Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Evaluation of the Commissioner

Vice Chair Morton (presenting for the evaluation subcommittee)
Evaluation of Commissioner in his second year
looked at agreed upon goals and objectives
looked at:
  • student growth and achievement; 
  • management of DESE; 
  • external relations; 
  • relationship with Board
interviewed those in and outside the Department
compare notes in consistency in feedback from stakeholders
rated 4.5 out of 5 overall

student growth/achievement
improvement of IEP, teacher diversity, acceleration academies
"see great promise in the MOU agreement with the Boston Public Schools"
4.2 out of 5

out of box visionary thinking; impressive leadership team
continued to engagement outside of DESE to promote overall goals
and that's when the livestream died...it's "off air"

Proposed adoption of permanent alteration of regulatory deadlines and delegation of authority

would expire unless it is extended today, but expires when state of emergency expires
No discussion 

plus delegation of authority (for the summer, essentially)
passes, after Member Matt Hills asks (in essence) couldn't/shouldn't we meet in any case?
The response is: they might! 

Student Advisory Council end of year report

Matthew Tibbitts, student rep
60 MA public high schools; every county save Dukes and Nantucket
college and career readiness; how to direct students to resources that already exist
61% of students haven't heard of DESE
those that had and went to website found it difficult to navigate
the few who could find their resources found them useful
Legislative advisory: lobbying on the EMPOWER and SOA
worked on civics education framework
civics engagement
Equity in race and economics: 92% of teachers are white/ lopsided with demographics of students
ensuring we have teachers that can teach students that look like them
supporting teachers of color
Global outreach: MA languages
shifting narrative in language acquisition
advocated for world language and ELL to be single program

State education budget update

Bill Bell
last day in fiscal year '20
obviously big question is what next year will look like
$5.25B spending authority signed last week: continuing budget
continue to run programs at level funded maintenance level
DoR: guidance sent out to communities that initial Ch. 70 payments based on FY20
"what you received in your payments last July is what a community could expect to receive starting tomorrow"
charter school and school choice instead based on June 2020
"think the big thing we're hearing on [FY21] is everyone needs to have a better idea of where we'll be on FY21"
includes income taxes due in 16 days, "as well as any further revenue support from federal government"
ESSER grant: $214M: $194M grants to districts based on Title I
$20M for DESE to fill gaps
in process of additional sources of funding: $200 plus million school focused COVID-19 relief fund
allocated on per-student basis of $225/pupil from foundation enrollment in House 2
Includes charter schools

Craven: broadband is another issue on the technology issue
Bell: Department has been working on
Moriarty, also bring in Department of Housing

Notes on remote learning guidance with presentation

final guidance on reopening won't come out until July
guidance on graduation, on summer school, issuance of P-EBT cards

plan for in-person learning "given the medical parameters we've been given"
"this is different guidance than we typically have"
"we actually had to bring in the experts in the medical field"
"numerous physicians"
guidance "had to be first ground on the health and safety of our students and staff"
"what it looks like to get back to school"
don't know trajectory of virus nor funding from Beacon Hill "so it's prudent to plan for all contingencies"

Notes from the June remote meeting of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

Agenda is here; livestream account here

Craven would like to continue the Zoom capacity as people are able to testify
We also appear to have a new labor representative, though the agenda isn't updated to reflect that
Darlene Lombos, it appears 
Also bidding goodbye to Matt Tibbitts of Ludlow, the student rep

Monday, June 29, 2020

Doherty building committee votes on Preferred Schematic Design

The meeting is on the Esther Howland Chamber. You can call 415-655-0001 (Access Code: 735751404) to participate.
The PowerPoint is here. The actual report, which crashed my laptop, is here.
A thing that it seems as though we should be talking about is this:
Construction: $238,910,676
Total project budget: $293,384,178
Estimated MSBA grant: 47%

Sunday, June 28, 2020

"We've failed these kids."

The Boston Globe on remote learning and the Worcester Public Schools:
Now, as summer vacation starts, Worcester officials have yet to assess the damage done to the education of 25,000 Worcester students. They have no idea how many students’ schooling ground to a halt in March, since they have yet to analyze fully data on the numbers who logged into online classes.
“I’m horrified that we didn’t get this right,” said Worcester School Committee member Jack Foley. “We failed these kids.”
School districts across the state have struggled with the abrupt shift to online learning. But Worcester has had an unusually rocky experience. Interviews with more than 20 parents, students, teachers, and school committee members, and a review of a half dozen district documents paint a portrait of a district focused on process and procedure at a time when nimbleness was imperative.
The Worcester School Committee evaluates Superintendent Binienda on July 16. 

The Board of Ed closes this school year on Tuesday

...and you can find the agenda here. The livestream will be here.
My understanding is that so many people have signed up for public comment that they maxed out the time raising questions about what that means during a pandemic when people may wish to question state guidance.

An update on DESE-pandemic-related action is on the agenda, as is the fall re-opening guidance, and a proposed emergency amendment to time on learning regulations, though a description of what the proposed changes are is...not attached to the agenda. Interestingly, both of those items were added Friday night to the agenda. 
As a side note, note that the CDC updated their list of who is at increased risk or may be at increased risk from COVID-19 on Thursday. 

There is the annual June update on actions of the Student Advisory Council.

There's an update on the FY21 state education budget (fingers crossed they know something?).

There's also a vote on on making permanent the change in the regulations that have been allow the Commissioner to alter deadlines, I believe (that one ALSO doesn't have a backup...can we please post what the Board is discussing when we're doing something like changing regulation?

