Thursday, December 31, 2015

That's not how this works (on funding the FBRC report)

From a Bay State Banner interview with Governor Baker in which he commented that his budget is going in the right direction:
In this 2016 fiscal year, the Baker administration put an additional $111 million into Chapter 70 funding, which helps support district schools and is tapped to support charter schools. This represents a 3 percent increase — the highest amount the state has ever provided to municipalities, says the Baker administration. 
The increase is not great enough to bring baseline school funding to the levels they should be within one year but may be on track to close the gap in four years, according to the recommendations of the Foundation Budget Review Commission.* 
No, it isn't.

The increase in last year's Chapter 70 funding was largely caused by two things: changes in enrollment (more kids plus more kids with special education or ELL needs, and other foundation level changes) and inflation (which last year was 1.5%). That chapter 70 increase also includes the minimum increase given to non-foundation communities, which last year was $25/pupil**.

The enrollment changes, the inflation rate which should be observed and the years in which it was not (the rate is negative; inflation isn't), and, I suspect, the communities which receive the minimum increase aren't going to vanish because someone decided to deal with the Foundation Budget Review Commission Report. Further, none of those things are dealt with in the two cost drivers specifically cited by the Banner: special education and health insurance.
The costs in the FBRC are OVER AND ABOVE the minimum regular foundation budget increases. So, no, last year's much-touted $111 million increase over four years isn't going to cover the needs of the FBRC, or even of the two biggest drivers of the FBRC.

But there are a couple of things that I'd suggest the Legislature could be working on even this year around starting to deal with the report:

  • Inflation: a slightly negative inflation rate in no way reflects the actual costs of running a school districts. Whether the state decides to change how this rate is calculated--and I would suggest that they should--this year, when the accepted rate is set at something slightly negative, but the general budgetary assumption should be something more than 2%, would be an excellent chance for the Legislature to make up some of the ground lost in the years the state set the rate otherwise. 
  • Low income: as I've hammered on at some length, unless the state intends to go for yet another year of using everyone's old numbers (which I believe puts some districts on FY14 numbers), they need to redefine low income in the MGL. Given the substantial negative changes some districts saw in their numbers, I'm not sure that, say, Worcester's estimate would fly. The Legislature should recognize, however, that if there are a substantial number of kids being missed through the Economically Disadvantaged calculation, they're being missed for more than a calculation on lunch, and there needs to be a broader (not-just-DESE) effort to find them. Then maybe numbers like WPS (and others) would work.
  • ELL: This is the only one in which a clear number change tied to particular kids was part of the report. That's as straightforward as it gets.
I've heard a number of suggestions that the state could only have the sort of funding needed to substantively deal with the report if the Fair Share amendment passes. Maybe. The concern there is it kicks the whole issue out a few years. The school districts still have kids to educate and budgets to balance now, though; it can't wait.
Don't believe, however, that having the regular chapter 70 increases is somehow magically going to do that.

*The phrasing here is a little deceptive; I don't think the paper intends to suggest that the report said that the gap could be closed this way in four years, but it could easily be read that way.
**Note that this is not actually part of the foundation budget in any way.

2016-18 standing committee assignments for Worcester School Committee

Accountability and Student Achievement: Chair Biancheria, Vice Chair Colorio, O’Connell
Finance and Operations: Chair Foley, Vice Chair McCullough, Colorio
Governance and Employee Issues: Chair Monfredo, Vice Chair Biancheria, Foley
Teaching, Learning and Student Supports: Chair O’Connell, Vice Chair Monfredo, McCullough

Restorative justice in NH

It's worth reading this Atlantic article about restorative justice at one high school in New Hampshire. What I found most useful is the comment about what doesn't work:
Kathy Evans, an assistant professor at Eastern Mennonite University, which offers a graduate certification program in restorative justice for educators, shares Rotherham’s concerns. Restorative justice can’t exist in a vacuum, Evans said. Schools also have to address the campus-climate issues that contribute to student behavior. 
Quantifying the number of schools using restorative justice is difficult. In addition to the large-scale district programs that have been well-documented, many teachers are opting to use the model in their individual classrooms. That’s one of the reasons why a group of restorative-justice advocates and educators met last summer to begin outlining plans for a national association, according to Evans. The goal is to support grassroots efforts and to ensure that there’s both consistency and accountability for restorative-justice programs in schools. 
Evans said she observed a restorative-justice circle at a school recently in which the students were still looking to the teacher for permission to speak. That’s a red flag, she said. 
“Educators do this quick-and-dirty one-day training and they think they’re qualified to do restorative-justice work—they’re doing the best they can with what they do know,” she said. “But the circles are supposed to equalize the power and give students the right to speak. That didn’t happen.”

Monday, December 28, 2015

9C cuts...

You may have missed it in your holiday planning, but, bad news:
Despite growing revenues, Gov. Charlie Baker is still considering mid-year budget cuts.
...and I've heard from multiple places that it's pretty serious consideration.
As a reminder, 9Cs can only be made by the Governor in Executive office spending:
The Governor can only use 9C powers to cut funding in parts of the government that are under his control—in other words, his 9C authority extends only to the executive branch agencies. The Governor cannot use 9C authority to cut local aid, the courts, the Legislature, or other constitutional offices. The Governor can file legislation recommending cuts to those other areas of the budget. The legislature can then pass a law with those cuts, or with other cuts, new revenue, or the use of reserves.
You might remember that we went through this earlier this year at the end of February. Worcester Public Schools lost half a million dollars in one fell swoop, and with a midyear cut, the impact is double.
Should Governor Baker hit Quality K this year again, if your district is on this list, they'll get hit. 

Funding matters

Excellent post from Bruce Baker today on how school funding really does matter ('though that doesn't make the headlines). Note that examples are taken from our own history in Massachusetts on progressive education funding:
Three studies of Massachusetts school finance reforms from the 1990s found similar results. The first, by Thomas Downes and colleagues found that the combination of funding and accountability reforms “has been successful in raising the achievement of students in the previously low-spending districts.” (Downes, Zabel & Ansel, 2009, p. 5) The second found that “increases in per-pupil spending led to significant increases in math, reading, science, and social studies test scores for 4th- and 8th-grade students.”(Guryan, 2001) The most recent of the three, published in 2014 in the Journal of Education Finance, found that “changes in the state education aid following the education reform resulted in significantly higher student performance.”(Nguyen-Hoang & Yinger, 2014, p. 297)
...but that we are among the states that have lost significant ground over the past several years in how we funding education.

