By John Monfredo, Worcester School Committee
Congratulations is sent out to InCity Times‘ editor and publisher Rosalie Tirella on their 15th anniversary. The newspaper continues to be an alternative newspaper, with a goal to support those individuals most in need in our community.
One may not always agree with editor “Rose” (including me), but the idea of supporting, giving advice and advocating to those in need is a good concept. Rosalie grew up in the Green Island area of the city and knows the hardships that individuals experience – she has been a strong supporter of our inner-city parents.
As a matter of fact, at the age of 21, my first teaching assignment was at Lamartine Street School, and that’s where I first met Rosalie and her lovely mother. Rosalie was in my 5th grade class!
Since those early days, I have continued to reach out to our inner city parents with ideas and advice that hopefully make a difference in the lives of their children. I did it as a teacher, as the principal of Belmont Community School, and when I retired I still wanted to make a difference. That’s why I ran for Worcester School Committee.
Believing that a parent is a child’s first and most influential teacher – every school needs to have as its highest priority parent involvement within the schools.
You don’t need to be a researcher to know that family involvement can make a positive difference in school attendance, student behavior and academic achievement. What is needed is for schools to develop and ensure that parent involvement is embraced and not just given lip service. All schools need to welcome family members to their school. If schools don’t, the lack of positive interaction will stifle family-school connections.
Here are just a few suggestions for all schools:
Place positive signs on the schools entrance doors welcoming parents to the school.
Invite family members to eat lunch with their children. I can tell you that it works because I did it at Belmont Community School. We don’t have to feed the parents – they can bring in a lunch and spend time with their child. How about having lunch with parents on the first Friday of every month?!
Invite family members to attend workshops on important concepts that are taught to their children on a regular schedule. Inviting parents into the school for a special workshop does work! It serves as a way for the parents to assist their child at home.
Have staff and the principal make phone calls to invite families to participate in special events, meetings or other activities. Here in Worcester we have the Connect Ed. system where the school can invite parents to special events via the telephone.
Let’s go a step further and call parents with good news! It could be if a child had success on a test or just had a great day in school. Let me tell you it works! I did it for over 20 years at Belmont! Parents loved hearing good news and were more receptive in coming to school because of the call. Let’s start with that one positive telephone call.
Be sure that language translation is available in the office and for conferences and other contacts with parents.
Have workshops on reading and math. All families want to help their children, but many parents may not know how and that’s why the schools must reach out to our inner-city parents.
Have a family center stocked with learning materials that families can take home. Such a center would be a welcome addition for the schools . A Family Center should be part of each school – a special place in school where family members can meet, plan and implement programs.
In essence, schools must create a culture of wanting parents to be involved by modeling their beliefs, in both words and deeds, to the entire school community.
When families of all backgrounds are engaged in their children’s learning, their children tend to do better in school, stay in school and pursue higher education. Clearly, children at risk of failure or poor performance can profit from the extra support that engaged families and communities provide.
Remember, the research is clear: When parents play a positive role in their children’s education, students tend to do better in school. That all important teacher and parent PARTNERSHIP must be part of every school!
Good luck, InCity Times, on your 15th birthday and for the next 15 years! Continue your mission of involving inner-city parents in the learning process!
By John Monfredo, Worcester School Committee
Should school districts change the school calendar and eliminate summer vacations? That was a headline of a story I wrote several years ago for InCity Times. Obviously, it was to get the attention of the reader, but as you know more truth is said in jest! Since my days as a principal of Belmont Community School and then as a Worcester School Committee member I have been espousing the dangers of academic loss during summer vacation, known as the “summer slide.”
Summer reading and math loss is real. As readers, do you know that the best predictor of summer loss or gain is whether or not your children read during the summer? If your children don’t read during the summer months they’ll likely lose skills. But the good news is that you can prevent it! More on this to follow.
