Saturday, April 30, 2022

You should watch the interview with Dr. Monárrez

Particularly if you're in Worcester, but really, if you're involved with our educational system, I'd urge you to watch this interview.

(and look, I say this as someone who sits in a LOT of superintendent interviews!)

Thursday, April 28, 2022

Remarks on Dr. Rachel Monárrez, next superintendent of the Worcester Public Schools

Tonight on a unanimous vote (made unanimous on the motion of Member Mailman, who voted first for Dr. Savoy-Brooks), Dr. Rachel Monárrez was appointed the next superintendent of the Worcester Public Schools.

As I was the Committee member who went to visit her home district, I had the responsibility of reporting out on that visit. Here are the remarks I made this evening.

Turquoise whiteboard marker on glass, handwritten:
"It's all about the children and the adults that serve them" in a heart
In Dr. Monárrez's San Bernardino office

I visited San Bernardino City Unified School District for finalist Dr. Rachel Monárrez, the deputy superintendent. SBCUSD is the seventh largest district in California, with 48,000 students, 72 schools, covering 163 square miles, with a FY22 budget of $918 million. As Deputy Superintendent, per the superintendent, she runs the day to day operations of the entire school district. 

My first meeting of the day with Superintendent Dr. Harry Ervin established several themes regarding Dr. Monárrez that were repeated and confirmed over the course of the day:

She is a strategic thinker: She thinks in terms of structures and systems, how those are established, how those are working, what changes need to be made, and more than anything else, how those structures and systems impact students. When a staff member saw an upcoming operational issue that crossed silos and would be politically unpopular to raise, he took it to Dr. Monárrez, as he knew that she’d recognize the issue, that she would be prepared to plan next steps, and that she wouldn’t let the politics of the concern stop the work that needed to happen. I was given examples of this again and again over the course of the day.

Her first priority is always what is right for kids: The structural is in support of children, first, and the staff who serve them, and the community, including the families surrounding them. She continues to ensure that the systems of the school district are working to be supporting the best interests of kids and of those who serve them. In fact, on the table in her office where meetings are held, she’s written, “It’s all about the children and the adults that serve them.”

She leads with others: Dr. Monárrez actively models leadership for others; her walk-through of a classroom (which, I was told, is never for only a moment) closes not simply with the usual question ‘what did you see?’ but the follow-up ‘and what will you reflect back to that teacher to raise their work to the next level for students?’ She is actively reflective in her own practice, seeking feedback from those with whom she works. Those who report to her trust her (and I heard this phrase more than once) with “the real story,” knowing that she will not spread information with which she is trusted further. She is trusted and she is trustworthy, and she also extends trust to others. She is not a gossip. She also is known for working with those needing to solve a problem, reflecting to them their own best thinking and what will work best for their own situation. She not only, as noted above, brings structural support to challenges the district is facing; she ensures that those doing the work are themselves supported personally. One termed this “leading with grace.” One staff member summed it up as “I wanted to make her feel proud of me.”

She is gifted at creating and sustaining the relationships that are a community: As one parent related to me, Dr. Monárrez’s frame is “Let’s make this a better school district for our kids.” She is skilled at working through difficult conversations, including those across race, class, and language lines. She is a skilled listener, and, while always does her research and comes prepared, if she does not know something, she will say that and then follow up with the one who asked. She has broken down barriers between and among groups in the school district, and she has cultivated key partnerships for the school district. One parent described this as “leaving headaches outside the door and bringing everyone to the table.”

I could go on at length, but in short, Mr. Chair, what I heard from the district was a description of someone who met, in a myriad of ways, exactly what the Worcester School Committee, and, more importantly, the community of the city of Worcester, wants in their next superintendent. 

As I was also told repeatedly: San Bernardino’s loss will be Worcester’s gain. 

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Board of Ed: regulations on teacher licensure

 also being proposed to go out for public comment
subject matter knowledge through trade exams

Chuang: in some cases vocational teachers are being tested twice
DESE to work collaboratively with the field; look to see which tests might be redundant
Hills: are there any tests that are not state board tests? are any industry tests that would be below ours?
Will be reviewing all to determine equivalency

Sent to public comment

flexibility for licensure

Riley notes extension of what has been done previously
Devine: up 50% of their time in an area in which they are not licensed
long-term sub was 90 days or more required a license or a waiver
does not apply to special education or EL
West asked if we have any data on what this has done to the field
maybe we shouldn't think of this as only an emergency response?
Devine: 15 districts have 10% or more of their workforce covered by this
Wall: will have some data from the emergency licenses
West: take-up has been important in a few settings
not a huge part of what we're doing to support districts through their staffing challenges

Sent to public comment

Board of Ed: regulations updates on competency

 John Papay from Brown University

evidence from nearly two decades of high school MCAS and how it could inform education policy

  • how do MCAS score as relate to long run outcomes?
  • are students scoring at different levels college/career ready?
  • how do students impacted by policy fare?
  1. HS MCAS predict long-term success and appear to reflect academic skills not simply SES or school characteristics
  2. students scoring near cutoff don't fare as well
  3. retesting and passing does appear to improve long term educational attainments
MCAS predicts earnings among similar students with same education level and demographics
improvement from 8th to 10th grade scores have better long term outcomes

near math passing cutoff very unlikely to go to 4 year college

raising graduation requirements can influence students in several ways: overall impact
but particular impacts: students who fall on either side of passing requirements
equity across groups? equity within groups?

