Wednesday, February 28, 2018

And speaking of budgets...

...another round of congratulations is due over at the Finance and Operations offices...

Worcester School Committee meets Thursday

The agenda mysteriously was not posted for a bit, but it's up now.
The report of the superintendent is on college and career readiness.
There are a number of recognitions and congratulations.
Burncoat Middle is asking that it be renamed Burncoat Middle School for the Arts.
There's a motion to support Senator Chandler's bill on enhancing civics (please tell me that someone check its report out of Joint Committee).

The committte is asked to accept a $700 field trip grant to Woodland Academy; donations of $184.67 to Tatnuck Magnet School from Papa Gino’s Pizzeria, $75 to the Worcester Public Schools for the Model UN Club, $250 to Doherty Memorial High School for a Memorial Scholarship in memory of Giovan Diaz; the Massachusetts Life Sciences grant  of $22,897 (check out the backup; an after-school bioltechnology program!);
The committee is also being asked to approve a prior fiscal year payment of $8,959.88 to MPS - Holtzbrinck Publishers LLC.
The committee is also being asked to approve summer camps at South High...does the district have a revolving fund for this? 

Two scheduling notes for budget time: it's time to schedule the budget hearing, and administration looks to be attempting to have the City Council Education committee meeting with Finance and Operations again.

Mr. O'Connell is looking for policy under the "Children Requiring Assistance" statute.

Mr. Comparetto is asking for the ratio of social workers to students (does Worcester have social workers?) and if school resource officers are trained as social workers (no).

Mayor Petty is seeking a meeting with Brockton (!) to talk about suing the state over the foundation budget.
He's also filed this:
Request that the Superintendent coordinate a 17 minute Walkout Day on March 14, 2018 with all students and teachers in the Worcester Public Schools to commemorate with a one minute moment of silence for each of the people who died on February 14th at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
Miss Biancheria requested an update on ALICE training, which has been submitted as follows:

The "eLearning" is a video to watch online. 
A reminder, by the way, that the change in policy to ALICE was never approved by the school committee in Worcester. 

There is also an executive session on four rounds of litigation. 

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

And in sum

You can find the February Novick Reports summary over here.

Board of Ed for February: FY19 budget

Bell: "it feels like it's old now" since the Governor's budget has been out for a month already
actively working with cities and towns to get supplemental budget funding out to districts
"all other '18 funding is moving forward" including release of budgetary earmarks
"strong budget in terms of the administration's commitment to local aid"
another $15M reserve for students who have come to Massachusetts from Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands; "we will eventually catch up with students in the student count"
"we'll see if the Legislature chooses additional funding" on accounts that are level funded
have looked to consolidate literacy resources "and not just look to putting literacy resources out through, effectively, earmark spending"

worth watching this:
The Governor's House 2 budget consolidates the following three line items into the newly renamed English Acquisition and Literacy Programs (7010-0033) account with a combined funding level of $3.28 million. This consolidated line item includes $500,000 to comply with DOJ requirements to train ELL teachers in vocational technical schools and $200,000 to implement the Language Opportunity for Our Kids (LOOK) Act.
7010-0020 Bay State Reading Institute
7010-0033 Literacy Programs
7027-1004 English Language Acquisition
$250,000 for development of a new assessment for history and social studies with some discussion of what that will be; may not be much like every other assessment 
Federal government agreed to a two year budget deal; predictability of spending
"we anticipate our federal lines will be pretty much level funded"

Peyser: flags $25M in Ch.70
for this current year and next year, the adminstration has proposed increases within health insurance as an allocation towards changes to the foundation budget

McKenna: asks about after school programming, which leads to a question of earmarks

Board of Ed for February: graduation rates

"once students are assigned a cohort, they remain in the cohort"
Massachusetts is "known for our strict methodology"
88.3% graduation rate for four year
89.4% graduation rate for five years..."just short of having 90% of students graduate from our Massachusetts high schools in five years"
Sagan asks for a comparison
"it's not really apples and oranges; it's that everybody uses their own flavor of apples"
for eleven consecutive years, this rate has improved
all major racial and ethic rates increased over prior year

graduation rate gaps are narrowing across demographic groups
and dropout rates are the "lowest on record"

