What happened at our December 2 meeting:
- We once again had a thoughtful and insightful report from our student rep ex officio Stacio Zoghbi and South High rep Shelley Duodu. Our student reps are in the midst of collating data from student surveys (if you're a student and haven't yet taken it, please do!), but they did share two concerns that have come to the fore. The first is COVID, and in particular, student concerns that masking isn't being enforced at schools.
The second was mental health, and I want to quote here part of what they said:
For those of us who do make it to graduation day, we spend 14 years of our lives in and out of school houses, growing, learning, and hopefully thriving. Yet, for a myriad of reasons and pressures, these places of learning and development are becoming places students dread arriving at.
This is not okay. I asked at our last meeting for an URGENT report on student disregulation, and it seems every day we see further evidence of how far afield we are on this issue.
While we did not have a formal report of the superintendent, we did have an update from Superintendent Binienda at the request of Mayor Petty on COVID. DESE met with superintendents earlier this week; they expect an increase in cases between now and the first week of January. That was all that was shared; I don't know if they left it there or have more about it.
The Committee was asked to vote to extend test and stay to Worcester Public School students who are considered close contacts at an after school program approved by Early Childhood Ed. It is very specifically ONLY that. We did vote all approval.
We also heard this week's COVID numbers--those are updated on the website here--which is 140 students and 28 staff.
We requested an update on where we are with vaccinations of students; I'll share that once we get it.
Mrs. Clancey shared the report from Governance, after which Mr. Monfredo attempted to get passed the original item that had been rejected in subcommittee, a contract that the district would require of all families that would hold them responsible for $300 for a lost or broken Chromebook, $30 for a missing cord, and so forth. This was not moved forward from subcommittee. The subcommittee report moved the financial impact question to Finance and Operations, but did not move the superintendent's recommendation on creating a contract forward, noting that it was covered by our current policies.
We, the district, have chosen to require these devices for students; students are required to have them; families cannot refuse them, even the three-quarters of our families who are low income.
The superintendent argued that "kids don't take care of them," and that "we have to instill in kids that they have to take care of them." She said that we were more like a 1 to 3 district; this was later in the discussion contradicted: we are short more like a thousand now, which makes us close to one to one. We also expect to have orders coming in next week.
If you're interested in watching the discussion, the report starts about 28 minutes into the meeting and goes from there. Mr. Foley noted that talking about about "malicious destruction" is loaded language, and that we have a responsibility as a district, as a one to one district now, to figure out how to make the funding work. Ms. McCullough called attention to the part of the student handbook that includes technology; it was decided that updating that language would be discussed in Governance at the next update. Miss Biancheria strongly noted the burden this requirement would impose on families, speaking of our students getting free breakfast and lunch for a reason, and rejected this as a family's responsibility.
During the discussion, part of what we discovered was that some--certainly not all, but some--of the Chromebook shortage is artificial; when the new South High opened with Chromebook carts, students there were told that they could simply leave their Chromebooks at home for homework, and use the new ones for schoolwork, all while at least hundreds of other students across the district didn't have Chromebooks at all. The motion which was made on this--which passed, 5-2, Biancheria and Monfredo opposed--was to distribute the resources we currently have to our students as soon as possible.
The report of the Governance committee was accepted as presented.
Later note: If you read the T&G on this, and you can't make the math work from what is said, that is because the math doesn't work: 500 Chromebooks times $300 each doesn't equal a million dollars (it's $150,000), nor does $1 million equal ten teachers, as we don't pay teachers $100,000 each.
Annually, the district officially counts our enrollment, and you can find our report for this October 1 on pages 36 to 39 of our agenda. This was sent to Finance and Operations for further discussion, for two reasons:
1. this is the best look the School Committee has at how many students are where and how that is changing. This has, of course, facilities implications.
2. our enrollment is our budget determiner! We are down 250 students from last year. That's a $3.7M loss, per Mr. Allen. Note, further, that because our enrollment did not go back up this year, the $9.7M of ESSER funding that we used as hold harmless funding last year now needs to be...something. Considered? Thus we're starting the FY23 budget deliberation--welcome to the FY23 budget deliberation, by the way!--short $13.4M.
It's worth noting that we have students who have joined the district since the October 1 count; the Mayor asked for a report on that. As those students are ours but are not yet counted, there was also a motion to bring this to the attention of our state and federal delegation
- Mr. Monfredo's item on cursive was sent to Teaching, Learning, and Student Supports.
- Ms. McCullough's two athletic items went to the respective committees: coach salaries to negotiations and the athletic budget item to budget
And Mayor Petty announced his appointment of the superintendent search committee, which will conduct the preliminary interviews for superintendent. They are: