is silent on this issue. 
  • finally on spending: the most pressing issue for Worcester right now on spending is dependable full funding of the charter reimbursement. Many years, it is not fully funded. If the funding comes through later in the year, as it appears it might for FY14, it goes into the city general fund and has to await designation as "free cash" at year's end to be expended; these funds do not make it to the school budget at all. Thus, the issue that is most pressing for us around charter schools is mentioned not at all in this bill.
Should you wish to read more on this, I have posted here and here on this bill. I would, as always, be happy to speak to you more on this issue.

Finally, I realize that voting 'no' on this bill may require you not to vote with the leadership. Please know that doing so would be a vote that is right for Worcester.
Thank you, as always, for all you do for us,
Tracy Novick

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Have I told you lately how amazing Donna Lombardi is?

...but don't take my word for it: here's Representative McGovern today on the floor of the House of Representatives:

Today Worcester Public School Nutrition Director Donna Lombardi received this year's Healthy Start Leadership Award from the EOS Foundation, for the great work she's been doing (and, I have it on good authority, is going to continue to push to do!) on getting breakfast into kids by having universal breakfast in the classroom. 

We also had 18 of our elementary schools recognized for having 80% or better participation rate for the past year on breakfast. All of our elementary schools in Worcester that have poverty rates of 60% or above have universal breakfast in the classroom. 
And it won't stop there!
Congratulations, Donna! Well deserved!

Newark students protesting school closures, privatizations sitting in at Board of Ed tonight

Amazing stuff in Newark tonight, where the Newark Student Union disrupted a Board of Ed meeting where the members (who, surprise, surprise, are not elected) were voting on the administration's plan to close and privatize public schools there. They now are staging a sit in at the building. It doesn't seem to have yet gotten coverage anywhere other than Twitter; follow #OurNewark to catch the latest.
Newark, of course, is where they've just elected a mayor who stands in direct opposition to the plans of the school administration, who answer only to Governor Christie.

Senate Ways and Means amendments on education

I've been asked to take a look at amendments that the Mass Senate is considering as they take up their budget debate. The Senate Ways and Means budget can be found here.
As per always, there are location specific amendments; I'm not tackling those here unless they have some effect beyond that community.
If it is starred * I recommend it!

Amendment 462 is parallel to that passed by the House that would call for a cost-benefit analysis of the PARCC test; amendment 465 would call for pausing it. The primary sponsor of both of those is Senate Minority Leader Tarr, who also is calling for an independent "Common Core curriculum" (463) assessment; I suspect the phrasing alone is going to kill that last one (as we've heard: it's not a curriculum, but a set of standards). 
Also from Senator Tarr is a process for districts to petition the Department for a waiver for any state mandates that are unfunded (amendment 470); interesting language on that one:
The department shall grant the waiver unless it determines that the absence of the mandate will lower the quality of education provided; provided, however, that the petition shall be deemed granted if the department fails to respond within 90 days of the submission of the petition request.
 I can't imagine that the department would ever come back and say, "Oh, no, we didn't really need that one!" One wonders if he would include unfunded charter schools in this! Senator Chang-Diaz is calling for organizing a task force on those unfunded mandates (amendment 519).*
Senator Joyce has an amendment raising the funding for full-day kindergarten (amendment 480)* from $20 million to $27 million (as does Senator Chang-Diaz [522], as does Senator Elbridge [565]), as well as striking the language that limits it to 75% of the prior year (I need to check that last bit, because if that's in the budget, that's a problem; it is also not mentioned in the other two amendments, which only raise the funds). If we're going to keep saying that early childhood is important, we've got to fund these programs accordingly.
Senator Downing has two on Gateway Cities: $500,000 to establish career academies (amendment 481) and boosting ELL funding to $3.5 million (amendment 482)*. I'd prioritize the second over the first, particularly as $500,000 is not a lot of money in a state context. 
Amendment 484 adds $1 million to the universal pre-K program. 
Senator Moore is proposing going from $75,000 to $2 million for dual enrollment (that's amendment 490). I'm not going through them here, but, as Senator Moore chairs the Higher Ed Committee, he has several higher ed ones that might be of interest.
Not strictly K-12, but of interest: Senator Donoghue proposes the state looking at the John and Abigail Adams Scholarships covering not just tuition but fees (amendment 513 *proposes studying this); those scholarships to state universities for high MCAS-scoring students have been worth less and less as fees go higher and higher.
A massive boost in alternative education grants is proposed by Senator Chang-Diaz in amendment 515 (" by striking out the figure “$146,140” and inserting in place thereof the following figure:- "$4,783,360"). 
She's also proposing a slight ($500,000 or so) boost in funding for underperforming schools (amendment 524). 
Amendment 527 proposes a boost (from $1 million to over $4 million) in innovation school funding, 'though if you're interested in that, you'll want to take a look at the language, as there are some specifics attached.
Senator Brownsberger is proposing a language change on circuit breaker (I'll take a look later and see what that is).
Senator Lewis proposes allowing districts to have a special education stabilization fund to carry from year to year (amendment 537).
Senator Tarr proposes adding more funds (from $70 million to $73 million) to regional transportation (amendment 545). Recall that $70 million is 90% reimbursement.
Amendment 547 raises expanded learning time grants from $13 million to $15 million.
Senator Welch's amendment 548 allows the count of homeless students who enroll anytime until March 1 to count towards the foundation budget of the next year (hey, good one!).*
Amendment 556 from Senator McGee more than doubles the amount of funding for after school programs.
Amendment 560--which has a STUNNING number of co-sponsors!--is the foundation budget review commission. *Definitely push for this one!
Likewise, amendment 561 is full reimbursement for charter schools!*
(hat tip to Worcester's Senator Moore for being among the co-sponsors of both of the above!)
Amendment 564 expands the Parent-Child Home program (including that one for you, Charlie!)
Cheers to Senator Elbridge for amendment 567, raising McKinney-Vento transportation funding to $14 million (possibly fully funded?)!*
Senator Ross proposes amendment 568 to cut down on DESE's use of paper.
Amendment 567 proposes an expanded learning time allotment to be added to schools' foundation budget in particular conditions (looks like high poverty, low MCAS scores).
Senator Ross FIXES THE SPECIAL ED ASSUMPTION! Amendment 567 would substitute an average of the preceding five years for both in district and out of district special education numbers for the state's current assumptions. This is one of the most underfunded parts of the foundation budget, and I'd imagine that it totally won't pass, because Ross is the minority whip. C'mon, Dems!*
Senator (Richard) Moore is concerned about student data protection; amendment 573 says it can't be sold or used for marketing. *
Amendment 574 calls for a report on the implementation of McKinney-Vento.
Amendment 577 is one time foundation reserve funding for districts with big growth this year.