"our educators should be lauded for their efforts"
"it's a lot of pounding the pavement" to get students back into schools and keep them on track to graduate

Moriarty: do we know why? is it just paying attention
Curtin: combination of both efforts to have students stay engaged but the different multiple pathways that are offered in schools now

already following higher ed, now looking at "earnings of our graduates"

Board of Ed for February: MCAS for graduation

backup on this is here
Wulfson: First administration of the 10th grade MCAS test
first students taking that test are ninth graders right now
discussions around what the competency determination should be
"over time, be even more rigorous on what it takes to get a Massachusetts diploma"
not just to be rigorous but to reflect what is needed
"need to give plenty of notice for the change in requirements"
set at level that is statistically equivalent to current passage level
"do ask that you do this now so it is official"
"will set at ease the minds of a lot of ninth graders right now"
Sagan: exactly the right thing to do

Board of Ed for February: charter schools

They're going to take items 3, 4, 5 and 9 (back to back to back) on charter schools

Phoenix Academy on Lawrence:
Wulfson: "Phoenix Academy stands out as a shining light as a network of schools that are doing great work"
"reengage those students who have dropped out or are at risk of dropping out"
school has been running under contract with Lawrence Public Schools
"with encouragement and approval" of district to seek a Commonwealth charter, so school may draw from surrounding communities
Sagan: testimony in support included testimony from Riley as receiver of Lawrence
all testimony was in support
Stewart: was largely Lawrence testimony; included current students and alums
"model that is very different from the core model of the district"
Phoenix Academy APPROVED

Veritas Academy
Wulfson: second request for expansion: wanted to get through first renewal, came back with more modest proposal
Warwick notes that it will compete directly with Empowerment Zone in Springfield
we believe "competition and choice are both healthy"
"have certainly seen excellent results in Empowerment Zone" since Veritas was operating
Morton asks to recuse himself as he is a member of the board of Empowerment Zone
Springfield is above 9% but not at 18% (question from Stewart)
Expansion is APPROVED on eight votes in favor, with four abstensions (Morton, Stewart, Doherty, and...?)

Re: Lynn
Wulfson: heard a level of frustration over my decision not to recommend either charters going forward
Lynn will be coming out of bottom ten percent
"I know this is frustrating for the applicant's frustrating for us! We put a lot of effort into evaluating applications ourselves."
"we have a very complicated system of charter caps in Massachusetts"
"have been personally wrestling with these caps for twenty years in different guises"
"it's tied to Net School Spending...tied to enrollment.,.based on data that we don't even have until the end of the year"
do our best to manage this process
"the reason this is coming to a head right now...we've had communities coming in and out of the bottom ten percent every year"
"right now you're having communities get to their caps, so there's a bigger impact on coming and out"
"doesn't take a big swing in performance to move communities in and out"
based on MCAS results, didn't have them until late fall
wasn't until after the holidays that calculations were done on bottom ten percent
"the charter school community has to understand that caps change based on if you're in or out of that bottom ten percent"
law "could in the future involve taking away seats that had been awarded"
"if I recommend these seats now, you could approve, but a year from now, these seats disappear"
would have to do significant prorating of tuition
"this is not a situation I think anyone anticipated"
"to see if there is something we can do, short of statutory changes, that will make this" more workable for everybody
"can talk about potential for statutory changes... we know the bitter fight we just came through on Question 2...I don't know there's any appetite in the legislature for anything having to do with the cap"
"I do not see that have any leeway under the statute to award seats that will not be available"

