Tag Archives: students

Worcester news you can use!

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Vegan-Cooking-Tips2

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For nearly 100 years, Worcester was the center of the commercial Valentine industry in the United States.

Join the WORCESTER HISTORICAL MUSEUM for a Valentine making workshop at 30 Elm St. on Friday, February 10 and Saturday, February 11 and make your own Worcester-inspired card in the tradition of Esther Howland, Jotham Taft or George C. Whitney.

This program is for Valentine lovers of all ages and is FREE with museum admission.

We will provide everything but the stamp!

This program runs from 11 AM – 3 PM.

And …
Winners of the 39th Annual “Be Our Valentine” Contest Award Ceremony

At the museum …

Friday, February 10 at 4 PM

Students in grades 3, 4, 5 and 6 celebrated Worcester’s historic role by creating 21st century Valentine greetings. The winners of our 2017 Valentine making competition will be awarded in this yearly celebration of creativity, history and fun!

All of the entries, representing 18 of Worcester’s schools, will be on exhibit at the Worcester Historical Museum through February 28!

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photos: WHM

Tina Z. 🎋 parked here … WE HOPE TINA RUNS FOR CITY COUNCIL! – nice showing last election cycle, Tina!🎉🎉

HOME …

Artists: Joan Baldwin, Nina Bellucci, Joan Benotti, Jennifer Day, Jenna DeLuca, Matthew Dickey, Erin Diebboll, Gary Duehr, Kevin Frances, Jan Johnson, Kelly Anona Kerrigan, Carol McMahon, Evan Morse, Chelsea Revelle, Soha Saghazadeh, Brittany Severance, Dawn Southworth

Exhibition Dates: January 17 – February 26, 2017

Exhibition locations: Schiltkamp Gallery, Traina Center for the Arts,

Clark University – 92 Downing St.

Gallery Hours: Monday -Thursday, 9-9 / Friday, 9-4 / Saturday & Sunday, 12-5

Opening reception: Wednesday January 25, 4:30 – 6

Gallery Talk with Artists:Thursday, February 9, 12-1

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The word “home” can have myriad associations for each person, but on a broad archetypal level, home conjures the realm of domestic life, a household with various members, a secure dwelling, private space, and a place of sanctuary and refuge.

Home also can be seen as existing in concentric circles – the initial ring being that which encircles the individual and members of a household most closely – whether it be a private house, communal residence, apartment, dormitory, or temporary shelter – followed by larger circles of “hometown” and ever expanding associations with region, nationality, and identity.

To “feel at home” suggests a sense of belonging and comfort. But, of course, it is quite possible not to feel at home in one’s actual domicile or physical location and the concept of home may feel elusive or precarious depending on life circumstances, geography, and politics. The artists in this exhibition offer various perspectives on this universal longing for “home” – the quest for a sense of safety, peace, acceptance, and well-being.

Some of the work confronts issues of displacement and loss, while other pieces depict the simple pleasures of domestic life and the careful construction of personal space.

The potency of everyday objects and the memories they trigger are also a focus of investigation. And a few of these artists play on sentimental or cliché associations of home. Though the stories are often personal, the themes are universal.

This was a juried show in response to an open call. The artists included come from all over New England and range from graduate student to well-established and renowned professional.

This exhibition was curated and installed by the students in ARTS 296 Gallery Culture and Practice, a “problems of practice” course, in which students explore opportunities to connect what they learn in the classroom with issues and matters faced by professionals working beyond the campus.

Those students are: Madison Boardman, Maria Escobar Pardo, Katlyn Greger, Grant Henry, Celine Hunt, Autumn Perez, Aliyah Rawat, F. N. U. Rouran, Andrea Schuster, Andre Toribio, and Amy Yeager.

Ballot Question 2 – What would “Ma” do?

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Yesterday: Rosalie and her smudged mirror

By Rosalie Tirella

What would “Ma” do?

That’s what I ask myself every time my “libby” (liberal) self is on the cusp of carrying away my more staid, practical, inner-city Green Island Grrrl self. My late Mom was way smarter than I am and more sensitive to others; she had an open heart and open mind at all times. But she was no push over. She knew how hard life could be – especially for poor folks – because her life was unremitting poverty. She made tough choices every day, yet she lived with such grace and wicked humor … Her life was outsized! Full! Her cup runneth over!