Debate starts TOMORROW, so get in touch today!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Signs of Worcester's industrial past

More unseen corners of the Worcester Public the Worcester East Middle School's boiler room.
When Worcester East Middle School was opened in 1923, Calvin Coolidge was in the White House, a first class postage stamp was two cents, and the newly opened Grafton Street Junior High School was heated with three massive boilers that burned coal.
Much of that has changed, but the boilers are still there, having been converted over their history first to oil, then to natural gas.

It is difficult to get the sheer size of these boilers. These photos were taken from a basement-level catwalk over them; the boilers themselves are a story and a half or so down further. Each is the size of a steam locomotive. They are massive.

The boilers were manufactured here in Worcester at Stewart Works (as you might be able to read on the doors, which say STEWART BOILER WORKS  WORCESTER, MASS  1923). The Worcester Historical Museum has a photo posted of workers shoveling coal into just such boilers. 

 Of Stewart Works, Ellery Bicknell Crane in Historic Homes and Institutions and Genealogical and Personal Memoirs of Worcester County, published in 1907 has this to say: 
THE STEWART BOILER WORKS of Worcester, well known throughout the New England states, and which stands high among the leading industries of the city of Worcester, sustaining a reputation for thorough workmanship and honorable dealing, has since September, 1888, been under the ownership of James C, John C. and Charles M. Stewart, sons of Charles Stewart, a native of Glasgow, Scotland, who learned his trade in England. Upon his arrival in Worcester, Massachusetts, Charles Stewart began manufacturing boilers for Bellows & Whitcomb, who were at that time engaged in building portable steam engines...In September, 1889, the works were moved to new shops at the present location, Albany street. The plant is extensive, covering a space of nearly two acres of land located a half mile east of the Union station, and on the line of the Boston & Albany Railroad, and easily accessible from all parts of the city of Worcester by means of the electric cars. The main building is sixty by three hundred and seventy feet, and there are a number of smaller buildings for various purposes, all admirably equipped with machinery, There is a spur track running alongside the works, and with a powerful electric hoisting crane gives excellent facilities for receiving and shipping goods. The firm manufactures locomotive, marine and tubular boilers, tanks for oil, water and general purposes, smoke stacks, penstocks, and heavy plate iron work of all kinds. They also attend to repairs of boilers in mills, etc. They employ on an average seventy-five men, many of whom have served at the works for a long period of time.

As the boilers burned coal (and large amounts of it), there were doors that have onto the street for coal delivery through a chute:

Up until recent years, there was still a "fireman" designation in the Worcester Public Schools custodians' contract, from the days when it was an additional custodial duty to keep these stoked with coal to heat the building.

These are among the projects for this summer, as the Mass School Building Authority has committed to funding 80% reimbursement on replacement. 

While the School Committee member part of me is relieved that we aren't trying to nurse these through another winter, with school plant welding things back together in a frigid building, and the utility costs these entail...the Worcester history buff is a little sad to see them go. 