Let’s first look at the facts: low-income students lose substantial ground in reading during the summer, while their higher-income peers often gain. What I find most disturbing is that research shows that summer learning loss is cumulative year after year and this contributes to the student achievement gap that we all hear about. Figure it out: If children are losing two to three months of academic growth during the summer and if you look at that situation occurring year after year, it adds up to be a heavy loss by the time the student enters the seventh grade. According to researchers, the result of a “summer slide” in academic skills may account for 80% of the achievement gap by grade six.
Sure, everyone is excited about summer time, but it can be devastating to the young minds of our children in the inner city as we look at the data or just use some common sense. Summer can be the enemy of the school teacher, for students forget their math and they stop reading. In the case of those students with limited English skills, many lose their newly acquired words. The summer slide is real, for our schools see the decline in reading and math achievement just from being away from school. Often it is the students who can least afford to lose the reading or math gains they’ve achieved during the school year who fall the farthest behind when they return to the classroom after summer break.
I do hope that I have the attention of my readers! This is a very serious problem! Let’s see what we as a community can do about it:
First, a reading list was passed out to our WPS students during “Reading in our City Week,” urging parents to make sure their children read at least five books during the summer and do the writing activities that are assigned. Parents, I urge you to make reading a priority at home. I am suggesting that reading take place every day in your household. Make it happen, parents and grandparents! If we could get parents to read to their child just 20 minutes a night we could revolutionize public education! As stated in the reading pamphlet from the Worcester Public Schools, it is very important to help your child understand that summer reading can be fun and beneficial at the same time. Students who develop the habit of reading not only learn to be better readers but also achieve greater success in school.
Remember, readers are leaders!
In addition, the Worcester Public Schools sent home a “Summer Math Activity” pamphlet. Regular math practice over the summer will maintain and strengthen math gains made over the school year. The activities are fun and can involve the entire family. Also, think about opportunities through cooking to learn fractions or trips to the grocery store as opportunities to learn math skills, just doing measuring or tracking temperature. Play educational games.
The trick is how do we make this fun and motivating, while giving children serious opportunities to learn the skills they need? I would also advocate that our students practice and master their math facts through math games and flash cards during the summer break. Play cards such as “War.” When one turns over a card you need to call out the two cards with multiplication answer. Example 9 and 8 – call out 72 (same for addition and subtraction facts).
Please take the time to look at the suggestions from the schools and if you have any questions talk to someone at the Central Office, for there are 16 summer school sites open this year. Give it some thought: if there are any openings register your child for one of those programs. In addition, across the city there are a number of free or inexpensive programs for parents to consider for their child. So look into them immediately.
Another reminder: Remember that the best deal in our city is a visit to the Worcester Public Library or to one of its many branches. The library has lots of ongoing programs this summer. It’s imperative that our adults take the time to bring a child to the library!
By Edith Morgan
We are at last at the place where there is some hope that women will be paid the same as men for equal work. That has taken a while. As a former teacher, I can remember the days when women teachers were paid less for the same or greater effort, did not get regular raises for experience, could not teach if married, then could not teach if pregnant, etc. I recall being told that only men could get a raise, as they were heads of household, and I as a woman could not be a “head of household” – despite the fact that I, like many women, was the main wage earner in my family, as my husband was in school and received only a meager stipend.
It was really high school teachers who spearheaded the move to organizing for more fair pay. Too many of us who were elementary school teachers were female, and we were accustomed to serving but not expecting proper pay. We taught children; high school teachers said they taught subjects. But now, after decades of battling, all teachers are on a multi-step schedule, based on educational level and years of service, not on the sex of the teacher.
It has been a tough battle to get fair pay for female-dominated professions – and the battle is by no means over.