So I think of Ma when I think of Ballot Question 2: LIFTING THE CAP ON CHARTER SCHOOLS … MORE CHARTER SCHOOLS IN MASS. Up to 12.

At first, my liberal reaction: GAWD NO! For all the libby reasons. But then my mom and how she raised us kids in Green Island in the ’60s and ’70s surfaces…how she got the most out of Woo schools for her three girls – with no money, no connections, no car, not much of a clothing budget, no high school diploma (my mom completed the 8th grade and was promptly farmed out to Springfield, along with her three sisters, to be the Bishop of Springfield’s housekeeper/cook, during the Great Depression) but plenty of natural ability. Thanks to Ma, we kids got what we needed from the schools: for me, the Worcester Public Schools, K to 12. Ma knew I loved -LOVED!!! – to learn and that the best chance for her little whiz kid to excel was to keep her in the Worcester Public Schools with their smart, serious teachers, impressive science labs, serious sports equipment, big stately buildings (Prov) or spanking new digs (just built Burncoat), new text books, tons of homework and college-oriented goals. I was expected to – cuz I was smart – get straight As, take all honors classes at Providence Street Junior High and enroll in A.P./honors classes at Burncoat Senior High School. I did and Ma was over the moon! She also got a bit pushy – made me take accordion and violin lessons and pushed me to join the schools all city orchestra. I put my foot down: I was too shy for performing on stage and hated the old violin Ma rented for me out of some music store on Main Street where the piano teacher was deaf!, and I grew bored with my accordion, despite the sparkly rhinestones in some of its buttons and its cool iridescent mother of pearl front!

My two kid sisters attended Lamartine Street School until grade 4, then Mom transfered them to St. Mary’s, her alma mater, on Richland Street. My mom felt my kid sisters “wouldn’t make it” in the rough and tumble Worcester Public Schools where kids often fought in the school yard and a few, I remember my pal showed me hers!, even carried knives. St. Mary’s, the little school for Polish kids and families, was much tamer (and to me sooo BORING): small, intimate and safe. Students had to wear conservative looking school uniforms, go to mass at least once a week at the mother church across the street on Ward Street – Our Lady of Czetchowa – and kow tow to nuns who taught most of the classes and brooked no bull shit. The nuns could be sadistic – they were allowed to pull kids up out of their chairs by their ears! The first grade and seond grade nun/teachers were young and sweet and round faced (I went to St. Mary’s catechism class every Monday eve so I knew my sisters’ teachers), but things progressed badly as you went up in grades. In your 10th grade biology class you could see the hair growing out of your nun’s nostrils! The nuns at the high school weren’t sweet and they certainly weren’t pretty.

I could also tell my sisters’ St. Mary’s school books weren’t as up to date or challenging as mine, their homework was easier and they had much less of it. But St. Mary’s was way less rough than Lamartine and “Prov.” Everyone was kind of the same. My sisters, twins, awefully skinny, kinda shy and didn’t crush the books the way I could, were happy at St. M’s. They weren’t beaten up anymore. They had fun. They had friends. They liked their classes – and the penguins aka nuns! Ma knew my public school honors classes would be tough for them – no matter how hard Ma tried to help them with homework – and Ma did sit with us and struggle through our projects with us! But she was ok with less excellence because my sisters didn’t crave it like I did. Sure, I was bullied at Lamartine and Prov cuz I was a straight A brainy nearsighted bookworm, and Ma knew it. But I was so crazy about my schools, my teachers, the competitiveness of my fellow smarties and the friendship of my good gal pals that I stuck it all out. And Ma loved her chubby little shining star!

My mom knew she had to make school work for my kid sisters who wouldn’t thrive in public schools. She was too poor to pay for a private Catholic school, but she, like her Mom before her, was a parishoner of Our Lady of Czetchowa and worked a special deal with the church for its St. Mary’s school: free tuition up to graduation from high school (St Mary’s went K to 12), free everything for her two girls (except uniforms). Why? Because Ma was a parishoner who was a single mom who worked 60 hours a week at the dry cleaners for minimum wage and was killing herself to pay the bills and provide a good life for her girls and Polish immigrant mother (“Bapy”) who lived with the family on Lafayette Street. And she and her girls walked to church to attend mass every Sunday morning and on every Holy Day of obligation – of which there are a multitude, if you’re an old school Catholic. Which my mom was.

We were a well deserving church “charity case.”