Nelson Place public hearing liveblog!

posting as we go...full house in the school cafeteria
Second phase of feasibility
presentation, then questions and comments
"huge document with the school and the city and some neighbors...what is important to the school?"
Presented (it was?)
"come to one solution, put to a vote of the building committee, submit to MSBA" (if approved by the building committee)

current reading submitted written comments from Safe Routes to School: "prioritize vehicle access...will not encourage families to consider access by foot or bike"
Presentation is here 
"more thought should be put into safe and convenient access by those walking and biking"
Owner project manager reviewing timeline: note that if all goes as expected, construction would be Sept 2015-March 2017
Architects: "lot of input in the design project"
inner workings of how this is designed: why school has the wings it does, the contiguity it does
sustainable design...part of the study that we're putting together tonight
site program plans on 140 daily parking spaces, with 200 event parking spaces
substantially separate bus and car lines
plan of 60 car lineup for parent pickup
"also the biking and the walking traffic to the school is in the mix"
wetlands on site
"isolated land subject to flooding" on site
biologists have been up there three times and "have found that they are not vernal pools" (which is met with audience disbelief)
"one is non-juristictional, so there are no setbacks with that"
"we had looked at number of different sites throughout the city"
look at three options at Nelson Place location (there are no off-site options): Assumption option has fallen off
now just looking at right of way on Assumption land and taking land from neighbors for access
Renovation (which must be studied) : retain existing building from cafeteria up the road (newest piece)
with three story new construction behind the existing building
parking and access roads to the property line
new construction on existing
parking lot in front on current site (ish..behind)
three wings off central section
"this scheme does not meet site programs"
"you do not have full parent pick up, and do not have parking areas needed, and retaining walls"
new construction on additional land
rear land of house lots taken
small courtyard in the middle
two, two story sections with one story admin section
multiple parking lots in front
"there are no setbacks
easterly one has a 15 and 30 foot setback (for building and paving); no setback on the westerly one (which means that they can built right up to the edge of the water)
bit of a back and forth here on which are vernal pools; Assumption has vernal pools on their lands; neighborhood concern regarding wetlands on the property
last plan has a back access to Romula for emergency
coming and going to school is still off of Nelson Place? Yes, though biking and walking could come through.
as another option, "costing out" parking deck (aka: a parking garage in front of the school)
another scheme that arranges parent pick up differently
Q on why so much parking; essentially trying to get all cars off the street
June 2 building committee to select one of these to move ahead with schematic design
Q why was plan with Assumption taken off the table? If not talking about field, why are not still talking to college about taking their property?
aside from Romula, building up the hill
"Hoping to get feedback from everyone here as to which scheme they like best and move forward from there"
Q why two tiered parking?
one option looked at, to take away from surfacing parking
Q do people have to look at it?
"significant amount of landscaping, significant cost to build structure"
Q amount of blasting
the answer here is basically, yes, it's ledge
"design a blasting program" to excavate
Q "still only one way out and one way in" to the school
some parking comments here "that's to be expected when you live in the space of a school"
"at the time that we designed Roosevelt , we weren't facing these issues of parent pick up that we are now, but times they are a' changing...we can't deny parents that"
response "This property was never meant for a super school"
DPW going to do work on Nelson Place road for widening
reference to parents waiting all the way down onto 122: "you should find another location"
suggestion for multiple story, smaller footprint
"you've said you can't stop can by design"
catchment area? Indian Hill and Nelson Place...response is that kids can walk
DPW: no crossing guard on 122 (hey, we can do that!)
Suggestion to talk to Assumption to allow through traffic for student drop off
"to facilitate and be part of a neighborhood" not overwhelm the neighborhood
Response: like parking all the way around the building
description of dismissal of Nashoba (900 students)
