Saturday, August 31, 2019

Back to school and back to dress coding

Going back to school in August inevitably means that the parenting boards fill up with tales from parents whose children have been pulled from class, made to change, and even punished for violations (or perceived violations) of dress codes.
Last week's Worcester teacher orientation began with a review of the updated dress codes, which, it was quickly noted online, still make no allowance for headwraps not of religious or medical significance.
To add to the resources we have available in this conversation, let me add to Seattle this piece from Phi Delta Kapplan looking at the disparate impacts of dress codes on students of color

Friday, August 30, 2019

Worcester School Committee meets Thursday, September 5

You can find the agenda here.
Should you be wondering if the Worcester Educational Collaborative's weekly question for candidates makes any difference at all, you might go read this week's responses on balancing constituent needs and the work of the committee, which was published Tuesday, August 27, and then look at how many agenda items that reflect challengers' concerns were filed on Wednesday, August 28.
Right. So.

There is no report of the superintendent.
As I noted in my own response to WEC's question, there is again an enormous number of recognitions and appreciations.
There are some beginning of the year appointments.

There's a response to the item asking about the teaching of cursive in the Worcester Public Schools; this is one of the better responses I've seen in some time, as it cites the state standards, reviews where the state is going, lays out where the district is and plans to be, and brings it home with research. 

There's a question about mold at Columbus Park (see above on filing items that should simply be referred to administration for solution).

There's a one page request for acceptance for an $80,000 security grant upon which the only description is "locks and cameras" with program location "the Worcester Public Schools." That's a lot of money to spend so vaguely.

There's likewise a one page request for acceptance of an innovation pathways grant of $28,683, and...I have no idea what it is being spent on, as here's what it says:
  • To support the development of new and effective strategies to scale high-quality career pathways, and significantly expand student access to, participation in, and successful completion of pathways that culminate in meantiful postsecondary and workforce credentials
  • To provide participating students with supportive, rigorous academic experiences and career development education relevant to their next stepss after high school
  • To enhance a student's ability to gain awareness and prepardness of future employment opportunities
I mean, it's the innovation pathways, so it has stuff to do with getting kids to work, but what is the $28K going to?
xkcd 1860: Communicating

There's likewise a one page request for acceptance for the $116,250 21st Century Exemplar program which is going to Burncoat Middle "to provide activities rooted in project based learning practices that were developed around the need for enhanced literacy programming." So the funding buys...what?

Lest you think I'm being overly particular, I know for a fact that the district had to supply significantly more information than this to the state to get the grant, and the district within recent memory was reporting enough information to know where the money was actually going on grants.

Miss McCullough is asking for a report on the JumpStart orientation programs at the secondary schools. I assume, incidentally, that there will at some point be a report of the superintendent on back to school?

The usual settling up from the prior fiscal year is on here without a backup at this point; it'll be referred to Finance and Operations.

The auditors are coming! The reports aren't attached; this will go to Finance and Operations, too.

Mr. Monfredo thinks there should be:
half day professional development for staff in light of the training provided to principals that dealt with SEL, the impact of homelessness and foster children and on disciplinary alternatives.
Just a reminder that professional development time in the Worcester Public Schools is very, very limited.

Mr. Monfredo also offers this:
Request that the Administration continue its collaborative work with various agencies in dealing with the needs of homeless and foster children and consider reviewing the Cincinnati model entitled “Kids in School Rule.”
Yes, that is really a "keep doing what you're doing" item.

There's a request to pay a prior fiscal year item $2,323.00 to CliftonLarsonAllen, LLP for the student activities account audit which is a little odd.

Mr. O'Connell is coming in with two alternative district policies banning cell phones in different ways, both of which made the rounds of the news this summer: San Mateo and Crestwood. It's always interesting to me which ones get picked; one could just have easily cited Stoughton's: 
Note also that, so long as the district both requires technology to complete work and does not provide said technology, having a cell phone ban is literally barring students from doing their work, or requiring that they violate district policy to do so.

The Committee is requested to accept donations:
– $67.55 from a donor to the Worcester Public Schools
– $100.00 from a donor to the Patricia Falcone Memorial Scholarship
– $3,820.00 from Worcester Area Mission Society for the Summer Cubs Program held at Woodland Academy

Mr. O'Connell has put the updated superintendent rubric on the agenda for consideration; note that the redraft is only for superintendents, not for district administrators as on the agenda.

The Committee is also being asked to accept (surely we could even just group these together?) the Comprehensive School Health grant for $200,000. While the backup on this one is of no more use than any of the other grants on the agenda, luckily we know from the FY20 budget what this grant is going for: "trauma informed teams" that would go to schools in most need (that's on page 262). More specifics about how many positions are being hired should be included here, however.

Mr. O'Connell (on August 28) suggests that the School Committee should establish goals for itself. Note that during Mr. O'Connell's extensive tenure, I do not believe he has ever before made this proposal.
...and wants to review the siting of Doherty (citing the city charter, which I don't think is going to carry weight with the MSBA).
...and wants to send leftover food home with kids (as you no doubt saw on Facebook this summer).
...and wants to know when site councils are meeting (as he does this one time each year; it does not get connected to goals or evaluation at any point).

Mr. Comparetto asks for an update on ongoing transportation issues. Note that the Committee was to have the Durham bid and the WPS report on the in-house alternative by now. Keep your eye on the schedule of Finance and Operations meetings, as that report will appear there first. This is the appropriate place to bring your concerns about WPS transportation. I would think it would have to happen before the next full committee meeting on September 19. UPDATE: Note Scott O'Connell's article on this; Finance and Operations expected to meeting 9/1716, with the full committee taking it up 9/19. Again, this is the right place to bring your transportation concerns.

There is another prior year payment of $5,252.25 to Harbor Networks; since there's no backup, we don't know for what, but they do "managed IT services" which leaves more questions than answers, really. 

Mr. Comparetto, on an item co-sponsored by Mr. Foley, Miss McCullough, and Mr. Monfredo (that's interesting) calls for:
Request the establishment of an inclusive and transparent process for selecting and implementing a comprehensive Sex Education Curriculum that is age-appropriate, evidence-based, medically-accurate and LGBTQ inclusive in the Worcester Public Schools.
And yes, the candidates have been asked about that quite a bit.

Miss Biancheria would like a count on Worcester Tech enrollment and applicants; a list of Ch. 74 programs and enrollment; and AP courses, enrollments, and results (they won't be able to do a full list of this as some of the sizes will be too small; FERPA violation); and to "highlight its successes in the STEM/STEAM programs" during a week in October.

There's prior fiscal year payments totalling $7800 going to nurses, which does actually have a backup.

Miss McCullough, no doubt noting the ongoing calls these past weeks for class supply lists, request clear links to such lists, as well as calendars and forms. Might we go a step further and remind all involved that such lists can only always be optional, which is not something I saw emphasized nearly enough? For these to be expected in a district like Worcester is, bluntly, wrong.

And there's an executive session at 6: three collective bargaining sessions and three litigation consultations.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Mass School Building Authority August meeting

I popped across the street this morning for the Mass School Building Authority meeting; there's some interesting projects on the agenda:
Those accelerated repair projects at the top are sizable: Norfolk Aggie has multiple buildings, and, for those in Worcester wondering, Challenge and Reach is the Harlow Street building, half of which would be covered by the state: $6M project, $3.1M funded by the state. 
Both approved

Coming in for Preferred Schematic Design is Leicester, which is a PreK-8 building on the site of the current Leicester Middle. It's a $69.5M project for construction, total cost of $86.9M.

Preferred Schematic Design: Nauset Regional for addition/renovation in Preferred Schematic Design; total estimated cost of $140M

invitation to Project Scope and Budget:
Amesbury: Amesbury Elementary for a new building at $60.5M: approved
Braintree: South Middle for a new building at $86.5M, which notes their East project will open next week: approved
Bridgewater-Raynham Regional: Mitchell Elementary PreK-2 for a new building for $80M
"thanks for all the support since our roof collapse": approved
Gardner: Waterford Street Elementary for a new building for $89.5M
will replace two elementary schools on a site on Pearl Street (so will they change the name?): approved
Holyoke: Chestnut Street Middle and Peck Middle both new, $62.4M and $70.4M respectively: 
nice mock-ups on these; Holyoke of course doesn't have a lot of space, and they're making some thoughtful use of space; the mayor notes that two projects at the same time is unusual 
Millbury: Shaw Elementary for a  new building of $60.9M: approved (after comment sent in by Senator Mike Moore that his children both went there)
West Springfield: Coburn Elementary for a new building for $69M: approved

Dennis-Yarmouth's project once again on hold due to another lawsuit; will cost the towns "as costs are just going up"
Waltham was hoping to be on this agenda, but still facing eminent domain challenges; are in fact before the court right now

There's some interesting charts presented here about projected changes in project costs over time that are going up on the website. 

Mail not going through?

Setting aside for the moment the question of "testing irregularities," which we in Worcester seem to have now gone a second round on (let's not forget Goddard is why we have increased scrutiny over MCAS testing procedures), can we ask what the heck is going on with this:
On Tuesday night, Ms. Binienda said she had not yet seen the state’s letter to Ms. Boss
We learn from Scott O'Connell earlier in the article that the letter is dated July 12.
Her office has had this letter for six weeks.
Are they not opening the mail? Ignoring emails?

I shouldn't even have to say this, but the Worcester Public Schools cannot be ignoring the communications of the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. We can dislike them; we can argue with them; we can't ignore them.

Possibly even more worryingly:
...her belief was the education department had not definitively discovered what led to the score anomalies. She said there had been some focus on an unexpected server issue that occured during the testing that led to several computers shutting down, but that “we weren’t able to determine what effect that had on things.”
The state feels it has definititively discovered what happened, and it has issued a letter of reprimand to the principal over it. Letters of reprimand are rarely issued at all; this is a big deal. That isn't computers shutting down.
Again, we can dislike the state's conclusions. We don't get to pretend they didn't happen and have no plan to deal with it.

Here's the deal: we have, it seems, several schools in turnaround (not that we've ever seen any public declarations or plans). Worcester is always going to be under state scrutiny on how we're doing on things. That's just the reality of being a city.
We've got to open the mail, and we've got to deal with the state.
The above is just...dangerous.

Monday, August 26, 2019

When gifted programs aren't really about giftedness

...and there's some question if they ever are.
This from New York City:
A group of selective schools and programs geared to students labeled gifted and talented is filled mostly with white and Asian children. The rest of the system is open to all students and is predominantly black and Hispanic.
Now, a high-level panel appointed by Mayor Bill de Blasio is recommending that the city do away with most of these selective programs in an effort to desegregate the system, which has 1.1 million students and is by far the largest in the country.
The same demographics are true, of course, of Boston Latin, and, while Worcester sticks its "gifted" programs as subprograms into schools so their demographics are masked, it's a good bet that Worcester's are, as well.
Tough to argue that's giftedness. All eyes on New York on if the decision is made that's good for all students--as "gifted" students aren't hurt by learning with the general population--or the political efficient one.

They're back!

Today's the day! The students in Worcester (grades 1 through 12; kindergarten starts Thursday) are back to school.
Best wishes for the year!

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Ask enough and sometimes you’ll receive

...’though let me note that I did not receive this from the city or the schools:
Note that the WPS positions noted are upon appointment; some of those appointed have since changed jobs within the system. So far as we know, they haven’t been replaced on the committee.

Also, aside from those holding their spot by virtue of serving otherwise, I am not seeing a WPS parent here. 

Some questions I have after last night's Doherty meeting

The Doherty building project page now has last night's presentation posted. Looking through that, and thinking about all of this some more, I have some questions:
  • Are we ever going to get the full list of who is on the building committee? In most places, there is a public appointment and a public list. We're this far along, and many of us are still wondering who was appointed. UPDATE: now posted here, not via the city or the schools
  • The building will more than double in size, from 170,000 square feet to 420,000 square feet. Some of this is due to required additions, like those for special ed. However, some of it is due to the addition of four Chapter 74 programs proposed for addition to Doherty: 
    • Engineering and Technology (expanding to 400 students)
    • Marketing, Management, and Finance (200 students)
    • Programming and Web Development (200 students)
    • Construction Craft Laborer (150 students)
    • ...which isn't required. Thus, if space is a concern, and not subverting needed programming is key, should these programs be added A) at Doherty and B) at all?

  • Likewise, the parking is going from 250 parking spaces to 430, of which 180 are for staff and 250 for visitors and students. Is this really that much of a priority? We need 250 spaces for students and visitors?
  • Slide 18, designing on-site replacement, has two "new athletic fields" over by Newton Square, on Parks property, on the current site of the basketball court and tennis courts (at left in the below photo).

    Is that simply designating that there current is a basketball and tennis courts or is there, in fact, a plan to put fields on Pleasant and Highland on opposite ends of the rotary?

  • I'm all for embracing pedestrian access--really! and it is good that it is being included and considered, as below in the white dotted lines coming down the bottom towards the far side of Newton Hill--

    but slide 21 which includes that ignores some of where that foot traffic goes now (specifically, down the hill and straight across Park to Elm Park). There's even a stairway there! If we don't know where people are actually going, that doesn't seem very hopeful on how well we are tracking what is needed.

  • Also, if you look at the above, that puts four driveways--two in and two out--on Highland. We don't have a choice on Highland, as that's where the frontage is, but that's a lot of driveways.

  • For those who have ever wondered, regarding Beaver Brook and Foley Stadium a) what was floodplain, b) where that culvert went, slide 22 has an answer:
     Between the end zone and the twenty yard line, it looks like. It's an 84 inch culvert, they said last night, and the soil is urban fill and ash. Not something to mess with.
    Beaver Brook, of course, is city parkland, and both here and on Newton Hill, it is reassuring to see that the City and all have learned the lesson of Worcester Tech around park takings: don't do it.
  • Among the "existing Chandler Magnet Site notes" is "Existing 1950's school" but somehow the actual operation of that school, the presence of 500 students being educated in the building, including the only bilingual program in the district, is entirely left off. Both here and in the site evaluations, I am troubled that this somehow didn't figure in. Leaving aside the impact on students of losing a school--something which very much does matter, as has been extensive researched--the district somehow coping with 500 students being thrust back into the rest of the system is not something that can lightly be dismissed. I heard more than one parent ask if, for example, closing Worcester Arts Magnet would be floated so lightly.
    Whatever the neighborhood schools of those students--and it's hard to miss the "go back where they came from" of such a push--most of Worcester's elementary schools are at or near capacity. I don't know of the current enrollment of the school, but in the past, that school drew heavily from the neighborhood of Chandler Elementary, a school so overenrolled that half of it meets at the Y. The district's not having a long term plan for Chandler Elementary's enrollment is itself dismaying; I have a difficult time imagining a reality in which we all blithly accepted that half a school would go elsewhere for the foreseeable future. That it would be worsened in part so as to avoid having Doherty students have to move for a few years is simply unjust.
  • Having been part of the conversation around Worcester State's wish to have the same field at Chandler Magnet for parking, I have to ask: has anyone actually had a discussion with Worcester State about those proposed land takings needed to make this proposal work? As someone who lives in the neighborhood, my own experience with Worcester State is they are hanging on to every square inch they have and are looking to acquire more. 