There's the annual "we're not meeting during the summer" delegation of authority.
There's proposed modifications to the probation for City on a Hill and Paulo Freire charter schools.
There is a proposal for the regular Board meeting schedule for the coming year.

And there is also the evaluation of the Commissioner, with no backup. Here's the deal: the Commissioner is an official is who is appointed and evaluated by a public body, which itself is subject to the Open Meeting law. As such, the evaluation document cannot be shared with the Commissioner unless and until it is shared with not only the entire Board, but also the larger public.
As the document is not posted, are we to believe that neither the Board nor the Commissioner has seen his evaluation as of now?

Other Items for Information:

There also is a (very rare) executive session, regarding the lawsuit of PLESH v DESE, which alleges discrimination against Latino families in the Holyoke schools; the case is against a number of people in positions in Holyoke and the Department.

Friday, June 26, 2020

Two Worcester meetings next week

On Monday night the 29th at 6:30, the Doherty building committee meets to vote on the preferred schematic design.

On Thursday the 2nd at 5, the Worcester School Committee is having a special meeting specifically to discuss the state's guidance and get an update on the budget.

And for another view

This is higher ed, but I think you're find it resonates.
After measuring classrooms and examining our antiquated ventilation systems, our staff (those who haven’t been furloughed) reports that there’s absolutely no way our already scheduled and enrolled classes can safely fit in those spaces. But our university has always valued creative problem-solving, so we have posted NO COVID-19 ALLOWED PAST THIS POINT signs on the doors of every campus building. Plus, to show how seriously we take the situation, the signs have been laminated.

Yes, McSweeney's is satire. We think.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

COVID doesn't care

COVID-19 doesn't care about your politics.
It doesn't care about the economy or small businesses or the GDP.
COVID-19 doesn't care about learning loss.
It doesn't care about language acquisition or student growth or meeting state standards.
COVID-19 doesn't care about socio-emotional learning.
It doesn't care about your mental health or your social connections or student support.
COVID doesn't care.

We can want, desperately, to have things back to normal, to have children back in classrooms, to have families back to work, to begin to repair what we've lost by schools being closed.

But COVID doesn't care.

So no matter how many times DESE writes in bold and underline that their goal is to bring back as many students as possible in-person

...COVID doesn't care.

Ever in my mind as we go through this pandemic are the accounts of how leaders have dealt in the past with similar situations. In Worcester, for example, in 1918, the city leaders were extremely reluctant to respond, and continue to wait for the state to take action:
Saddled by an indecisive Board of Health with no clear leader and with a mayor who seemed equally unwilling to take charge, the city opted to take its cues from Massachusetts officials rather than plot its own course. It waited for state health officials to make influenza a reportable disease, leaving it with no good source of information on the severity of the epidemic during those critical early days. Likewise, the Board only moved to close public places after the state board of health strongly urged local communities to do so. As a result, Worcester’s public health response time (the period between the time when the city’s epidemic became severe enough for health officials to take notice and the time when the first control measures were adopted) was 15 days, the longest of Massachusetts’ major cities.
Because they waited for state guidance and then only followed that, significantly more people died of influenza in Worcester than in other cities in Massachusetts.
Influenza didn't care, either.

This is thus the lens I bring to reading the initial state guidance released earlier today. You can read coverage of the release of the guidance here, here, here, here, and here.

I'll start with the points to know, and follow with some critique:
  • The Department really, really, really wants as many kids as possible back in buildings.
  • Really, really. I'm saying this twice because it is repeated and bolded and underlined throughout.
  • Districts are required to submit four plans by sometime in August (date not yet announced): 
    • a back in the buildings plan, 
    • a hybrid plan, 
    • a remote plan, 
    • a plan for special populations.
  • Because the Department is so heavily pushing being back in buildings, much of the guidance is about that, though it doesn't go into details on some pieces--cleaning, transportation, athletics, and more--for which guidance will be coming later. 
  • For planning this, districts need to name a "COVID-19 response leader" and establish planning and implementation teams, establish a process to work with the local Board of Health, and plan "for communicating more intensively with students, families, staff, and the community."
  • The state is offering grants for school reopening of $225/pupil ($182M for formula grants plus $20M for Commissioner's discretion statewide), plus $25M in 100% matching grants (the state will match what the district puts up) for technology.
  • Regarding being back in buildings:
    • districts need to have a remote learning plan for students whose families opt to keep them home.
    • face masks will be required to be worn by all from grade 2 and up in buildings, and by all on buses; masks should be provided by student families and be washed daily (though districts are encouraged to use, yes, the grant funds to have disposable ones available for those whose families cannot provide them); there's a medical exception in here, too
    • students are to be distanced by "a minimum of three feet" though districts should "aim for six feet" which the Department argues is "[b]ecause of the reduced susceptibility in children and lower apparent rates of transmission, establishing a minimum physical distance of three feet is informed by evidence and balances the lower risk of COVID-19 transmission and the overarching benefits of in-person school."
    • "To the extent possible," desks should be "spaced six feet apart (but no fewer than three feet apart" meaning that other spaces in the schools "should be repurposed to increase the amount of available space" like libraries, cafeterias, and auditoriums. Also, districts should "consider engaging with community partners to find spaces outside the school" for additional room.
    • Students should stay in the same group in elementary and "to the extent feasible" in middle and high school. Schools thus should "divide students into smaller groups that remain with each other throughout the day."
    • Use of the cafeteria (thus) is discouraged, so students should eat in their rooms. Because they will be taking off their masks to do so, they will need to be six feet apart to eat.
    • Students and staff are required to "exercise hand hygiene" when they get to school, before eating, when putting on and taking off masks, and before dismissal. "While hand washing with soap and water is the best option," the guidance is quick to defer to sanitizer if handwashing "is not feasible."
    • Schools are required to have an "isolation space" for students who are displaying COVID-19 symptoms.
    • "At this time, in-school testing is not recommended" and temperatures will not be taken, either.
    • Vaccines for the flu will be strongly encouraged.
    • Families should keep children home if they are ill, should support the use of masks, arrange "alternative transportation whenever possible," communicate and follow state guidance for health and safety.
    • Regarding hybrid learning:
      • Priority on being in buildings during hybrid learning is to be for students with special education needs and for English learners; others would switch between remote and in person learning. 
    And...that's kind of it. So what's the rest of the 27 pages?
    As Shakespeare had it: "The lady doth protest too much, methinks."