concern about Deborah Drive and Nelson Park Drive (which is the little loop across the school); access and parking in front of those houses
"reality of it when you live here, is streets are always going to have this parking situation"
Response: Don't support any plan that involves any of the land taking. Not just property values, it's the green space, identified as a Top Ten green space
DPW: would you rather see, visually a 12 foot high retaining wall at the school?
concern about safety, due to visual lines to wings of school by administration
though most of our schools don't have that, so...
Q about best access: description of barriers with alarms
Neighbor sees back access as being more than emergency access in the back eventually
personal opinion of DPW is that Assumption property cannot be graded for field
concern that opening the road will make that field more easily developed; couldn't it be a trail?
Norrback, Roosevelt, Gates Lane have access to a major street; Nelson Place does not
site not appropriate for size of school being suggested
"we know you need a new's just where it goes"
concern with dismissing kids into the Hancock Hill neighborhood on Hapgood because there are no sidewalks
DPW is "considering construction access" from Hapgood Road
Q why is Hapgood the only access you've got?
you've got Hancock Hill; which does not allow commercial vehicles, so they're stuck on Hapgood
suggestion that DPW might waive regulation banning commercial traffic on Hancock Hill
comment "I've never seen a school that isn't in the front of the school" where the school doesn't face the street (Norrback, North, Roosevelt...)
Q any thought of moving kids out to build?
don't have swing space within WPS; modular classrooms are expensive
suggestion could construct on current school location if students were moved out during construction
monitoring of blasting at site and on nearby location
times of construction? 7-3 (or so)
Q has anyone considered construction traffic and state of roads?
yes, but we're not there yet
comment that it seems as if the city is moving ahead with one of these options, regardless
"why am I here? What if I say I really don't want to give my land up? My saying it means nothing!"
"we don't want this thing happening"
start blasting next to a building that's shored up with kids in it
DPW says building is "safer now than it was when it was built"
don't really know what the cost is going to be when blasting is going on, as opposed to fixed costs
"it seems as though some options have come off the table" that could be useful
Q is if the building committee is here; most of them are
DPW comment that they aren't touching the wetlands
concern about moving children for building being disruptive, should that be something that happens
"want to give school department the best school we can"
advantage of traffic movement to allow limited staff to monitor dismissal of kids
"to enable kids to get in and out"
current school population is 502; building for 600
comment: "if we're going to build all of these roads, let's really get tough with speeding"
playground access and noise (they're all in the back)
suggestion faculty parking elsewhere: off site or at Assumption
plan is already to have faculty park in whatever are the spaces that are farther away
urging to plan school such that parking is not the focus; walking should be
"just seems that this is being forced on us, relative to the footprint"
"it's wrong and it needs to be's a neighborhood school"
"seems like this was designed in an office somewhere and dropped down on the neighborhood"
comment (again) that looked at other sites
school department "has some pretty complex requirements, and it's plainly amazing to me that they can do it in the facilities that they have" (DPW)
opening a footpath on the back opens traffic to another area (like at Norrback)
comment: technically they are historic building: "I'm just disappointed to see that taken off the table"
some quibble as to if parents would drop off kids at other end of property (they not only would; they already do)
some question as to where buses would be directed and flow through; it depends on which plan goes forward, but plan is to get buses off the road, all cars off the road, and no overlap of traffic
Q: where did the number 140 parking come from?
120 faculty and staff; plus 20 visitors during the day
Principal comments currently no handicapped parking at the school
currently 40 parking spaces on site; 65 staff members
increase in staff due to changes in programming, addition in programming
comment that schools were built without kitchens at one point; we try to do better now
architect that there is minor footprint savings by having it go up another story
plan of traffic is in Ashland; separating cars and buses
And that's it. Vote is June 2, 7 pm, at the school. 

Zombie charter bill is heading out! UPDATED

Pertinent to Clive McFarlane's column today: the zombie charter bill, H3984 is due to come to the House floor on Wednesday. You can see my notes on that bill here and here.
At this point, there's only one thing you can do: write to your reps and ask them to VOTE NO.

UPDATED (Tuesday): coming out of Ways and Means, it's now H4091. No major changes in language that I can see. Looks like some House members are hearing from their districts; check out those amendments! 

Saturday, May 17, 2014

So, about that transportation audit...

Let's talk about school buses for a bit, shall we?
We run them to get children to school so they can learn. If we take seriously the ideal of a free public education for all, we must take absolutely seriously any barriers to children getting that education. Most of our operations end of things deals with this: is the building comfortable for learning? are the kids hungry? do they have what they need to learn? and, yes, how do kids get there safely?

Unfortunately, that motivation is not one that is recognized in anyway by the transportation audit, which is appended to the City Council agenda for Tuesday (and came through in our School Committee Friday letter).
For those just joining the story, some members of the City Council have had concerns regarding the amount of money spent on transportation for the Worcester Public (and parochial and charter) Schools. Thus, last year, City Manager O'Brien included, and the City Council passed, $75,000 for a transportation audit; I've heard that it cost $50,000.
The audit was undertaken by School Bus Consultants, a nationwide consulting company, under the auspices of the City Auditor's department.
As this is the final year of our transportation contracts, I'd hoped that there might be suggestions in the report that could inform what we were looking for in the next round. Instead, the suggestions appear to ignore why we transport children, miss that it is children rather than cargo that we transport, fail to recognize choices that have been made for academic reasons, and, even after the extreme suggestions made, still can't project savings more than $1 million.
To take the report in the summary order from the City Auditor's office:
    They wish us to hire by a fee for service rather than fee for day structure, then they press to eliminate the services that happen during the day. If you've heard anything about WPS transportation, you've heard that once the bus leaves the bus yard, we've paid for it for the day. Thus as many as possible trips are squeezed into each individual bus to maximize use. They would instead have us pay per individual trip, eliminating all flexibility from the system (without additional cost), which enables us to meet needs as they occur during the year. This is a deliberate choice on the part of the Worcester Public Schools; the report sounds to me as though the consulting company is sure that only fee-per-trip can be right, regardless of need.
   The very first suggestion on routing is to hire an additional administrator just to route buses. They advance this notion despite the (acknowledged) excellent performance by Mr. Hennessey, because he does the routing and the managing. I will admit that I laughed out loud at this suggestion. Need I argue that if a single administrator does this job well, we need not hire a second?
     They don't like how we're using our routing software.
     They suggest looking at bell times for schools, which is fine; we can always look.
     They want us to formalize our walk distance for bus stops as a policy (I believe Dr. Friel will argue that this is in fact a procedure); I suspect this is so exceptions are not made. As exceptions are made only for safety reasons, I'm not sure that this is a very good idea, either.
     They want parents to register for transportation, and they want high school students who drive to opt out of transportation. In a district with a 40% mobility rate, I think they're overestimating what sort of ability to plan this is going to give us; I know it's going to be a lot more paperwork.
     The bit that I suspect is going to get the attention is this: "An analysis of the impact on providing regular education services for grades K through 6 only is provided." In other words, what if we cut transportation for grades 7-12? They claim that this would save the system $1 million. Can I suggest that cutting buses for 5 of the 13 grades we serve for 1/12 savings is not a great return?
Moreover, let's look at some of what those grade 7-12 buses do:
  • they allow us to have Worcester Technical High School
  • they allow us to have a K-12 arts magnet system
  • they allow us to have the Goddard Scholars program 
and, most importantly:
  • students who lack dependable access to school are at greater risk for not attending school and for dropping out. Cutting transportation for secondary students, particularly in a city like ours without citywide public transportation, puts the system at risk for higher rates of dropping out and non-completion.
Remember, it's about getting kids to school so that they can get an education. That's why we run the buses at all! 
The comparison they make--to the Council of Great Cities Schools--is not to our peer group of schools at all. Boston, for example, buses 33,000 students but does not provide buses for most of grades 7-12; it does so at the cost of $100 million a year and with a massive public transit system.
They also question the dispatch of buses, suggesting, for example, that we use too many buses for Worcester Arts Magnet School. Currently, we use six buses. They suggest using two. For a city that is close to 40 square miles, this is an impractical suggestion. We are transporting children, not sacks of flour.
In short, I'm not impressed, and I think a careful reading by anyone familiar with the system will prove likewise.

Entirely as a side note, the following from the cover memo is not true: "Costs to transport homeless students are reimbursed under the McKinney-Vento grant." The McKinney-Vento grant does not cover transportation of students; the state auditor has found that the Commonwealth should reimburse districts for this costs, something it thus far has not fully done. 

Friday, May 16, 2014

New assistant principal at Chandler Elementary

Received this afternoon from Superintendent Boone: Katherine Olney, current instructional coach at Forest Grove, has been appointed acting assistant principal at Chandler Elementary.
Also a reminder: as a level 4 school, this appointment is at sole discretion of the principal.  

Mass Budget on education: two updates

Mass Budget has looked at Senate Ways and Means, and has this on education:
in order to help schools better address substance abuse and mental health issues, the SWM budget creates a new $5.0 million grant program for hiring Substance Abuse Counselors.
...which is great.
The other note: the Senate increase in regional schools transportation is $16.8 million over the amount passed by the House, so it'll be interesting to see what happens with that.
Also, no foundation budget review commission in this one, so we'll have to hope on amendments.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

legal opinion

O'Connell: substantial discussions
concern in areas around the open meeting law in various areas
"at least get a legal opinion"
"worth at least an inquiry...series of one to one meetings"
imprimatur of meetings
"full meeting of the public to ask questions"
Boone: "I have already sought that legal opinion from the city solitctor"
having briefings with school committee members individual is appropriate
citing the open meeting law:
"There are three separate public conversations already scheduled for this session"
City Council : May 27, 4 pm
School Committee: June 5 and June 19, 4 pm
"the document has been highlight what aspects are there...the document is the document"
item filed, with a request that legal opinion be forwarded
Petty: "I know we're not in violation of that part!"

