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Mass. Farm to School HARVEST WEEK!

Thursday, August 29th, 2013

Harvest Week – Make Your Plans Now!

This year the Massachusetts Harvest for Students Week will be Monday, September 30 – Friday, October 4.

With this week we not only kick off National Farm to School Month (October), but we also put the spotlight on the efforts of schools all across Massachusetts to highlight the delicious bounty of Mass. grown products!

What are your plans for your school?  We invite you to use our websiteto find resources to help you plan your week, including seasonal recipes, activity ideas, and a sample press release. Here are a few event ideas to get you started:

  • If you’re already signed up for Harvest of the Month, why not show off September or October’s featured crop (tomatoes and pears) in a special lunch or taste-test?
  • Feature a different local fruit or vegetable on the menu each day
  • Invite a farmer to speak with students
  • Invite your local legislators for a local lunch

If you have a plan in motion already, please fill out the “How will your community celebrate” section of our webpage and let us know!  As always, feel free to contact us directly to help you source local food directly from a farm or through your distributor. …

To read more, click here!


NEW: Why go to school?

Friday, July 5th, 2013

By Edith Morgan

Criticizing our public schools is one of our favorite indoor pastimes – everyone is an expert, having attended school for twelve years or more – and able to share tales of experiences during those years.

But just being a consumer of public education does not make anyone an expert, any more than having had brain surgery makes one a brain surgeon. But in a democracy, more than anywhere else, an educated public is vital to the survival of all the values we purport to hold dear.

To hold our nation together, we have to share certain beliefs, certain skills, certain behaviors, certain values. When I attended schools here in America, I thought I understood pretty clearly what the goals were: I learned to master the English language, to understand my neighbors, my city, my state, my nation – and the history of all these, so I could understand why we were as we were, how we got that way (history), and what would be expected of me as I took my place wherever I settled down.

I went into teaching, a natural choice, coming from a culture that held teachers in high esteem (even if the pay was mostly pretty shoddy) and trusted teachers to impart the skills and knowledge we all needed to take our place in American society. True, we all expected to earn a living, but that was not the main goal of education: the schools were expected to turn out decent citizens, informed and able to make decisions, participate in governing ourselves, think and act rationally, and as we grew older, be able to continue learning to survive in a changing world, and be responsible members of family, neighborhood, town, state, and nation (and now, the world).

I have been very disturbed to see increasingly that our schools are becoming career-training factories, Click to continue »

Motherhood, apple pie and three–year olds

Friday, March 22nd, 2013

By Edith Morgan

We give a lot of lip-service to the preciousness of our children, and are forever trying to improve their educational experiences. And now there is much talk about pre-school education, with the hope that here at last is the magic pill that will prepare every child to succeed in the test-crazed environment of our schools.

I am a fervent believer in early childhood education, and if done right, it can be a very beautiful and enlightening experience. My parents, who never even left us with a baby sitter, had enough faith in the public schools to let me attend free public pre-school in 1934 – in Paris, France. Though I have a terrible memory, I still vividly remember one hands-on experience, “dissecting” an orange, and admiring the wonderful structure containing the tiny “juice containers” in each slice – which you can see if you carefully peel back the skin and push out the inside. Try it sometime! Of course we were read to, sang songs, learned rhymes, and were taught many valuable lessons in how to cooperate, take turns, follow directions, etc.

If the idea is merely to prepare toddlers earlier to learn letters and sounds (which takes so long at this age, and is so quick and easy at age 7) it is not worth the money and time… Just stretching an already bad curriculum down two years will simply produce more learning-disabled children, more turned off by school earlier, more disinterested in academics. Save your money and your children if that is the plan.

But if we are serious about really helping our young to be competent, creative, full-fledged human beings, giving them all a good start is worth the money and effort. There are models of what great early education looks like, and they have been around a long time. But are we willing to hire and pay for the best-trained, most experienced early-childhood teachers, give them the environment and supplies they need, and get out of their way? Are we ready to understand that PLAY is the work of young children, and expanding their vocabularies via great literature, poetry, music, and art is job #1?

Too many of our children today come to school with tiny vocabularies, and have to compete with others who have 10 times as many words, and who live in a home where every day they build more ideas and concepts. There is NO way that even the greatest teacher, best school, most wonderful books and music can make up for the daily advantage of a good home. But at the very least, we should do our best to level the playing field a little – not with more testing, more phonics, more drills, but with well-structured experiences that will enable them to start on the road to becoming more than job-seeking drones and eternal consumers. How sad that the richest nation in the world is unwilling to offer its children that great experience, which I had almost 80 years ago in another country.

There’s a riot going on…

Wednesday, December 12th, 2012

By Rosalie Tirella

… outside one of our high schools. Kids beating the crap out of each other. Then when the Worcester police arrive, they start beating the crap out of our Worcester cops.

This time around I am all for the cops. Real heroes in this instance, especially the off duty cop who first tried to help when three punks were beating the crap out of one kid. The punks jumped him. That’s when police back up was called. Real heroes who had to deal with utter pukes and losers.

Let’s put aside the shitty home lives that have left these kids without any moral code. And let’s put aside society’s lack of jobs and opopportunities for them.

We can play the blame-society game later.

Right now we say, these kids acted like animals, and one of their parents acted like an animal too. To jump a cop, to choose violence instead of words and questions. Shame on that parent who attacked a Worcester police officer.

I grew up inner-city Green Island in the 1960s and 1970s. This is stuff I remember from decades ago. But it has gotten crazier. Adults have gotten as out of hand as kids. My mother, who died this summer, would never have jumped a cop and started flailing away. My mother, no matter how jerky a teacher or cop was, always sided on the side of the authority figure. With public servants who tried to teach her girls and protect their neighborhood. She expected us to behave like members of a civil society. She expected us to treat kids and adults with respect. To follow rules, to mind teachers, to complete homework assignments, to attend church every Sunday, to attend catechism class every Monday night at St. Mary’s School on Richland Street. She also had us go to the Winthrop House Girls Club every summer. For ten years. A decade.

That is how you raise kids. Make them participants and stakeholders in society.

But I digress.

I remember asking her once when I was older why she didn’t say something about a Lamartine Street School teacher who was a jerk when I was a kid attending the school. Not very compassionate to the kids.

She said most of the teachers there were excellent and that she was supporting the great teachers there who slaved away at teaching tough kids every day.

I was a bit surprised, but I got her point. She was respecting authority and the wps and civil society. And she was being a realist. There’s a wormy apple in every barrel. Deal with the wormy one, next go around you’ll bite into a sweet apple.


Sunday, December 2nd, 2012

By Rosalie Tirella

IOU – Ice Oval Update…

Drove by the ice oval at 5 p.m. today. Roughly the same number of people skating as yesterday eve. Thankfully, the police cruiser was now parked off the grass/oval area and on cement walkway off to the side.

The real crime seems to be the cost to poor families and the $25 you have to put down as a kind of security deposit if you want to rent a pair of ice skates. And you are timed. You can only rent a pair for one session, whatever that is.

Here is what is so disheartening: I just read two news stories. One was about how nearly one in eight Americans is eligible for Food Stamps. Another news article was about how the USA is now the most downwardly mobile of the industrialized nations. In the 1950s we were #1 – the most upwardly mobile nation in the world! Poverty and social stratification in America were given as prime reasons for our country’s decline.

Nice to know City Manager Mike O’Brien is contributing to America’s decline via his new affordable housing policy and, yes, even his ice oval.

Stand for Children MA, MA Teachers Association back legislation to put teacher performance first

Thursday, June 14th, 2012

New proposal ensures teachers performance comes before seniority when staffing decisions are made

BOSTON – Stand for Children Massachusetts and the Massachusetts Teachers Association this week announced legislation that would put teacher effectiveness before seniority when teacher staffing decisions are made. The legislation is a potential alternative to the ballot question Stand for Children has offered, which they have vowed to continue with should this new proposal fail to be signed into law before the state’s July 3 deadline for removing ballot questions.

“We are pleased to have the support of the Massachusetts Teachers Association on a piece of legislation that is critical for recognizing the work teachers do, guaranteeing a great teacher in every classroom, and closing our state’s wide achievement gap,” said Jason Williams, executive director of Stand for Children Massachusetts.

“Stand for Children Massachusetts and the parents, teachers and citizens who support us have long sought a system that places teachers in front of our children based on the quality of their work – not simply how long they’ve been in the classroom. A ballot question will no longer be necessary if this law is enacted, but if it is not, then we are committed to going to the ballot. The impact that teachers are having on their students should count; their performance in the classroom should be considered first. That’s something that 85 percent of voters support.”

Like the ballot question, the proposed legislation ensures every public school in Massachusetts gives priority to a teacher’s effectiveness rather than seniority when deciding who to place and keep in the classroom.

Additionally, the legislation empowers school leaders to build the best, most qualified teams by guaranteeing they have a role in decisions about who is teaching in their school building; it establishes a robust and comprehensive data reporting system to ensure accountability and transparency as this new evaluation system is implemented; and it seeks to provide an additional $13 million to school districts to ensure administrators and teachers are properly trained on the new evaluation system in order to provide timely, fair and comprehensive feedback on a teacher’s effectiveness.

“Teachers are one of the greatest indicators of how successful a child will be in the future,” said Williams. “This proposal will ensure that every child in our state, no matter their ZIP code, has access to a bright and successful future.”

Homeless children in the Worcester Public Schools …Ten percent of the student population

Friday, January 20th, 2012

By John Monfredo, Worcester Public School Committee member

“I just can’t concentrate, and I worry about what the next day will bring, for living with two other families is very difficult.” … “I’m scared and afraid to tell anyone about my situation.”

These are statements from children who are homeless in Worcester and they are among the 2,400 students who worry about what is going to happen to them. These students represent 10 percent of the Worcester Public School population. The public only sees the buses rolling and sees the 44 schools in our public school system operating, but few can understand the changes that have taken place in our schools. Like all urban cities in this nation, we in Worcester have homeless children in our schools and it impacts their education!