Sagan supports not voting seats only to pull them back

Craven: on weight of growth versus achievement
"what if that impacts this decision?"
Wulfson: right now this year's calculation is based on past practice
"absolutely correct in change in performance or change in weighting...Lynn goes back in the ten percent and the seats are available again"
Craven: "I just wonder if there's hope that we can extend on this end"
McKenna: we were in this decision once before "and we said never again will be let this happen"
says on application that it is subject to change
we also said that DESE should say to applicants on the bubble "this may not work"
Wulfson: "it was a little disappointing to hear people say 'we didn't know districts could come out of the bottom ten percent'"
Sagan: "I think that's an unfair comment"
Chuang "the problem is we can't predict the future"
seats available this year will not be available the following year
"this was unavoidable"
McKenna: frequent reminders to charter applicants that the situtations could change
West: I do think the current policy puts the charter proposers in an untenable situation
Wulfson: Families don't always understand the nuances of charter schools or charterizing
"we've asked for these seats, but they haven't been granted yet"
West: potential changes of the formula could impact this list
"not clear to me that you'd want to use the same list for charter growth that you use" for accountability
Wulfson: "I look forward to that conversation again"
"there's strong feelings on both sides of that"

Davis Leadership Academy under probation
Wulfson: "we obviously want our charter schools to succeed..." this school is not where it should be
recommending that we do have a renewal here
"our way of signally the seriousness of the situation"
"make sure that everybody is rolling in the same direction here"
DESE staff: "a reemergence of the governance concerns and need to fulfill duties of the charter school board of trustees"
"did have a decline in academic performance" over term of charter
"not what we expect of a charter school in its fifteenth year"
charter under probation APPROVED

Board of Ed for February: Level 5 updates

backup is here; introducing the new receiver
Wulfson: "as I think everyone realizes, you have to be named 'Jeffery' to get a senior job with the Department these days"
Villar: now in week three "and the learning process is now underway"
first in rural Connecticut then in Hartford, spent two years starting a charter school, then moved into Mereton Public Schools
was director of group focused "on closing the achievement gap"
"policy opportunity...a perform opportunity...depth of education"
"seven superintendents in eight years does an awful lot of destruction in a system"
Johnston: being on the ground was eye opening
23 different payroll forms that came into the HR office every week
"one small example...every system has corellaries"
"there was a lot of support for the turnaround plan...the problem is the schools didn't own the turnaround plans themselves"
what schools need to be doing is very different by grade level
school improvement plans that are based on the turnaround plan
"started with the principals but we said it doesn't end with you"
"school improvement plans are living documents"
visited every school at least once a month
take the tenets of the school improvement plan and comment only on those
"tried to stay true in our observations" to the plan
met with a lot of acceptance and excitement by the school communities
elementary literacy: what are our plans to get children to read?
assessing a single aspect of literacy doesn't look at enough: how do students make meaning?
very strong results on decoding results; when offered a more comprehensive assessment, they found that children weren't making meaning
"dose of intervention" for students needing it
"it's giving the school momentuum"
"still more to be done"
new writing program "the students really are writers"
dual language program: promoting students' cultural and linguistic backgrounds
student noted that new receiver spoke to them in Spanish
"not something students are used to seeing" in leadership
Open Architects doing financial management and human resources
"a lot of people have tried to stabilize the finances of the district in the past"
"inherited a lot of unpaid bills"
"about one in every four invoice he paid this fiscal year was from last fiscal year"
have worked through the backlog
have hired 70 teachers this year; there are only 170 teachers in the district all together
"high rate of turnover"
"there will be some turnover again this year"
need for a new high school principal as current one moves back to family
assistant principal appointed as interim starting March 9
balancing FY19 budget; "getting to the bottom of acknowledging the costs"
opening of OSV charter school meaning loss of funding to district
"there are challenges"
school design grant funds of about $2M over three years
Stewart: on governance
what has happened or is happening with Southbridge on governance
"all level five districts have locally elected school committees"
has been working with the district and "improving the outlook of the schools together"
"brought back some subcommittees...have more of a voice, more of knowing what is happening the schools" on budget and curriculum
will be ongoing work with Villars "to establish their role"
"so they can be part of the change, not simply inherited a changed district"
Craven: "a little bit alarmed by" reports from prior receiver that we were in a good situation
"we're a little bit stunned by the level of chaos the business office was in"
"I don't think in the future that a receiver should report to the Board without reporting in these matters"
Sagan: I didn't think it was going fine until now...maybe it was a question of depth
"I don't think they were sleeping well in Southbridge...I'm not sure they are yet."
Moriarty: want to flag PD on implementation on literacy
"love the dual language concept...if it aligns to the best practices in other Massachusetts communities"