    Because much of the above guidance is contrary to much of what we have been told, repeatedly, from multiple trusted sources, they spent a significant amount of time arguing that, yes, it is fine for students to come back together again, that students don't get as sick as frequently or as much nor do they spread the disease that much as adults or as they do other things. 
    And then they spend a significant amount more time arguing that three feet is just fine when combined with other measures, no, really.

    I'll be upfront: I have not gone through all of the research they're citing (they do seem to have a bit of a fondness for New South Wales?), but betting the health of not just students, but of school staff and of families of both students and staff on "kids don't get it as often and as badly and they don't spread it that much" is...betting a lot.
    Plus, every country cited is a country with a functioning public health system that does not, as a country, have the nightmare that is both how we care for health and how we are managing the pandemic (or not).
    The rate of Massachusetts adults is three times that of children in getting the disease, as is noted, perhaps because...all of Massachusetts children are home because school has been cancelled since mid-March?
    And the health of staff, beyond a sentence or two regarding medical conditions, is barely mentioned.
    It does not mention the number of children we have who are medically fragile.
    It does not mention the, yes, rare, but frightening inflammatory syndrome that has more recently been presenting itself.
    And there is no mention, in a document which presents itself as centered on getting students back in schools in part due to concerns regarding racial equity, of the vast racial and ethnic disparities among our population here in Massachusetts. The coronavirus rate is THREE TIMES HIGHER among Black and Latino people as it is among the white population. And it looks like Black and Latino parents are well aware of that, as well as of the limitations of the districts to which they (largely) send their children.

    And there is evidence that even six feet isn't enough.

    Do I think there are schools that can possibly pull all of the above off?
    Yes, I do. I think there are airy elementary schools with lots of outdoor space, some of it covered, with library and cafeteria space that can be converted, where someone at home can drive each child in, where someone can stay home if there is even a hint that a child is sick, and where there is staff enough to cover the split classes. It won't be easy, it will take a lot of calculation, but some of those schools are already figuring out how to rework their bathrooms so no one has to touch anything, so they'll probably get there.

    And then there are the rest of us.
    It isn't only the Gateways that concern me, though of course how we find three or six or more feet of space per student in already crowded and overcrowded buildings in which we're already using basement space as classrooms with limited if any outdoor space for a student population that's at high risk, has to ride the bus, have parents who can't stay home if they're sick, with a staff that is by state calculation, well under what it should be is obviously a nightmare, even if we were going to be funded at what we should be.
    The Governor demurred today on what is happening with Chapter 70 funding, by the way.
    But it's a nightmare for any school district that is concerned about staff that are older or have medical complications or who have family members that do. It's a nightmare for any district that has barely been able to keep the facilities maintenance up. It's a nightmare for any district that has run into busing issues, or staffing issues, or crowding issues, or just has parents who, if the norm is "things must be okay because schools are open" have put hand to forehead, given a dose of Tylenol, and kept their fingers crossed their kid could make it through the day.
    "To the extent feasible" is no way to respond to a public health crisis.

    It is clear, as others have noted, that the guidance started from a place of "how do we get school buildings open" rather than "how do we do right by kids and families and staff." We, yes, have an educational responsibility to our students. We also have a societal responsibility to Massachusetts. That is, it seems to me, being frantically brushed aside in the race to get children back in the buildings.

    For what it is worth: I dissent. 