despite competency determination, educational attainments have increased over time, and this is particularly true for low income students
many fewer students are failing the test on their first attempt
most who fail, go on to retake and go on to pass
few students apply for appeal; success rate is 75%

barely passing or failing does affect student outcomes; students have similar academic profiles otherwise
don't see any real disruption in trend of not going to college on either side of barely passing or failing for low income students, but there is a disruption for higher income students
don't know if it is the encouragement of passing or the discouragement of failing that makes the difference 
operates on different margins for these groups
generally same patterns on college attendance and college graduation: rates of four year college graduation are overall very low for students scoring near this line

Hills: anything you've seen about how large a change makes a difference in graduation requirements
hasn't seen it
Livingston: GPA and MCAS?
Papay: they are correlated: both seem to relate to longer-term outcomes
both seem to be predicted
Craven: we all had anti-racism training last year
"the MCAS is a diagnostic tool for curricular, it's not an IQ test"
"measurement of how effectively the curriculum is delivered to a student"
there's a correction that it's testing standards
Craven: based upon standards that are supposed to be universally adopted
students who fail are disproportionally those of color, of low income, and with disabilities
Craven notes this is all prior to the pandemic
"what conclusions can be drawn from" this disparity 
Papay: correlations that we see across the board and across the country
I think that this is reflecting those realities in society and in our school systems
Hills to West: how large a change it takes question
West a lot of context for the decision; analysis can't give us a specific number
Moriarty: thought one of the more interesting correlations is that with eighth grade
is there a remedy in thinking more deeply about different experiences?
Papay: a lot of variation in what schools were doing; some looked at 8th grade MCAS and other things and provided support prior to 10th grade
Moriarty: reach out to filed to reach out to field with it
Fernández: if we're dwindling the pool of those who would be able to pursue early college pathways, we need to get earlier in the pool

Competency determination change: Riley: multiple reasons to set a higher standards
setting it several years ahead to let schools, families, students time to know 
asking for the public weigh in

Curtin: 2026-29
vote is just to solicit public comment today
timeline of competency determination
would apply to this year's eighth graders, thus would know prior to entrance to high school
evidence heard pointed to raising CD standard beyond legacy
focus on communication of both CD and resources behind it, including implementation of the educational proficiency plan
classes of 24 and 25: can either earn a scaled score of 240 on legacy (472 on ELA and 486 for math) OR earn a scaled score of 220 on (455 for ELA and 469 for math) AND complete an educational proficiency plan
plus science of at least 220
classes of 26 to 29:
ELA and math: at least 470 AND complete an educational proficiency plan
a 486 
AND science of 470
also proposing changes to educational proficiency plan regulation: improved communication to families, clarify what courses will need to be completed
have to also change regulations on Certificate of Mastery and of seal of biliteracy so they match

West supports going out for public comment; hope to learn some things from public comment
educational proficiency plan currently closer to an exercise in paperwork compliance
encouraged by sharing it with parents
what about class of 2030? why not say we're going to raise the standard and force a future board to act in relation to it
don't think we should be looking for complexity in this policy
Rouhanifard also asking about time bound
Curtin: prudent thing to do is wait to have additional data; Board will need to act for this year's fourth graders
"we're living in an unprecedented time right now"
come back to Board for further action
Fernández: want to see much more information and much more robust information
if we are to pass this, how do we pay particular attention to low income students
want to see something much more comprehensive around supports students are going to receive

Hills: asks again about date cutoff
Curtin: Board would have to act beyond 2029
Hills: in a perfect world, I'd like to see the score at 500 in 2030
"we've gone for a proposal that's reasonable and then sunset"

Livingston: test is supposed to measure a standard across the board; it's largely impersonal
once it has the stake of graduation in it, it becomes personal
I feel that an EPP also has to be personal for the child

Board of Ed: panel of superintendents

Dianne Kelly, Revere Superintendent
Patrick Tutwiler, Lynn Superintendent
Tim Piwowar, Billerica Superintendent

round of thanks here

Kelly: four areas of concern to highlight
then a couple of asks

  1. mental health, not just of students but also of staff, which she characterizes from the student perspetive as being about remote learning, again. Concern about stress on educators given public vitrol, creation of data which "no one can say has any interpretable meaning" 
  2. recruitment, particularly as teachers are being driven away from education, need pipeline and support
  3. diversification of workforce, supporting those who already hold positions, as well. Vitriol disruption of work 
  4. collaborate and engage other stakeholders and meaning of work
Tutwiler: painting a picture for you 
Certain that every community and district has a story to tell
"I'm not a representative for all district" but sure there are tight parallels
"this is by far the most challenging year I've experienced as an educator"
Deeply concerned about mental health of students
has stretched capacity of mental health supports of district, even as expanded through SOA
"has worked valiantly but struggled to move beyond triage"
discipline referrals and absences
staff finding a lot to bear, absences there as well
second is staffing
benefited from Student Opportunity Act
address decades-old issues; when it came time to hire, few resumes trickled in
profound worry added to be retirements and resignations right at start of year 
worry that staff will find it too much and move on
"you shouldn't be a superintendent or an educator if you're not an optimist"
"as hard as things have been, things will get better"