And the rest of the Level 5's
Parker in New Bedford: soliciting proposals for potential receivers in the coming year
"we hope to be able to offer him a recommendation in the next few weeks"
will engage in community stakeholders as part of that process
McKenna: "the timing won't work to have the superintendent because you won't have a superintendent"
New Bedford "hopes to have for the beginning of's not off the table"
on all Level 5s
each school increase in use of instructional rounds
distributive leadership: solicit feedback on key decisions from teachers
difficulty with staff retention and turnover
McKenna: challenge with suspensions
Johnston: really went after it
while I don't have the exact numbers, improvement in culture and climate have been notable
McKenna: turnover "which has been an issue in a lot of charter schools"
particularly young teachers and inexperienced teachers..."workload is enormous"
it is going to continue to turn "unless someone pays attention to it"
"has to be a more innovative" process for some of these positions
"hard to do long term"
"I think a lot of the charters haven't accepted that yet...thinking through more innovative ways to job share"
"in other parts of the country, schools have started to do that"
"I think that they lose really good folks, after they've put in time...they learn on the job, and then they lose them"
Moriarty: agree with that call to action, but I would broaden that to schools that DESE has intervened in
"systemic...encourage Department to better understand this ongoing issue with teacher turnover"
"the tough places are tough places to keep people"

Board of Ed for February: Commissioner transition

the backup is here

Sagan: "effectively, I agreed to pay Jeff what Mitchell was making before"
it's a 2 1/2% raise from what he is making now
talking about start date
"full new receiver board has been appointed"
new superintendent being search for Lawrence
"this might come as late as July 1...everyone is hoping that it can happen sooner"
"work with the board in Lawrence in a transition"

Board of Ed for February: Opening comments

We're in a fairly crowded Board meeting which we've been told will be starting at 9 rather than 8:30. The crowding is largely a busload of KIPP Lynn supporters, here, one assumes, to testify in opposition to the recommendation their charter not being put forward (recall that this had to do BOTH with Lynn's improved MCAS performance AND with concerns about KIPP elsewhere in Massachusetts). 
The agenda is here. Updating as we go.
Sagan comments that the late start was "unavoidable on my part," so it appears he's why we're starting late.
Sagan "some request to Jeff to walk us through safety preparedness in our schools"
initial restraint data and the graduation rate, "worth noting"

Wulfson: three significant data releases in the last week or so
Graduation data
College Board released AP test results; "Massachusetts was number one in the nation" of percent of graduating class that scored 3 or higher
"we applaud our schools for those efforts"
restraint data was issued earlier this week "we obviously believe this data is important" but caution from jumping to too many conclusions on a first report
"wide variations in schools and the populations that they serve"
seeking panel members for revision of arts standards
"send a strong signal to the field that arts are an important part of the curriculum"
$15M for schools in this fiscal year; sending instructions to districts on how to report exact number of students and their attendance; two payments (one in April for those by March 1; supplemental later in the year); also federal government approve additional funding
working with Puerto Rico to exchange data to get seniors diplomas from Puerto Rico
allow high school guidance counselors to monitor if students have completed their FAFSA
"using data to improve student outcomes"
some conversations with Tom Scott of superintendent
Department providing links on school safety issues
state requirement for multi-hazard plan, requiring plans for all sorts of situation
"confident that local administrators and teachers are working with their public safety on their plans"
great deal of variation among towns: "not clear to me that additional state mandates at this time would be useful"
in prevention: work we are already doing: social emotional learning, early warning, pathways
"keep students engaged and try to catch those who might be falling through the cracks"
speaking only for himself: "the notion of arming our teachers...strikes me as an incredibly bad idea"
only result that innocent people will get caught in the crossfire
"pleased to see Massachusetts educators speaking out strongly against the idea"
walkouts: "confident that administrators will handle matters sensitively"
We have spoken about civic involvement: "this is it: this is as real as it gets. If this is not a teachable moment, I don't know what is."
Peyser: very much on point
underline remarks on school cultures
"a lot of great work going on in the Commonwealth right we can do more and do better"
McKenna: asks about liability for students walking out: Q&A
"here are some of the things you might want to think about"
Wulfson: will have that conversation with superintendents

