Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Worcester School Committee "Community and Schools Forum" at Worcester State

I'm blogging tonight from the "Community and Schools Forum" at Worcester State University tonight. It's co-sponsored by the Latino Education Institute, Adelante, CENTRO, Southeast Asian Coalition, and African Community Education. This is a good one, because Worcester is a majority children of color system; the stats for last year are: 
Enrollment by Race/Ethnicity (2016-17)
Race% of District% of State
African American15.48.9
Native American0.20.2
Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander0.00.1
Multi-Race, Non-Hispanic4.13.4
Worcester has--and will continue to have, regardless of the results of the November election--an entirely white school committee.

posting as we go 
They're on a stage without a table; Jack Foley does a little softshoe as he takes the stage. Brian O'Connell has his button out for its once-every-two-year airing. Dianna Biancheria asks for a table. 

Welcome coming from the director of Urban Studies at WSU
"less a debate and more a community conversation"
reminder that Worcester State started as "a Normal School" and took over from a program that ran out of Dix Street School
Dr. Ray Lewis is in the education department at WSU and is moderating this evening

Lewis: was a teacher at the career center on Grove Street, then at Worcester Voke
"have been around Worcester a long time"
Questions directed to each candidate, continuing in a round robin fashion, each candidate getting the same number of questions; all will answer the opening question
Questions coming from ACE, LEI, and Adelante

Describe one initiative you've been involved in that has impacted students.

Colorio: drug task force in the Worcester Public Schools; work on improving the education of our students related to drugs; was on natural pathway to helping Worcester students
O'Connell: try to set higher but achievable standards, academics their responsibility, get ready to do well in school and life; language instruction (Mandarin Chinese); summer reading program; extended day when we can do that; college partnership; academic competitions among our students
Monfredo: (reading) the latest one is chronic absenteeism; "Finally with a new superintendent" we've started embarking on a plan; celebrations for good attendance; can't tolerate 14% of our students being absent; directly related to the achievement gap; needs to have our student present, engaged, and accounted for
McCullough: on committee to select new superintendent; had opportunity to select superintendent that know the community; social and emotional programs, nutrition programs; teaching the whole student; focusing on family and community engagement; including AVID program
Foley: if I had to pick on issue, have high expectations for all students, every student to achieve academic success; "we've had to push and push hard" on this; work in Main South; advocacy for greater inclusion for students with special needs, "valued members of our community"; greater small learning communities in high schools; critical issue going forward is to find adequate funding from the state
Comparetto: graduate of urban studies department; Stand Up for Kids Worcester, works with homeless and at-risk youth; "with right supports, any kid can get through school"; make sure our kids are safe and healthy; access to early childhood education
Biancheria:(reading) "most important public resource"; very proud of the advocacy I have worked on for academic excellence, chapter 74 and Perkins programs; open to students to learn skills of the trade

Lewis reminds them of time

Most have several areas in which they are particularly interested and in which they have some ideas for improvement
Colorio: advocating on state standards; academic excellence across the board; "along with the standards comes excessive academic testing"; see that since we've gone over on some of our standards; making sure our curriculum is strong
O'Connell: addition to focus on academics, day job is finance; "focus on finance" proposed 2 1/2 override for Worcester; fought for and proposed school choice in Worcester; proposed have state formula waived just for this year to count students from PR and Virgin Islands (says $800K); foundation budget review commission "something I'm fighting very hard for"
Monfredo: principal at Belmont; emphasis on learning early learning; "we need more prevention in our schools"; involved parents, "they need to be part of the learning process"; full day preschool program; rigor in the curriculum, AP Capstone "a step above the AP"; school safety "and that's everyone's job"; "protecting our students from harm...everyone on board every single year"
McCullough: securing adequate funding for professional development; AVID, early childhood, advanced students, take a look back at IB; new building construction, "continuing to work with MSBA," window and boiler replacement; business community to develop "work ready graduates"; family engagement programs, cites vaccinations
Foley: continue to be work on finance and operations, made great progress over that time; budget process "bringing greater levels of transparency throughout the whole process"; public presentations early in the process; "really make sure the public understood the process"; working with the City Council, who did not understand Net School Spending and how the funding worked from the state; hope to talk more about resources
Comparetto: cites 20,000 doors knocked; state of our school buildings, "I think there are some serious health concerns"; communicates about education; upgrade our school buildings; increase functioning school libraries; cites One City, One Library, wants to expand program; within libraries think we can expand early childhood; need social emotional supports, more guidance, more supports
Biancheria: "We all have a list of priorities"; have an agenda to put on each meeting; accountability, transparency, family engagement..."have new superintendent has been working on building partnerships"; "results for students"; set some career paths for students; looking at different aspects of what they'd like to do for employment; "it's not academics, it's internships, it's opportunities"