Fast forward to 2016. St. Mary’s school doesn’t offer the same deal to my mom cuz the pastor is an ASSHOLE. I’ve written about him in this space… you all know the straight dope.

So…What would Ma do for my two kid sisters today? How would she educate two fragile little inner city gals today?

SEND THEM TO A CHARTER SCHOOL.

WORK IT SO THAT HER TWO GIRLS COULD ATTEND A CHARTER SCHOOL – the perfect place for them to learn!

Today Worcester’s charter schools offer a CHOICE to parents like my mom. Parents who don’t often have a lot of choices in their lives and are DOING THEIR BEST AND WANT THE BEST FOR THEIR KIDS. They can’t afford chi chi private schools, they may not be able to drive their kids to another town’s safer, (better???) schools. They may feel, like my mom did, that their kids can’t thrive in a sometimes chaotic public school setting and that they may need smaller and intimate classroom settings. They may feel their kids need to go to school with kids who don’t pose huge discipline problems. School uniforms may help parents save money – I know that was the case for my mom. And while the school’s curriculum or teachers may not be inspiring, they are solid – their kids will graduate knowing how to read and write and do arithmetic. They’ll have  a grasp of the basics and can go on from there.

If my mom had boys she would be checking out the Nativity School in the old Girls Club Lincoln House building.

She’d be intrigued by the WPS school President Obama visited a few years ago: Worcester Technical High School. For awhile, as a kid, my mother attended the WPS’s Girls Trade School. Something for which she was always grateful and proud.

Ma would look for the best schools that fit her kids in the best possible way – taking into account a lot more than academics. And because she’d be poor the school choices had to be free. The Worcester Public Schools did well by my immigrant Polish and Italian family:  two doctors, a few school teachers, a nurse, a nursing home administrator, an accountant, a lawyer…many of us the first in the family to go to college. Many living the American Dream! There’s even a Hollywood set painter … and a feisty editor of a feisty inner-city community newspaper!

Ma would vote YES ON QUESTION 2.

So will I.

Meet WPS Superintendent Maureen Binienda

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Maureen Binienda’s new digs on Irving Street pic:R.T.

By Edith Morgan

Many years ago, one of our vice-presidents (Spiro Agnew, I believe) referred to the naysayers and critics with the unforgettable phrase: “nattering nabobs of negativity”. The phrase stuck in my mind, not only because of its unusual use of vocabulary, and its alliteration, which enabled me to remember it, but also because of the sound of the words. That phrase has come back to me repeatedly over the years, as I listened to the critics and pessimists run down everything that was proposed or planned.

But now it seems to me there is a new feeling the air, and new optimism. I credit much of that to our governing triumvirate: our mayor Joe Petty, our city manager Ed Augustus, and the newest addition to that team, our superintendent Maureen Binienda. All three are unabashed ly optimistic and hopeful for our city and its citizens.

I have to admit that when the superintendent search was narrowed down to local talent, I had some moments of misgivings, as I have always been in favor of finding new ideas, new solutions, new methods, to solve long-term problems. And more often than not, they come from outside. But as I see how our local government is now functioning, I have to admit that I was wrong.

We in Worcester are very fortunate to have chosen leadership that is positive, optimistic, and above all that has the quality that makes it possible to enlist the cooperation of others to accomplish their goals.

I interviewed Superintendent Maureen Binienda in her office on Irving Street on a Friday afternoon. And even though it was just after school began, there was a sense of calm and confidence in the whole office, an attitude of “what can we do for you”, that put me at ease immediately.

I have known Maureen Binienda for over 40 years, off and on in many settings – we both were teachers and then administrators for many years. Our paths crossed frequently in different venues – and I always found her to be a whirlwind of activity , always positive, and always ready to listen.

Maureen is small in stature, and looks so much like my image of the typical Irish colleen – with her blue eyes and black hair, though I am not sure she has the freckles….. But she comes by it all very naturally: those of you who have been in Worcester a long time surely know the Callans; Maureen comes from a long line of Worcester Public Schools employees: her grandfather was principal of the former Millbury Street Elementary School, he rmother secretary of WPS; both her husband and daughter are also teachers.
Maureen attended Catholic School after the eighth grade, , graduated from Fitchburg State in 1976 with a degree in Special Education, Her scholarship and other qualities were repeatedly recognized, as she was awarded full Jacob Hyatt Scholarship to Harvard to pursue her education. She says “it is nice to give back”, after having been given these great opportunities.

When I asked her what her main goals and dreams were, she mentioned first that she would focus on Pre- K literacy. We need to start the children out as early as possible . She also would like to bring back “community Schools “ which were so successful but suffered from the cuts that rained down on our schools when so much public money was little by little withdrawn from city schools.

She is also hoping to get more opportunities for high school students to get college credits while still finishing high school. And she mentioned that there ought to be more merit scholarships available . While we always need more funds to help poor children, she will not neglect middle class children.
While our schools have received many donations of instruments for our music programs, she would like to have instruments for all our schools, (Music and the arts have been cut too often and too much recently – ).
She says every child should have a Chrome Book, and our technology needs to be improved (constantly?) . And (still dreaming?) the system should have vans to take students to internship sites to practice civic engagement.

I am not sure how she finds time to pursue her hobbies: she loves to swim, has been a lifeguard and swimming instructor. She hopes to travel, especially wants to get to visit the Caribbean. She has been to Ireland three times already, but wants to see Italy still.

Maureen could have retired some time ago, but when I asked why she stays on, she said she would retire when her work is done – when all our schools are recognized by the State and nation as providing effective education for ALL our students . I would add that when all our students are assured that there will be enough , regular funding to achieve the goal of providing a quality education to all, for as long as it takes to get there.

While Maureen has the education, the dedication, and the experience, there is one more quality that I believe will be crucial to her success: it was exemplified in her “opening salvo”: it was when she assembled ALL staff together: not just teachers and professionals, but also aides, custodians, food services personnel – EVERYONE (I’m sure I left out someone –sorry!) . For the first time, all those who come into the lives of our children were all together one place, and all members of a team and all part of a larger enterprise, all with the same goal. The rest of the year, there is little opportunity to see the larger picture, and to meet face to face. So I believe this was a great idea –and one that will be repeated.

As a Worcester resident, and lifelong educator and supporter of the best in public schools, I wish our superintendent much success – I know she will continue to do great work as she has done in the past .
Just a quick commercial: I visited South High when Maureen was principal there, and saw what the students were doing with Andy’s Attic – as I recently saw that donations are needed of clothing and other items (they will take donations too), I end this article with an appeal for help to South High so they can pass it on…..

Edith parked in Rose’s space: NO ON QUESTION 2!!

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How will YOU vote on November 8???? pic:R.T.

By Edith Morgan

Maybe November 8 will be different – maybe everyone will show up to vote! (We’re electing our President, after all!) Or maybe the new early voting days will bring out enough of us to really make a difference.

Certainly the turnout on September 8 did not make me feel very hopeful, although there was some excuse for the lack of interest, in that there were unusual factors: 1) election day fell on a Thursday; 2) it was really poorly advertised by the parties: 3) there were too many wards where there was no contest; 4) I suspect a certain fatigue on the part of the voters, having been barraged with the incessant stupidities of the presidential campaign.

Still, some people who have never missed an election DID show up – even just to be counted, where they had no choices provided.

But November 8 will give us plenty to think about and to choose! As a retired educator and with a lifetime dedication to the idea of universal public education, I have watched for several decades now as the privatizers and money/power grabbers slowly made inroads into our public school systems: nationally, they cut public funding, closed many neighborhood schools and imposed a spurious testing system designed to punish the schools attended by the poorest and minority children.

Since most of the American public has for some time strongly supported their public schools, a direct frontal attack would have met with real resistance. So, there had to be the scurrilous, undercover attacks on aspects of the system that were vulnerable.

In addition to budget cuts, attacks on teachers and multiple choice tests designed to put down rather than to help the most needy, the notion of “choice” was sold as an alternative to making EVERY American school good and great. While we were promised that charter schools would introduce creative and innovative education ideas, to be then introduced to the public schools, that idea soon got lost …The rest of the story is history …

But now, with Ballot Question 2, we have a chance to at least put a halt on the draining of the life-blood of our schools.

Question 2 proposes to lift the cap on further charter school expansion in Massachusetts.

So, a NO vote will keep the cap we have now at its present level.

We have a chance to stop the erosion in its tracks – it’s the least we can do. So I urge, plead, entreat EVERY VOTER to cast a ballot and at least vote No on 2!  Even if you are totally turned off by the Presidential race, give our children a chance! Make sure that the very necessary funding our public schools depend on is not drained away any more. It’s the least any of us can do!

Too many American schools are still flunking lunch!

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This summer the City of Worcester ran a kick-ass summer lunch/snack program for low-income/hungry kids at our parks – the USDA’s national Summer Food Service Program! This blue bus (pictured above) could be seen rolling down our city streets, even making stops at our branch libraries! … School’s begun! Hola, Ms. Lunch Lady! Unlike lots of school districts, the Worcester Public Schools work to incorporate fresh veggies and fruits into students’ meals – at every grade level! AND EVERY STUDENT CAN GET A FREE LUNCH! Go, WPS, go!!! – Rosalie T.

By Heather Moore

I don’t care what kids say — the school lunch lady is not trying to kill them. The federal government is. Well, I have my suspicions, at least. Many of the meals served as part of the National School Lunch Program are high in fat and cholesterol and contain considerably more sodium than fiber. They’re a heart attack in the making. I wonder if that’s why the American Heart Association has warned us that atherosclerosis – hardening of the arteries — begins in childhood and progresses into adulthood, at which point it can lead to coronary heart disease.

Most American schools serve the same artery-clogging meals that were served when I was a student, and frozen meals still had to be baked in the oven. How can we expect students to take a health teacher’s “healthy eating tips” seriously when their school cafeteria is serving unhealthy foods?

Salisbury steak, pepperoni pizza and chicken nuggets need to go the way of film projectors and hand-crank pencil sharpeners. And fast-food corporations should also be expelled from schools — or at least suspended until they serve more plant-based meals.

As Dr. Neal Barnard, the president of the nonprofit Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, says, “Fresh produce, legumes, whole grains, nuts, and seeds are nutritional powerhouses that study after study has shown to be quite literally lifesaving .… [D]iets high in animal protein are associated with a fourfold increase in the chance of dying from cancer or diabetes — making heavy meat and dairy consumption just as dangerous as smoking.”

Responsible parents teach their children not to smoke because cigarettes cause cancer and other health problems. For the same reason, they should make sure their kids don’t get hooked on hamburgers and other unhealthy foods. Let’s put more emphasis on teaching children to eat vegan meals — at school and at home. Kids will gladly eat plant-based meals, such as pasta, veggie burgers and black bean chili, if they’re delicious as well as nutritious.

Knowing this, the Coalition for Healthy School Food created the Cool School Food program to develop, test and implement plant-based meals in school cafeterias. The program — which helped two public schools in New York implement the first entirely plant-based school menus in the U.S. — aims to make it fun and exciting for young people to try new foods and learn about their health benefits.

Food Is Elementary, another school program that was recently featured in VegNews magazine, is also working to introduce children to plant-based foods, which the kids prepare and eat as part of a curriculum established by the founder of the Food Studies Institute, a New York-based nonprofit that helps school cafeterias incorporate low-fat, high-fiber foods into their menus.

We need more programs like these. Students are fed up with the unappetizing, inhumane and potentially disease-promoting fare that passes as lunch in many school cafeterias. Last year, students at Theodore Roosevelt High School in Chicago boycotted school lunch in an attempt to persuade officials to serve healthier meals, including more fresh fruit and vegetables.

That’s hardly an unreasonable request. The school cafeteria is supposed to be a source of nourishment, not disease. This year’s National School Lunch Week, which will be observed in October, aims to remind “parents, students and school officials that a healthy lunch helps students power through the day!”

But how can we expect kids to make it through the day — and learn compassion and empathy — if they’re eating unhealthy animal-based foods? We need to teach children that “v” is for vegan and serve them healthy, tasty, cruelty-free plant-based foods.

THE WPS SCHOOL YEAR BEGINS – PARENTS, GET INVOLVED!

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Future music major! pic:R.T.

By John Monfredo, Worcester School Committee

As summer vacation comes to a close, I hope that our students have engaged in learning activities throughout the summer, especially reading on a daily basis. As school begins, many parents have huge smiles on their face – others become very apprehensive.

As a former school principal (Belmont Community), let me remind everyone that not all teachers are parents, but all parents are teachers. Parents are children’s first and most influential teachers, and all school systems must do more to involve parents in the learning process. Research has clearly shown that there is a critical link between parent involvement and student achievement.

Schools need to give more than “lip service” to involve parents in the learning process. Parents need to approach their child’s school and let staff know that they are interested in being involved! Parents, STAY INVOLVED!!

Let’s see what I can do to take away some of the stress of going back to school! First, it’s important that parents right now set up a bedtime schedule, for sleep is at the center of a healthy child and enables them to do well in school. According to research, it’s essential that parents keep a bedtime routine, especially during school time. Research suggests an hour before bedtime – put away all electronic devises to help kids wind down. Use that time for reading to them, or give them the opportunity to read for 30 minutes in bed.

Parents need to develop good management practices at home for their children such as homework time and packing their backpacks before turning in and placing them at the outside door. Speaking of backpacks, parents need to retrieve them as soon as their children come home and get those papers out … sign permission slips and add school appointments to the family calendar. Routines can be a potent force in keeping everyone on the same track. Consider a checklist for the simple tasks of who gets to use the bathroom first and what’s for breakfast. What you need to do is be organized – doing so takes the stress out of the day.

Let your child know that school is a number one priority for him. Do it by word of mouth and be setting up realistic schedules, such as for homework. Make sure your child has a quiet, well-lit place to do homework. Avoid having your child do homework with the television on or in places with other distractions.

Make sure the materials your child needs, such as paper, pencils and a dictionary, are available.

Ask your child if special materials will be needed for some projects and get them in advance.

Help your child with time management.
Establish a set time each day for doing homework. Most important – don’t let your child leave homework until just before bedtime. Think about using a weekend morning or afternoon for working on big projects, especially if the project involves getting together with classmates.

Reading time at home…make reading for 20 minutes a day – a part of your child’s routine.

Show your child that the skills they are learning are related to things you do as an adult. If your child is reading, you read, too. Parents, your child was born to be a reader and a writer. Someone has to show them the way and that person is YOU! It is your job to help your child enjoy reading or to be motivated to read.

Every day is a learning moment. Here are some fun activities to do with your child:

Many children’s movies and television shows are based upon stories and books. Encourage your child to read books based on the story or television show. This is a good way to get adolescents and reluctant readers involved in reading books.

There are many wonderful children’s magazines available. Get a magazine subscription as gift, and this could stimulate your child’s interest in reading.

Encourage your child to write letters to friends, relatives – or even to Worcester School Committee members! (We love hearing from students!) Your child could also send a letter via e-mail to a friend or relative.

In addition, parents also need to make every effort to meet their child’s teacher early in the school year.

Teachers are always very excited about meeting their new students and new parents. It is always best to make an appointment to meet with your child’s teacher to introduce yourself and let them know you are there to support your child’s learning. Taking time to meet and introduce yourself and your child to the school principal is also a way to let your child know other adults at the school are there to help him/her. These are especially good ideas to use if your child has special needs or if the family is going through difficult times, such as divorce, an illness, death of a family member, or a recent or pending move.

Other ideas for parents/guardians:

· Learn everything you can about your child’s school

· Review the school’s handbook and the school district’s web site

· Contact the teacher immediately if your child doesn’t understand an assignment or if you notice a change in your child’s behavior or school performance.

Worth mentioning: participate in parent meetings and conferences and special events at the school. Do join the school’s Parent Organization.

Best wishes for a great school year!

Should you need any advice, please feel free to contact me at monfredoj@gmail.com.

Save Our Schools

By Edith Morgan

Many years ago, I participated in a grant from the U.S. government, under a new program called “Title IVC” – which granted applying school districts funds for three years to develop innovative public school programs and pilot them in school districts. Many schools applied and many great programs were developed. Since they had been paid for with public funds, they remained in the public domain, and the schools that wanted to do so, could implement them.

This was before we passed our Education Reform Act. At that time we were promised that, since innovation was so difficult under the current restraints that public schools face, we would try some innovative “charter schools” that would be freed from the bureaucratic restraints faced by public schools. We could try new ideas, and if they proved successful, they could be implemented in our public schools.

Under no circumstances would I EVER have approved of for-profit-schools run with public funds! Nor did it make any sense to me that if the State already knew what prevented real creativity and innovation in our schools’ classrooms, they would create a system of schools to compete with our schools – siphon away funds where they were most needed and trick parents and the public into believing that “choice” was what they were getting.

So what did we get?

Schools which functione pretty much independently of the community, representing a tiny fraction of the community, hiring untrained and uncertified teachers, paid below certified ones, with great turnover, and in several cases, using the innovative programs we had developed years earlier.

With little oversight, little control, little requirement that they serve those most in need, but a great PR machine, they are now pushing to get many more of the same.