Piwowar: can't transform until stabilization and healing are met
has brutal year for about everyone in education, and harder than the year before
last year, challenges were being met by a sense that we were in it together and that this year would be normal
replaced by fear and anger
negative emotions have permeated so many of the aspects of our work
"the reality is there aren't people out there to be hired"
educators are often the primary caregivers in their own families
thus after school and other care are difficult to staff
"the word 'civil' in the phase 'civil discourse' seems no longer to apply"
understand work is to "act as a human shield" for staff
attacks on principals and teachers has such a detrimental effect
what can we collectively do?
regulation changes for less issues of compliance rather than focusing on staff needs
DEI for inclusion strategy, "where all really means all"
national narrative is impacting local districts' ability to work on this
significant staffing issues, flexibility on licensure
find a way to work together to change a narrative around schools
built on human capital
hope and optimism 
"not just the work that we do, but why we do the work we do for kids"

Rouhanifard asks what is working on mental health
Tutwiler: questions use of "working," talks about interventions, "ongoing"
Piwowar: need social emotional coaches
Tutwiler: make clear how SOA has made a difference for Lynn
2018 had 23 clinicians in 25 schools with 16K students
will have a 395% increase in what is being proposed
tiered support: "but what we are seeing is not tier 1"
Kelly: have almost doubled clinicians
in adult mental health: have worked to look at compliance measures and put some aside
reduced internal assessment, focused ed eval on those most in need of growth

Hills: if you're an optimist and think through next few years, things that are structural that DESE could do to relive stresses on educator pipeline
Piwowar: desire to work collaboratively on what those are
MTEL and used as filter to filter out candidates does limit pipeline
conversation about what it means to be a teacher
support doesn't culturally exist right now
Kelly: some being required to pass MTEL in 3rd or 4th year to continue in program
screening out some of "exactly what we need to be in the building"

Moriarty: didn't see the quantity of students who would arrive back in buildings in crisis would be so large
about academic achievement, but nearly impossible to do when students are in crisis
"talking about the lives and well being of kids who are in a severe crisis"
are we moving in some positive direction at all? other supports
Kelly: employee assistance program, wish we had
dearth of services for students beyond K-12 environment
Piwowar: town's insurance provides, only as helpful as employees wanting to access it
lack of external supports: those kids are still showing up at our door the next morning
Tutwiler: have seen ebb and flow around challenges in schools
Kelly: high school students, seniors were last to have complete year of high school in school
expectations will help, but won't help mental health issues
"have a whole lot of students who lost a parent...who saw someone close to them get extremely ill"
still have students coming to us with different types of trauma from other countries
and adult patience is short

Livingston: how are we helping kids who are in really bad straits?
could there be time in the school day?
Tutwiler: Lynn doesn't meet national ratio yet, will be next year if proposal
"not sure that's the answer, either"
what else can we be doing
particularly at secondary level, advisory is important
elementary SEL curriculum
Piwowar: whole group approach is depersonalized
"do you feel like you have a trusted adult in the building you can go to"
"it's those in between times"
rebuild those relationships, and advisories are a really great way to do that

Fernández: have heard this before, have heard it's the hardest year
what is really happening in our schools
"focus on what matters right now"
Board "in a place of readiness"
"what do you need?" as systems leaders
Piwowar: "aside from a 32 hour day..."
he's taking a long time to think about this
"I use the phrase 'human shield'" and haven't even gotten into everything
"if I could snap my fingers and have one thing happen" it would be to have people be nice to each other and work together
the war stories "are worse this year" than ever
Kelly: principals are experiencing the same kind of burden
dealing with such heavy things
need to know that state leaders are behind us in saying 'that's just not okay be anymore'
Livingston: what would zero tolerance look like for that kind of disrespect?
like with bullying in schools, we say there's zero tolerance?
Piwowar: we don't want to walk the line that we're denying First Amendment rights
one is messaging that we don't want that
and the other is counter messages of social media
Tells his staff not to go on social media
"and the doomscrolling that takes place"
Flooding the discourse with positivity and optimism about schools which would take being on social media
there are candidates that are running on negativity
not a zero tolerance but a counter

Craven: community partnerships
Tutwiler: came together to lift up entire community
relationships deepened and continued

Riley: statewide testing options extended now, next steps for summer and fall
USDA: approved P-EBT starting on May 25, end of June, then July
Congress not extending universal free meals: think there are implications

Board of Elementary and Secondary Education for April 2022: opening and public comments

The agenda for today's meeting is here. It's a regulation-heavy agenda, with proposed updates on competency determination in MCAS (to vote), on certification of mastery (for initial discussion), education licensure for vocational licensure (for initial discussion), and for licensure (for staffing flexibility). 

public comment 

I missed Lisa Jeanne Graf's testimony which is here
Gerry Mroz arguing we need standards above competency determination; arguing that the system has "stagnated" and that the competency determination is a low bar