One counselor told me about a student who received A’s and then unexpectedly his marks dropped. She finally was able to find out that this high school student was now living in a homeless shelter.

People living in poverty are most at risk of becoming homeless. In our city 71.8% of our students live under the poverty line.

Children experiencing homelessness face many barriers to education. Looking at the data, one sees a high absence rate, lots of moving from place to place, and poor health and nutrition. Again, according to the data, homeless children are likely to be ill four times more often than other children, with four times as many respiratory infections, and they are four times more likely to have asthma attacks. Unfortunately, homeless children go hungry twice as often as other children. Click to continue »

For the new school year: I have a dream …

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011

By Parlee Jones

Peace and blessings to all the mom’s and dad’s, grandparents and caregivers who got their children off to a new school year. I know quite a few friends who brought their “children” who have become young adults on to college. My sister was one of them as she drives our first to college out in the Berkshires. She just keeps saying I can’t believe that this initial journey with my Son is over. Well, you did a great job, sister, and WPS because he is a product of yours. Thank you to Mr. Monfredo and his incredible staff at Belmont Street Community School for giving Jahnoy and all the Jones children strong, solid foundations. Congratulations to all parents who have completed that first leg of the journey with their children. You are not able to be there with them and can only take solace in the values you instilled and the dreams that they have!

Being an active participant in your child’s school life is one of the most important activities we have as parents. Making sure they make it through elementary, junior and high school years. Our goal is to get them that High School Diploma and be successful in whatever they choose to do. Be it college, the workforce, armed services, or whatever path they choose, you have kept your part of the bargain. The rest is on them.

For those parents that are just starting the journey with their children entering Head Start, Pre-school and Kindergarten, be well prepared to help them receive the education they need, deserve and are promised to come out on the other side with tools and skills they need to survive and thrive in a world that is ever changing.

I dream a school … I dream a school where the bus is able to pick up the child Click to continue »


Thursday, September 8th, 2011

By Rosalie Tirella

Three cheers for Mayor Joe O’Brien for standing his ground against folks who want to squelch school district representation on the Worcester School Committee!

He’s right! By creating three or so districts – districts that encompass places like Main South, South Side, Down Town, etc, – in which residents can run for Worcester School Committee, Worcester’s political world will be more welcoming/accessible to minorities, working class/poor people. People whose voices are seldom heard in Worcester. People who can bring new perspectives to the issues.

Think about it. Why do most of the folks on Worcester’s city council and school committee come from the West Side? Because they, as upper middle class folks, ALREADY WEILD POLITICAL/ECONOMIC clout in the city. They already have their foot in the door simply by being who they are. Ex: you’re name is Fred Smith and you are from Moreland Street (on the West Side). You have a good job at UMass Memorial Hospital, you belong to some business and civic associations in Worcester, you’re a church/neighborhood leader, you go to the theater once a month, etc. Right then and there you have a bunch of things going for you that a regular ol’ person doesn’t have going for him/herself: 1. Money to run you campaign CITY-WIDE 2. Connections – connections with people of standing at your work place – in Fred’s case it might be the nurses or doctors at Memorial Hospital or the hospital’s administrators. These people vote and they will vote for you AND be able to give you campaign $. 3. You, as Fred, also probably have plenty of “name recognition” at church, your neighborhood and business association/groups to which you belong – again situations ripe with possibilities, ripe with folks who are educated to VOTE and have the money to make campaign contributions. So you, as Fred already already, have 20 legs up on the person from Main South – maybe a factory worker with great ideas but none of the life benefits middle class people take for grantted.

By creating districts, the City of Worcester will enable the person from the South Side, etc to have an asier job garnering votes, campaigning etc.

When Mayor O’Brien says this change in WPS committee compostion is going to open things up politically for new voices/people/ideas, he is 100% correct!

Idiot Jeremy Shulkin from the supposedly “alternative” paper Worcester Mag is supporting the racist/classist status quo when his stories not so subtley side with people like Kate Toomey or even most of the WPS Committee. It is awefully hard to stand up to – even see – a kind of city-wide, entrenched racism/classism. People just see the system the way it is – have trouble seeing its flaws because they have lived with it (to their advantage) all their lives. No one wants to give up power/clout.

This is the time for all progressives to make some noise! To rock this city – for the better!

District Reps on the Worcester School Committtee NOW!!!

District reps for the Worcester Public Schools NOW!

Friday, September 2nd, 2011

By Rosalie Tirella

Sick of Worcester School Committee member Tracy O’Connel Novick voting against the City of Worcester’s inner-city schools at every turn, every time she opens her mouth? For instance: Novick’s NO to millions of federal dollars because she didn’t like the fact that the Worcester inner-city schools in question may have to meet some federally mandated criteria.

Fortunately, the other school committee members disagreed and knew that Worcester’s poor families needed the federal money to make their schools stronger (libraries, longer school days, after school programs, etc). And who can forget Novick’s voting against school uniforms for a few of our inner-city schools because not every inner-city family had a washer and dryer? That’s what she said! Implying that poor folks can’t keep clean because they don’t have the right equipment. Click to continue »