    Tuesday, June 23, 2020

    Leave your worries on the doorstep

    Sunset over Coes Pond on the last day of school 2020

    ...it isn't good when you start pulling blog post titles from the Depression era, but it's definitely looking grim. Here's The Atlantic in an article titled "The Second Great Depression" speaking of one of the four factors that are concerning economists and weighing down the economy:
    A third factor behind a possible second Great Depression is the budget crisis facing states and cities. The federal government does not have to balance its ledger year to year, and perpetually spends more than it takes in. Yet every state but Vermont and most cities and towns are required to remain in the black. Right now, sales taxes, real-estate-transfer taxes, income taxes, fines and fees—they are all collapsing, leaving local governments with a budget gap expected to total $1 trillion next year. Without help from Washington, this will necessarily mean massive service cuts and job losses: namely, an estimated 5.3 million job losses.
    The shrinking of the government at the state and local level has already started, as Congress dithers on providing fiscal aid. Michigan is facing a $3 billion budget gap this year and a $4 billion one next year: It has instituted a work-share plan, asking two in three state employees to accept a partial furlough. In New Jersey, the government has asked 100,000 public workers to move to abbreviated schedules. Schools have already let go more workers than they did during the Great Recession, with nearly 500,000 positions lost.
    In a piece looking at the need for a national response, the Education Trust notes
    Now, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities projects states will face a $615 billion revenue shortfall over the next three years due to the pandemic. Scott said education funding makes up, on average, 40% of state budgets. Former Secretary of Education John King Jr. added during testimony in the hearing that districts get 90% or more of their funding from state and local dollars.
    As I have posted before, the hit comes particularly hard on districts that are more dependent on state aid; from the same piece: 
    “If you look historically," Roy said, "anytime we’ve had a severe recession whether it was the recession of the early 1980s or the recession of 2008 minorities and low-income Americans were always the ones who were most harmed.”
    Back in Massachusetts, this of course was the year where we finally were beginning to implement the Student Opportunity Act; five years ago today, the Foundation Budget Review Commission was deliberating its first report.
    Yesterday, though, the Division of Local Services of the Department of Revenue announced that July and August aid would be at the FY20 levels, meaning no implementation of any sort of FY21 budget with changes, so far. The concern of course is that this bodes ill for the rest of the budget:
    "Not having this additional funding is a recipe for disaster at this point," Marie-Frances Rivera, president of the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, told WGBH News.
    "It's essentially $300 million that districts across the commonwealth" will lose, Rivera said, referring to the amount of money in the governor's pre-COVID budget for the Student Opportunity Act in fiscal 2021. That will affect mainly gateway cities who serve the most kids of color and low income kids and English language learners, she added.Those districts were expecting this infusion of cash, which they're not going to get," said Rivera.
    It's with this in mind that 100 of us (and growing!) who are elected officials in Gateway Cities co-signed a letter written and organized by Roberto Jiménez-Rivera of the Chelsea School Committee urging state officials to prioritize funding of the Student Opportunity Act in the FY21 budget. Interviews with School Committee members from Holyoke, Springfield, and Chicopee via MassLive discuss why. As Tom Scott of MASS said in the Boston Globe this morning: 
    “I don’t understand how people can reasonably plan for the scenarios they have,” Scott said.
    This also raised the prospect of the lawsuit against the state that had been withdrawn coming back:
    Peter Enrich, a professor at Northeastern University School of Law, and one of the attorneys who filed the suit, said the coalition waited to withdraw the lawsuit until after Baker introduced his budget in order to make sure the first year of the new formula was fully funded. But in the last couple of months, attorneys have started hearing from parents who are reporting that teachers are being laid off, their children did not get the services they were entitled to this spring and they worry about the fall. “From their perspective, a promise has been broken, so they’re turning to us and asking us to look at what their legal rights are,” Enrich said. 
    Enrich said the same constitutional issues raised by the initial lawsuit – the right to an adequate education and disparities between districts – persist. “The Student Opportunity Act was a big enough step in the right direction on addressing those concerns that our sense was that it was not an appropriate time to continue litigation and we should leave it to the Legislature and governor to follow through on their commitments,” Enrich said. “But if they aren’t able to or they aren’t willing to, then those constitutional issues are still out there.” 
    It's not the first time and it won't be the last that Senator Chang-Díaz summarizes it all:
    “It’s the perfect storm for school systems that even as their costs are rising and they’re having to figure out totally new models for delivering the service… At that same moment, schools are confronted with the potential for drastic cuts."
    Let me know if you find the sunny side of this street.  

    Three to read on policing in schools

    • The past week's episode of the podcast Have You Heard with Jennifer Berkshire and Jack Schneider looks at how police entered the schools in LA, Chicago, and Boston. If like me, you're more of a reader than a listener, you can find the transcript here. I note here both the interaction with the shifting racial demographics but also the question of power over schools being part of how we end up with police in the schools.
    • Jesse Hagopian interviews Minneapolis School Board student representative Nathaniel Genene  in The Nation about the push for Minneapolis to remove police from their public schools. He frames it in part in terms of school climate.
    • Anya Kamenetz does a round up of the issue for NPR with lots and lots of useful links, including the ongoing research demonstrating lack of evidence that schools with officers are safety but also ongoing evidence that schools with officers have a greater likelihood of Black and brown children being arrested.

    What we don't talk about in Massachusetts

    The big Boston Globe piece this weekend on two classes teaching lessons on racism and the district response--well worth reading, if you have not--followed the usual Massachusetts habit of not talking about our school district context, as I tweeted out that morning.

    I grew up here and I always have to remind myself of exactly where Milton is:
     ...it shares a substantial border with Mattapan, which is one of the historically Black sections of Boston.
    And the Milton Public Schools look like this:
    And the (next door) Boston Public Schools look like this:
    And the thing is, in Massachusetts, we largely don't even blink at seeing numbers this disparate in districts that are right next to each other. It's not just true of Boston; it's true of Worcester and Springfield and most of the cities in the state. 
    That doesn't happen by accident.

    I was thinking of this again this past week in part after reading this post by two sisters Caroline and Emily Joyner, who grew up in Southborough and graduated from Algonquin Regional High School, where I taught until 2001. They rode the bus with Devin Brosnan, who is among the officers charged in the killing of Rayshard Brooks in Atlanta, and with Matt Colligan, who was among those at the Unite the Right demonstration in Charlottesville last year. I would urge you to go read their post. Algonquin, reflecting the towns of Northboro and Southborough from which it draws, is a very white district.
    We have a lot of very white districts in Massachusetts.
    That's doesn't happen by accident, either. 

    It's been observed over and again, but we tend to think of ourselves as good blue Massachusetts, far too often not doing much observing as where we are and how we got there. The disparities in school districts that city leaders called out this morning isn't accidental. It's created. It was created and it is, still, sustained. 

