Friday, May 26, 2017

The rest of Worcester meetings this week

Note that the Worcester Public Schools' (bottom line) budget is before the Worcester City Council on Tuesday, May 30, at 4 pm.

The School Committee begins meeting in budget session on Thursday, June 1 at 4 pm, with an executive session at 6 pm, and a regular meeting at 7 pm. The agenda for all of that is here.

In addition to recognitions and the major request for an appointment I posted below, the School Committee is hearing a report on professional development, which largely seems to be focused on the curriculum liaisons, including at least one "to be appointment" for "college and career readiness." OCPL is apparently "Office of Curriculum and Professional Learning."

The reports out from the meeting of and budget hearing by Finance and Operations are on the agenda. As always, the hearing on the budget is being reported out after the first School Committee budget session. 

The restorative justice programs at Claremont and at North are back on the agenda (?).

The School Committee is being asked to approve a prior fiscal year payment of $1685; to accept a grant from "Project Lead the Way" at Doherty, which appears to involve classes at WPI, for $26,250, and for Worcester Tech for $15,000; to accept a grant from Lowe's for $3810 for Burncoat High; to approve a prior fiscal year payment for Education, Inc. for home tutoring services for $8,902.50; to accept a donation for Worcester Tech of $435;

Miss Biancheria is asking for monthly incident reports and for the cost and locations of graduations. She also is requesting more information about the changes in staffing around the Central Mass Collaborative.

Miss Colorio is suggesting that recognitions be consolidated to once a month.

The Administration is asking that the admission policy of Worcester Tech (largely regarding legal changes, per the notice).

The executive session is for the teachers' contract, for an HVAC worker's grievance, for worker's compensation for a teacher, and for non-represented employees, both administration and not (as they don't have a union negotiating, they haven't come through on new contracts. This probably is whatever the administration is proposing in cost of living increases.)

Also, check the front page of the website: LOTS of graduations this week! 

Superintendent Binienda seeking to appoint a deputy

From Thursday night's Worcester School Committee agenda:
To consider approval of the appointment of Susan O’Neil, Ph.D. as Deputy Superintendent of Schools, effective, July 1, 2017. 
That is the date that Dr. Rodrigues begins in Hudson. 
Dr. O'Neil was the principal of Worcester Arts Magnet School until last year until she joined central administration.

Note that this is also a reorganization of positions, as there is as of now no deputy position in administration; there is no note of a request of that being approved, though the creation of such positions does require School Committee approval under the Massachusetts General Law:
Upon the recommendation of the superintendent, the school committee may also establish and appoint positions of assistant or associate superintendents, who shall report to the superintendent, and the school committee shall fix the compensation paid to such assistant or associate superintendents. 

As for the appointment itself, under MGL Ch. 71
The school committee shall approve or disapprove the hiring of said positions. Such approval by the school committee of the recommendation shall not be unreasonably withheld; provided, however, that upon the request of the superintendent the school committee shall provide an explanation of disapproval.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

And with the Senate passing their budget tonight...

The Senate passed amendment 75, which implements the Foundation Budget Review Commission recommendations, UNANIMOUSLY. Not only that, but Senate President Rosenberg cast a rare vote (generally the president doesn't vote) in favor.
Nice advocacy!

On to conference committee! Let your representative know that THIS IS A PRIORITY!

Comments before the Worcester Finance and Operations on FY18 budget

I spoke from notes on Tuesday night, so this isn't word for word; some of what I said made it into the T&G. Again, the presentation from Tuesday is here. 

Please note that I speak tonight only as a parent with three children in the Worcester Public Schools, 'though my perspective is informed by my work at the state level.
I think it's important first to note that Worcester is an outlier this year in having a budget that is growing as it is. While other districts are seeing staff cuts of double and triple digits, Worcester is adding double digits of teachers. The growth in the budget largely due to increased enrollment, which is also unusual. Most districts in Massachusetts have declining enrollment. We should celebrate that, but it also should make us even more active as a district in our advocacy for a revision in the state formula.