Public comment
Phoenix Academy in Lawrence: new head of school speaking in support of approval of charter
Phoenix was running an alternative school within the district of Lawrence; now it will spin out
"believe that college is the path for every student...want to provide them that choice"
another: "I believe that education is an equalizer"
"I believe in the relentless support we provide to our students"
student: "to be able to give this wonderful opportunity to other students"
Doherty: current staff is employees of the Lawrence Public Schools and members of the teachers' union
assume they'll need to resign from Lawrence schools; what about those who aren't selected to remain or want to stay with Lawrence? Will they be absorbed back into Lawrence?
head says application is with district; teachers and students will be absorbed back if that is their choice

Veritas Prep in Springfield (requesting an expansion)
"open Veritas to be a proof point for our city"
adding an additional classroom per grade level
add more staffing and more supports, particularly for those who struggle and those with special needs
mother "teaches our students to excel and to develop great study habits"
head of Mass Charter Board
no new seats in Lynn "shared at the last minute"
lost creditably
asks for review of charter cap process so that movement is predictable

Davis Leadership Academy with probation
"some fundamental differences of opinion on what the data says and what the data speaks to"
particularly around governance and finance
asks Board to review data and renew charter unconditionally
former Marlborough finance: school "got a clean opinion"
see what the bottom line was: they budgeted a loss of $100K, it came in at $99,011
"accountants develop their own language, too"
"any cost can be determined to have a negative impact on the budget...but that doesn't mean the decision to have [that cost] is a negative thing"
Moriarty: had packet this morning and it's coming to a vote today
"I don't know that there's a feasible option to the delay the vote"
"how much of a financial burden is being imposed on you?" for an escrow account
response: one of the smaller schools in the Commonwealth
"I can't speak right now directly what that impact would be on the budget...but it's not an ideal situation"
McKenna: there is no amount determine
Sagan: "if you want to make a counter argument...this is not a surprise item...we are talking apples and oranges..the report I got spoke to duty of care...with all of that on the record, you chose to speak to ancilliary items"
"I still think one seems to be missing"

parent: student is a currently a freshman at the University of San Francisco
three children still at KIPP
"this school is different than any other school I have been a part of"
support expansion so more children can be given the opportunity my children would be given
"I also learned that because of fourteen words written into the law, children will not have this opportunity"
hundreds of families waiting for a change
"families being served by the charter public schools must suffer now"
her nieces chances of getting a seat next year is very slim
"you are sending a message to the kids of Lynn that their education doesn't matter"
someone else (employee?)
has impacted this family and so many more
only 33% of middle school students will have chance to attend high school
"the restriction of school choice" impacts historic disadvantaged children of color
as a daughter of West African immigrants "my family did not move across the Atlantic Ocean" to a country that historically oppresses people who look like me to settle for anything less than an excellent education
"please consider the impact on our current families"

Tom Gosnell, AFT MA
here on the issue of arming faculty
"I don't think that I need to go over the fifty or so reasons against something as insane as arming teachers"
could create more murders in the school
access to weapons that they don't know
"changes culture of the school..that is massively important"
"it appears that the President of the United States is not backing down from this"
"the American Federation of Teachers will vigorously oppose this insane proposal"
"would strongly urge take a formal position" opposing such a proposal

Monday, February 26, 2018

Board of Ed meets Tuesday

Apologies for the late posting on this...we're back to the normal place and time: Tuesday at 8:30 am in Malden. The agenda is here. It will be livestreamed here.