    Sunday, June 21, 2020

    Two to read

    The first is this Politico piece describing the impossible position school districts are in right now:
    School superintendents and principals are staring at an impossible equation. 
    Governors are promising to put kids back in classrooms in a matter of weeks, but it’s mostly school officials stuck navigating the messy details of how to keep students and teachers safe and win over skeptical parents, while dealing with a budget crisis that is forcing layoffs and other cuts.
    I genuinely don't know what more one can say than that: the situation is impossible. And state level leadership almost everywhere is making it harder rather than easier.

    The second is this excellent Fresh Air (no pun intended) interview with epidemiologist Michael Osterholm, who stresses this:
    “Over and over again, it's the air that we share with each other that is critical.”
    Stay outside, stay apart, be sure you've got masks on when you're closer.

    Thursday, June 18, 2020

    As we're all still looking for a budget in Massachusetts

    As I tweeted out this morning, I think it's crucial for folks to understand that though their districts are passing budgets--as they are required to by state law!--districts, particularly those that are most dependent on state aid genuinely do not know what their budgets for next year will be.
    We can't, without a state budget.
    We're passing numbers and allocating funds, yes, but those may well not be where we end up.

    This article in Commonwealth Magazine from Shira Shoenberg gives a possibility on the state budget that indicates we may not know for some time:
     ...behind the scenes, state policymakers appear to be discussing a budget that is done jointly and for an interim time period, although the exact length is uncertain. 
    On the short end, doing an interim budget through July or August would give lawmakers a chance to see if Congress passes another federal stimulus bill before the August recess. It would also let the Department of Revenue collect last year’s state income taxes, since the deadline for filing was extended from April 15 to July 15. 
    On the longer end, there could be a political incentive to craft a budget that goes through November, so lawmakers do not have to pass a full-year austerity budget before they face reelection. Doing a budget for just half a year could also give lawmakers more time to monitor medical advances and know, for example, when a vaccine might become available, which could allow for a fuller economic reopening.
    Were that the case, of course, we would not only be opening schools without knowing our budgets; we'd be running schools for several months without one.  

    Tuesday, June 16, 2020

    Doherty building committee

    Note that this is one of two June meetings; the building committee will meet again on June 29 to vote on the schematic design, which is what was presented last night. It will then go to the Mass School Building Authority in August. 
    They were at pains to emphasize that this meeting is not, in any way, about Duffy Field. That is a separate process, a separate part of the DPW, and not related to the school building process. Once they start work on Duffy Field's plan, we were told that they'd be starting with public input.
    They've had an arborist look at the health of the trees along the East-West trail, as well as those along the edge of the property. That's those big beeches that line Highland past the school heading to Park Avenue. Many are not in great health. The expressed hope is to save what trees are possible and there is planned landscaping. 
    They also plan to rebuild the front wall (again; they just did that!) along that stretch of Highland.
    They'll be adding a driveway directly across from Suburban Road for buses; that will bring buses along the back of the new building, up the hill, and around to the front for drop-off and pick-up. Passenger traffic will enter closer to where the current driveways are and go straight up to a parking lot at the front of the new building, between that and the new fields (which will be on the site of the current building). 

    There were a series of slides describing construction process, which will look familiar to those who have been following projects like South: they'll fence off the construction area, build the new building, open the new building, fence off and demolish the old building, then build the new fields. The fencing off of the construction area will start at the end of next school year and be completed by the time school opens for fall of 2021, so construction can go on while school is in session. 
    They also showed a series of slides of the building layout with plans for each floor (that starts on slide 16 in the presentation), and concludes with this overview:

    The building sort of stair steps up the hill, with parking for faculty underneath the gym at the back. 
    I was not able to stay for the Q&A portion; if I can watch it later, I'll come back to this with notes on that, as well.

    Monday, June 15, 2020

    On Bostock v. Clayton County, GA

    Those who adopted the Civil Rights Act might not have anticipated their work would lead to this particular result. Likely, they weren’t thinking about many of the Act’s consequences that have become apparent over the years, including its prohibition against discrimination on the basis of motherhood or its ban on the sexual harassment of male employees. But the limits of the drafters’ imagination supply no reason to ignore the law’s demands. When the express terms of a statute give us one answer and extratextual considerations suggest another, it’s no contest. Only the written word is the law, and all persons are entitled to its benefit. 

    Thursday, June 11, 2020

    For those looking at policing in schools in Massachusetts

    A reminder for those who are looking at school resource officers in schools in Massachusetts:

    Under MGL Ch. 71, sec. 37P, which was passed in 2014 as part of the new gun regulations, a school resource officer is required for each school district. The only exception is under subsection (c):
    (c) Upon written application by a school department of a city or town, in consultation with the chief of police, a regional school district or a county agricultural school, the commissioner of elementary and secondary education may waive the requirements of this section if the commissioner believes a school resource officer would not assist that particular city or town, regional school district or county agricultural school to ensure school safety. The written application shall include: (i) the reasons for the waiver request; (ii) data or evidence supporting the waiver request; and (iii) a description of, and supporting data for, alternative procedures and resources relied upon to ensure safe schools.
    Some of us pointed out at the time that this was not a reasonable idea.

    Sunday, June 7, 2020

    Oh, ok

    I haven't posted here about Worcester and May and Hammond last Monday, as I've said plenty elsewhere it's more relevant, but on a general note, let's first say that if you're going to speak or write about it, you should be sure you've reviewed this extensive thread by Sam Bishop:
    as well as Bill Shaner's bonus "Worcesteria" this week.
    That would have been useful in informing what Nick Kotsopoulos wrote in his column today.