Legal counsel

O'Connell: times of Prop 2 1/2, share resources for school department by depending less on outside legal counsel
city solitictor office developing expertise in education law
sharing legal non-negotiation resources
Petty: I thought David Moore already did a lot of this for me
Boone: currently, the only outside counsel the schools use is negotiation and special education
"every member of our senior team has the law department on speed dial"
constantly working very closely with HR
"I would need some additional clarity on where we are not using them"
O'Connell: "had more of the work in combination litigation and negotiation"
"when we had more direct" role in administration
"student disciplinary matters"
Boone: I think my assessment is we are using the law department outside the areas identified
O'Connell: not using visibly using law department, areas in which we aren't using legal counsel and we should
Novick: motion to file
Foley: cover this basis very well
duplicate item, due to looking at cost savings and services
O'Connell: if item is pursued at standing committee
item withdrawn

home rule petition for civil service appointment status for custodians

because the state isn't giving the exams anymore
O'Connell: state said no plans in near future to conduct the test
"no prospect of ever achieving civil service status" for provisional status
could we ask Legislature to intervene?
Petty: would like to know what groups of people this affects (from City Manager)
Monfredo references Luster: last time we had this was in 2004, and worked for both city and school sides
requires vote of both School Committee, City Council, and agreement of Council
for bidding, seniority allows for bidding (not just civil service status)
only provision they don't have is access to sick leave bank
and we had a Jack Navin sighting!

administrative merger

consolidation of administrative functions
O'Connell: difficult economic times, look to save funds without loss of service
"one city initiative...overall benefit of all parties...look to accomplish more collectively"
"really suggesting at this look at jointly"
"no agenda in this item...refer without preconditions"
areas in which we can cooperate more
"I don't want this to be seen as editorial...want it to be referred without precondition"
"proving to the voters that we truly act and are 'one city'"
Petty: similar item on the Council on side
conversation..."willing to have more conversation"
Boone: services the schools can provide for the city
"employ nearly three times the staff that the city employs"
licensure of various items
"third largest employer in the city"
evaluation requirements in the city
Novick: procedural question: how to get information from city, for example, are they thinking of internally merging their own departments, as they have several human resources positions in various departments
Petty: meet and set ground rules
Monfredo: I can't type fast enough to write down his extensive list of HR responsibilities within the WPS
Biancheria: with facts and figures...innovations
depends on city for much...much licensure and much schooling
Foley: we welcome bringing this relationship to the joint committee
"clearly, this will not be done prior to the FY15 budget approval"
"unlikely that there would be significant dollars saved here...we could gain some effeciencies"
"no real pot of gold here"

Reading in Our City Week June 9-13. Go, and celebrate likewise!

Monfredo: have collected over 30,000 books for Worcester: A City That Reads
books going to schools, Head Start, summer schools
"if anyone's available tomorrow at 8:30, come on down to Worcester Technical garage and help sort!"
WRTA will have signs on the buses that week
signs up around the city
suggests holding a book swap at school prior to school being out

Committee member comments on innovation schools

learned tonight: "Confratute" is a conference/institute
I also was glad to see our district pushing forward with dual language (when the state, for example, is yanking that program in a Level 5 school), praised Goddard's neighborhood preschool reading program, asked what Goddard's plans were around expanding their governance team, expressed concern around Goddard Scholars' dependence on MCAS scores alone in admission, and I asked if we could be invited to the Gateway projects at UPCS
Foley: driving school based ownership and leadership
real appreciation that they can set the strategic direction for that school, especially around staffing
showing positive change and real positive results without significant money
replicable model throughout the district and throughout the state
O'Connell: send the PowerPoint around to other schools
"a great deal of work...for me, it involved very little work" so well thought out before it was available
"quality, caliber...of staff"
"exemplary staff devoting significant time well above and beyond the call of duty"
"give substantial deference to these programs"
"laboratories for us"
Monfredo: all eight schools are functioning well, doing a great job
"hard work and perseverance for this to take place"
Biancheria: "excellent, excellent, excellent report...all good news, great news!"
"not easy, looking for things to get through"
AP courses: do we have funding and supplies for the students that are coming up through?
Boone: expansion of advanced placement is intentional throughout the district
part of restructing of Claremont, expansion at UPCS
Calculus B/C and AP Environmental Studies added at Doherty due to a grant from student performance on PSAT (I think?)
revamp our science labs at the high school level
"absolutely, we will be able to accommodate"
"judicious in expansion" of sites as well as which course
Rodrigues: 21% increase in the number students taking AP tests this year
280 more students taking exams, as against last year
Biancheria: off-site internships, recommends reviewing service learning piece
Ramirez: "something quick, I promise!"
reduction of tardy rate at Goddard: "we can all learn from good work"
Boone: "even our innovation schools are part of our principal corps"
"constant sharing of what's working and what's not"

Innovation schools: presentations

Note that the presentation tonight is on the schools that are completing their innovation plans, which were for three years. You can find the presentation online here. Those schools are:

  • Chandler Magnet
  • Goddard School of Science and Technology
  • Goddard Scholars (at Sullivan Middle)
  • University Park Campus School
  • Woodland Academy
Boone: initial cycle report of the first round of innovation schools
new schools, conversion schools, academies
six areas of autonomies: curriculum, professional development, scheduling and calendar, staffing, budget, district policies
2011: 13 schools were innovation status--5 in Worcester, 4 conversion, 1 academy
full approval by School Committee after prospectus approved
"what makes the autonomies allow for something different in that school?"
required to report annually the progress of those schools
Governor Patrick: Claremont receiving innovation fellowship grant to prepare a full proposal to be considered by the School Committee
"we've taken on the aspect of innovation in a very serious manner in Worcester"
"show that a district can turn around its own schools without having an outside vendor come in and do it"