After the usual round of comments from the Chair, the Commissioner, and the Secretary, then the public, the first item on the agenda is an update on the transition to appointed Commissioner Jeff Riley. Specifically, the Board is being asked to vote on his contract terms, though the contract itself is not appended. He is to start July 1, unless his term with Lawrence ends earlier (as that position just was posted last week, that seems unlikely). His salary is to be $241,000 per year, with a travel reimbursement. The only details on pension, vacation, health insurance and such is he is eligible for "standard benefits available to state employees, including four weeks (20 days) of paid vacation leave accrued on an annual basis." That salary is more than most, but not all, superintendents of districts in Massachusetts.

The update on Level 5 schools and districts has updates on the Dever School and UP Academy Holland in Boston, Morgan School in Holyoke, and Parker School in New Bedford. Each is reporting on successes and challenges. Additionally, the new receiver in Southbridge Jeffrey Villar will be at the meeting.

It is charter school consideration month, and several of the pieces have already made news. The only new charter being recommended is Phoenix Academy in Lawrence, which did not face marked local opposition. The Equity Lab application in Lynn did not receive a recommendation largely due to changes within the district:
DOE predicts Lynn Public Schools will no longer be in the bottom 10 percent this spring, further limiting the number of charter school seats. “We recently found out MCAS test scores are up, which is a good thing that Lynn Public School are no longer in the bottom 10 percent,” said Joel Abramson, a KIPP board member. 
There is an additional memo to the Board on this farther down the agenda.
That is not the only reason Equity is being denied:
in his memo to the board, Wulfson said another factor that contributed to denying KIPP’s request for more seats was the increased rates of student discipline at its Lynn and Boston schools, and the fact that the school has yet to complete the expansion approved in 2015.
Veritas Academy in Springfield is requesting an amendment to their charter to add 108 seats, which would bring it to its maximum enrollment of 432 seats.
Davis Leadership Academy in Boston is being recommended for renewal on probation (for some reason, that's a Word doc):
My recommendation to place the school on probation with conditions is based on my concerns about recurring poor governance practices and new evidence revealing a lack of financial oversight and mismanagement of the charter school by the board of trustees. Additionally, throughout the charter term, DLA’s academic performance has declined.
The Board is being asked to formally adopt the change in regulations that will set an interim graduation standard for MCAS for the classes of 2021 and 2022; they've already assented to this in concept.

State graduation and dropout results for 2016-17 are on the agenda, but there is, as yet, no backup. UPDATE: It was so they could do a Monday release of the eleventh consecutive year of improvement of graduation rate.

There's a report on the Governor's FY19 budget recommendations; note that there is a spreadsheet available to download. 

Not for formal discussion, but made available, is a report on rural schools.
There's also a renewal of charters for Abby Kelley Foster Charter Public School, Baystate Academy Charter Public School, Boston Day and Evening Academy Charter School, Mystic Valley Regional Charter School, Sturgis Charter Public School, and UP Academy Charter School of Dorchester; a removal of conditions from Pioneer Valley Charter and Barnstable Horace Mann; and a renewal of loans outside the terms of the charters for Argosy Collegiate Charter School, Atlantis Charter School, Benjamin Franklin Classical Charter Public School, Boston Collegiate Charter School, Boston Preparatory Charter School, Boston Renaissance Charter Public School, Brooke Charter School, Community Charter School of Cambridge, Christa McAuliffe Regional Charter Public School, Foxborough Regional Charter School, Francis W. Parker Charter Essential School Pioneer Charter School of Science, Veritas Preparatory Charter School.
Can we talk about the Board delegating its renewal authority to the Commissioner on this stuff, please?

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Open question

As I watched the students walk out of high schools across the country today, this kept going through my head:

"Heart of the Commonwealth, represent!"