  • That's what I have right now. More as I have it. 

Monday, August 19, 2019

Doherty building meeting

posting as we go; here's hoping the presentation goes up online. Also there is still no posting of who is on the school building committee
preliminary design phase
big emphasis that these are "looking at options"
base options, redesign, new build

Doherty building meeting tonight

There's a meeting about the Doherty High building project tonight at the school at 6:30. The agenda:
6:30-6:40 | Introductions
6:40-6:50 | Feasibility Study Update |
6:50-7:30 | Potential Site Location Discussion |
7:30-8:00 | Public Input / Q&A
Note, incidentally, that this is a "meeting about the building," not an official "building committee meeting." It's probably a good idea to also note that this means that there's no guarantees that most of the building committee--those who will vote on preferred location--will actually be present. 

Fall Joint Committee hearings

These are always shared as "subject to change," but the Joint Committee on education as of right now has two hearings scheduled for this fall:

  • Wednesday, September 4 on a whole host of things, but the big ones are recess, the make up of the Board of Ed, and nutrition
  • Monday, October 7 mostly on charter schools
Both start at 11 am in Room A-1 at the State House 

Worcester can make a change

A word on the Worcester election:

Note from me: all School Committee challengers were invited to participate. Seven did. 

Sunday, August 18, 2019

The 1619 project

To quote the opening of the project:
In August of 1619, a ship appeared on this horizon, near Point Comfort, a coastal port in the British colony of Virginia. It carried more than 20 enslaved Africans, who were sold to the colonists. 
No aspect of the country that would be formed here has been untouched by the years of slavery that followed. On the 400th anniversary of this fateful moment, it is finally time to tell our story truthfully.
Nikole Hannah-Jones opens the collection with an essay that reviews American history from 1619 onward. As she says:
No one cherishes freedom more than those who have not had it.
There are essays, photography, poetry, and more.
Educators, please note that not only is the entire issue available for free online, lesson plans are also part of the Pulitzer Center's contribution.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Worcester School Committee election events

Someone stopped me downtown today to ask what events were coming up, so I thought I'd stick it here, as well. This is what I have; I'm sure more will be added:

  • Thursday, August 29; 5:30 pm: Commission on Disability Candidates' forum in the Levi Lincoln Room at City Hall
  • Tuesday, September 10: PRELIMINARY ELECTION (eliminates 1 of the 13 candidates)
  • Wednesday, September 25, 6:30 pm: League of Women Voters forum in the Sullivan Auditorium at Worcester State University
  • Tuesday, October 22, 7 pm: Worcester Regional Research Bureau forum which I don't seem to have any additional information on...
  • Wednesday, October 23, 6pm: NAACP forum at the Worcester Youth Center
  • Wednesday, October 30, noon: Worcester Senior Center, candidates' luncheon
  • Tuesday, November 5: ELECTION DAY! 

In case you needed this said again

Hey, money matters in educational outcomes! Go figure.
Here's four--yes FOUR--new studies from across the country demonstrating that.
Four new studies from different parts of the country have come to similar conclusions. In Texas and in Wisconsin, researchers found that spending more translated to higher test scores and boosted college enrollment. Two other studies — one looking at California and another looking across seven states — found that spending more money didn’t affect test scores in more affluent areas, but did boost test scores in higher-poverty districts. 
“All four studies find that increased school spending improves student outcomes,” said Jackson.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Worcester School Committee meets for mid-August

I'd honestly missed that this was happening entirely, and there isn't a whole lot on the agenda beyond allocating the funds over the FY20 budget as passed in June.
Note that as it is summertime, the meeting is at 4 pm.

There are some honors and recognitions.
The administration has sent along the admission policy of Worcester Tech. Note that these are subject to state approval, and DESE is reworking their guidance on them, with an eye towards equity. This probably should be up for reconsideration over the next few months, then. Note for homeschoolers: an "approved" homeschool program?