I can't help but notice that this is the second year in a row in which the central administration is growing, after several years in which it declined. I don't begrudge the growth--as the budget cites on page 396, Worcester's administration is smaller than most, and, by my calculation, in FY16 was funded at 62% of foundation--but I am concerned about the choice made in where those additions come. Early planning stages of the state's Every Student Succeeds Act planning emphasized social-emotional learning heavily, and thus many districts shifted resources in response. The final plan, however, de-emphasizes this as part of the accountability standards. This is not to suggest that social-emotional learning isn't important, but I question if a cabinet-level administrative position is the best way to do that. A budget that adds, as far as I can tell, no (or few) guidance counselors, adjustment counselors, or psychologists is not most effectively meeting the needs of students. Additions are desperately needed.

As a parent of two secondary students, I find the significant additions of secondary teachers reassuring. Additions not only in core subjects but also in the arts are heartening. I note, however, that the only addition to the Burncoat Magnet program is a single dance teacher 7-12. With the addition of the Hanover Academy to Burncoat, there already is concern in the arts magnet that they will be negatively impacted; no one has reassured them otherwise. A successful program of three decades deserves better treatment than this. Likewise, though the dual language program moves to seventh grade this year, Burncoat Middle has no additional ELL or language teachers. Those parents--and I stress, only the sixth grade parents, as no one has spoken with parents in any other grade; communication on this has been non-existent--were told that the school could only schedule those students to move as a pack. This means those students would see no differentiation of levels, thus leaving those who might otherwise head to AP or Calculus classes unable to do so. Having worked in a secondary school, I know that this is a  matter of wanting to rather than being able to. I would urge the committee to take an interest in this matter and add the sections that might be necessary to give these kids access to all they are able to do.

I note that both the instructional materials account and the building maintenance account are flat funded. Likewise, though the capital repairs list is interesting, and I appreciate the City Manager's reported interest, the capital fund thus far is flat funded. While it is gratifying and important that the city continues to make investments in new buildings and windows, if we don't spend money on regular repairs to the existing buildings, we will need those new buildings that much more often. I would urge the School Committee to be outspoken in their advocacy for additional capital funding to better meet the needs of the district.

Finally, though it is found in two locations in the budget, between the schools budget and the municipal contribution, the spending on police continues to rise. This year, the district will come close to spending a million dollars on policing in our schools. I think it is important to note that, and to question the wisdom of this as a priority in funding.

Likewise, I see that the safety account is budgeted at a hundred thousand dollars this year. Having been in a number of presentations on school safety, most recently last week in one by Sandy Hook Elementary, allow me to point out: you can spend as much money as you like on cameras and buzzers and equipment. If, every time I show up outside a school and push the buzzer, I am buzzed in without any question or look, the schools are no safer than if you'd spent nothing.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Worcester Public Schools FY18 budget hearing

The presentation for tonight is here.
The full budget is here.

Worcester Public Schools Finance and Operations quarterly report

meeting before the budget hearing...agenda is here

May meeting of the Board of Ed: early college

Back up is here
five key design principles
"key thinking about each domain"
  • prioritize students underrepresented
"structured to eliminate all barriers to student participation"
  • guided academic pathways
at least 12 college credits; exposure to career opportunites
validating that courses are as rigorous as those on college campus
should allow for student work on campus
  • enhancing student support
  • connection to career
  • effective partnership
one public secondary school or district; at least one higher ed

application to be recognized as early college
have to hit all five guiding principles: to receive preliminary designation, must address plans for each five
final demonstrates effective implementation (signed MOUs, policies, calendars and schedules, staffing plans)

Peyser "do need to ensure an ongoing financing strategy"
"It's additive to the existing funding model"
McKenna: not to require students to earn 12 credits
"when we talk about at risk students we do not want to lose the goal of losing at risk students...that's a full semester"
career paths broadly defined
"There are careers that are not in STEM"

May meeting of the Board of Ed: MCAS update

backup is here
Wulfson: continuing on promise to keep Board updated
2/3 of way through administration this spring
then standard-setting process that will then lead into the scoring
"extremely pleased with how this test is going"
"it's been an incredible year" for those doing the work

May meeting of the Board of Education: opening remarks

You can find the agenda here. Note that we'll hear from Scituate as part of the opening this morning, as Sciutate High School is hosting today.
Also, interesting note for DESE watchers: the Commissioner is not here today, so Deputy Commissioner Wulfson is sitting in.

Congratulations to Katherine Craven who is home with a new daughter!

Welcome today to Scituate High School.
"flies under the radar, but is doing some exceptionally well things here"

Monday, May 22, 2017

The Board of Ed meets tonight and tomorrow

Apologies for the late posting on this one!