I'd always recommend you read Charlie Pierce in Esquire, but today's column has both some nice reflections from his father's time as a Worcester Public School administrator:
My father worked in what were then called “inner-city” schools. When he left the classroom—he actually taught fourth-period Bio—he became the vice-principal on whom disciplinary matters fell. He was notably tough, but he also was a realist. He had a running feud with one phys-ed teacher whose class was scheduled for the first thing in the morning. He kept sending kids who fell asleep down to my father’s office. The first thing my father asked them was whether or not they had had anything to eat that morning. If the answer was no, he’d give them some money and send them to a diner down the street. Then, he’d wait for the gym teacher to come down and yell at him. “Charlie,” he once told me, “You can’t teach a hungry child. It’s pointless.” well as a great analogy on how the high school students are taking on the fringe right:
But the real high comedy has been to watch the conservative intelligentsia embark on a serious fool’s errand—namely, trying to battle with educated teenagers on social media. I mean, don’t any of these people have kids between the ages of 10 and 20? This is like the Redcoats marching back to Boston from Lexington and Concord. They’re taking fire from behind every tree and every stonewall, and they’re getting slaughtered on platforms they’ve probably never heard of.
But go read it all. 

Never again

While it's school vacation week in Massachusetts, note that gun protests are happening at schools across the country:
"I just feel like some people might be scared to protest. It was real nerve-wracking," Pierre said. "But once you do it, you feel liberated, and you feel like you're connecting. All the people that you don't know who's hurting, you find out they're hurting with you, and you're just more connected through protesting."
Upcoming actions:
I'll update with more links as I find them. 

While we are talking about student protests, may I introduce (or reintroduce) you to Tinker v. Des Moines? This is the case that gives us the oft-cited line about students not shedding their rights "at the schoolyard gate" as well as the question of if students are "disrupting school assembly." I'd point you also to this:
That they are educating the young for citizenship is reason for scrupulous protection of Constitutional freedoms of the individual, if we are not to strangle the free mind at its source and teach youth to discount important principles of our government as mere platitudes.
I'd suggest reading what the ACLU has about this case and its implications if you plan action at school. UPDATE: The ACLU is also having a "Know Your Rights" phone call for such students.

Harvard Graduate School of Education offers this collection of information for creating resilency after violence. It includes this statement:
When students engage in protests, civil disobedience, or any other form of activism, it’s important for school leaders to listen to their concerns and to support their right to protest, says educational ethicist Meira Levinson. Educators can support students' right to protest without taking a stand on those views themselves. Defending students' right to voice their views can help foster civic participation and bolster a strong climate. Educators should encourage conversations about difficult or controversial issues, and should do so regularly throughout the year.
I note that both Fairfax County and Howard County Boards of Education (Maryland) have passed measures "supporting student voice regarding school safety." The ever-growing list of colleges that have issued statements supporting student protests (and saying discipline resulting thereof won't be held against them) is here.
This Atlantic piece is good on why these student voices seem to be gaining traction.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Worcester School Committee meetings next week

Two subcommittees and a full committee meeting!
It's not actually clear from the online postings what is going to be discussed at the subcommittee meetings; it's just everything that has been sent to that subcommittee. That's not best practice on agenda postings; here's my guess from what has backups.

Monday, there's a Finance and Operations subcommittee meeting (5pm). It looks like a lot of the items are facilities repair related (most without a backup); you can see the list of big projects done in cooperation with MSBA (costing more than $60M total since 2012)  here. In other words, the answer to "why haven't we used bonds?" is "we have."
Because cell phones are always with us, there is a report on that.
The one to watch, of course, is the quarterly budget update. It's in much better shape for second quarter (free cash transfer) with a projected ending balance of -$177, 761...still negative, but better. The report is here.
Note that legal was cut by $30,000 and now is over that amount. Workers compensation continues to be over the budgeted amount (remember when there are proposed cuts during deliberations). Special education tuition is eight new students since June (and I don't understand the last sentence in that paragraph...meaning it was more like $700K?). Translation--in two accounts--has been flagged as underfunded in the past, as well.
The good news on utilities is that the solar panels are working; the bad news is that Nelson Place is getting fewer solar panels than planned? Also, crossing guards are not an account in which one wants to see a balance! There are some account transfers on this one.