    Partway through, though, Nick heads over into what is very much my universe:
    The argument being made for defunding the Police Department is that its money could be put to better use, such as for the public schools. On more than a few times, those who addressed the council talked about how the public school budget has been slashed.
    Mind you, the recommended School Department budget for next fiscal year is $388.45 million, which is 5.3% or nearly $19 million more than the current year budget. Not what I would exactly call a “slashed” budget.
    Not that the Worcester Public Schools can’t use more money; it certainly could. But the fact that the school budget is almost $19 million more than this year doesn’t fit the narrative. At the same time, the recommended $52.7 million Police Department budget is only $254,320 more than this year.
    You might remember that I already called this out once this year, when the city presented this framing along with its FY21 budget. I also noted it again when I wrote about the FY21 Worcester Public Schools budget. Let's say this again:

    Of the "nearly $19 million more" for FY21 proposed for the Worcester Public Schools, $1.1 million comes from local funds

    The vast, vast majority of Worcester Public Schools funding comes from the state. That has been true, that is true, that will continue (we hope!) to be true (as otherwise we're sunk). To continue to perpetuate the misinformation that somehow the city is being generous to the school is, simply wrong.
    And one thing that makes me sad about this is that I've talked with Nick in the past and I know he knows how WPS is funded.

    Here's how the city is doing over what is the STATE MANDATED REQUIRED MINIMUM:
    What this means in plain terms is that the city went up only by the state required minimum, as the increase on transportation was just be eaten by prior years.
    (No, transportation isn't covered in required spending, so to stay "even" the city would need to cover both the required spending increase and the contractual transportation increase--which they ddin't do--and that is why some of us would also like to drive some of that funding back to schools.)

    The irony in all of this, by the way, is that if the City Council DID go through the process of moving funds from the allocation to police in the schools, it wouldn't increase the Worcester Public Schools' budget at all.

    It would just mean we could spend that money on something else. 

    Friday, June 5, 2020

    Three to read today

    I'd say these three articles frame next year pretty well:

      New research suggests that by September, most students will have fallen behind where they would have been if they had stayed in classrooms, with some losing the equivalent of a full school year’s worth of academic gains. Racial and socioeconomic achievement gaps will most likely widen, because of disparities in access to computers, home internet connections and direct instruction from teachers.
      And the crisis is far from over. The harm to students could grow if schools continue to teach fully or partly online in the fall, or if they reopen with significant budget cuts because of the economic downturn. High school dropout rates could increase, researchers say, while younger children could miss out on foundational concepts in phonics and fractions that prepare them for a lifetime of learning and working.
    • U.S. schools are laying off hundreds of thousands of teachers as a result of the economic impacts of the pandemic:
      In April alone, 469,000 public school district personnel nationally lost their jobs, including kindergarten through twelfth-grade teachers and other school employees, a Labor Department economist told Reuters.
      That is more than the nearly 300,000 total during the entire 2008 Great Recession, according to a 2014 paper by three university economists financed by the Russell Sage Foundation. The number of public school teachers hasn’t recovered from that shakeout, reaching near-2008 levels only in 2019.
      Multiple school district administrators, public officials and teaching experts have warned that the current school personnel job loss will last for years, hurting the education of a generation of American students. It also could be a drag on economic recovery, for one thing because school districts are big employers.
    • The Government Accountability Office has issued a new report on school facilities, finding that:
      ...more than 40% of school districts that need to update or replace heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems in at least half of their schools – an estimated 36,000 schools nationwide – that if left unaddressed could lead to indoor air quality problems and mold. In some cases these problems have already caused schools to adjust their calendar year or shutter entirely.
    I would say, then, that this thread from last night is warranted:

    Wednesday, June 3, 2020

    On Massachusetts K-12 and reopening: you can weigh in

    I haven't seen this particularly well publicized (which itself is interesting, isn't it), but the DESE reopening group for K-12 education in Massachusetts is actually taking public comment. 

    You can send them an email at RTSWG@mass.gov.

    I would also cc in your school committee, but that may just be me.

    Proposed FY21 Worcester Public Schools budget

    This year, of all years, I'd urge you to think of what we are doing in this light.
    If you're here looking for information on budgeting for policing in schools, that post is over here.
    Probably the most important thing to know about the FY21 Worcester Public Schools budget is that the budget as proposed is unlikely to be the budget we end up with. The budget is based on running a regular year, and it's based on the Governor's House 2 budget proposed back in January, pre-pandemic and before the resulting economic catastrophe. Both of those are things that we're going to have to change.
    Everyone is awaiting the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education's guidance reopening schools--and awaiting if it is something that we are able and willing to follow, to speak for myself--and awaiting the state budget. The first is supposed to come out in three weeks or so; the second we may not have until August.
    So to some extent, this is a bit of a fictional universe. And thus, this is kind of a hard blog post to write, because my heart isn't really in it, as we're...not going to do this.

    Nonetheless, we are required to have a budget by June 30, so on June 4 and 18 at 4 pm, the Worcester School Committee will deliberate the budget proposed by administration, and we'll have to pass something.
    And then we'll have to come back and do it again over the summer, one assumes.
    On the 4th, we start with public comment at 4 pm, so please do weigh in as you have thoughts. 