This society still gives lip service to the vital role of raising and educating children, said to be our future. But we still pay near-starvation wages to those to whom we entrust our allegedly most precious possessions: our children. Early childhood programs of top quality are few and far between, very expensive, and overfilled. I went to a public preschool at three years of age, in France, in 1933 – that is how far behind we are here in America. My parents, who never even entrusted us to a babysitter, entrusted us to that French public school program. They could not have afforded a private program, as we came to France with nothing. Of course, there, teachers were honored and looked up to, and I do not remember my parents ever saying a bad word against teachers. If we children complained, they said we should learn all we could from this year’s teacher(s), and next year we might get one we liked better.
I recall coming home one day and announcing to my parents that henceforth I would have nothing to do with money, as the teacher had told us that “money is the root of all evil.” As a testament to the power of teachers’ influence, it was years before I really felt comfortable having anything to do with what was popularly called “filthy lucre.” My parents, loath to contradict the teacher, explained gently to me that the real saying was: ”THE LOVE OF MONEY is the root of all evil.”
Our system of compensation for work, our reward system, seems to reward those who do the least, with the most. Hedge fund managers, who move money from here to there and catch billions in between, are fabulously rich; CEOs who barely know what goes on in their businesses get millions and bonuses; speculators of all sorts are rewarded outrageously, while those who die for us have to battle to get treated for the horrendous diseases they pick up in battle. The list is endless! Suffice it to say: We reward the most vital jobs the least, and the least vital the most.
In this season of giving thanks, we have much to be thankful for at Mass. Farm to School. This season is also a time of transition, as farmers mark the end of the harvest season and look ahead to next year. Here at Mass. Farm to School we are also experiencing a time of transition.
After several months of strategic planning, this November we transitioned out of our host organization, Project Bread – The Walk for Hunger, and to a new host organization at Farm to Institution New England (FINE), with fiscal sponsor Third Sector New England. We are very excited to work with FINE staff and partners to strengthen farm to school programs in Massachusetts and to connect with broader farm to institution efforts across New England.
While you, our partners and supporters, will likely notice few changes in our programs or staff, we thought it was meaningful to announce this transition and, very importantly, to give thanks for the skilled and generous sponsorship that Project Bread has offered since 2013. Over the past two years, Project Bread helped us strengthen our organizational capacity and enabled us to develop strong programmatic partnerships with their wonderful initiatives, including the Chefs In Schools program and the Child Nutrition Outreach Program.
We look forward to continuing these partnerships in the years to come. We also want to thank all of you who took part in the planning process which helped us arrive at this transition. We look forward to your continued involvement and the contributions of many other partners as we work to build out a robust Massachusetts Farm to School Network.
We are very thankful that we are now well positioned to make great strides in achieving our organizational goals — to see a thriving local food system in Massachusetts in which all have access to healthy, locally grown food, and local foods procurement and food and agriculture education are ingrained in the fabric of our schools.
We would like to once again thank Project Bread and to thank each of you for your dedication to growing the farm to school movement in Massachusetts.
Simca Horwitz & Lisa Damon
Mass. Farm to School Program Directors
Wednesday, May 6
Farm to School Day at the State House in Boston!
Talk with your elected officials about why farm to school is important to you, your school, and your community!
Farm to school advocates from around the state will spend the day meeting with legislators to raise the visibility of farm to school programs and to encourage support for state level policies to expand food education, local food in school meals, and school gardens in Massachusetts.
Come share your stories!
We will gather to meet one another at noon in the Members’ Lounge, attend a legislative briefing together and then fan out to attend meetings you have pre-scheduled with local elected officials.
Please call your Representatives and Senators’ offices to schedule meetings with the legislators and/or their staff any time before noon or after 1 pm.
Farm to School Day Agenda
12 pm: Meet in the Members’ Lounge on the 2nd floor
12:30 pm: Attend a legislative briefing with legislators and their staff to learn more about Farm to School and current Farm to School legislation
1 pm: Fan out to meet with your elected officials to discuss farm to school efforts happening in your region and across the Commonwealth
Let us know you’re coming!
For more information and to RSVP, please contact Simca Horwitz or Lisa Damon at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 413-253-3844.