BPS panel caught in traffic, Charlestown High School teacher Sarah Grimmett arguing that receivership is a failed model
"saying 'no' to state receivership"
"can personally speak on success of early college and career pathways" program
"so many factors seeking to destabilize our school"
labels that were designed by those outside of our community
"please keep in mind what we actually need"
resources, inclusion done right, update to buildings
increased funding for wraparound services
listen to school communities and increase resources
"even holding the threat of receivership over us is taking valuable attention away from what is really important: our students"
Justin Perez: senior at Charlestown High School: values diversity of community
dreams of vocational learning there
taking a gap year; financial implications of college
"schools and BPS should be able to come up with plans on teaching their own populations"
"I really believe that if we give power to the state we diminish the community"
Jaden Pinet, senior at Charlestown High School, member of school site council
brought student perspective on hiring process, on budget
value the most our community and the diversity
"share and celebrate our differences"
"feel Charlestown feel like more than just a school"
"what needs to change is amount of support and resources"
what is at issue is not an issue of competency
Suleika Soto: no coincidence that just as Boston, a majority city of color, is moving towards an elected School Committee, state is moving towards receivership
notes lack of voice and resources in receivership districts like Lawrence
"why not give us more resources and give us a chance to work us out for ourselves?
"we need more social emotional support, not threats"
this Board should be upholding local voices
Sugey Scannell, mother of BPS students (who is testifying in Spanish)
as the mother of immigrant children, one of the main resources I moved here is the education of sons
want them to capable and competitive, get close to the American Dream
"I believe we have a school system that works. Like everything in life, it's not perfect, but it works."
have interpretation of ten languages in Boston meetings; wanted to testify at a prior DESE meeting and was denied
"I don't have the trust that you have the capacity to direct our schools...that DESE has the best interest of our children in their plans"
we have seen when the state intervenes, the indexes are not consistently improved
relationship of teachers and students get worse; more difficult to retain teachers 
Best way of supporting staff is giving a raise
"we must update the infrastructure...expanding the curriculum...supporting...extra activities"
Boston has great universities, hospitals, "and the best public schools"
"the last thing that we need is instability that comes with receivership of the state"

Chair Craven: has asked for a task force on mental health
"important for the Board to be seen as having a proactive stance"

Secretary Peyser: budget update
House deliberating budget, dealt with education amendments last night
House fully funds early college expansion
expansion of MassGrant plus, of interest for graduating seniors
Thursday is STEM Summit

Commissioner: collaborating with MIAA, MASS call to action on addressing bias and hate seeing around athletics

Sunday, April 24, 2022

The Worcester School Committee appoints a new superintendent this week

One of the four finalists is in the district each day, Monday through Thursday.

  • Monday, Dr. Sonya Somerville Harrison
  • Tuesday, Dr. Malika Savoy-Brooks
  • Wednesday, Dr. Charles Grandson
  • Thursday, Dr. Rachel Monárrez 

Beyond visits to schools, meetings with staff, meals with School Committee members, there are two places for public insight:

Every afternoon, there will be a public meet and greet session with the finalist in the district that day.
All of the sessions are at the Durkin Administration Building in the auditorium at 20 Irving Street; enter through the front door. The accessible entrance is off the parking lot.
All are from 3:15 to 4:15. Light refreshments will be served.

Interviews are each evening.
Monday's is at 7 pm; Tuesday through Thursday's are at 5:15 pm
All will be livestreamed on all our usual spots.

The Worcester School Committee will share feedback from their site visits after Thursday's interview. The Committee then will deliberate in public session, and vote to appoint the next superintendent, who will begin July 1. 

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

What happens next in the Worcester superintendent search?

Please enjoy this daffodil from my yard.

This was outlined by Molly McCullough at the meeting, but I know the main grabber was the NAMES of the finalists, so just to be clear: 

  • members of the Worcester School Committee are splitting up and visiting the home districts of the candidates for the rest of this week. We cannot all get everywhere, but at least one of us (in most cases more) will spend time in the district of the candidates, speaking with those with whom they work now, and gaining perspective on their work with the community, with families, with students, with school staff.
  • Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday of next week (April 25-28), the Worcester Public Schools will host a finalist each day. The finalist will visit schools, will meet with central administration staff, will be available for a meet and greet, and will have a public interview with the Worcester School Committee in the evening.
  • On Thursday of next week, the Worcester School Committee will deliberate and vote to select the next superintendent of the Worcester Public Schools.
There are still some details in terms of times and such that need to be confirmed in the above. I will post theme as soon as they are available. Stay tuned! 

Finalists for Superintendent of the Worcester Public Schools

The finalists selected by the Search Committee for consideration by the Worcester School Committee are, in alphabetical order:

Charles A. Grandson IV, Ed.D.
Dr. Grandson currently is the Chief Equity and Strategy Officer for the Boston Public Schools, a position he has held since 2019. He has also served as Chief Academic Officer and Deputy Chief Operating Officer for BPS. From 2016 to 2017, he served as interim superintendent of the Malden Public Schools. He has also worked for the Poughkeepsie (NY) City Schools, where he served as Deputy Superintendent, and the Springfield Public Schools, where he served as School Redesign Officer after serving as the principal of High School of Commerce. Dr. Grandson began his career in education as a history teacher at Brook Farm Academy in the Boston Public Schools.
Dr. Grandson holds a Doctorate in Educational Leadership (dissertation: Turning Around Schools: A View from Superintendent/Central Office as Policy Implementers), a Master's in Education, and a Bachelor of Arts in History, all from Boston College. 