    Tuesday, June 2, 2020

    Minneapolis School Board ends their contract with their police department

    The vote was unanimous. Article here.
    The resolution is pretty straightforward:
    WHEREAS, Special School District No. 1, Minneapolis Public Schools (District) is responsible for all interactions students have with adults in our school buildings in order to promote a positive school climate; and
    WHEREAS, recent actions of officers in the Minneapolis Police Department run directly counter to the values the District seeks in partners; and
    WHEREAS, the District has decided the current contract and any continuing contract for services with the Minneapolis Police Department do not align with the priorities of the District's equity and social emotional learning goals; and
    WHEREAS, District policy 1304 states, “Minneapolis Public Schools is committed to identifying and correcting practices and policies that perpetuate the achievement gap and institutional racism in all forms in order to provide all of its students with the opportunity to succeed...the elimination of bias, particularly racism and cultural bias, as factors affecting student achievement and learning experiences, and to promote learning and work environments that welcome, respect and value diversity.”
    SO, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Board of Directors, Special School District No. 1, terminates the Contract for Services with the Minneapolis Police Department for the services of School Resource Officers, and directs the Superintendent to take action necessary to terminate the contract.
    FURTHER BE IT RESOLVED that the Board of Directors, Special School District No. 1 directs the Superintendent to cease any further negotiations with the Minneapolis Police Department for the services of School Resource Officers.
    FINALLY, BE IT RESOLVED that the Board of Directors, Special School District No. 1 directs the Superintendent to provide the Board of Directors with recommendations on how the students of the District will be served and safety maintained by August 18, 2020.

    Worcester School Committee FY21 before the Worcester City Council

    The Worcester Public School's bottom line is before the Worcester City Council tonight, which means it is time for two three reminders!

    1. The Worcester City Council, under MGL Ch. 71, sec. 34:
    2. shall vote on the total amount of the appropriations requested and shall not allocate appropriations among accounts or place any restrictions on such appropriations.
      aka: no, the Council doesn't decide how the money gets spent.

    3. The Worcester Public Schools are very much majority state funded:

    4. The City of Worcester for FY21 is allocated $866,049 more than the required minimum contribution to the Worcester Public Schools.

      Given the FY21 Worcester Public Schools' foundation budget, that means the contribution is:
      over the required minimum contribution. 
    posting as we go...
    though I came in late because the echo was ridiculous

    Colorio asks about added 70 positions
    Allen notes "they're generally teacher or IA positions added through the budget
    Colorio: can you explain the salary increases?
    Allen: contractual salary increases: step increases
    Colorio: will you see less students coming to schools
    Binienda: guidance has not yet come out on that regarding if the remote learning or a hybrid model
    so will still need the teachers; waiting for the guidance from the state, which will determine that
    Colorio: don't you have an online learning for those who might be out sick
    Binienda: no, they don't have an online learning program
    Russell: survey of parents nationwide that a large percentage of them would do homeschooling rather than send students back
    thinking about that as part of a Plan B at all? "Is it our job as a city just to be taking the guidance of the state?"
    Binienda: homeschooling is very different, district doesn't get involved in this
    which is not the question he has asked
    The Commissioner has said districts will follow this guidance that is coming out
    did recommend once the guidance comes out if they're planning on sending their students to schools or continuing with remote learning
    "now that doesn't mean that we're held to that answer"
    how many students are going to be present in school
    guidance at this point is ten (12, I think) students on a bus; will need two nurses in a building (one for students with coronavirus, one of those without)
    Russell: how many more buses do we need then?
    "my math tells me that we need five times as many buses; is that right?"
    Binienda: we'd be looking to make a plan
    if only sixty percent of the kids are coming to school...
    we'd be looking to 
    Russell: if they stay home, are they homeschooling or are they still doing what they're doing now?
    Binienda: they'd be remote learning
    we'd have to see what the guidance is; "that would make a difference for us"
    "going to spend all summer"
    Russell: "do we need classrooms of a different size?"
    Binienda: "I can't wait to see the new South High up..."
    "we'd spread kids out throughout the building"
    "it's not altering at all the structure of the school"
    Russell: how have we done on the work on Worcester East Middle?
    Allen: have replaced the boiler through MSBA, currently replacing the roof
    MSBA said the school needs more work than an accelerated repair project; hopefully will be done as a core project
    Russell: peeling paint and tarps?
    Allen: providing a report
    How it is that the councilors never notice that this would have anything to do with the Worcester Public Schools capital budget...

    Mero-Carlson: budget is pre-COVID; how does that translate to that budget? Will this be sufficient?
    Binienda: hoping for that extra funding to address some of the COVID-related challenges for us
    hybrid or remote, need to be 1 on 1
    some money for kids connectivity: hotspots
    "we figured probably around $4M...just to be able to provide the online learning"
    "we need PPEs" 
    schools donated PPEs
    said parents are going to be responsible for masks for children; district has to provide masks for adults
    temperature taking for every students and adults
    "even if 60% of students return to our large high schools"
    temperature scans that go in the ceiling to scan large numbers of people
    Allen: question is excellent; was prepared pre-COVID
    "we don't know what the state revenues will look like, and we certainly don't know what education looks like in September"
    but looking at different scenarios: hybrid, and reductions in state funding

    Bergman: anticipation that students will have to provide their own
    what happens if a child shows up without one: will one be provided "are there discipline consequences for that?"
    Binienda: "of course there aren't any discipline consequences"
    and she got really foggy here
    Bergman: adaptations for snow days?
    Binienda: had cancelled our snow days this year; but DESE had cancelled previously experimenting with that
    Bergman: is that a requirement?
    and her answer here that districts were doing different things, but that isn't why DESE decided on that
    Bergman: WEMS: any thought on that?
    Allen: after Burncoat
    Bergman: did we have enough substitutes?
    Binienda: yes I think she said?
    Bergman: doesn't it make it a challenge? can't really predict numbers
    Binienda: "it's kind of what we're doing now, though...had some savings on busing...those savings were hopeful for us, because we were able to purchase some things that were needed"
    Bergman: has anything changed because the buses aren't used?
    Allen: negotiated a lower rate; only 77% of the daily rate for continuity of service
    agreement that they would pay their drivers to have available
    used as well to transport people to the homeless sites
    funding redirected back to Chromebooks
    Bergman: is that in play again for the fall?
    Allen: only through the end of the school year