We hope to see you on May 6!
Massachusetts Farm to School
34 Main St., Suite 10
Amherst, MA 01002
Farm to Institution Summit Coming to Massachusetts
Are you working to increase the amount of local and regional food used by schools, colleges, and healthcare facilities in the Northeast? You’re invited to the 2015 Farm to Institution Summit at UMass Amherst on April 7-9!
This first-year conference will feature 50+ sessions, inspiring speakers, local tours, good food, live music, and exhibitor fair and more.
Please join us–along with hundred of other farm to institution advocates–for three exciting days of learning, sharing and connecting.
Register by March 2 to save $20 per day: www.farmtoinstitution.org/summit
Do you have a great idea for farm to school success? If so, be sure to submit your Recipe for Success by March 2 for a chance to win $500 in cash prizes, free registrations to the Northeast Farm to Institution Summit, and a chance to present and share your great work.
Harvest New England Agricultural Marketing Conference and Trade Show
Farm to Institution New England is excited to be hosting a farm to institution track with five workshops at the 2015 Harvest New England Agricultural Marketing Conference and Trade Show, one of New England’s largest agricultural marketing conference, on February 25-26 at the Sturbridge Host Hotel in Sturbridge.
Mass. Farm to School staff will be panelists for two workshops, one entitled “Farm to Institution Nuts and Bolts–Shop Talk with Sector Leaders” and the other “Farm Visits and What You Need to Know.” We’ll also have a resource table in the exhibitor hall. Stop by and say hello!
Show Your Support for Establishing a Mass. Farm to School Month
State Representative Steve Madden (Falmouth/Martha’s Vineyard/Nantucket) has introduced HD63, which would officially designate October Massachusetts Farm to School Month and encourage three state agencies (Departments of Elementary and Secondary Education, Public Health, and Agricultural Resources) to work together on a joint task force to further farm to school efforts across the state.
Contact your legislator to encourage them to vote in favor of this bill. Contact us if you’re interested in getting more involved with this advocacy effort.
Resources and Opportunities
Massachusetts Agriculture in the Classroom Winter Conference – March 7
Attend the 14th Annual Winter “Growing Minds Through Massachusetts Agriculture” Conference on Saturday, March 7 at the Pathfinder Regional Vocational Technical High School in Palmer.
There will be four workshop sessions, with six to seven concurrent workshops in each session related to the many different aspects of agriculture in the classroom. Each will be taught by a teacher or farm educator.
Farm to School Policy Webinar, March 10, 1pm EST
Making change: How you can support farm to school policy this spring
Although the Child Nutrition Act (known as CNR) isn’t set to expire until September 30, the action in D.C. is happening now, and we need your help.
Join the National Farm to School Network to learn how farm to school legislation is progressing as part of CNR and what you can do to help make sure farm to school gets the support it needs from Congress!
The 20-minute presentation will be followed by a Q&A session.
Office Depot Foundation Grants for Children and Communities – Deadline: Rolling
The Office Depot Foundation’s funding focus aligns with its Strategic Priorities. The Office Depot Foundation prefers to fund projects and programs in the areas of Giving Children Tools For Success, Building Capacity to Serve Communities and Disaster Preparedness, Relief, Recovery, and Rebuilding.
Grants of $50 to $3,000 will be awarded to select applicants.
Nonprofit organizations, schools, and libraries are eligible to apply.
Fruit Tree Orchard Grants – Deadline: Ongoing
The Fruit Tree Planting Foundation (FTPF) is an award-winning international nonprofit charity dedicated to planting fruitful trees and plants to alleviate world hunger, combat global warming, strengthen communities, and improve the surrounding air, soil, and water.
FTPF programs strategically donate orchards where the harvest will best serve communities for generations, at places such as community gardens, public schools, stat/city parks, low-income neighborhoods, Native American reservations, international hunger relief sites, and animal sanctuaries.