Rachel H. Monárrez, Ph.D.
Dr. Monárrez currently is the Deputy Superintendent of the San Bernardino (CA) City Unified School District, a position she has held since 2016. She has also served as the Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction for the Santa Rosa City Schools; a principal in the Pomona Unified School District; and the Senior Director of the English Learner Program in the Rialo Unified School District. Dr. Monárrez began her career in education as a bilingual/English immersion and special education teacher in the Pomona Unified School District. Dr. Monárrez is bilingual in English and in Spanish.
Dr. Monárrez holds a Doctorate of Philosophy in Education with an emphasis on urban education from Claremont Graduate University (dissertation: Tales of La Lucha: Reflections of Latina Bilingual Educators), a Masters of Arts in Education also from Claremont Graduate University, and a Bachelor of Art in History from the University of California, Irvine. 

Malika Savoy-Brooks, Ed.D.
Dr. Savoy-Brooks currently is the Chief Academic Supports Officer for the School District of Philadelphia (PA), a position she has held since 2018. She has also been an Assistant Superintendent and the Director of Instructional Resources for the School District of Philadelphia, and the Director of Curriculum and Instruction for Chester Upland District. She has also served as a principal, a Director of Instruction, a Prevention and Intervention Coach, a Curriculum Content Academic Coach for the Philadelphia schools, where she also began her career in education as a teacher. 
Dr. Savoy-Brooks holds a Doctorate of Educational Leadership: curriculum and instructional design from the University of Phoenix (Dissertation study: Teachers' Perception of their Pre-Service Experience in Preparation for Cultural Competence; apologies, couldn't find that online); she is part of the Urban Superintendents Academy of the American Association of School Administrators/Howard University. Dr. Savoy-Brooks also holds a Master's of Science in Educational leadership and a Master's of Science in Elementary Education from St. Joseph's University, and a Bachelor's of Science in Food Science and Management from Delaware Valley College of Science and Agriculture. 

Sonya E. Somerville Harrison, Ed.D.
Dr. Somerville Harrison currently is an Assistant Superintendent for the School District of Philadelphia (PA). She also is Network Lead for the Penn Educational Leadership Simulations at the University of Pennsylvania. She has also served as principal and assistant principal within the schools of Philadelphia. Dr. Somerville Harrison was a special education teacher for Hall-Mercer of Pennsylvania Hospital and within the New York City Public Schools, where she began her career in education. 
Dr. Somerville Harrison holds a Doctorate of Education in educational leadership from the University of Pennsylvania (Dissertation: The Enactment of Effective Leadership Practices During Systemic Change), a Master's of Education in Special Education from Temple University, and a Bachelor of Arts in English from Spelman College. 

Members of the Worcester School Committee will be visiting the home districts of candidates later this week. Next week, each candidate will spend a day in the district, with an afternoon reception for the public, followed a public interview with the School Committee; I will share the schedule once it is public later this week.

Following the final interview on Thursday, April 28, the Worcester School Committee will deliberate and selected the next superintendent of the Worcester Public Schools, who will begin on July 1. 
(more on next steps here, with more to come)

Sunday, April 17, 2022

FY23 House Ways and Means budget

 Lately, I feel as if all of my posts begin with an apology for being late: no different here, as the House Ways and Means budget was released Wednesday, and here it is Sunday before I get to a post on it. Apologies.

The House Ways and Means budget was released Wednesday, April 13. The account by account detail can be found in sections 2 & 3, at the end of which you can find town by town and district by district allocations for local aid, including Chapter 70. The Department of Revenue Division of Local Services have likewise updated their preliminary cherry sheets; the municipal cherry sheets are here; the regional cherry sheets are here.
I have now updated my FY23 account by account spreadsheet, as well. 

Let me start by highlighting a couple of things that are different than the budget proposed by Governor Baker in January, and then I'll run through the accounts.

  • I'm still puzzled by the Governor doubling the Executive Office of Education (that's the Secretary, not DESE) up over $4M. The House Ways and Means budget bumps it back down. Any chance someone could ask what the Governor's intent was? I mistrust that.

  • The House Ways and Means Committee is proposing a $15M scholarship fund for educators, half for scholarships and half for loan repayment. It would be for those pursuing public education certification in the Commonwealth in a BA or post-BA program in the state at "not more than $7500 per individual." It requires four years post graduation of working in public education in the state. It does include language prioritizing "the recruitment and retention of racial, culturally, ethnically, and linguistically diverse educators."
    Pros: they're paying attention the pipeline issue. They're noting that part of that is a money problem. They're paying attention to the lack of diversity in the teaching force.
    Cons: $7500? I say this as someone with two kids in college: $7500 isn't enough to sign up for four years of teaching. If this is going to be successful, we're going to need to do more.

  • Next, the Student Opportunity Act required full funding of charter reimbursement for FY23. While the Governor followed the off-by-a-year phase in of last year, putting the House 2 budget at 90% of reimbursement, the House Ways and Means budget bumps this line $24M, getting to 100% (projected) reimbursement, thus getting this piece of SOA done on schedule! This is a BIG DEAL! Good news!

  • You may have seen some reporting on this one: the House Ways and Means budget includes funding that is intended to fund free universal lunch for all kids for all of next year! That's amazing!