    Rose: as more kids have been home, lack of mandated reporters, dormant mental health issues, lack of access to clinicians, what money are being dedicated to trauma response?
    Binienda: concerned about students who are taking a gap year
    partnership with UMass Med on trauma partnership
    "I feel like we're prepared for that"
    have hired a clinical coordinator
    Chromebooks to be used at home for connecting
    Rose: money dedicated to cultural responsiveness training?
    Binienda: have hired a consultant, doing in some of the schools will roll out to all the schools
    Rose: lack of resources for PPE?
    Binienda: a...buying club (?) a virus club? for supplies that the state is putting together
    Rose: will we have cost savings if we don't open buildings; what will be what it is spent on?
    Binienda: very few technology coaches
    training for students and agencies 
    mental health and support in that area
    Rose: collaborative members getting same services
    Binienda: have access to our remote learning "because it's on our website"
    one district of the collaborative

    Rivera: at subcommittee was brought up using the WRTA for more of our students
    Binienda: provide bus tickets for after school 
    Allen: much larger and longer conversation on that
    "we have about 200,000 riders annually in the examples the superintendent just had"
    Rivera: "I just feel like it's a good conversation to have"
    Not having teachers equipped to this new technology: is this budget reflective of the adjustment we have to make?
    McGovern says "normal wasn't that great" but how do we move forward
    teachers and students and families
    Binienda: have been preparing "for really great technology"
    Google trainer "that is very well trained" and coaches "that are very well trained"
    "some of these principals have really learned to use this technology"
    "if I had to ask for anything more...we would ask to add four more technology coaches"
    Rivera: "diversity is pretty much the same"
    "when you look at the administration; you have an all white school committee...and the staffing chart is pretty much identical to last year"
    criticism that there is a large population of that is not reflective of our community
    ...which she is comparing to last year...
    Petty: why don't go over the programs you're running with Worcester State and such?
    Binienda: "the only reason it's the same is we didn't add any positions; the same people are there"
    600 instructional assistants in the Worcester Public Schools, many have been there a very long time
    have instructional assistants working to get their degree
    "even though the state decided not to go forward with the grant because they wanted to hire a consultant to look at that"
    is this actually the case?
    paying for a mentor for every four or five of our instructional assistants
    Rivera: need people at the decision making level
    Rosen: want to ask the superintendent about online and virtual learning
    "I don't understand the quality of the online learning...were our teachers trained in this prior to the pandemic"
    Binienda: "it was a challenge"
    app for parents to use 
    spent two weeks calling every family 
    1400 families did not have any device but a cell phone
    "we expected there would be more" there are many who report that there are
    3500 families that do not have connectivity
    "they took this on"
    Rosen: "I'm guessing that some students if not many students can't learn" this way
    "I doubt there are many students that learn more effectively online than they do in the classroom"
    Binienda: nothing can compare to the classroom
    sychronous and asychronous learning 
    Rosen: "feel free to be concise in the answers"
    Binienda: you can go on our website and see...she means the plans; he means the classes themselves
    Rosen: if the administration of the schools could work with the WRTA, "I think they'd find it pretty good services if we could use the RTA"
    trauma of COVID, certainly affects a family
    have the parents been trained in teaching?
    Binienda: homeschooling "is not a program we provide support for"
    Rosen: so much in favor of having classes in the building
    "have we considered double session?"
    "four hours in the classroom is better than eight hours online"
    Binienda "the Commissioner mentioned that was not a model he would be going for...not one he spoke highly of"

    King: "very clear the issues related to social emotional learning is gaining so much traction"
    Binienda: numbers of those who live in the city
    King: sufficient to say that you do hire a number of city residents
    WRTA idea:"do have concerns...child safety concerns...a number of young folks who get taking advantage of"
    concerns about jobs: might be loss of jobs as it related to our residents
    would make a motion that if we consider ramping things up that we make sure child safety concerns are addressed
    ask about social emotional learning:
    linking students to community resources, particularly during crisis
    how are we measuring that efficacy? 
    Binienda: adding a school wraparound
    having meetings in schools about student social emotional learning
    home visits are very difficult to do 
    have to rely on teachers who see the kids; talking to parents and getting the support we need
    King: our students in the collaborative: what oversight do you have
    Binienda: chair of the collaborative board
    King: do our Worcester kids have full access to our Chromebooks through the Worcester Public Schools budget?
    Binienda: if it was on the IEP
    we pay tuition, but then the collaborative staff decides what is recieved
    King: diversifying staff: not really following why the Chief Diversity Officer didn't happen
    planning and staff on chief diversity officer
    Binienda: is currently the prinicipal of Chandler Magnet
    "has very unique programs...would not have been appropriate to pull her out without a replacement"
    then will be moving to central office
    King: success of city and schools based on how we spend money
    "and this Council does not write blank checks"
    someone may want to look at the chart above
    King: do you expect any issue with transportation to or from athletic events?
    Binienda: waiting to see if there are any issues with athletics
    but don't anticipate any issues with athletics
    Allen: agree with the superintendent

    Toomey: elaborate on school safety officer's involvement
    Binienda: Title IX investigation
    visits schools to see if there any issues: "if the doors won't close"
    "some of the appeal hearings...the ones that he can do by law"
    "really thank him for the work he's doing now...helping with the placement of the homeless at the shelters"
    Toomey moves approval
    and the line is unanimously approved.