CLICK HERE to learn more!
It’s the POLLINATE CONFERENCE January 13 at Worcester State University!
Time is running out …
Registration closes on January 7th!
Reserve your spot today.
Join more 300 other enthusiastic farm to cafeteria advocates from the preschool, K-12, and college sectors for a full day of workshops, networking, cooking demonstrations, and fun. We will have over 20 different workshops including:
Farm to School Policy and Advocacy
Farm to School Curriculum Connections
Waste Reduction, Composting Organics, and School Gardens
Funding Farm to School Programs
On Campus Farming
Farm to Preschool 101
Farm Based Education Initiatives – Urban and Rural Farm Field Trips
Sea to School: Incorporating Local Seafood in School Meals
The conference will also include Farm to Cafeteria Regional Networking Sessions so that you can connect with others in your community who are involved in farm to cafeteria activities.
Learn from their best practices, share your own tips, and move forward together!
We will be holding a concurrent Buyer Tradeshow and Networking Session for Farmers and Distributors. This will be a great opportunity to make direct connections with farmers from your region and discuss local sourcing with distributors.
Registration closes on January 7th and is filling up quickly as we have a limit of 350 attendees. Discounts are available for students and conference presenters. Please contact us for more information.
Conference Sponsorship Opportunities
Opportunities still exist for conference sponsorship. This conference is made possible by generous support from businesses and organizations that share the values of the farm to cafeteria movement. We expect the conference to attract over 300 individuals from a variety of fields including school and college dining services, farmers, non-profit organization staff, state agency representatives, legislators, school educators and administrators.
We have a number of different conference sponsorship opportunities. If you are interested in being a sponsor, please contact us.
For more information and to register, CLICK HERE!
By Gordon T. Davis
A girl dressed up in a KKK costume during a Halloween event at Worcester Technical High School on October 30, 2014. This is the same high school that President Obama honored and attended its graduation ceremony in Spring 2014. Her dressing in the Kluxer robes and hood caused much upset in the Worcester and Boston areas. There was a report of it on the Boston TV.
The girl technically did not violate any policies as the Halloween event costumes were to depict great villains. Admittedly, the Ku Klux Klan is a great villain, guilty of murder and terrorism. Their klaverns are still on the Southern Poverty Center’s list of hate and terrorist groups. The very image of them is offensive to most people in Worcester and Boston areas.
I spent a good part of my adult life fighting against the Kluxers and the Nazis; we opposed the Nazis’ use of the Worcester Public Library as a meeting location. So I think I can speak with some experience. The girl in the KKK costume is a child who followed school policy that was not at all clear. The school policy was confusing and it is that policy that needs correcting and not the child. When the policy is clear then the children will have the guidance they need to make good decisions. Children cannot be expected to make nuanced decisions between what is bad and what is offensive without guidance from adults. It is the school authorities who should have known better, albeit knowledge that was hard to obtain beforehand. The School Department’s policy on anti-racism and anti-discrimination is not well known to the public and there should be some discussion with the public about it.
The policy for great villains or heroes should be clarified to exclude characters that might be offensive. Of course this is a restriction of expression, but there are times political correctness makes good policy.
When my kids went to public school Halloween costume events occurred in elementary school, not in high school. My own memories were that it was fun dressing up for grammar school events. I wanted to be more mature in high school and dress the part, if only to impress the girls. Perhaps there should be restrictions on Halloween costume events in high schools.
The Worcester Public School is run by Dr. Boone who has shown competence in matters such as this. I sometimes think that she does not do as much as she wants, because of local politics. I do think that she will have an honest review of the Worcester School Department’s policy as was promised in its press release. I hope Dr. Boone does not wait for things to blow over without doing this review. I also hope she makes it and all policy changes public. The girl in the KKK costume was a preventable event and I hope the School Department finds the right policy to ensure no further embarrassment to the students, itself and to the City.