There are prior fiscal year payments
  • of $2,392.50 to EI US, LLC dba (doing business as) LearnWell, due to a name change.
  • of $896.00 to Providence Nursing Agency for CNAs
  • of $538.84 to Stevens Children’s Home Inc. dba (doing business as) Stevens Treatment Programs
Mr. O'Connell suggests commenting on " the proposed 'Revision of Categorical Eligibility in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)' issued by the US Department of Agriculture." The comment period closes September 23.

This item:
Request that the Administration provide a proposed budget for a multi-faceted staff diversity recruitment initiative, and to allocate funds to implement it from the additional state aid furnished by the FY20 State Budget as enacted during July.
...and this item:
Request that the Administration provide its plans for the allocation of the new funding from the State.

immediately surround what the School Committee had to know was coming: the administration's proposed FY20 adjustments.

The adopted FY20 budget has an additional $4.6M (net) coming to the Worcester Public Schools from the budget the School Committee adopted in June, which was based on the proposed House Ways and Means budget.
That looks like this:

Note that of the $24.4M increase over last year, $13.2M of that is coming in from inflation. It is only the next highest amount, $8.9M, that is coming in from Foundation Budget changes; this should answer Mr. Monfredo's later item requesting an update on the impact of the foundation budget. Let's remember that when we hear claims about what FY20 did. And also:
We continue to look forward to final passage of a new Foundation Budget formula that adopts funding for economically disadvantaged students at the highest possible level.
What is administration recommending the funding go to?
  • 6 instructional coaches "to provide instructional support and turnaround efforts" (there's that unannounced 'turnaround' again) at Burncoat High and Middle, Forest Grove, Sullivan, WEMS, and Challenge and Reach [$524,772]
  • 4 elementary teachers and 1 elementary assistant principal; no word on where, though one assumes the teachers are for lower class size [$447,310]
  • 5 ESL teachers, including the kindergarten dual language teacher for Woodland, which...had that not been budgeted for? [$437,310]
  • 2 special ed teachers plus the conversion of an early childhood teacher into dept head, plus a Deaf and hard of hearing team chair [$183,062]
  • 1 "health/drug" educator, which was advocated for during budget...I still have no idea what this person is to do, 'though there is an item requesting one following this on the agenda [$87,462]
  • 2 guidance counselors (half a postion each for Burncoat Middle and High, 1 at North) [$174,924]
  • 1 teacher at WEMS (no word for what) and converting Gerald Creamer Center evening adminstrator to a full time position (costing $2800) [$89,662]
  • 10 sped IAs [$366,055]
  • "an increase in middle school and freshman sports opportunities" with funding to support coaching, uniforms, supplies and transportation [$130,000]
  • 1 clerical for special ed "to support compliance and administrative support for the department" [$75,000]
  • 1 school-year clerical for the Fanning building, which doesn't have any [$39,672]
  • 1 grant information specialist [$70,000]
  • 1 school nurse (doesn't say where for) [$68,675]
  • additional time for English language proficiency testing in the Parent Information Center [$20,000]
  • 10 literacy tutors [$211,960]
  • PD for "focused instructional coaches, social emotional staff, technology training, CPI and restraint training, and CPR training" [$37,650]
  • dual language curriculum [$77,000]
  • an increase "in costs" for STAR assessment [$37,812]
  • "additional Chromebooks at the elementary and middle level" (no word on where or how many) plus computers for the additional staff here added [$396,000]
  • "to begin the process of developing an RFP for a new student information system and implementation process" which was already in the budget--I'll have to look up for how much--and now somehow we need MORE funding for? [$225,000]
  • nurse supplies which is overdue and underfunded [$19,862]
  • Sullivan security system upgrade which seems rather random [$160,000]
  • building maintenance: 
    • Sullivan Middle carpet [$140,000]
    • North High phones [$75,000]
    • Claremont additional lockers [$50,000]
    • sped office painting and carpet replacement [$8400]
  • shift of funds from Title I, which is coming through less than budgeted, plus positions have increased in cost (this is odd) [$455,269]
PLUS: the charter assessment came through AS BUDGETED, so the "in case" line isn't needed. That means that there is $350,000 available. Administration is recommending adding 10 IA positions for some of the kindergarten classes that don't have them. There are 89 K rooms, 63 positions, currently; this would get to 73, and the remaining 16 would be part of the plan for FY21.
Note that the final page attempts to tie this back to the strategic plan.

The Committee is asked to accept the following donations:
  • -$6,498.50 from various fundraising efforts at Woodland Academy
  • -$500.00 from EOS Foundation to Francis McGrath Elementary School for the 2019 Healthy Start Award
  • -$365.25 from Lifetouch to Chandler Magnet School
  • -$155.00 from various donors to the Patricia Falcone Memorial Scholarship
Mr. O'Connell wants to hang banners on lightpoles about the schools.

And there is an executive session "to discuss litigation with respect to CAS petition Bus Drivers" after the meeting. 