It's worth noting that in their reaction to the passage of ESSA, the Education Law Foundation called out funding equity as something Congress missed:
Most states are shortchanging schools the funding and programs needed to give all children the chance to succeed, especially the growing numbers of children in poverty in districts and states across the country. Millions of children in our state systems attend schools deprived of the teachers, support staff and other resources essential to learning. 
While creating the foundation budget in 1993 worked, it's past time to update it.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Superintendent search firms

The standing committee on Finance and Operations has their final meeting of the year tomorrow at noon to make a recommendation to the School Committee on a search firm for the superintendent's search. This will report out at the School Committee's first meeting on January 21; both F&O and the first vote of the Committee will be in executive session, then there will be a public vote of the full Committee.

The firms who have submitted proposals are:
  • Ray and Associates, Cedar Rapids, IA
  • Hazard, Young, Attea, and Associates, Schaumburg, IL
  • McPherson and Jacobson, Omaha, NE
  • Atlantic Research, Jacksonville, FL

  • In Googling, here's what I've found about each (with no commentary from me):

    Ray and Associates were just hired to handle the Houston superintendent search (on a split vote) and are currently doing the Topeka, Kansas search, with some notable recommendations around salaries.  They are among three firms that applied to handle the Ohio state superintendent search; they conducted the Michigan state superintendent search earlier this year; that had six finalists and resulted in a Michigan superintendent getting the job. More locally, they handled the Longmeadow search, which resulted in their hiring a former district principal, the superintendent in Hampden-Wilbraham Regional. Last year, they conducted the Palm Beach superintendent search, in which the base fee was nearly doubled by expenses charged to the district, including when they came to be interviewed initially (before being hired). They are conducting the Joliet, IL search, where the question of expenses came up upon their being hired. They led the DeKalb County (GA) search back in 2011, in which two of the three finalists had been searched for their current positions by the firm, which could be an aberration except it came up again in their Fort Worth search earlier this year; Fort Worth eventually hired someone else, after two rounds of a search, both of which yielded a single finalist. They were also the search firm for the Albuquerque superintendent search last spring; the superintendent resigned two months later.

    Hazard, Young, Attea, and Associates also have applied to lead the Ohio state superintendent search. Locally, they did the initial vetting of the Boston search; they did the Cambridge search, which had three Massachusetts finalists. They also did the Minneapolis search, which resulted in former Holyoke superintendent Sergio Paez being voted in (though contract negotiations are currently on hold); Paez was one of the three Cambridge finalists. They are currently conducting searches for Bedford, NYStamford, CTLaguna Beach, CA; and Minooka, IL. They are also currently conducting the Los Angeles search, which has now reached the initial interview stage. They conducted the Highland Park, IL search, in which the district hired someone who failed to disclose that she was an associate of the firm; she resigned before starting the job. The district hired an interim superintendent and hired a new search firm. It looks as though that isn't the first time that sort of conflict has come up with HYA.

    McPherson and Jacobson are currently conducting searches for Othello, WA; Pleasanton, CA; Rogers, AK; Ottumwa, IA; Grand Island, NE; Rapid City, ND ; Lawrence, KS; and Kyrene, AZ. Last year, they conducted the search for Sequim (WA) superintendent, in which the committee passed on the two finalists and hired their current interim. Similarly, the Learning Community Council in Omaha, NE passed on two finalists forwarded by the firm and hired an interim; they'll have the firm conduct a new search.

    Atlantic Research Partners now own parts of what was SUPES Academy in their National Superintendents Academy; SUPES was part of the kickback scandal that engulfed former Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett; Atlantic has also been consultants for Chicago's school improvement grants (see the first link). Some of the same people (as Atlantic) are involved in Chicago's Acceleration Academies, which are charter schools (see the mention of Distinctive Schools here), and the Sun-Times tracks some connections and contracts back to Ron Huberman, who was CPS CEO prior to Byrd-Bennett. They are currently doing the Brookline superintendent search; Jim Huge, under Huge and Associates, which was acquired by Atlantic last summer, did the Salem search; it appears to be when Atlantic picked up superintendent searches. They do other sorts of school consulting, (appear to focus on it) as well, like the recent Santa Fe, NM study of middle schools, or their drop-out recruitment plan for the same district

    Wednesday, December 23, 2015

    U.S. Department of Ed puts Massachusetts on "high risk"

    h/t to EdWeek for catching the federal government's reaction to the Mass Board of Ed's vote on testing last month: they're putting our Title I, Part A (that's the part that goes to the state, not districts) on "high risk" because we aren't doing a single test. EdWeek has the full letter here.
    That isn't entirely a surprise, as you might recall that last year's waiver was only conditional on our adopting a single test for this coming spring...which we didn't do. The fed already wasn't happy that we hadn't made up our mind, already, for this past spring; no surprise their patience is out with a lack of a decision for this one.
    Somewhat surprisingly, this did not come up at the Board of Ed meeting, either as part of the presentation, nor through Board member questions.
    And, yes, waivers are still the operating principal until August, under ESSA's passage. 
    The open question I saw circulating yesterday was: didn't the Commissioner check this with U.S. DoE prior to proposing it to the Board? And, was this all a ploy to make the federal government the bad guys and have everyone in the state take PARCC? The Globe has the beginnings of an answer to the second question this morning:
    “I do not believe that the US Department of Education putting us on ‘high risk’ status is sufficient reason for us to change our plans to offer districts a choice between assessments in spring 2016 and to create a new, next-generation assessment for spring 2017,” he said in a statement.
     Chester said state education officials value their collaboration with the federal government, but “there are times when partners will disagree.”
     “When that happens, our first and foremost obligation is to do what is right for Massachusetts,” he said in the statement. “We will submit a request for reconsideration, but regardless of the outcome, we will implement the thoughtful plan on which our board voted.”
    You can take our money, but you'll never take our...right. Maybe that's only round one, and someone starts yelling about the lack of DESE services if they lose that kind of money; we'll see.

    Per Jackie Reis, DESE receives about $2.1 million a year through Title I, Part A.
    I'll update if I hear more.

    Monday, December 21, 2015

    Last words

    If you were looking for some last words from me on the Worcester School Committee, go to 9:28 left in the meeting.
    If I get a chance, I'll type up my notes at some point. 