Adelante question: With influx of students from Puerto Rico, how do you plan to accommodate these students and their non-English speaking families?
Colorio: just addressed this on the floor at the last meeting; discussed going to the state to file for additional funding; superintendent gave us a rundown on where they went; wraparound services need; trauma associated with leaving their country (!); feel sure students will be welcome
O'Connell: published on how we'll address our students from hurricanes in home areas; have asked state to waive October 1 deadline; ask for McKinney-Vento to be changed for assistance; educators coming here who need jobs, change and waive requirements for teaching here
Monfredo: need to look at social-emotional learning, proper wraparound services; "have a superintendent that has already been informed of the move"'; "pretty serious"; community plays a major role in this
McCullough: three items filed at the meeting the other night to be sure these students have appropriate intakes, support; should be similar to what we're doing to all of our students already; using Student Information Center for family engagement; all the services these students are going to need; have the groundwork laid and ready to go
Foley: work of Mayor Petty and Councilor Rivera to put citywide organization together; not only going to impact schools, will impact city; have a number of areas to look at; ELL supports, "don't have enough ELL supports for our current students"; trauma impact on these young children; educate teachers in receiving classrooms, what they might see to help these children out; connect to other family in the city
Comparetto: social-emotional supports, mental health; as we're seeing more diversity, strive for teachers who reflect the diversity of population; should be drastically improve the ways we communicate with families; should be translating; more welcoming schools
Biancheria: businesses in our city; employment opportunities; "all in collaboration"; Parent Information Center for intake, getting information about family needs and location; "they're also selling Worcester...a city that is welcoming with open arms"; ensure that they have housing and transportation

Previously, Title II funding has been used to partner with community partners to provide after school services; this year, we've been told this will be drastically reduced: comments?
Biancheria: need to talk to state delegation with what our needs are; still have after school program with direct instruction; hoping with strategic plan, priorities will shift with what our needs are with regards to our students
Comparetto: always been frustrated at lack of funding for our schools; fighting for our fair share of funding for schools; need to fix the foundation formula; should pass fair share; have a lot of great resources and non-profits are willing to help; wraparound services; BU created wraparound services in Boston
Foley: ironic coming after question on Puerto Rice; supports are essential to success of our students; "not going to argue that cutting those services is a smart move or not...they've been forced upon us"; have got to push on the state level so it adequately serves community; "the gap in our funding right now is about $95M"; short term need to look at creative funding solutions
McCullough: really surround funding; no one happy to see services go away; stretch and share; "always just trying to grasp at straws to get them to be adequate or close to adequate"
Monfredo: very disappointed in Governor's budget; did not implement Ch. 70 committee; when it comes to funding for education; seriously need to consider bringing back the McDuffy and Hancock decision; "we already waited two years; we can't wait any longer"
O'Connell: working on wraparound services; Title II is primarily for professional development; Title I gives more flexibility; some schools have a turnaround grant (Elm Park); extended school day;
Colorio: "the thing that I first learned when I got onto school committee...if you take away all the things that we're mandated to provide, we have a very small amount of discretionary funds"; health insurance, special ed, ELL, low income; have been involved in strategic plan for a year now, community partners say 'what can we do?' brought together in "an open community forum"