The Elementary and Secondary Board of Education meets tonight and tomorrow. You can find the agenda here.
Tonight's meeting has a presentation from each of the receivership districts.

Tomorrow is at Scituate High School; as is their custom, the Board is meeting at the high school of the student representative for their May meeting.
After opening remarks, the Board will hear an update on MCAS; an update on the early college committee; an update on the FY18 budget; next year's proposed meeting schedule; and plan to vote on a policy on remote participation.

I won't be there tonight, but I will be in Scituate tomorrow

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Worcester, you have good people working for you.

Congratulations to:
Sara Consalvo, Worcester Public Schools Budget Director, who was awarded a "Friend of MASBO" award at their Annual Conference on Thursday, and...

Brian Allen, Worcester Public Schools Chief Financial and Operations Officer, who was awarded the 2017 President's award.

We don't hear enough in Worcester about the good work that people are doing.
Nemo profeta in patria

Friday, May 19, 2017

Jeff Wulfson, Deputy Commissioner, DESE (MASBO Annual Institute)

"obviously the state budget is on everyone's mind"
FBRC recommendations "have clearly taken hold"
some start made in each budget towards that

MassBudget presents on the FY18 state budget (MASBO Annual Institute 2017)

 Noah Berger, MassBudget and Policy
people are our resource; Mann's quote on "having no mines to work...whatever abundance she may possess, all has bee evolved from the enlightened...mind, not of a few, but of the great masses, of her people"

Looking for more motion on FBRC?

Call your Senators and ask them to co-sponsor Amendment 75, which would implement recommendations and set up movement in future years.
Or you can use MASC's handy "send an email" function.
I hope to get to a full rundown on amendments...

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Best Practices in School Budgeting (MASBO Annual Institute 2017)

Presentation is here
They're also referencing the Government Finance Officers Association Award for Best Practices in School Budgeting.
And, as would only be right, there's a reference to ASBO's Meritorious Budget Award.

"Beyond Sandy Hook" (MASBO Annual Institute 17)

I'm posting this morning from the MASBO Annual Institute in Falmouth where this morning the presentation is "Beyond Sandy Hook" a panel discussion on Sandy Hook. Hashtag for the conference is #MASBOAI17
Presenters this morning:
Michele Gay, parent of Josephine Gay
Daniel Jewiss, CT State Police
Natalie Hammond, teacher, Sandy Hook Elementary
Joseph Erardi, current superintendent of Newton

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Worcester Public Schools before City Council

Per Nick Kotsopolous:
...4 p.m. May 30. Among the budgets on the docket for that day are the Worcester public schools...

Senate Ways and Means budget

The Senate Ways and Means Committee released their FY18 budget today. You can find the executive summary here, along with the ability to download the rest of the budget.

A few foundation budget notes first: in the outside section, the FBRC implementation committee (for lack of a better term) is set up:
Section 5B½. (a) Annually, not later than January 15, the secretary of administration and finance shall meet with the senate and house committees on ways and means to jointly determine an implementation schedule to fulfill the recommendations filed on November 2, 2015 by the foundation budget review commission established in section 4 of chapter 70. The implementation schedule shall establish a foundation budget as defined in section 2 of said chapter 70 incorporating the categories of tuitioned-out special education rate, assumed in-school special education enrollment, low-income increment, low-income enrollment, foundation benefits, retired employee health insurance and English language learner increment; provided, however, that in the first year of the term of office of a governor who has not served in the preceding year, the parties shall determine an implementation schedule not later than January 31 of that year. In determining the implementation schedule, the secretary of administration and finance and the senate and house committees on ways and means shall hold a public hearing and receive testimony from the commissioner of elementary and secondary education and other interested parties. The schedule may be amended by agreement of the senate and house committees on ways and means in any fiscal year to reflect changes in enrollment, inflation, student populations or other factors that may affect the remaining costs in the schedule. The implementation schedule may be included in a joint resolution and placed before the members of the general court for their consideration along with proposed legislation to execute and implement the schedule. The implementation schedule shall be subject to appropriation.
That's important, because that's the part that really makes it happen. If they have to get together and publicly decide every year "here's where we are; here's where we're going," then this becomes something that we're all in on making happen.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Worcester School Committee meets Thursday, May 18

You can find the agenda here.
While it does not appear until later down the agenda, in honor of the anniversary of Ernest Thayer's death, the Worcester School Committee will be doing a reading of "Casey at the Bat" as part of the meeting.
There are also a number of congratulations.

The report of the superintendent is end of cycle reports on the innovation plans of Chandler Magnet, Goddard Scholars, University Park Campus School, Woodland Academy, and Worcester Tech. Each of the schools is requesting a renewal of their innovation plans; remarkably, all that is being offered to the committee for this decision is 2 to 4 page charts. Most schools are requesting no change in their innovation plan. The one change that is being requested is from Goddard Scholars, which is asking to eliminate the "proficient" tier for the 4th grade MCAS, which is the sole determent of admission. They would thus be taking only "advanced" students. Interesting in that it more concretely sets the academy's emphasis on test scores, and does so in a year in which testing is through a new system. 

There are updates on restorative justice programs at Claremont Academy and at North High School.

The committee is being asked to accept an "Integrated English Literacy and Civics Education Grant" for $51,602, which surprisingly is actually for machine shop training (with an ESL component).

Mr. Monfredo is requesting a summer reading kickoff.

The committee is being asked to accept a number of donations to Tatnuck Magnet, to Woodland Academy, to Burncoat Street Prep, to Worcester Tech, to Canterbury Street, to Belmont Street, and to the administration (?) for the opening of school in 2017. They're also being asked to vote a prior year payment of $1,685.00 to WB Mason.

There is also an executive session on teachers' contract negotiations, a worker's comp case, and a grievance.

No liveblog; I'm off to cover MASBO's Annual Institute! 

The Worcester Public Schools FY18 budget is now posted

Sorry for the late post on this; I was off my computer this weekend.
The new and improved FY18 Worcester Public Schools budget is now posted online. Start perusing it now, so as to give public testimony next Tuesday, May 23, at the public hearing.

I haven't given it a thorough read as yet (longer post once I do), but I did post two Twitter threads on it after skimming it over the weekend. The first starts here:

The second, in (brief!) response to the Nick Kotsopoulos column on Sunday starts here:
In both cases, click through to get the full thread.
We are, as I posted in the latter thread, actually over Net School Spending this year by less than 1%. We're also have a foundation budget that is $61.4M undercalculated for just health insurance and special education.
Go look at the budget, though; enormous work on graphics there!
And more to come

Friday, May 12, 2017

One Oklahoma representative wants to round up ELL kids

Yes, it's as awful as it sounds:
Republican Rep. Mike Ritze told CBS affiliate KWTV that he has another proposal in mind: Rounding up the state’s 82,000 non-English-speaking students and handing them over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
“Identify them and then turn them over to ICE to see if they truly are citizens — and do we really have to educate noncitizens?” Ritze asked.
As the article points out, the Supreme Court weighed in on this issue in Plyer v. Doe in 1981, finding that those who are undocumented are people "in any ordinary sense of the term," and thus were protected (and afforded equal access to education) under the Fourteenth Amendment.
And this did not escape the ACLU:

Friday, May 5, 2017

About classroom management

A good (short) read for Friday.

Two Worcester upcoming events of note

  • CPPAC's next meeting is Wednesday, May 10 at 7 pm at the Worcester Art Museum, and they're having Bridgette Kelly, from Student Assessment in DESE to "provide an overview of new parent/guardian reports for MCAS 2.0 and focus group to obtain feedback from parents ensuring information is understandable," which is something I didn't know they were doing.

  • BUDGET HEARING! Tuesday, May 23 at 7 pm in the fourth floor conference room at DAB. The budget is due out next Friday, May 12*, so that gives some time to peruse the proposed budget before weighing in.
Please spread the word!

*it should get posted here 

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Why the Worcester Public Schools don't just use the WRTA

On tonight's City Council agenda:
Request City Manager work in consultation with the WRTA and Worcester Public School Department to direct an evaluation to utilize existing WRTA buses and personnel to transfer Worcester Public School High School students to and from high schools
 Yes, Worcester, it's an election year, when suddenly the Worcester City Council remembers there are 27,000 city students and $100M city dollars going to the Worcester Public Schools and they decide to DO SOMETHING TO FIX IT.

Here, for those not familiar with our bus system, is the WRTA route map:

Notice anything?
Yes, Worcester has a lot of open space (it's handily marked in green on the map) but those are, in fact, neighborhoods in all of those spaces between the red lines, even that big blank space in the upper left (where the default assumption is that you have a least one car). And those neighborhoods have students who live in them.
Worcester has seven high schools; two are in the urban core and largely have a student body that walk. Of the other five, South High is in the bottom left corner of the map (on the Leicester line); North is along the right side (close to Lake Quinsigamond, which is the Shrewsbury line); Burncoat is in the upper right (near the West Boylston line); Worcester Tech is midway on the right side; and Doherty is close where a lot of the lines cross, by Elm Park (though at the edge of that big blank space). The majority of the schools are at the edge of the city. And those schools together serve ALL students. Worcester Tech takes students from all over the city, but so does the Burncoat Magnet and Goddard Scholars at South. All of those students are guaranteed transportation.
The WRTA (as you can tell from the map) runs on a spoke system, out of the central hub downtown. Assuming you are served by a bus (and, as you can also tell from the map, that's a significant assumption), you need, for most trips, to catch a bus to the central hub in order to get to anywhere else in the city. 
And service is not at all frequent.
Let's try, for example, doing what I see students doing when I head out to the train some mornings: they live in Tatnuck Square, and they go to Worcester Tech. Worcester Tech starts at 7:20. How could they get to school?
There are two bus lines that run out Tatnuck Square, the 2 and the 6. Neither of them starts service until later in the morning, however, so the first thing they have to do is walk the mile and a half to Worcester State. Then they can catch a bus to the hub, to catch a bus to Belmont Street, to walk up the hill to school.
And they'll need to start at 5:45 am.
(providing, of course, that they don't start the night before)

Now, this seems, I am sure, like an extreme example. But all high school students within two miles of their high school already are NOT provided with transportation, so they're already not on the buses. It's only students like this who Worcester DOES bus. Those high school students--as has been pointed out every single time this comes up--require the same buses that then carry the rest of the students to school who don't require buses as part of IEPs.

I'd love to live in a city in which this is possible. We don't.
If you want to fix the transit system, I'd be a huge fan. Taking yellow buses away from high school students using "exisiting WRTA buses and personnel" isn't the way to do it.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Worcester School Committee meets Thursday

The Worcester School Committee meets Thursday. You can find the agenda here.
It appears it is time once again to honor Mr. Allen for receiving the Meritorious Budget Award from the Association of School Business Officers International. 🎈
The schools receiving the EoS Breakfast awards are also being recognized (and the awards being accepted), making it appropriate that the report is on school nutrition (not yet posted, though today's announcement may well mean it's being revised! UPDATE: posted)
Not having exhausted the discussion at the subcommittee level, the committee will be discussing their concerns over wifi. Salient point:
...extensive research into the matter has not produced any solid evidence that non-ionizing radiation given off by smartphones and Wi-Fi routers is harmful to humans...
They'll be voting a delegate and an alternative to the MASC Delegate Assembly in November.
Not having acted last week, they're considering a resolution on the Foundation Budget Review Commission's findings.
And Miss Biancheria wishes to:
review the precautionary measures and safety features under the safety regulations of the bus contracts for both the Worcester Public Schools and Durham School Services.
The 7th grade science text book is up for review (That'll go to TLSS)

There is an executive session beforehand for an HVAC employee grievance (again?) and collective bargaining for teachers (still). But hey: NO PCBs!  
I'll see if I can make at least the nutrition presentation; I'll be interested to see what difference the federal change makes 

Four things we don't know about AP tests

Yes, I know, I keep posting about this. But:
"remarkably little independent research has been conducted on the academic benefits of AP." That's according to Russell T. Warne, an assistant professor of psychology at Utah Valley University, who has done some of that limited research. Part of the problem, he tells NPR Ed, is that, "it's really hard to do causal research because we can't force people to do AP or force them out of it."
If we're going to keep pushing kids to take these course, we ought to be looking into this stuff first.  

"We are not consumers, but citizens, when it comes to schools"

Excellent opinion piece in The Hechinger Report:
Public schools are a public good that we have forged together through public conversations, elected school boards, and democratic policymaking. Within schools, we should deliberate, craft, and institute the aims we seek. Moreover, public schools are special because they impart the skills and knowledge necessary for future generations to continue to deliberate the public goods they will uphold. Public schools are places where children learn how to exchange and respond to the ideas of others as they balance their own individual needs with needs in their communities. They are places where children learn to be a public.
But do read it all.