    No doubt you've heard that the federal omnibus (budget) passed and was signed. I've continued to hear that school aid is up, and even that Title I is up, but there's a whole lot in there, and I've been searching for a greater level of detail.
    Via EdWeek, I found it; the Committee for Education Funding (whom you can follow on Twitter) has a nice breakdown of not only the level that passed, but also the levels proposed at various stages and the levels at previous years.
    And that first line sure does look like Title I is level funded. And remember: if you're funding much of anything, but most particularly salaries, level funding is a cut, assuming any kind of contractual increase. 
    As you scroll down, do note the footnotes.
    What this means for any given district or school remains to be seen, of course, as Title I grants vary by school enrollment and awards won't be known until next summer. But how much money there is over all certainly will make a difference.
    I'll keep an eye out on this and post again should I find more. 

    Some reading from over the weekend

    Should you have missed them:

    Friday, December 18, 2015

    Dolores Gribouski's farewell

    Dr Gribouski took her minutes of her school committee goodbye to give a clear rundown on what those in the  Quadrant office (and the offices they work with) do. I post it here for perspective. 

    Thank you for your kind words.

    I truly have experienced a wonderful career with the Worcester Public Schools  - as a student, teacher, principal, and as a Quadrant Manager for Curriculum, Instruction and School Leadership.

    In each of these roles I have had the opportunity to learn with and from remarkable, dedicated colleagues and to work diligently with them to guide the educational journeys of our students.

    However, I know that the depth and breadth of my work over the last five years as Quadrant Manager truly has had the most impact on the lives of our staff, students and families.

    WPS/WPD MOU is now online

    If that's too many acronyms: the Memorandum of Understanding between the Worcester Public Schools and the Worcester Police Department is now online.
    This was announced in this week's Creating Connections from Dr. Rodrigues and is posted here.
    Not much to it.

    Thursday, December 17, 2015

    Spring 2016 assessment

    The list is here.
    Biancheria: know we've talked about this in the past few weeks
    when you made this determination, was there discussion with the principals?
    Rodrigues: rule from spring 2016 is following: schools that administered PARCC this past year, will administer PARCC again this year. Schools that administered MCAS had a choice
    Principals' choice
    O'Connell: understanding we provided the principals a one way choice; I understand that has been the viewpoint of the Department of Education at this point
    would it be appropriate for us to ask state to let schools go back to MCAS?
    Rodrigues: had a lengthy conversation with Commissioner about this at the urban superintendent network
    only choice is to do paper or computer version
    a whole different test in 2017
    O'Connell: was there any effort made to get schools that did PARCC last year do MCAS
    Rodrigues: yes (and they got nowhere)
    Novick: concerned that schools staying with MCAS, particularly those that are Level 2, have a greater chance than usual of sinking a level
    did schools know that?
    Rodrigues: yes, was part of the conversation
    Novick: notice that we're going all paper: is there a reason?
    Rodrigues: state unwilling to give a response to difference between paper and computer, so crunched numbers. Our district and others have noticed a real difference
    Novick: would hope can share with us and with the state

    Items passes

    School safety and security assessment report

    Good Harbor Techmark presenting their report
    (they have a PowerPoint; the report they gave us is here)

    Worcester School Committee: public petition on student arrests

    The petition is here. 
    Gordon Davis speaking:
    have lived in Worcester for 47, 48 years now, kids went to Worcester Public Schools
    petition that a policy be set by this school committee set today or in the very near future that no student be arrested

    PARCC/MCAS supplemental agenda

    We received this afternoon a supplemental agenda: the school-by-school recommendations for testing for spring 2016. I've put the backup for this here.
    As a reminder: Worcester is one of three districts that has been allowed to make the decision school-by-school. All high schools have to stay with MCAS. Schools that took PARCC last year have to stay with PARCC. Any school that took MCAS last year may decide to stay with it or to switch to PARCC.
    Decisions on this are due to DESE at the end of this week. 

    MassBudget discussion on the Foundation Budget Review Commission

    Opening with this quote from Horace Mann:
    Having no other mines to work, Massachusetts has mined into the human intellect; and, from its limitless resources, she has won more sustaining and enduring prosperity and happiness than if she had been founded on a stratification of silver and gold, reaching deeper down than geology has yet penetrated...From her earliest colonial history the policy of Massachusetts has been to develop the minds of all her people, and to imbue them with the principles of duty. To do this work most effectually, she has begun it with the young. If she would continue to mount higher and higher toward the summit of prosperity, she must continue the means by which her present elevation has been gained. In doing this, she will not only exercise the noblest prerogative of government, but will cooperate with the Almighty in one of his sublimest works.
    Connection between level of taxation and economic strength: there is no correlation!
    Interesting to look at education: better educated workforce is correlated with stronger economy. Virtually no outliers (Alaska and West Virginia are the two; if you have coal or oil, you're an exception)
    "The way to have a stronger economy IS to have a better educated workforce"
    35 years ago, the picture was different (look at Michigan auto plants, for example)
    early education, access to health care, other supporting systems working
    "important to strengthen our economy in twenty to thirty years"
    "it's not going to take one thing, it's going to take these things working together"
    covering early education, wraparound services, and extended learning time
    early ed: students are going to be better set-up for success; for parents, have a standard place for kids to go, where they'll be safe and well-cared for
    kids will have higher rates of employment
    programs need to have small class sizes, developmentally appropriate curriculum, appropriate facilities
    about a third of low income kids in MA lack publicly supported pre-K
    (and more kids who don't have public support above that threshhold)
    quality pre-K cost exceeds EEC subsidies and foundation budget
    "getting to the quality that we need" means getting from (to use NJ) from $5K to $1 3K
    in some schools, 50-60-70% (or higher) kids coming from low income background
    set of programs doing something about it, integrated with schools, sometimes co-located with schools
    health service clinics, mental health services, prevention, wellness, family resource centers
    "not effective to ask the same people to do more work"
    "not just in moving social indicators but also the academics"
    $1300 in cost per student (total statewide cost of $468M)
    increased learning time
    highest income families are spending $9800 per year per kid on enrichment out of school
    "this is where policy can come in and level the playing field"
    "you have to not just do more of the same"
    "great opportunity for, not just for kids to get extra support, for teachers to work together"
    improved academics combined with engaging enrichment
    also working with wraparound services
    citing $1600 for ELT, summer, after-school ($575M)
    higher ed: for tuition free community colleges and state universities
    net cost of $325M