  • The House Ways and Means budget creates a new line item (7061-0009) of $9.6M to boost minimum per pupil increase from the SOA $30/pupil (as it was in House 2) to $60/pupil ($30 in the actual Chapter 70 line and $30 in this line). 
    As I have noted in the past, minimum per pupil increases are not part of the foundation budget. As I have also noted in the past, they have no association with district or municipal need, as measured in the standard measurement of both in MGL Ch. 70, sec. 1. These increases bump some districts well over foundation through state funding. They also move districts JUST AS WE ARE GETTING INTO SOA farther away from making the jump out of their hold harmless into real foundation aid increases, which many districts are in the process of doing.
    (Here is the opinion section): I absolutely understand the difficulties and complications of minimum funding increases and limited resources; remember, I've voted eight Worcester Public Schools budgets. I balk, though, at using state resources to fund some districts over foundation without any regard to need. That is absolutely contrary to what our funding system is based on, and it's fundamentally inequitable.
    And you don't have to take my word for it: read the fourth item here.
On to the rest of the accounts! I'm going to take the big ones first:
  • Ch. 70 (7061-0008) is exactly the same as House 2...and that's fine, really, as that implemented year 2 of 6 in the Student Opportunity Act.
  • House Ways & Means bumps the circuit breaker account by $35M over H2 to $440M. $10.5M of that is the Department of Developmental Services for "voluntary residential placement prevention" (which I think I would need more about to understand), but that still leaves a pretty significant boost, which I assume means that there's some question as to if H2 would fund circuit breaker as it should, including the second step phase in of transportation as required by the Student Opportunity Act.
  • As I mentioned above, the charter school reimbursement account (7061-9010) is up $24M to $243M to cover the jump to 100% (projected) reimbursement, which would complete this piece of SOA on schedule. The House W&M budget does adopt the H2 recommended $1088 per pupil amount for facilities for charter schools.
  • As noted above, what is usually the breakfast account gets MAJORLY bumped by $110M to cover the cost of universal free lunch.
  • DESE, by the by, is actually down from last year (it's account 7010-0005) by about half a million dollars in both H2 and HW&M. I mention this because I have the radical idea that they might actually be somewhat understaffed, and there's sure as heck no way that they're going to take on running the Boston Public Schools on that same $12.5M!
  • Early college, which the Governor already substantially bumped from last year ($5M to $9.5M) receives a further bump to a nice round $10M.
  • METCO, which I think maybe the Governor's budget was doing based on reimbursement at $27.9M, gets a small bump to $28.5M.
  • The EL and literacy combined line, which last year was passed at $5M and the Governor has proposed for $4.6M, comes through in HW&M at $5.6M, with $600K to Reading Recovery and $440K for Bay State Reading Institute.
  • The Ways and Means Committee puts a marker in for the earmark line of $100K. Expect to see amendments (sigh...Have I said lately that I loathe earmarks?)
  • The civics education line, zeroed out by the Governor, is in for $1M, split evenly between the JEF library and the Edward M. Kennedy Institute (which I guess makes it a Kennedy institution line?).
  • The $250K for a financial literacy competitive grant program, zeroed out in the Governor's budget, is back.
  • School to career, effectively level funded at $7.5M in the Governor's budget, is boosted to $8M.
  • No change in the $4.8M for innovation pathways.
  • The English Acquisition line, at $3.5M in House 2, back up to $4.5M in House Ways and Means.
  • School-aged institutional education is level funded at $8.6M (that's level funded from last budget).
  • Career and tech ed gets a $1M boost to $3.5M.
  • Adult ed gets a (much needed!) $10M boost, from $50M to $60M.
  • Regional transportation comes through at the same $77.8M as in House 2. Remember, this is a reimbursement account, and it's on actual payments, and this is now reimbursing the year with less transportation.
  • Non-resident transportation isn't funded, while House 2 had $250K.
  • Homeless student is the same $22.9M.
  • AP math and science is the same $3.2M.
  • The school lunch line (that is just that) is the same $5.3M; the line that usually includes breakfast and summer school is the one that's boosted $110M to $115M for universal (!!).
  • School and district accountability is the same $1M.
  • Military mitigation drops $300K from House 2 (this is odd to me).
  • Educational data is the same, as is MCAS, and the assessment consortium isn't funded in House Ways and Means, either.
  • JFYNetWorks gets their line item back for $875K (and perhaps some day, someone will tell me what the pull is that they have in the Legislature, as well as what they do!).
  • Targeted intervention, budgeted at $17.M last year, in H2 at $10.3M, is in this budget at $15.1M.
  • Extended learning, now a sort of residual account for the small number of districts still getting it, was at $9.9M last year; the Governor zeroed it out in H2, and the House Ways & Means Committee puts it in here at $5.9M, specifically to districts and schools that were approved in FY22.
  • Recovery high schools get a $8972 increase (from $2.7M). Huh?
  • After and out of school stays at $10.5M.
  • Safe and supportive schools goes from $519K to $600K.
  • MassAcademy gets their $1.5M, as they did in H2.
  • YouthBuild goes back to the $3M it passed at last year; H2 had it at $2.4M.
  • Mentoring still at $1.2M
  • Wellness supports still at $2M
  • Regionalization grants are not funded here, either (which is interesting, as there are several places in the state where regionalization discussions are happening).
  • Sex abuse prevention still at $1.1M
  • summer learning still at $1M
  • Hate crime/bias prevention still at $400K
  • The trust funds--21st century, civics project, and STEM pipeline--are all funded as in H2 ($5M, $1.5M, $1.5M, respectively).
Amendments are already rolling in. The House will take up budget deliberation on Monday, April 25. 
As always, if you have questions, send them along! 