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Associate Commissioner of Education Keith Westrich resigns

How it is that Universal Hub has this first, I don’t know, but nonetheless:
Keith Westrich, associate commissioner for the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, who long worked on programs to get high-school kids ready for life after graduation, was placed on leave and then retired after his name was published in a list of former "clergy with substantiated allegations of sexual abuse of a minor" issued by the Archdiocese of St. Louis.
That list, which came out three weeks ago, is here. On it, we find that Westrich was "removed from ministry," after being ordained in 1981, which is a fairly recent ordination. He was not, however, laicized; in other words, the Archdiocese didn't say he isn't a priest anymore, 'though he may have had his preaching faculties removed (so he couldn't serve in ministry).
The MassLive report is here. The Boston Globe doesn’t have much more. NECN reports here.
His name has already been removed from DESE’s employee rolls. EDITED TO ADD: yes, one needs to be CORI'd to work at DESE, but this wouldn't turn up on a CORI check, as there's been no legal action up until now.
Obvious question, of course, is if his responsibilities included anything directly with students, to which the Globe has only this:
It was not immediately Tuesday clear how long Westrich had worked for the agency, or what his specific duties entailed.
I have yet to see any response to that. That would be really important and someone should find out.
EDITED TO ADD: as was raised last week in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch coverage:
The St. Louis list omits the whereabouts of living priests, which concerned Barbara Dorris, a former director of the advocacy group SNAP.
“If you’re going to put out this list and it’s going to be useful, we also need to know where are these guys now and what are they doing?” she said. “Are they working near schools?”
Note that the Archdiocese has turned over that list to the Missouri Attorney General, where the investigation is ongoing. 
More as I have it.

UPDATED after I thought about this more overnight:
The above question, if his work entailed working directly with students is very, very relevant and someone really needs to push DESE on that. Further, in Boston University's online bio, he came to DESE from a position as Director of the Boston Private Industry Council’s nationally recognized ProTech program, which is a student internship program. The same question thus needs to be asked there, and whereever it is that he worked between his time leaving the Archdiocese and that position.

But from a best practices standpoint, here's what's bothering me this morning:
It seems clear from DESE's statement that, while they were ready for the question, they weren't going to release anything on their own. If we have learned ANYTHING from the Roman Catholic church's (lack of) handling of such allegations, shouldn't it be that letting people simply move on without public comment allows the issue to continue?
Was DESE simply going to let one of their top officials quietly move on after a creditable allegation of sexual assault of a minor surfaced? This is our K-12 education agency. THAT IS NOT OKAY.

This shouldn't have to be said, but much in the way the Catholic church violated one of its core tenets in not protecting children, the Department not putting the safety of children explicitly first in this violates its core responsibility.

Seattle Public Schools revise their dress code

This is good:
Seattle Public Schools' new policy, in contrast, puts the beholder in charge: "Students and staff are responsible for managing their personal distractions," it reads.  
It also calls for staff to avoid "dress-coding" students in front of their peers, which has been common practice for years, leading to embarrassment.
The new district policy indicates that enforcement of the dress code must not "create disparities, reinforce or increase marginalization of any group, nor will it be more strictly enforced against students because of racial identity, ethnicity, gender identity, gender expression, gender nonconformity, sexual orientation, cultural or religious identity, household income, body size/type, or body maturity." 
The district's acting head attorney, Ronald Boy, said the dress code is something he'd long hoped to make modern - and equitable. “My hope is that we are able to not waste time in school addressing things that just don't matter," Boy said.
You can read the text of the new code here. It includes this directive to staff:
Students shall not be disciplined or removed from class as a consequence for wearing attire in violation of this policy unless the attire creates a substantial disruption to the educational environment, poses a hazard to the health or safety of others, or factors into a student behavior rule violation such as malicious harassment or the prohibition on harassment, intimidation, and bullying. Further, no student shall be referred to as “a distraction” due to their appearance or attire.

Worcester School Committee candidates' forum Thursday evening at Worcester State

While the actual candidacy stuff is over on, I'll post Worcester election stuff here as it is relevant. 

Thursday, August 15 at 6 pm in the Blue Lounge at the Worcester State Student Center
Co-sponsored by Worcester State, the YWCA, the League of Women Voters, MWPC, and MAWOCC

Monday, August 12, 2019

Public charge change goes through

Despite public outcry:
The regulation, also known as the public charge rule, was published in the Federal Register Monday morning with the following acknowledgment: “While some commenters provided support for the rule, the vast majority of commenters opposed the rule.”
As to what it will do:
The public charge term has historically referred to someone who is “primarily dependent on the government for subsistence" based on their receipt of "public cash assistance."
The new rule expands the definition to include anyone who receives food stamps, Medicaid and housing subsidies.
Receipt of one or more of those designated public benefits for an aggregate 12 months within any three-year period by any noncitizen will be considered a negative factor in determining whether or not they become a public charge.
The new wording says this:
DHS has revised the definition of “public charge” to incorporate consideration of more kinds of public benefits received, which the Department believes will better ensure that applicants subject to the public charge inadmissibility ground are self-sufficient. The rule defines the term “public charge” to mean an individual who receives one or more designated public benefits for more than 12 months, in the aggregate, within any 36-month period (such that, for instance, receipt of two benefits in one month counts as two months). The rule further defines the term “public benefit” to include any cash benefits for income maintenance, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), most forms of Medicaid, and certain housing programs.
This forces families into the choice of receiving services their families need (and for which they qualify) or eventually gaining legal status. While the benefits received directly by children will not be counted--EDIT: though the Huffington Post article appears to say otherwise--the health care, food assistance, and other care their parents receive will count against them, and endangering parents does not care for children. See the pull quote from WBUR:

If Buffalo can...

I appear to be on a bit of a theme here on "why can't we?" but if the Buffalo Public Schools have managed to overcome the complications around providing internet access to students in their neighborhoods, surely Worcester could?
The two neighborhoods were specifically targeted, because they are in what’s referred to as “digital deserts” – lower-income neighborhoods where more than half of all households don’t have home internet or cellular service.
In this case, HarpData would, basically, situate wireless antennas atop the eight district schools and other buildings near them to extend the district’s Wi-Fi signal into the neighborhoods...
Their signal would reach as many as 5,500 students who live inside a two-mile radius of one of the eight schools. Students then would be able to use their passwords to log on at home the same as they would at school.
The concern I have in the past heard in Worcester (and note that this is a broadband rather than device issue) is that federal funding requires particular filters. I've noticed that Worcester already chooses to apply that requirement more broadly than other districts (banning access more widely); it would seem that Buffalo is simply applying their own filter to the service offered.

Thursday, August 8, 2019

GPS on buses

On reading that the New York City Public Schools buses are awaiting the GPS that they are to have when school starts there on September 5:
“It’s really not that hard… Putting GPS on things and showing it on an app is like the most basic technology for any app on this planet at this point,” said Kallos.
I couldn't help but reflect that having such technology not only was required by the current Worcester Public Schools' contract with Durham; it was required by the previous three year contract with Durham as well.
And we still don't have it.
Also, note that the Finance and Operations subcommittee meeting that was to take up the transportation proposals has now been cancelled.

No word on why.

Monday, August 5, 2019

On desegregation

I've had a running list of articles and such to share around desegregation, which after that late June exchange at the Democratic presidential debates has suddenly become a hot topic. I've just finished reading Professor Ansley Erickson's Making the Unequal Metropolis: School Desegregation and Its Limits (see tweet thread here) about the desegregation of the Nashville schools and that interaction with the larger city of Nashville and surrounding county. I'd highly recommend it; I found a lot to be learned in overlaps with larger national policies or in reflection on more local ones. Next, as I mentioned in my last post on this topic, I'm reading Professor Rucker Johnson's Children of the Dream: Why Integration Works.
As the experience of Senator Kamala Harris was in Berkeley, this piece on Berkeley's history and current status on desegregation is worth considering. Unlike many other places, Berkeley has shifted, but not given up on desegregating its school system, even as both the city and the system of laws has changed.
The 45th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision Milliken v. Bradley was two weeks ago, and there was quite a bit on how this decision, which found that, in essence, the districts surrounding Detroit could not be made to be part of its desegregation, shaped the landscape of schools today. I recommend this piece from Professor Jon Hale and this lengthy piece that aired on NPR stations.
Earlier last month, the Washington Post published this piece on how desegregation became the third rail of Democratic politics. The question of de jure versus de facto segregation is likewise taken up in Erickson's book.
And to tie this back around to the still looming issue here in Massachusetts, which of course is not only in Massachusetts, Ed Build published a tool that walks through district lines and funding which I highly recommend. You can read some of what one discovers from it here.

Saturday, August 3, 2019

As children go back to school this month...

  • of last year, 14 million of the 50.7 million students in U.S. public schools identified as Hispanic, 7.8 million as Black, 2.6 million Asian students, 0.2 million Pacific Islander students, 0.5 million American Indian/Alaska Native students, and 1.6 million students of two or more races.
  • Earlier this year, an nine-year-old American citizen was detained by border security for over 30 hours because, they said, she "provided inconsistent information." Again, she was nine.
  • Today, it appears the shooting in El Paso was motivated by animus against immigrants.
  • It was reported earlier this week that hate crimes are on the rise in 30 large American cities, reaching a decade high, even as overall crime is falling.
  • Yesterday, the American Academy of Pediatrics released a policy statement warning of the very real impacts that racism has on children's health.
What are we in schools doing to create healthy and safe places to learn?
Metal detectors and armed guards don't solve this. Nor do staff and administrators who claim to be "color-blind."
What are we doing, educators?