    what are the most important things we could do?
    I'll give names if I know them; apologies otherwise
    someone from early childhood: if the focus on what happens at zero-three a little more strongly, but in a way that also engages parents as partners
    build skills that make them more successful at this level
    kids learn early, pretty significant savings down the road
    member of the Hingham School Committee: education funded by the local towns (Hingham is a minimum aid community); schools don't necessarily get that money
    important for towns to understand that
    Norma Shapiro: local level important to understand that much of the research that has been done has been done in urban areas
    "the place that it really makes a difference is in the urban communities"
    "majority of the students that living in Massachusetts live in those urban communities"
    successful economy, success of children in urban communities are tied together
    particularly important for state to support urban schools
    former Rep. Alice Wolfe: how can you actually disseminate the information adequately to the towns and throughout the state
    "before we have a ballot question...we have to have the messenging done really well"
    so the decisions are really made wisely
    otherwise opportunity will be wasted
    UMass: someone who would say you should do this tomorrow
    fear you may have oversold the advantages of education
    median wages (and economic inequality)
    if you correct graph for cost of living, suspect graph might not be so steep in gains
    connection seems important in figuring that out
    "education often presented as a's not"
    "a lot of other things outside of education are important as well"
    MassBudget: inequitities are because our top earners do better, not that our low income people do worse
    prof at Northeastern Law (MassBudget board): resisted urge to add up numbers and add another $1B to take care of the low-hanging fruit first
    which produces the greatest benefit per buck?
    MassBudget: not a scientific answer

    One option for generating revenue for generating this thing
    state collecting a smaller share of economic outlook today than in the early 90's
    largely due to changes in the personal income tax
    "cost around $3B a year in lost revenue"
    income tax rate, dividends & interest, personal exemptions
    weak wage growth, and a lot of the growth that has happened has gone to top 1%
    "not the way the economy has to function, not the way the economy has always functioned"
    how does that effect revenue?
    "sometimes termed an 'upside down structure'"
    the bottom 99% pays a higher share of taxes: 9.4%
    top 1% 6.5%
    most of that is the sales tax
    $2B lost from top level is gap discussed
    proposed constitutional amendment to additional 4% rate to any income over $1M
    raise about $1.7B in new annaul income dedicated to education and transportation
    makes system more fair (though there would be a 1.4% gap remaining)
    rate only applies to any dollar over $1M
    federal government will reimburse about 1/3 of that (as funds paid to state are deduced from federal income)
    most states tax higher rates of income at higher levels
    Massachusetts would be in line with NY, VT, DC, NJ if it passed

    Chelsea superintendent: gap is huge, need is huge
    "our needs are great and the money is not there"
    "where does this intersect with the foundation budget review seems like the the report was the tree falling the forest: it's big and nobody heard it"
    now getting review of FBRC said, which I'm skipping notes on

    and yes, then I kicked the question of "what about this year?" up, with a suggestion that a negative inflation year, if budgeted as a regular inflation year, gave the state potential room to make progress on something (I suggested inflation); they also should at least discuss how to make low income work
    Noah Berger from MassBudget agreed that the inflation suggestion was a possibility

    something of a piecemeal review of history of the foundation budget
    FairShare amendment is three years away: "I don't think we can wait...I think we need to be thinking of strategies to move this forward" sooner
    Hingham rep: "the answer was 'we don't have any money'"
    "if we can get the leadership together to agree to get together and agree to start chipping away at start building on it and tackling it"

    Tom Scott, MASS Executive Director:
    special ed and health insurance are funds that we are required to fund
    have to pull money away from other programs: "limited number of places for school committees to go"
    "expression coming of 'how long can this path continue?'"
    "we talk about Chelsea and our large urban districts...we have a lot of suburban communities that have an urban experience"
    social-emotional development number one need for communities
    Chelsea "where is the moral imperative?"
    MassBudget: don't look at us, we're a research organization

    MassBudget interesting first step on foundation budget on inflation factor, as it is a negative factor this year:
    "that could create an opportunity...does open up some space...there is that extra room"

    Barbara Madeloni: change the conversation
    begin to talk about the kind of schools our kids need
    social-emotional needs of our kids
    begin to make income inequality a critical issue in public education
    "need to be deeply democratic conversations at the school committee level"
    experience of people in their daily lives, and how does that impact the experience of young people in the classroom
    giving us some aspirational goals for this
    "There's a lot of powerful people at this table, and we have the power to do this."

    Shea (from Senator Chang-Diaz's office): how are we going to pay for it? but not in FY17 in the FairShare amendment
    concerned about losing momentuum
    Senate increased earned income tax credit; took away a tax credit that no one had ever heard of
    "there are other ways to do this in the short term"
    "needs to start thinking of incremental ways that we can move the dial"

    Boston Children's Hospital
    changing tide of divestment in our kids to help them really be successful

    one place that we as a community may want to be looking for resources
    $1B in state tax benefit for business investment: research that shows that they're at best marginally successful
    early childhood much more successful

    Dave Verdolino, MASBO: if we're trying to convince taxpayers in this state that more resources...early childhood, you leverage that investment for the next twelve years
    that's the impetius for having people get behind why we need to spend more money
    "that's a universal thing"

    Norma Shapiro: how do we convince people on this? fewer and fewer households without children
    many more people who have no connection to the school system
    MassBudget: people have the sense that why Massachusetts is a good place to live is the education system
    making that point that investment now in education is going to shape the economy

    Board of Ed summary

    I send this out to the School Committee and MASC list-serv every month. Posting here for those who might find it of interest.

    The Board of Ed met Tuesday, and while, the main item on their agenda was the accountability report, their focus was much more on individual districts and schools.
    Notes on opening comments by the Commisioner, Chair, and Secretary
    Notes on public comments  which were either on charter schools facing some form of action or on the proposed computer science and digital literacy standards
    The update on Holyoke which happens monthly not surprisingly focused mainly on the recent report on conditions for students at the Peck school; the Board in particular was concerned that they hadn't heard more from the Commissioner earlier, particularly as the district is under state receivership.
    The presentation on accountability levels was fairly brief. While they didn't mention the increased risk of MCAS schools falling, they did mention the increased chance of PARCC schools rising.
    The presentation on Southbridge did not recommend that they be put in state receivership, but (as someone who has now heard several rounds of these discussions) it sure sounds as though it is headed that way. There's a link there to the report; I'd strongly recommend reading the section on school committee leadership starting at page 20 in the PDF.
    The initial presentation of the proposed digital literacy/computer science standards was at this meeting; the proposal is for them to go out for public comment in January. 

    As per usual, errors mine, questions welcome. I also do have paper copies of the PowerPoint presentations, should anyone be interested in shots of those.