Chandler Magnet
Dual Language Program, K-6
reading and writing program; ELL strategies; metalinguistic strategies; block scheduling for grade level meetings; committee to select new staff
dual language students at benchmark in their native language as assessed by Fountas and Pinell; at or approaching benchmark in their second language
all contractual time flextible: "collective commitment and ownership" of plan
teachers trained in ELL and/or ESL
growth within student cohort
will expand dual language to 4th grade next year
expand use of visual materials and use of technology

Goddard School
new electronic report card
literacy module K-3; focus on writing across the content; 40 min targeted intervention; multi-sensory early literacy; AVID for elementary; committee to select new staff; faculty and community partners
not only gaining on literacy; knocking down tardiness
collegial rounds coming
revise governance board for broader representation
community partnership for after-school and summer

Goddard Scholars Academy (in Sullivan Middle)
cohort in grade 6
gifted and talented presentations;pre-AP training'flexible scheduling for enrichments
50% average family attendance at family events
broaden applications for admission
planning for a summer institute
increase grants and fundraising

rigorous course of studies for college readiness
redesign of senior year; training for new staff; gateway performances for grades 8,10,12; committee selects new faculty; summer transition academies; before school AP courses
increase in four year graduation rate: 89.7-->100%
now 114 AP students in 9 courses
further integrate technology; focus on umeracy; grants; partnerships for internships; expand APs

curriculum and professional development
monthly early release for professional development; teacher-led PD; full day preschool for 4 year olds; inclusion for special ed and ELL; supplementary innovation grants; direct oversight of student transfer; governance board
attendance has stabilized at 96%
increase to 87% of students "following core values"
student growth percentages higher than state and district on MCAS
increasing parent attendance at conferences
increase network with community partners; support for school (per demographics); increase opportunities for rounds and lessons; develop and refine student-specific Tier 2 interventions

reauthorization: can petition for extention of not more than 5 years
leadership convenes a stakeholder group to discuss revision and solict recommendations
stakeholder groups by June 20
present proposed changes to superintendent (as provided by statute)
present to School Committee by July 2014

Rodrigues: ownership of school community; commend for a job well done

What makes an ideal school?

The Mass School Building Authority has a contest every year for students called "My Ideal School." The winners are now posted on their website, and you get a good idea: it's not just a building, and it's not just teachers.

As promised: teacher position losses, school by school

After the account by account budget of the Worcester Public Schools, you can find the school by school budget. If you've ever wanted to know how much it costs to run your child's school, you can find it there.
It's also where the individual position changes, as proposed, are posted.
When I got the budget late last week, I ran through them and compiled a list of teacher position changes, school by school.
Please note: this is only assigned TEACHER positions; there are a myriad of other position changes as well.; there are also general some elementary positions held aside, pending summer assignment, thus not all of the math is here. Decisions are made based on enrollment and need.

(These are in budget order: high, middle, elementary, in sorta alphabetical order, which has to do with state school codes. Errors, should you find them, mine.)
Burncoat High
1 math
1 history
1 language
1 health
1 credit recovery
(up 1 business teacher)
net: 4.5 teachers lost

Doherty Memorial
1 English
1 math
1 health
(up 1 special ed teacher)
net: 2 teachers lost

North High
1 reading teacher
(up 1 math, 1 ELL, 1 language, 1 chapter 74, 2 special ed)
net: 5 teachers GAINED

South High
1 math
1 language
1 science
1 health
net: 4 teachers lost

Worcester Tech
1 math
1 science
4 chapter 74 teachers
1 special ed
net: 7 teachers lost

Claremont Academy
1 English
1 special ed
(up 1 ELL)
net: 1 teacher lost

University Park
1 wraparound coordinator

Burncoat Middle
1 math
1 reading lab
(up .5 ELL)
net: 1.5 teachers lost

Forest Grove
1 math
.5 ELL
1 language
1 student support
(up 1 special ed)
net: 2.5 teachers lost

Worcester East Middle
no change

Sullivan Middle
no change

Burncoat Prep
1 reading lab
net: 1 teacher lost

3 elementary
(up 1 ELL)
net: 2 teachers lost

Chandler Elementary
2 elementary
(up 2 ELL)
net: no change

Clark Street
1 elementary
net: 1 teacher lost

Columbus Park
net: 1 teacher lost

Flagg Street
1 special education
.5 ELL
net: 1.5 teachers lost

2 elementary
1 reading lab
net: 6 teachers lost

City View
1 elementary
1 preschool
net: 3 teachers lost

Gates Lane
.5 ELL
(up 1 special ed)
net: .5 teacher lost

Grafton Street
1 elementary
(up 1 ELL)
net: no change

Heard Street
.5 ELL
net: .5 teacher lost

Lake View
no change

Jacob Hiatt
1 elementary
net: 2 teachers lost

Lincoln Street
1 elementary
1 reading lab
net: 2 teachers lost

May Street
1 special ed
net: 1 teacher lost

Midland Street
no change

Nelson Place
2 elementary
(up 2 special ed)
net: no change

3 elementary
net: 8 teachers lost

1 reading lab
net: 1 teacher lost

Rice Square
2 elementary
(up 1 ELL)
net: 1 teacher lost

3 elementary
(up 1 ELL)
net: 2 teachers lost

Worcester Arts Magnet
(up: 1 elementary)
net 1 teacher GAINED

Tatnuck Magnet
1 elementary
net: 1 teacher lost

no change

Union Hill
1 elementary
1 health
1 reading lab
(up .4 lead teacher)
net 2.6 teachers lost

Vernon Hill
1 elementary
2 preschool but I'm told that this remains to be assigned; Vernon Hill isn't losing preschool
net at least 1 elementary

Wawecus Road
no change

1 elementary
net: 1 teacher lost

West Tatnuck
1 elementary
net: 1 teacher lost

Chandler Magnet
1 elementary
2.5 ELL
2 special ed
1 reading lab
net: 6.5 teachers lost

Woodland Academy
(up 3 ELL teachers)
net: 3 teachers GAINED

Belmont Community
(up 2 ELL)
net: 2 teachers GAINED

Elm Park
1 reading lab
(up 1 elementary)
net: no change

Alternative at St. Casimir
no change

New Citizens
(up 1 ELL)
net: up 1 teacher

Creamer Center
1 history
1 other
net: 2 teachers lost

Challenge and Reach
(up 1 history)
net: 1 teacher GAINED

Chandler Magnet Academic Center for Transition (ACT)
(up 1 special ed)
net: 1 teacher GAINED

Against "innovation"

Give it a read.

Worcester School Committee meets tonight!

sorry for the late post on this: a lot came through with the Friday packet!
You can find the agenda here.
If you start at the end of the agenda, you'll see why executive session is scheduled for 5:30: we have several updates on collective bargaining (I think these are the only remaining open contracts), an update on litigation, and three disciplinary hearings.
Public session begins at 7, with several recognitions.
The Superintendent's report tonight is on innovation schools. Note that these are just the schools that are completing their three year innovation plans this year, not the ones approved since then. It appears from the presentation that all plan to ask for another round; we'll be getting those plans and voting on them in July.
We have the two meetings earlier this week reporting out (my notes on accountability; notes on governance).
A few retirements coming through.
We have two reports on summer programs within and without the schools.
We have a report on the temporary learning centers.
Mr. O'Connell is making several familiar budget-related request around merging or directing use.
A few requests for recognition: the Health Care Career Expo, the Rotary club awards, the 58th annual arts festival (up at the library through the end of the month; go see!), Burncoat High's TAMY nominations for their musical, and (good catch, Mr. O'Connell!) our own Jack Foley, who received the Harrold Award for Community Leadership of the United Way of Central Massachusetts.  
We're being asked to receive the SHINE initiative grant for $5000 for mental health training. 
Burncoat High has a new scorer's table for their gym!
I've asked that we get the capital budget when the City Council does.
And Mr. O'Connell is concerned that individual school committee members could somehow be violating the Open Meeting Law by meeting with administration on the budget (note to those who don't know: an individual member of a board can't violate the OML; it takes a quorum deliberating something under their purview, either together or in sequence)

Tonight at 7!

Senate Ways and Means

While I await the analysis of the Mass Budget and Policy Center for more, a few notes on the Senate Ways and Means budget that came out yesterday.

  • Remember when the press talks about an increase in education funding, they usually mean relative to last year, not relative to Governor Patrick's proposed budget or to House Ways and Means. In this case, Chapter 70 is fully funded, the $25/pupil minimum increase is funded, so we're about where we were on basic funding for education.
  • The charter reimbursement is funded at the same level as it is in the passed House budget, at $80 million. That's still short of DESE's estimate of $104 million for full funding for FY15, but we're making progress.
  • The circuit breaker (which provides reimbursement funds for particularly expensive out-of-district tuition for students with special needs) is up a bit in funding from the House budget (hard to estimate what that means, as it's done on the basis of submitted tuition statements).
  • The big news, that you may well have caught yesterday, is that Senator Brewer is proposing 90% reimbursement for regional transportation. That's great news for the regionals--they regionalized based on the promise of transportation being fully reimbursed, which it never is--but note that it does not affect Worcester. We receive no state funding for transportation (unless they reimburse us for transportation for students who are homeless, under McKinney-Vento. But nothing on general transportation).
More when we hear from Mass Budget!