Sunday, April 10, 2022

What happened at Worcester School Committee last week

 I've been fighting the flu since Wednesday (obligatory #NoItIsNotCOVID), so I've been pretty much out of commission; I am trying to keep to reporting out, particularly as our local news continues to be more weakened. 

You can find the agenda for Thursday (the 7th) here. We came late out of executive session (and if you look at the items that were posted for executive session, you can see we had a number). 

We did go back to the mask policy, which had been held from the prior meeting pending more information regarding wastewater testing; this was in relation to my motion to add language that we require a reconsideration of the policy in consultation with medical professionals if the Upper Blackstone Wastewater Treatment testing numbers rise about 300K for two testing periods in a row. We had Nick Durham of Biobot join us to discuss the testing. On Member Mailman's motion, that amendment was referred to Governance. 
Note that the levels have been above 300K for two testing periods in a row at this point; the most recent testing was this: 

Effective* virus concentration
(copies per liter of sewage)

The report of the Superintendent was on portrait of a graduate, which Superintendent Binienda said is now required by NESDEC (?). The logo/image for it is here: 
The full report starts on page 36 of the agenda. I don't really have a lot to say about this, because it isn't really connected to much of anything else that we're doing in the district. 

We had two subcommittee reports: the first was from this March 15 TLSS meeting. As this meeting took up the district's continued use of--and the administration's continued defense of the use of--Fountas and Pinnell, Member McCullough specifically noted that the next report back should include the perspective of teachers. I noted that there are major issues with our continued insistence on using this program. I think it's important to note that this puts the Committee in an awkward position: we, legally, approve curriculum after vetting and recommendation from administration, who are to be the day-to-day experts. If the administrators are continuing with something that it is clear does not work, can the Committee effectively withdraw that approval?

We also had a report out of the Ad-Hoc Search meeting at which the questions for the semi-finalist superintendent interviews were drafted and approved. I requested that we as a Committee commit to have the superintendent interviews translated; you can now plan on that.
Also, note that the finalists will be announced on April 19 at a special meeting of the Worcester School Committee; they'll be in district for visits and interviews the week of April 25. 

The student representative's report included a s/o to the Burncoat Drama Club (congratulations!). They also brought to our attention an email from the Deputy Superintendent, calling for student representative elections before April vacation, without additional information regarding those responsibilities as put together by the our Student Advisory Council themselves. A number of us regarded this with concern. We have now pushed those off. 

We voted acceptance of a $30,000 preschool grant that is supposed to be a full community needs assessment on preschool, done in partnership with Edwards Street Child Care, YWCA, and Guild of St. Agnes.

We reflected on the page and a half response (pages 104-105) on student disregulation, a report I requested in November, which didn't actually hit most of what has been asked for. This was recommitted to the administration for a full report of the superintendent at our next regular meeting. 

We then had an update on COVID. We've had several requests that we share number of cases broken down by school, which Superintendent Binienda said the health community has advised against. We are seeing an increase in cases this week, as expected, with 33 student and 24 staff cases this week, an increase of 9 and 6, respectively. The full history of WPS reporting is now here.

We received a lengthy response to an item requesting an update on the after school/additional learning time programs being run through the ESSER funding (it starts on page 110). Much of that is a building by building standard form. 
My two concerns in asking the question was first, how are we responding to student need--this gave an overview of that--and second, how are we managing the resources allocated to us. The second question is the one I drilled on in questions, as the FY22 budget set aside $8M for summer and after school programming for this fiscal year. Remember, the district is required to spend 20% of ESSER III spending on "learning loss," which for Worcester is close to $17M. I know we didn't spend anything close to that $8M this past summer--I don't think we even spent $2M--and so I was looking for some information there. The final two pages of the report gave the following: 

So that's $1.18M. 
I won't recount the full back and forth here--and there was one--but I tried to get an answer on if this figure was arrived at by asking each school what they needed, costing that out, and then allocating. I did not actually get an answer, which I am suspecting means the answer is 'no'. If that is the case, it means that the administration has severely underbudgeted the learning recovery program of the district in our first year back in buildings full time since the pandemic. 
And yes, the administration has done that, as the School Committee allocated significantly more funding than was moved forward.

I, Sarah Kyriazis, and Bob Walton gave a brief update on the work of the municipal broadband committee. The city has been in contact with both Google and SciFi, looking at two different models for municipally offered broadband service. Dr. Kyriazis updated on the FCC's Affordable Connectivity program (you can learn more 6 pm Tuesday), for which all WPS families qualify; there's district outreach going on for that, as well. Mr. Walton spoke of the district applying for a third round of federal funding for the home connectivity. 

We received an update on middle school sports, which you can find on page 175 of the agenda.

We passed BURNCOAT HIGH as our number one rebuild/renovate project to go to the City Council and to the MSBA.

We had a number of requests for information, including, coming in from both Members Mailman and Johnson, the still-outstanding MOU between WPS and WPD, which we were supposed to have for the end of January. No one, it appears, has seen it as yet. The superintendent noted that we thus remain under the prior MOU, which I don't understand how that is possible, as that outlined WPD being in the buildings and now they are not. 
I also asked that we get an update on principal succession planning, as we have several principals leaving (which we haven't received notice of, incidentally).