    Tuesday, December 15, 2015

    Foundation Budget Review Commission: Board of Ed

    Chester turns it over to Wulfson, Hatch, and King
    Wulfson who explains FBRC, which I'm not going to take notes on
    creating a constitutional obligation for the Commonwealth to support its public schools
    cites $800M change of the foundation budget on sped and health insurance
    change on local spending may not be an increase (they may already be funding at that level)
    need to be phased in over time
    "just recommendations at this point in time...go to Governor and the Legislature for this point in time"
    step up our efforts to collect detailed and useful data on how districts are spending their dollars "from a program management standpoint"
    wide differences in how districts spend their money
    "potential additional funding is not unlimited"
    Stewart: ELL and economically disadvantaged
    "seems at least ELL seems relatively easy to figure it out, organizing it is going to be a challenge"
    Wulfson: two areas that the commission highlighted as a priority
    health insurance and special ed are mandatory: already getting budgeted
    not looking to drive dollars into those categories, but dollars in budget for other activities can be freed
    "sort of a domino effect"
    Doherty: fair to say that we can always spend our money more wisely
    pretty clear that the Commission feels the foundation budget ought to be increased
    "bottom line is, if we are really going to fulfill our responsibility Constitutionally, we need more money"
    would like to consider something:this board ought to be wrestling with funding issues
    ballot inititative to raise the tax on millionaires
    think the Board of Ed would be right to ENDORSE this
    Chester: question of if it is appropriate, "which I guess would have a legal dimension to it and maybe a policy dimension"
    will do some homework
    "certainly the Board has in my tenure here has supported, encouraged, particular legislation"
    Stewart: I know most of our budget is ch 70
    Wulfson: like 95% of it is Ch 70
    Stewart: "maintenance" in the budget going forward?
    Wulfson: maintenance budget is part of the exercise that agencies go through with finance
    "what are we required to do by law?"
    level funding or built in increases (like circuit breaker)
    collective bargaining increases would be built into maintenance
    Stewart: there's some percentage going forward in next budget
    Wulfson: ch 70 gets a lot of special attention
    "inflation adjustment we always built into our preliminary estimate" though it is very low this year
    (in fact it is negative this year)
    per pupil minimum aid is not part of maintenance (as it isn't part of ch 70)
    Wulfson: whether we have enough to move forward with any of these proposals remains to be seen
    Chester: FBRC is not a report to this body; we can revisit it if the Board wants
    Moriarty: would absolutely highlight the second paragraph in the conclusions: has to be more frequently reviewed

    Digital Literacy standards

    the backup is here
    Chester: "great effort and a great advocacy of this public/private partnership"
    students consuming and creating information
    creating and modifying technology
    technology in several different contexts

    "our work is focused on the standards, which provides the foundation of what we're doing"
    "how public education should embrace computing"
    "work together to introduce computing more broadly to every student in the state at every grade level"
    hasn't been a lot of controversy: "everyone just is saying 'how'"
    fluency in uses and impact of technology for living, learning, and working
    huge gap between number of job postings and number of graduates in computer science
    "computing historically has not been part of STEM"
    disproportiate enrollment of white males
    moving forward towards formal adoption: public comment in January with adoption proposed for spring

    four strands proposed:
    • computing and society
    • digital tools and collaboration
    • computing systems
    • computational systems
    practices: connecting, creating, abstracting, analyzing, communcating, collaborating, and researching

    grade span standards, flexibility for schools, no plan to mandate assessment
    a lot of the societal impact stuff will evolve over time and will need to be updating
    are designed to be "integratable" with other courses


    Chester: received last week final district review
    declared underperforming in 2004
    pretty alarming review
    visiting district Friday
    "I ran into no one...who called into question the findings of the review"
    "nothing in my visit suggested to me that the review was inaccurate"

    Board of Ed: accountability levels

    includes 45 commendation schools
    about half of the commendation schools had taken MCAS and half had taken PARCC
    growing number of districts that historically have had schools in level 3 that no longer have schools that are no longer in level 3
    one new Level 4 school: Madison Park
    four schools have left Level 4: two in Lawrence, one in Springfield, one in Worcester
    now need to provide with exit assurance plans

    Holyoke update

    backup for this is here
    and golly, do we have a lot of people here for this today!

    Chester: Disability Law foundation report  on allegations of abuse at Peck

    Board of Ed public comments

    first comments from some from Dorchester Collegiate Charter
    headmaster and Board chair
    "hear today not to ask you to vote against Commissioner's recommendations"
    asks that they be allowed to continue:
    three points:
    1. unique mission to address students who have struggled (requiring counseling in many cases)
    2. significant growth in MCAS: level 2 school
    3. strong academic program in place

    Board of Ed meets at 8:30: opening remarks

    They'll start, as usual, with comments from the Chair, Commissioner, and Secretary. Full agenda is here
    Posting as we go once we start
    Sagan comments that they will be short two members today (so far Craven, Doherty, Fryer, and Noyce are not here; Noyce and Fryer not expected)

    Monday, December 14, 2015

    School Committees matter

    I just read through the DESE report on Southbridge. While there are certainly some parts that are debatable (like, I read the whole report and I'm still not clear on what they mean by "rigorous" for classes; writing objectives on the board isn't it), the overwhelming sense I came away with was how much school committees can matter.
    The section on district governance starts on page 20 of the PDF.
    To wit:
    Of course, the most obvious source of discord has been the inability of the school committee to thoughtfully select a permanent superintendent. The trauma of a problematic superintendent search in 2010 is still fresh, and the recent selection of a superintendent without a bona fide search, followed by his subsequent departure shortly thereafter, has done nothing to alleviate the public perception that the school committee cannot execute this basic responsibility. This loss of faith in the school committee’s ability to select a superintendent was expressed vividly by a vote of no confidence in the school committee taken by the Southbridge town council last spring. The town council noted the failure of the school committee to hire and retain qualified administrators, and municipal officials expressed frustration with the frequent turnover, experience, and qualifications of the district’s administrative staff.
    There are several deliniations of the School Committee intervening in personnel and administrative matters, and then this, regarding the processes for hiring new superintendents:
    1. When asked to explain, in their view, the reason for the low rate of superintendent retention, parents agreed that hiring is often based more on political influence than merit. One parent said that in the past and present, people get hired on who they know “rather than on their credentials.” 
    2. Similarly, administrators stated that the most recent search committee was stacked with “good old boys” and expressed doubt that future searches would be thorough and open
    This tracks through to lack of stability in the rest of the administration, to lack of stability in the classrooms, to inability for the district to carry through work.

    The recommendation from the state?
    A. All school committee members should participate in training that thoroughly reviews important topics such as: school committee roles and responsibilities; standards and practices for the evaluation of the superintendent; school finance; the open meeting law; the public records law; and the conflict of interest law. 
    1. Such training is required by law for new members of the school committee by MGL Chapter 71, Section 36A. However, considering the state of school governance in Southbridge, such training would be of value to the full committee. 
    B. The school committee should review existing policies and by-laws to ensure that adherence to legally established roles and responsibilities are fully embedded in these important local documents. 
    C. The school committee should formally adopt procedures to investigate and sanction violations of policies or by-laws that define the roles and responsibilities of the school committee.
    And then, in an open and public process, hire a new superintendent.

    And yes, this may well have implications elsewhere. 

    Southbridge in the crosshairs

    Much in the way that it usually isn't good to be called to the principal's office, districts generally want to stay off the Board of Ed's agenda. I mentioned this last month when it was referenced by the Commissioner in passing.
    As the T&G comments, the follow-up on that is tomorrow. There is a 106-page report regarding the district (I'm still reading that), a timeline going back to 2003, and (I haven't seen one of these before) a rundown to state spending, as controlled by DESE, in the district since 2005. As best as I can tell, these latter two seem to be a sort of "don't blame us!" from DESE regarding the district.
    I'll be there, so notes to follow tomorrow. 

    Sunday, December 13, 2015

    Worcester School Committee meets Thursday, December 17

    The regular meeting--and final one of this year and this term--of the Worcester School Committee is Thursday, December 17. You can find the agenda here. 

    The report of the superintendent is the school safety and security assessment. It's not that long or dense, so if you're interested, do go give it a read.

    We have some recognitions (yes, it's Ms. Ramirez and my final meeting), including Dolores Gribouski who has spent her whole life in the Worcester Public Schools.

    We have a citizen petition regarding student arrests.

    Teaching, Learning, and Student Supports is reporting out.

    We're being asked to accept a donation of $500 for Goddard Scholars; $5,720.35 to Lake View School from a spelling bee; donations of $500 each to Claremont Academy, Gates Lane School of Science and Technology, Grafton Street School, Midland Street School, Tatnuck Magnet School, and Forest Grove Middle School from Big Y; and $195.00 from JVE Co, Inc. for Tatnuck Magnet School.

    We're being asked to thank Robert Kraft for his donation of $100,000 to Worcester Tech (which hasn't yet been received) and the Rotary for their donation of $50,000 to Worcester Tech (? I assume? I don't know where that one went).

    And we're, yes, being asked (told?) to reduce the FY16 budget by $501,120 "to reflect the final state budget for charter school reimbursement and tuition assessments."

    Friday, December 11, 2015

    Nancy Carlsson-Paige is coming to Worcester!

    Thursday, December 17, 4-6 pm
    Worcester Technical High School

    you can click to make this bigger

    Thursday, December 10, 2015

    2015 Accountability Levels: everything's made up, but the points matter

    It's time once again for the release of the Massachusetts statewide accountability levels!
    The big news for Worcester yesterday is that Burncoat Prep, in its first year that it was eligible to do so, left Level 4 status. It should be noted that both of our previous Level 4 schools, Chandler Elementary and Union Hill, are Level 1 this year for closing achievement gaps. Elm Park remains Level 4 (it was always going to, as turnaround plans are for three years).
    Statewide, the big news was that Madison Park Vocational in Boston has been declared Level 4; that, despite having a turnaround plan already.

    You can find all of the school levels on this list from DESE. Schools have to have a PPI) of 75 or higher for both their entire student population and their subgroups in order to be Level 1. (You don't have to have all high scores to be Level 1, just break 75 on both.) Slip on either, or on any subgroups, and you're Level 2.
    This gets a little weird when the state starts trumpeting districts that are all Level 1 and 2, as it did yesterday. A subgroup has to have 25 students to "count." Thus a school that has (for example) 23 ELL students doesn't have an ELL subgroup. Likewise with any such subgroup. Beyond the myriad of other ways in which this system is stacked, this is another one in which a few kids in your student population can change all the results.
    This gets even more odd when it comes to Level 3 this year. Level 3 schools are the bottom 20% of schools in the state. Because there will always be a bottom 20%, for every school that goes up a level, one must come down a level. However, schools that took the PARCC this past year were held harmless--they could not slip a level down. Thus the only schools that newly fell into Level 3 were schools that took the MCAS, and their chances of doing so (since they weren't--I hate using this verb but it is sadly accurate--competing against all schools, but only against those taking MCAS) were proportionally that much greater.
    And note that this will be even more the case this coming year, assuming that more schools switch to PARCC: only MCAS schools can fall, so proportionally more MCAS schools will fall.

    Last year, I ran through the way in which Level 4 schools are declared, pointing out that this isn't based on lowest test scores, lowest PPI, or any such thing, but solely at the Commissioner's discretion. It took some digging, since they've moved these charts over to the Executive Office of Education's website* (which is kind of a mess, to be kind), but I found the spreadsheet that lays this all out again. If you remember from last year, this is the data that rank orders schools based on their combined PPI's (the full student body and the subgroups). This year, the column with the percentile rankings is column O. Thus the following is based off sorting by column O.
    First, there are 309 schools that have "insufficient data" to have a percentile ranking. This includes all of the early childhood centers (if you only teach kids in grade 2 and younger, you don't have test data), but it also includes a good number of full elementary schools and high schools, and it has a mix of schools that took MCAS and took PARCC. I don't know what that means.
    But again, the schools that are lowest in percentages are not the ones that are, or are being declared, Level 4. There are schools that are at 1%; Madison Park is at 2%. And again, that isn't a one-year thing; PPI is based on multiple years of data.
    No doubt we'll hear on Tuesday that the Commissioner has been "very concerned" and probably "for some time" on Madison Park; note that Southbridge is also on the agenda, and the lowest percentage any Southbridge school has is a 3 (there are 28 schools that are 1's and 2's).

    All of which is to say, again: this isn't a clean, statistical system. That was true of Level 4's and 5's already; it's now true even of Level 3's.
    And that makes it pretty important that under the Every Student Succeeds Act that President Obama signed today, states are only required to do something (and what is left fairly vague) for their bottom 5% of schools.
    It's time for Massachusetts to change the law.

    *to find it: EoE website>>Departments and Boards>>Board of Elementary and Secondary Education>>A-Z Programs and Topics>>Accountability>>Reports>>Accountability Lists, Materials, and Tools>>Lists (which is the 2015 Excel spreadsheet)
    Really. You don't want to know how long it took me to find that.

    Wednesday, December 9, 2015

    Board of Ed meets next Tuesday

    The Board of Ed meets Tuesday, December 15 (and only Tuesday; there's no Monday night meeting this month). You can find the agenda here.
    • The big report will be on today's release of school accountability levels on which more to come!
    • Southbridge is officially on the agenda this month.
    • Cape Cod Lighthouse Charter School is looking to amend their charter
    • There's a report on probation for Global Learning Charter Public School.
    • There's a report on probation and next steps for Dorchester Collegiate Academy Charter School.
    • New proposed digital literacy and computer science standards are introduced for an initial discussion.
    • There's a section on the Foundation Budget Review Commission(!)
    • There's also the monthly report about Holyoke.

    And yes, I'll be there and blogging.

    CPPAC: DA's office and school safety

    that eventually segued, as it so often does, into budget

    On to the President!

    The Senate passed ESEA renewal this morning; it now goes to the President (who has said he will sign it).

    Tuesday, December 8, 2015

    No long comp MCAS for grades 4 and 7 this spring

    I just saw this today, though I'm told it was part of DESE's update to districts on November 30: there will be no long composition for grades 4 and 7 this spring.
    From that announcement (highlighting added):
    • In ELA, one of the PARCC items will require students to write in response to text. The Department suggests that districts familiarize themselves with PARCC items by utilizing PARCC practice tests and released items from the 2015 administration.
    • Because of this change for ELA, the Department has decided to eliminate the ELA Composition in grades 4 and 7 in spring 2016. Schools and districts may release these prescribed dates on their calendars. The ELA Composition for grade 10 will continue to be administered.

    Teaching, Learning, and Student Supports meeting

    The agenda is here.
    Survey of interest in debate teams: schools that don't currently have such activities are not interested in having them
    O'Connell speaks of thinking on your feet, activities, programs, that call for students to do that
    Eressy: students in secondary overextended, struggle to find time to do it all (as they have so many options available)
    Eressy offers to share information with schools
    O'Connell suggests setting up stipends for advisors of debate
    Monfredo disappointed that schools are not interested; wonder if a staff member might be interested in coaching and setting it up
    would like to see some form of clubs come to life in our schools as a step towards civic involvement
    Ramirez: is a lot going on in our high schools and middle schools
    would like to see an item like this with survey from students
    "a lot of time we see things like this...and it's not what youth want"
    "our youth in the city lack in the city the basic skills of Worcester, its history, and the way that it works"
    O'Connell: Model UN, Model Congress...something that would really attract student interest
    motion to hold to look at again in January
    Colorio suggests work that Becker is doing with public speaking, could work with schools possibly

    Gateway Cities Vision
    Multitiered System of Support mirrors program as proposed
    Rojas: community-based forum with multiple stakeholders to support framework
    initial meeting to provide more information from that meeting; teams for each critical component
    review what the scope of the work would look like for each one of the teams
    among the items is attendence, which has its own module
    revise district accommodation plan
    convene again to work on each specific area
    O'Connell: extends across many of the areas of the Gateway Cities study
    is there a community outreach function?
    Rojas: it's a framework, making sure there are community partners represented in each one of these groups
    critical work being done by partners outside of school
    working on the right direction in terms of developing a guide
    Eressy: as part of Coordinated Program Review, expanding advisory committees in other ch 74 programs
    Ramirez: have seen a lot of implementation of soft AVID skills
    how is that being tracked per student: where they're getting some skills and where they're missing some skills
    O'Connell: Springfield honored for Campaign for Grade-level Reading; are we working with them and if not should we be?
    Monfredo: Worcester finished just behind Springfield and Pittsfield in the contest
    O'Connell: asking for a report in February so it can inform the budget
    Ramirez: two grants were pulled away from this report; "when there's a shift in leadership, we have to be strong in advocating for the need"
    Rojas: funding cut from program supports in the summer (that's 9C cuts)

    O'Connell: motion to file two items on North

    Reach Out and Read: volunteer effort in medical community
    thus not ours
    motion to file

    ESEA renewal: Senate votes today

    The Senate votes today on the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA, or ESEA renewal).
    In Massachusetts news:

    Monday, December 7, 2015

    I can't believe I have post these charts again

    But since it appears we're going to have another round of proposals to cut central admin, let's look at the actual numbers.
    First, here's Worcester's FY13 central administration spending compared to other urban districts:
    That's from page 373 of the WPS FY15 budget. 
    But, some would say, what if all those other districts are just spending too much?
    Okay, how about compared to what the state says we should be spending on central administration?
    That's the comparison of what WPS actually spends on central admin to what the state says we should spend from the F&O report on the Foundation Budget Review Commission implications.
    It's really easy to say "principals say," but what is happening right now is admin responding to ongoing, years-old pleas from principals across the city who have been asking for more support. They're starting to get it, and they should. It isn't just one or two who have certain school committee members' ears; it's much more widespread. 
    It's pretty straightforward: as a district, we need more hands in the Quadrant office (and several other places downtown), not fewer. Calls to do otherwise aren't responding to actual school needs.

    UPDATE: And the position is already posted, incidently.

    Sunday, December 6, 2015

    TLSS meets Tuesday

    The Teaching, Learning, and Student Support standing committee meets Tuesday at 5:30. You can find the agenda here.
    To me, this looks like another cleanup agenda.

    Regarding a debate league, there currently is no school interest (some are running other sorts of programs).
    The "Gateway Cities Vision" parallels work that is already being done in WPS (not surprising, really, as the statewide work on these issues is tied).
    The North High safety plan is...happening on an ongoing basis.
    Reach Out and Read is something that is done in pediatricians offices.

    Forewarned on FY17

    Today's T&G article captures the concern that has been raised several times since the opening of school report: namely, what a foundation-level budget looks like when enrollment is flat and inflation is negative. 
    “The combination makes for a dire projection,” is what Mr. Allen is quoted as saying. Yeah...
    A good rule of thumb (note that this is just me speaking based on past experience) is that the WPS budget increases by about 3% each year across the budget; line item by line item is different--some will be lower, health insurance (for example) will always be higher--but without making a single addition, that's how much the budget generally will increase.
    The words that we'll be hearing this spring, thus, will be "hold harmless" which means that the state won't cut our chapter 70 aid, even if our enrollment falls and even with negative inflation. Those minimum per pupil increases that are always a hot legislative topic and generally don't impact Worcester also will be of interest this year to us.
    Neither of those two things is going to be enough to save us from some pretty nasty looking decisions this spring.
    Thus let me point out again what I have pointed out before: while the city of Worcester has met foundation for FY16, there remains $2.4 million from previous years that the city is under net school spending. Making up the ground on that (particularly if the city wisely projects a 3% increase in minimum school spending that won't entirely be required) would be a very, very good idea this coming year.
    It is also crucial--not only for Worcester, but for minimum spending communities across the state--that the question of inflation be dealt with. The back years that the state changed the rate (to their advantage) were called out in the foundation budget review commission report; there remains a question if the inflation multiplier being used is the best one to use (in other words, should we really be basing increases off of how much was spent by cities and states the previous year?).

    Note, incidentally, that Dr. Rodrigues commented at Thursday's School Committee that the first budget presentation would be at the January 21 meeting, after the release of Governor Baker's budget.
    Relatedly: I've had some questions on if I plan to continue to cover the Worcester School Committee with my leaving the committee in January. The answer is somewhat. To my mind, there are two major looming issues that warrent close attention:

    • the superintendent search
    • the budget
    Given that I live here and I have three kids in the schools, I'll continue to have an interest. I'm still working out what my schedule come January is going to look like, and I won't be doing a blow-by-blow account of every meeting. I do plan, though, to keep a close eye on both of the above issues, and yes, those I'll certainly be blogging about. 

    Friday, December 4, 2015

    Not having enough books

    Incidentally, if you caught Miss Biancheria's item about books last night, here's a reminder from our report on the Foundation Budget Review Commission of why there aren't enough, and why they aren't replaced more often:
    Nine million dollars a year would go a long way towards having enough books. Nine million dollars a year is how much we are underfunded in instructional materials and technology, per the foundation budget. 
    Yes, it all comes back to the FBRC. Full WPS report is here

    Thursday, December 3, 2015

    One City, One Library donations and recognition

    I asked if there is an MOU with the library on this program; there is a DRAFT MOU, which still needs to be discussed further with the City Manager.
    concern with recognition if the MOU has not yet been detailed echoed by O'Connell
    city has asked that this be taken tonight

    Coordinated Program Review report

    Rodrigues: I promise this is going to be fast (We got over 200 pages of backup)
    "magnitude and intensity" of reviewne with school

    happens every six years; last done in 2009
    22 schools, 84 classrooms, visited, over 265 interviews with staff, students, parents
    hundreds of documents reviewed
    families surveyed
    district has to create a corrective action plan
    Title IIA was only in draft format: down to one item out of eleven
    McKinney-Vento: more informal process
    "Two items or more constituted a 'partly implemented'"
    in civil rights five items were not having "gender identity" in forms (and now has been fixed)
    another item was the day the seniors get do
    all items under special education should be resolved with PD, process, and also SAGE IEPs
    in the safety survey (of the vocational items) only 6 items remain to be addressed; "were a lot of items that were corrected even during the visit" (and for the 6, waiting for the items to arrive)
    Title IIA only remaining it is about protocols with private schools
    DESE "very impressed with how we use our funding"
    were invited to be a speaker and present about our practices in using Title IIA
    "complimentary also to folks from the grants office"
    Corrective Action Plan is due December 14
    statement of assurance to be signed by superintendent and SC chair
    must demonstrate resolution as soon as possible, but no more than one year after plan
    refer all Corrective Action Plans to TLSS for updates and monitoring

    Head Start annual report

    You can find the backup here.

    Agenda clearing out

    I filed these items from subcommittee and these from administration, lest I linger on agendas.

    Interim Superintendent Entry plan

    You can find our backup here.
    Rodrigues: how I intend to keep the district moving forward to June
    build upon our successes
    "effectively collaborate with all members of the WPS community to ensure a safe and supportive learning environment that promotes a high achieving school district"
    1. interim re-organization of admin team; addition of third quadrant manager through June; realign office staff
    2. open, fluid, honest, communication protocol: meetings with stakeholders, monthly meetings with principal leadership; weekly superintendent update; master schedule for SC items; public engagement; communication with delegation; enhance report of superintendent (including "closer look" series starting in February)
    3. high quality teaching and learning: multi-tiered system of supports; advanced high school academy; focus on level 3 schools; coordinated review; focus on ELL and special ed and graduation rates; individual learning plan starting with seventh grade (through Naviance)
    4. respectful, positive climate and culture: safety advisor; training in school resource officer model; revision of MOU with WPD; climate and culture report card; student/family guide to student discipline; evaluate safety audit; implementation of Worcester HEARS
    5. FY17 budget: presentation with Governor's budget; ongoing budget status through spring; budget to be out May 13, 2016
    Monfredo: reach out and listen to the community
    communication and transparency: 
    safety certainly will be a high priority

    O'Connell: many of the concerns that are addressed in the plan are those that have been emphasized
    communication and school safety
    front and center in a key way
    "would hope that meetings include...professional associations of staff"
    "opportunity to express exactly what their concerns are"
    "speak up very candidly and effectively"
    "good news, bad news, let us know"
    focus on budget: hope that we'll be able to look at it very aggressively to free up funds 

    then I spoke

    Foley: reflect the feelings of the School Committee
    challenge to implement it all
    when we do meet with the state delegation: Foundation Commission report
    "we know that they aren't going to turn around and be able to generate an additional $90M" but to begin the fight
    "really build upon your links to the principals"
    would stress the need for immediate information as things come up
    "and I don't want to hear about everything"
    most important items so we can respond to them right away
    "budget process past several years has been outstanding"
    "going to be a challenging time for us"
    "thank you and this is a good start"

    Ramirez: appreciate public engagement plan
    "I hope to collaborate in that"

    Biancheria: "I was hoping more money could go to the classroom"
    "concern that we become top-heavy"
    job functions have to be distributed to the right people
    transparency of creating new things and looking of things outside of the box
    appreciate timely response to items
    look forward to information we receive on academic 
    hope for "MOU that actually works for us"
    doesn't mean that it should be under the City Council or brought to City Council
    "do agree with my colleagues that it has been advantageous to us to sit and discuss our budget"
    comments that budget for several years came out over Memorial day weekend

    Rodrigues: realizing savings by virtue of space in admin

    Setting state standards

    I've now seen this multiple times in reference to the ballot initiative reversing the Common Core standards:
    The Governor can issue executive orders and the Legislature can pass whatever it likes, but neither the Governor nor the Legislature determine education standards in Massachusetts. That's under the purview of the Board of Education.