Tuesday, Teaching, Learning, and Student Supports meets at 5. There's a response to an (old; my name is on it) item on reviewing what instruction there is on coding, for which the response is this:

There's an item on wrestling teams and one on the reading curriculum
The amendment to the Worcester East Middle innovation school plan has no academic or instructional backup, no support from teams at the school or anything else; it just reports enrollment. As I think of all of the work that went into the innovation plan, this is pretty appalling. 
The one item that may be of most interest is the upcoming school calendars

On Thursday's full meeting, the report of the superintendent is her goals for the year. They are: 
  • completing the new superintendents' induction program
  • providing high quality learning opportunities and resources to all students: the benchmarks are around AP, linking to Khan Academy (!), and then by subject area
  • developing a district technology plan...perhaps they could start with the one from five years ago. This includes "scaling computer science," redoing the website by 2018, and providing "equitable access to mobile technology."
  • providing effective professional development with a list of professional development plans
  • continuing to analyze district data: with measurements having to do with dual enrollment, tiered support, gifted instruction, 
  • developing a positive school climate: with references to some initiatives
As a response to the frequent "advertise, advertise" item, the district apparently is being rebranded; beware of reports having no dollar figure attached.
There's a list of the schools that have students from Puerto Rico.
Relatedly, the $5000 came through, and Worcester is using it on a "homeless liaison."

There is a request that the School Committee accept: 
  • $450 to the Art Department at Doherty Memorial High School in memory of Jeffrey Gustafson.
  • $300 to the Special Education Department at Grafton Street School in memory of Elisha Inferrera.
There are requests for the following:
  • Request that the Superintendent create an updated Health and Wellness Curriculum for middle and high school students. (Petty, joined by all of the committee; held from the last meeting)
  • Request that the Administration provide a report on the accountability changes made by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. (Monfredo)
  • Request that the Administration provide a progress report on the Hanover Academy at Burncoat Middle School. (McCullough)
  • To consider joining forces with the Brockton Public Schools as a plaintiff in its School Funding Lawsuit. (Comparetto)
  • Request that the Administration provide a report on changes in principal leadership and its plans to hire new principals.(Comparetto)
  • Request that the Administration provide a report on its efforts to attract a diverse pool of teachers and administrators in the Worcester Public Schools. (Comparetto)
  •  To consider a review of a publication entitled Teaching Hard History: American Slavery from the Southern Poverty Law Center.(Comparetto)
  • To support Senate Bill No. S249-An Act to involve youth in civic engagement, a new bill filed on Beacon Hill by State Senator Harriette Chandler. (Monfredo)
  • Request that the Administration provide an update on the ways in which education is provided to staff and students, in light of the opioid crisis, as a result of the passage of the recently enacted Marijuana Law. (Biancheria)

There is a 6 pm executive session for three workers' comp cases and a grievance.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Round one

You did it!
I hear, by the way, that the vote was unanimous.

We'd be remiss in not thanking MASBO and MassBudget for pointing out these gaps, lo these many years ago...finally we're getting a bit of legislative progress. 
Locally, of course, no one was been more stalwart in pointing out that he'd be giving us bad news less often if we fixed this than Brian Allen. So...hat tips all around.

On to Ways and Means!

By Jove, he's got it!

Stunned silence followed by cheers from me to WBUR's Max Larkin for capturing Boston's relationship with the Chapter 70 aid!
But that’s where state education officials object. They answer that there aren’t many cities or towns in Boston’s position.
State aid is calculated based on how much a city can afford to pay on its own. The fast-growing tax base in Boston and neighboring cities like Cambridge and Somerville make them decidedly unlike other towns which are facing de-industrialization and economic downturn.
Ten years ago, Boston was taking in almost $266,000 in tax revenue for each of its students. In last year’s budget, that number had risen to nearly $400,000 — driven primarily by an increase in property values.
According to state thresholds, Boston now has more than $100 million more than it needs to cover the basic expenses of its public schools. But the state doesn’t ask Boston to take care of itself, instead opting to cover more than the “minimum aid” threshold of 17.5 percent.
Read it, bookmark it, print it out and frame it. I don't recall this ever being captured by a press outlet before!