So once more it becomes necessary for us to defend our public schools from the continuing battle to privatize them – turn them into “cash cows” for those who see our public school system as the last great publicly owned and run system to undermine. And take over for profit. This has been going on for decades but must not succeed.

A good public education is the foundation of our democracy!

Great learning opportunities! From Mass Farm to School Project

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From Mass Farm to School:

Greenfield Community College Offers Summer Courses in Sustainable Agriculture for Students and Teachers 

Greenfield Community College is offering summer courses for high school students and teachers in Organic Gardening, Intro. to Sustainable Farming Skills, and Developing Curriculum in Sustainable Food Production.

To learn more about the program for teachers, CLICK HERE! 

Raised Bed Workshop at Gore Place

May 21

In this workshop, long-time farmer Scott Clarke will demonstrate techniques for planting flowers and vegetables in a raised bed.

Learn how to lay out a square-foot garden, choose plants that are good companions, make use of vertical space, and plant directly into a bale of hay.

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Explore ways to develop the soil without the use of synthetic fertilizers so that your soil can feed the plants and vice versa.

Attendees will receive a coupon for the annual Spring Plant Sale on May 27-29.  $25 per person, $20 for Members.

CLICK HERE to buy tickets!

volunteers

Healthy Food Fuels Hungry Minds: A Stakeholder’s Conference for School Food

June 1

Harvard University, Cambridge

In this second stakeholders annual conference, join parents, providers, policy makers and advocates as we work together to understand the current climate of school food and develop collaborative ways to to champion and support change.

CLICK HERE for registration & Full Conference Agenda.

In A.I. … CELL PHONES: GOOD FOR OUR SCHOOLS OR NOT?

By John Monfredo, Worcester School Committee member

“Request that the School Committee review the policy on cell phones and gather information from all secondary principals.”

This was the item that I submitted after talking to many teachers and administrators.

The item was brought to the Worcester School Committee standing committee on governance and employee issues two weeks ago.

Having spoken to several administrators and teachers I found that many are frustrated because the Worcester Public Schools has a policy that is not being enforced or is unenforceable. The present policy is for students to have their cell phones in their lockers. Students don’t follow the rule because many fear that their expensive devices will be stolen, and not all lockers work. They don’t want to “chance it.”

Many researchers feel the cell phone is an addiction,for the students need to have it on at all times.

Many parents defend cell phones at school for safety purposes. They argue that in the case of an emergency, they want immediate access to their children. In addition, parents have stated to me that they want to communicate directly with their children about pick up time, scheduling and emergencies that come up without having to go through the school office.

Additionally, there are teachers who support 21st century technology because cell phones are handheld computers that could enhance learning. These proponents see the cell phone as a real world tool and feel schools need to teach students to use them for a constructive purpose such as taking notes to help with classroom research.

However, teachers on the other side of the issue have written to me and stated that cell phones are a distraction … citing cheating, texting, and even parents calling their children during school time, which takes the focus off learning. One teacher said, “I truly believe that cell phones are interfering with school progress. Never mind the social media drama they bring to school because of what they say to each other via Facebook or text. .. a good amount of school mediations in our secondary schools are social media related. We really need to work at this situation – the cell phone is interfering big time with school progress. Unfortunately, technology is hurting us on this one.”

The distraction data backs up what teachers have acknowledged in looking at the infractions this year within our secondary schools. W find close to 300 cell phone viollatons. It’s time consuming and a loss of learning for many students.

My agenda item calls for our secondary principals to come up with a clearly defined cell phone policy for the next school year and provide consequences for violations of the policy.

We need to meet with our students and explain to them what the policy is and without a doubt discuss the policy with parents and ask them to support it.

At the meeting several principals volunteered to serve on a policy committee, and during the cell phone discussion suggestions ranged from creating three separate policies for elementary, middle and secondary schools … retention of cell phones in lockers for middle school students … considering ways to use cell phones in an appropriate ways for 21st century learning … placing restrictions on video and audio use … teaching proper phone etiquette … and examining what other districts have for a policy.

Not that there is a clear cut answer on this issue, but one state compared student exam records and cell policies from 2001 to 2013, and researchers noted a significant growth in student achievement in classrooms that banned cell phones, with student test scores improving by 6.41 percent.

Our Standing Committee, with the assistance from our principals, hopes to come up with a clearly defined and enforceable policy by the end of this school year.