How do you suggest Worcester move forward with teacher negotiations with increased expenses and state cuts?
Colorio: just resolved teacher contract...not sure where the question's going
Chronic absenteeism will soon be used by the state to evaluate school quality; what are some things that districts can do?
Colorio: a lot in kindergarten; K isn't mandatory in Massachusetts; very high in junior and senior year of high school; students say "give us a reason to come to school"; rich curriculum right through the senior year, challenging courses right up until the end
O'Connell: getting parents involved in schools, "reluctant to cross that threshold," where schools can work with parents; teachers partnering with parents throughout the day; wide range of courses and options
Monfredo: "an area that I've been talking about it seems like forever," cites 3000 absences, among low income and Latino populations; reach out to parents; talk to about these things; guidance reaching out to parents every five weeks; reaching out to churches and social agencies; motivation works
McCullough: want to talk about out of school suspension; Ch. 222; taking away out of school suspension, haven't really worked on alternatives for those students; many parents did not have positive school experiences, so parents feel comfortable coming into the Parent Center or the administration building; alternatives for out of school suspensions; positive reinforcement that isn't discouraging to students
Foley: parents may not know the linkage between going faithfully to school, graduating, getting a career; understanding the purposes of education; have families and kids understand "four out of five days isn't enough"; intervene with families in trauma
Comparetto: family and parental engagement is very important; wraparound services and social emotional supports; issues that are better dealt with through social workers or wraparound services
Biancheria: a couple of new initiatives "through School Committee efforts"; new reports being received by principals and parents; "discussion can begin much earlier"; acceptance into Worcester Tech includes absence, "hope that some of that application can be tweaked"; gathering of superintendents on absenteeism; "also in our strategic plan"

What do you think the higher education community can do to be of assistance?
Colorio: in years in higher ed, there is a disconnect; getting less and less over years; have to come to the table; "it's not just one thing we can do through research"; "don't want to see kids come and failing"; work on a stronger curriculum
O'Connell: major resource for us, and we are a resource for them; students are role models for our students; consider teaching as a career; flexibility in summer with programs for students; research in our schools; advise our students that they have options and what they have for the future
Monfredo: future teachers program; what college life is about, advance to the next level in careers; would like to see more mentoring from college students to WPS students; elementary students visit colleges; set the bar high and start talking about it (college attendance)
McCullough: AVID, program that really helps students get the experience of what a four year program is about; students taking trip to college campus; would like to see us expand more
Foley: quite a bit already happening in higher ed community; would like to see education pipeline; "high school's not the end game here"; connect dots for kids and for families; "many kids in our city think that college is for rich kids and for smart kids" so talk about financial aid; increase dual enrollment; make sure tuition is reduced for kids as much as we can; free tuition at Clark for neighborhood residents
Comparetto: want to talk a collaborative and community based approach to governing; partnerships for Elm Park, went to WPI; pipeline into teaching profession; creating wraparound services programs; identifying programs and making the right ask
Biancheria: "we look to be creative"; "looking at strategic plan does involve some change and that does have to involve what the higher education is going to do with our city and with our schools"; "in Boston, there are times that there are checks written from the colleges"..."what are they willing to do?"; "to be successful, we have to see what the colleges are doing for us"

Lewis: WSU has "A Call to Teaching" event in February each year

ACE: What is the role that community partners play in advancing the public schools? How can the partnership be strengthened?
McCullough: important to success of schools, ultimately need funding for our schools, but partners valuable; colleges; career exposure; ways of engaging families, "how can we learn from the community relationships for cultural engagement"; "really strengthens the school community when you have a community partner that you use throughout the school year"
Monfredo: ACE "reached out to us"; important that we have the same goal in mind, the same vision; make sure the partners are there to be engaged with schools; many ways of every time of partnership could evolve
O'Connell: more than beneficial, an absolute necessity; "talent, effort...perspectives, skills"; educate them to what our system truly is; open invitation to come into the schools; look at them critically; role models for our schools; "every school should have multiple community partners"
Colorio: "does a great job at it"; have a superintendent "that's what she was known for"; put together "really cool things for different schools"; understanding what you need and going out and asking for it; strategic planning are at the table asking "how can I help"; partnerships willing to come to the table
Foley: keep looking at partnerships: academic co-curricular and wraparound services for students and families; academic doing well, colleges relative to professional development, One Library and other efforts, provide for academic experience; can do more on wraparound support services: housing, health care, job placement; giving support to students and families, expand those services
Comparetto: have been working on mutual partnerships in our schools; "I'd like to see a community school approach" schools and neighbors mutually beneficial; having functioning site councils, "in practice, we don't have fully functioning site councils at our schools"
Biancheria: each school does have an accountability plan; superintendent expanding partnership, leading in the direction of lifelong learners; how our partners can help; "think we've gotten to the point that our doors are open"; "we would like them to feel comfortable"