Friday, August 2, 2019

No more Stand for Children Massachusetts

If you use the search bar on this blog and type in "Stand for Children," you'll get entries going back to the very beginning of the blog. Back in 2008, in the push to get the City of Worcester to fund 2% over foundation, it was Stand for Children, an actual local advocacy group at the time, that helped parents organize.
And then big money got involved. At the state level, that looked like this. At the local level, I still have vivid memories in 2009 of the meeting at which we were told that we'd no longer be setting our own priorities--we'd be told what they were--and the meeting at which we were then told what they were.
And that led directly to my being told what I could and couldn't say in my testimony at the State House.
While Stand was involved in Question 2, it wasn't the biggest group involved; you can read more from Professor Cunningham here. And Peter Piazza wrote his dissertation in part on them. They've had several rounds of reorganization and reforming, but there are plenty of other astroturf groups out there now.
Thus today's announcement that they will no longer be in Massachusetts.
It really feels like the ending of an era in a way.

Another August

The first week of August hangs at the very top of summer, the top of the live-long year, like the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning. The weeks that come before are only a climb from balmy spring, and those that follow a drop to the chill of autumn, but the first week of August is motionless, and hot. It is curiously silent, too, with blank white dawns and glaring noons, and sunsets smeared with too much color.
Tuck Everlasting, Natalie Babbitt

Here we are at the opening of another August, a month that will close with kids back in school, and no school funding bill. As I noted last August, this "ongoing failure" was even foreseen and warned about in the Foundation Budget Review Commission report itself.
We should be clear: having or not having a bill makes no difference for the upcoming school year. The funding for that was in the FY20 budget, which, with the Governor's signature this week, is now set. And, to be fair, there was progress on school funding in the actual budget.
But it's a single year budget. It didn't change the underlying formula. 
The lack of urgency is troubling. Governor Baker, in the article linked above, swiped at those of us noting this with this:
“I think sometimes people don’t give the Legislature enough credit for how difficult it is to change that formula,” Baker said. “There’s a tremendous amount of will in the building to do that, but this is a very hard exercise.”
Many of those of us concerned know better than most what "a very hard exercise" it is, but we also note the amount of time and lack of urgency that has been present for much of the last four years.

Those four years, as Senator Chang-Díaz noted, are half of an elementary school career. I'll add that they are the whole of a high school career, and for the class of 2019, that's just what they were.
I'm not being cute to say: kids don't get that time back. It's already too late. You've already lost it, and we will never get it back.
It's thus helpful for the Springfield Republican (online as MassLive) to be editorializing about the urgency, but the stridency they criticize Senator Chang-Díaz for (and let me know when the last time is that someone used that word of a male politican) is something that instead ought to be widely shared.

I do think this point from the editorial is one we should consider:
“I think everyone is working very hard to come to a place where everyone feels comfortable,” DeLeo said.
Therein lies the problem: everyone will not feel comfortable, no matter what result is finally reached. No sensible person questions the complexity and difficult of addressing (and paying for) the varied needs of 21st Century public education.
Compromise will be required. When that happens, people on all sides must accept they didn’t get everything they thought they should, but could live with the outcome.
Yes, but who lives with the outcome? The impact of a shift in the funding formula and who pays for it impacts some districts--and thus some students--more than others. Who is being asked to give up or live with what? The kids most underfunded--those in the Gateway Cities, and particularly those students who are poor, who are students of color, who are learning English--are those least often at the table when decisions are made. They've been accepting, like it or not, an underfunded school system for years at this point. The impact of this funding bill hits those kids and their futures more than anyone else.
I don't think we should be shrugging and saying that they're going to have to live it it, strident though that may make me.

This brings us to Max Larkin's piece for WBUR yesterday about one thing that may be holding up the bills: the low income count. MassBudget, of course, has been on top of the low income count for some time. A number of cities, particularly those with high numbers of immigrants, have been concerned about the impact in particular this administration has on families' willingness to sign up for services and thus make the count.
And we should be worried about that. The national administration has had a chilling effect on lots of things, and it is part of our job at the local level to mitigate and fight what we can.
And I said yesterday:
Here's why I say this: there have been ongoing discussions dating back before we switched from low income to economically disadvantaged. There have been meetings and task forces and (see above) reports on how to improve the count. There has been a TON of work done on this. I don't want yesterday's article to leave the impression that anyone--and I include here DESE--has shrugged and said whatever.
I do think that "yes, but you got more money per student" is a pretty lame response, because we all know there should be more money per student, already. We also need to know how many kids we have.
Many of the proposals in MassBudget's report have been incorporated already; I'd also argue that if kids are eligible for state services, we should be figuring out how to get them on those state services, even aside from our district counts, as kids need health insurance and food outside of school! That remains an ongoing and looming issue with the national administration.
I think, though--and I hope that those who are actually making decisions on this are asking for solid data on this--that this is not really the big hold-up. Or it shouldn't be.

If I had some sort of inspiring summing up here, I'd offer it to you. Other than noting that those who are most voiceless and most at risk are those most harmed by postponing, I've got nothing. Waylay your reps and senators when they're around over the August break, please.