I asked that we make sure students have appropriate provision for observing Ramadan.
I proposed that we revise for the current year our cap on 7 days of excused absences in light of the pandemic; this went to Governance. 
I also asked that we send building enrollment to F&O.
And the Mayor filed an item on the Office of the Inspector General audit on the Temporary Emergency Impact Aid, so expect to see that in F&O as well.

And that was the meeting!
While I have you here, note that there are two subcommittee meetings this week

  • Finance and Operations meets tomorrow (Monday) at 6 pm for the monthly transportation report, though we're getting a tour of the new WPS transportation facility at 5; expect photos!
  • Teaching, Learning, and Student Supports meets Tuesday at 6; summer reading, ethnic studies, tutoring, mental health, and libraries are on the agenda.

Questions that were asked of the semi-finalists for Worcester Public Schools Superintendent

 These questions were created in a public session of the Ad-hoc Committee--by Attorney General's decision, they have to be!--and so I thought there was no reason not to share them here:

Who do you consider the key stakeholders in developing a successful strategy forward? How will you prioritize student voice and involvement in your decision making?

Worcester is an immigrant city with a large population of multilingual families that have students in the Worcester Public Schools. How would you engage and build trust in the community of our diverse families? Building upon the work that is currently underway in the district, how will you work to promote multilingualism as an asset?

How would you prioritize and address disparities amongst diverse learners and educational barriers? What strategies have you found to be successful in achieving this goal? 

What evidence can you site from your professional record that indicates your commitment to racial equity, diversity, and inclusion? Please be specific in your examples.

From the pandemic, what are some lessons learned and innovative practices you want to be sustained?

How will you build a culture of respect, professionalism, and collaboration amongst school and district leadership to ensure a welcoming culture that promotes inclusiveness in all of our schools? 

Nationally, students, families, and schools are impacted with mental health challenges to ensure that schools are safe, and student’s social emotional needs are met. Please describe in your current position what work you have led to promote healthy and safe schools, and how you would meet the social emotional needs of the students in Worcester?

Please explain what level of autonomy you give to principals and district leaders.

Monday, April 4, 2022

Next steps on the WPS superintendent search

 If you're a watcher of local postings, you may have seen a flurry of postings for the Worcester School Committee for the end of the month: that means we're getting there!

Steel going up for the new Doherty:
we're building for the future in more ways than one!

Where are we now? Still in the confidential process: 

The Search Committee--the 22 (? I think?) member committee of community members plus School Committee members Jermoh Kamara, Molly McCullough (who is chairing), and me--met all day Tuesday and Wednesday of this past week to interview semi-finalists in confidential executive session.
Why executive session? The Open Meeting law exception under which we met (MGL Ch. 30A, sec. 21, a, 8) explains why: 

8. To consider or interview applicants for employment or appointment by a preliminary screening committee if the chair declares that an open meeting will have a detrimental effect in obtaining qualified applicants; provided, however, that this clause shall not apply to any meeting, including meetings of a preliminary screening committee, to consider and interview applicants who have passed a prior preliminary screening;

(emphasis mine)

The Open Meeting Law only allows exceptions to the requirements to meet in public if the interests of the public are better served by the meetings being held in private. Applying for a position when you have a job--I think we can all agree!--is fraught; will this impact your current employment? Thus a first round confidential review is allowed for such positions because it provides for people to apply without it being public, until they are among the few clearly in line for the position. It is in the best interests of the district to get the best and most qualified people possible to apply; thus, subsection 8 exists. 

Greenwood Asher and Associations, the firm with which we are working, is now conducting an extensive review of semi-finalists, as designated by the Search Committee. They will complete that by April 14, when the Search Committee has its next (and final) meeting to select finalists. 

Greenwood Asher will then confirm that those individuals wish to move forward into the public next step. 

The Worcester School Committee then meets on April 19 at 5 pm to receive the report of the Search Committee. At this point, the finalists become public.

The Committee plans then to visit the home districts of the finalists. The finalists also will visit Worcester and--cue the flurry of posting--each be interviewed in public session. (Don't take the number of postings as inside-r-y info; it's just the evenings available). That will happen over the week of the 18th and the week of the 25th.

As we have said: the plan is to have voted an appointment by the last week of April/first week of May. We're right on track as planned. 

Saturday, April 2, 2022

Two WPS projects on the Council agenda this week--plus Burncoat is up again

 A couple of Worcester Public Schools facilities-related notes this week:

There are two items on Tuesday's Council agenda related to WPS facilities work. 

  • The first is borrowing $2M on the North High building loan to put sprinklers into the Harlow Street building (which is where Challenge and Reach Academy is now). The back up says this was discovered when the MSBA work was done; the Harlow Street School has a new roof, windows, and boiler as of (checks budget) 2020 (if you haven't been by, go check out those new windows! They really make the building look nice!).

  • The second is the full borrowing for the Worcester Arts Magnet project. You might remember that Worcester Arts Magnet just moved forward with another approval vote from the MSBA board on a roof replacement. Because the cost of the work on the building is more than 30% of the building's assessed value, it triggers state regulation 521 CMR 3.3.2, which requires that the entire building then be made accessible. The estimated cost of this in total is now $6.9M. 
Also, on Thursday's agenda, the Worcester School Committee is being asked to (again) put forward Burncoat High as our number one priority (see page 183), as we (apparently?) received word in February that it wasn't accepted this year. We are not giving up on this!