Graduation rates: have increased, not adequately preparing students for academic success; students enroll in remedial courses; what can district do to reverse trend?
Biancheria: experience of higher education; students and parents feel more comfortable; mentally prepared to go to college, not always ready when they come through the door; what high school and college have in common and what is different; "it's preparing them as a person"
Comparetto: asks for clarification: graduation rates or college preparation? both Early childhood education; think we need more guidance counselors, "way too many students for every guidance counselor"; making sure that we're also providing wraparound services
Lewis clarifies getting students ready for college 
Foley: have worked at graduation rate by targeting students in need; core issue is academic competency; making students are the early possible age get the support they need; get to kindergarten ready to learn; "how do we get kids ready to go in kindergarten and then move them through"; increased funding support; moving more students into the honors level program, so they learn at  higher level, but need scaffolding in place for that to work
McCullough: early childhood, so they have the foundation; AVID to provide skills on secondary level; have students have support and skills to handle curriculum at the college level; Naviance program to assess skills and interests, "who they are and who they want to be"
Monfredo: graduation rate in the past three years has continued to improve; need more preventive programs; full day preschool; reaching students in need of services; continuing to expand the AVID program; what's the data tell us about the students reaching college; maybe we have to look at the Saturday morning programs
O'Connell: many colleges complain that students arrive not prepared to handle collegiate work; writing clear works; skills of research; lack of self-discipline; time planning; analytical skills; difficulty in math as early as middle school; have to set higher standards for students to be able to achieve at a higher level for students "not just to do well in college, but succeed in life"
Colorio: "one of the data I look at is our NAEP scores" since standards change in 2010, scores have gone down (not true); Accuplacer a failed test; "if we improve standards at the state level, we improve standards at the district level"

LEI: What does student-centered learning mean to you?
McCullough: "I think it encompasses a lot of what we've talked about here already"; learning differences, cultural differences, wraparound services provided, really addressing the needs of all of our students; have breakfast and have a full stomach rather than being hungry all day
Monfredo: essential to working and developing the whole child; need to do a better job that we're reaching parents and making sure that they're part of the learning process; Andy's Attic at South High; relationships with students
O'Connell: schools really walk the walk; "some of them really do not to do that"; covers a whole range of issues of students, looking to what they first need; "every decision needs to begin and end with what the students need"
Colorio: look at the data, what works and what doesn't work; believe money is best spent in the classroom; develop student as a whole individual; students learn different ways; have to take into account all the different models that are out there
Biancheria: help low income families; every student eligible for free lunch "even though there was some pushback on funding" (there wasn't; WPS did better financially); student centered learning, need to look at best practices and move them forward; provide transporation; many don't without a fee, "that also helps the families of low income students"
Comparetto: see collaborative approach; best practices from other districts; triage time from out of school time;
Foley: great examples of schools in this approach; "I think about ownership...starts with teachers...teachers working in collaboration...also student ownership of his or her own academic success"; need to be looking at project-based learning, dialog in the classroom, mindfulness; family centered learning; what to do with families in schools

Lewis: teachers have tension as they must produce or school will be labeled; have to work this out as a school community

closing statement
Biancheria: accountability, safety, academic excellence, transparency; ask you to get the vote out; for Worcester to move forward and look strong in our community; "Boston is going to look at it, DESE is going to look at it"
Comparetto: "honestly think we can take on these issues" optimistic that we can really take on these issues
Foley: "great city with great schools"; all members of community come together; state and local level resources; economic prosperity; opens door to academic and career success for all students and all families
McCullough: feel my work has just begun after two years; continue path to be one of the best urban public school system in the nation
Monfredo: economic development tied into educational system; "school committee members are the face of the district"; have advocated for change when needed; safe environment; only keep fire going with assistance of community
O'Connell: "will see what is visible or what is more important invisible"; building a South, Doherty, hopefully Burncoat; what is more important is what takes place in our schools; expanding dual language; expanded day program; special opportunities for students in a wide range of areas
Colorio: complexity that parents, students face every day; always will bring new ideas and energy to Worcester School Committee

No comments: