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City of Worcester employee salaries are out …

Sunday, March 17th, 2013

By Rosalie Tirella

… And the latest figures show what InCity Times, the paper, has been running in each issue for years: scores and scores and scores of regular old folks, people who were never top in their class or showed any signs of intellectual prowess, making $100,000 a year and often much much more, courtesy of the taxpayer.

What chumps we are! A Worcester Public Schools grammar school principal pulling down $100,000? Teachers making $90,000 a year? With summers off, not to mention Christmas, winter and spring vacation weeks? Have we gone mad???!

Years and years ago working for the city was like working for the post office. You realized you were not the most brilliant bulb in the tree, but you landed yourself a city job, usually through connected relatives or politicians, that got you into the middle class. You became a public servant. Not great wages, but great health benefits, a pension, vacations with pay and a job for LIFE. You were grateful and stayed the course. You lived in a cute little house in the city and drove a station wagon. Maybe you spent a week at the Cape during summer vacation.

I had such an uncle. A doll of a person who was a public school principal in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. Unlike today’s public school teachers or city cops, my uncle and his family did not own two SUVs. They did not live in the best Worcester neighborhood street. They did not build themselves a big, roomy McMansion. In fact, they lived in the same cute, little Worcester home until my aunt died a few years ago. My uncle lived education, was a good principal and a loving, no-nonsense dad. The old Worcester. The old way. Salt of the earth. Before our municipal employees and their unions got greedy.

Before a bunch of ordinary men and women decided to grab the City of Worcester by the nuts and make us pay them doctors’ salaries. Or the kind of dough a lawyer makes.

I am all for unions and the working person, but a ton of our cops making $150,000 or $100,000? Insanity! And then leaving the job at 58 years old to collect 80% of their city pay check FOR THE REST OF THEIR LIVES?! People live to 85, 90 these days! This is why the City of Worcester closed its branch libraries, closed its neighborhood swimming pools, closed many of its elementary school libraries, CHARGES POOR PEOPLE $$$ to skate on our city common ice oval.

Hiring freezes anyone? An overhaul of City of Worcester pensions anyone? We need to act NOW!

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.”

NYC’s Mayor Bloomberg wants to make it easier to fire incompetent NYC Public School Teachers

Friday, January 13th, 2012

from the editor: This is where Worcester needs to go …

Great New York Times piece:
http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/01/12/bloomberg-takes-on-union-with-education-proposals/

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 »

Course on nonviolence at Clark University for public school teachers

Friday, September 23rd, 2011

By Michael True

Twenty elementary and secondary teachers from Worcester Public Schools recently participated in a Professional Development Institute at Clark University’s Hiatt Center for Urban Education. Instructors for the course on Nonviolent Movements in the Modern World include faculty from Clark, Holy Cross, and Assumption, and local organizers.

Sponsored by the Center for Nonviolent Solutions, with support from the Massachusetts Humanities, the Institute meets weekly, offering instruction as well as resources for units and courses in various academic disciplines. In addition to carrying graduate credit, the program offers a stipend for each teacher to buy materials, books, and films for the classroom.

The Center for Nonviolent Solutions, initiated in 2009, provides education and resources for people in the Worcester Area to increase understanding of nonviolence as a way of life and an effective means of resolving conflict. For two years, it has offered a 10-week course on Peacemaking and Nonviolence for students at the University Park Campus School and Claremont Academy, as well as brief courses in nonviolent communication for junior high school students. The Center maintains an office and resource center at 901 Pleasant Street, Worcester, a website (nonviolentsolution.org), and curricular materials and DVDs for use by teachers, parents, and the general public.

Topics for the class meetings include the Origins of Nonviolence; Mahatma Gandhi; citizens’ resistance to the Nazi occupation of Denmark; the U.S. Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, the ending of apartheid in South Africa; the democratic uprising in China, 1989; the Protestant-Catholic conflict in Northern Ireland; and the history of nonviolence in Central Massachusetts.

The Institute emphasizes the history of successful nonviolent movements that demonstrate how crises and conflicts provide opportunities to build a civic culture of inclusion. It reslies upon informed discourse, including recent research and scholarship, that fosters community solidarity among people of different races, classes, and political ideologies

Teachers for the course include Co-directors, Paul Ropp, Research Professor of History, and Tom Del Prete, Director, Hiatt Center for Urban education, Clark University, as well as Predrag Cicovacki, Professor of Philosophy, Holy Cross College; Sam Diener, Education Director, Center for Nonviolent Solution; Michael Langa, Specialist in Cross-cultural Conflict Resolution; Janette Greenwood, Professor of History, Clark University; Claire Schaeffer-Duffy, St. Francis and Therese Catholic Worker; and Michael True, Emeritus Professor, Assumption College.

My Worcester song

Thursday, August 25th, 2011

By Roger Salloom

In hindsight, the words that best describe the early years of my family life around 1974 and the first year of teaching in Worcester, would be “pristine” and “innocent.”

Right after getting married I had a long term substitute teaching job at Burncoat Senior High School for six months before I persuaded my trusting wife to move to Nashville so that I could satisfy my singing aspirations. It was grand of her to do that. One more time I was on the road. Anyway, I went to Music City naively because of my love for Dylan’s Nashville Skyline album and the country people’s way of living in general. A few years earlier I had recorded for Chess Records with Dylan’s guys many of whom formed into the Grammy nominated ensemble Area Code 615. Some of them were, erudite and some were just good ol country boys, as advertised. The engineer was a cool fellow who also played bass on Elvis’ Hunk of Burning Love, Wayne Moss. But now Wayne was running Cinderella Recording Studio. I think the logo was a pumpkin.

After three years of relentless asthma we dropped Nashville and returned to Worcester. We had made some temporary friends while there, Guy Clark, Rodney Crowell, Skinny Dennis Richard Dobbins, with whom we hung out constantly. On my way back from Nashville to Worcester we had a smooth trip, except once I hit the Worcester streets, I hit a pot-hole and blew off one of the chains that fastened my camper to the bed of our pick-up truck. That chain break inspired the first line to a new song titled Out of Worcester. Click to continue »

School Daze …

Monday, August 8th, 2011

Public Information:

Worcester Public Schools 2011 – 2012 School Year and Days Off/Holidays
STUDENTS REPORT FOR SCHOOL AS FOLLOWS:

PRE-SCHOOLS
PRE-SCHOOL STUDENTS will report on September 6, 2011, as stated in the individual notification letter sent to parents.

ELEMENTARY SCHOOLS
KINDERGARTEN STUDENTS will begin school on September 6, 2011. The Worcester Public Schools will be screening Kindergarten children by appointment on August 31st, September 1st and September 2nd. If your child does not have an appointment for screening, contact the school your child is registered at after August 22nd.

ELEMENTARY SCHOOLS
STARTING DATE: August 31, 2011 – Grades 1-6
(all students)

MIDDLE SCHOOLS
STARTING DATE: August 31, 2011 – Grades 7 &8
(all students)

HIGH SCHOOLS
STARTING DATE: August 31, 2011 – Grades 9-12 (all students) Click to continue »

Stand for Children supports student outcomes in teacher evaluations

Friday, March 25th, 2011

Stand for Children provided testimony recently at the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education’s monthly meeting in Malden to share their recommendations for Massachusetts’ educator evaluation guidelines. Stand for Children Executive Director Jason Williams and member Trisha Perez Kennealy spoke at the meeting and presented the Board with written testimony from parents, teachers, and administrators from across the Commonwealth.

“My lifelong work in public education has consistently shown that all students can achieve at high levels academically regardless of socioeconomic background,” stated Jason Williams. “Having an effective teacher greatly influences student learning and Stand for Children members are committed to ensuring that the state’s guidelines prioritize student outcomes as the most significant factor in a teacher’s evaluation.”

Stand for Children is advocating for Massachusetts’ teacher evaluation guidelines to prioritize evidence of student learning as the most significant factor, and up to 50%, of a teacher’s evaluation.

Student outcomes need to be taken into account using multiple measures, including but not limited to students’ growth scores on standardized tests. Additional changes to the current teacher evaluation system should include the use of an evaluation tool based on four categories to distinguish between varying skill levels, as well as more frequent self and peer-based evaluation cycles.

“As a Puerto Rican woman, I know that education is an equalizer. When I hear the drop-out rates in the Latino community, I cannot sit on the sidelines,” said Stand member Trisha Perez Kennealy. “I have to advocate for effective tools that will keep students engaged and keep them in school and one of those tools is an effective evaluation system for teachers.”

And while we’re talking about the Worcester Public Schools …

Tuesday, March 15th, 2011

By Rosalie Tirella

If the WPS teachers’ union feels its members are underpaid (average salary seems to be about $70,000, with lots of Worcester public school teachers making $80,000+), then our teachers can do what the teachers have done at the New York City charter school I wrote about yesterday. Yes, our teachers can earn $125,000 a year but ONLY if they skip union membership. No unions to protect hacks! If any teacher is underperforming, he/she can be fired – at any time. A new, competent teacher will replace the incompetent one.

Teachers always complain about not making the money their pals make in the private sector. Well, if they want the really big bucks, then they should be willing to embrace the same working conditions as their friends in the private sector: no unions. You make a lot of money only if you are so good at your job that you DESERVE to make a lot of money. The teachers making $100,000 will be truly excellent teachers – doing their jobs so well that they will be deserving of their hefty paychecks.

You do not get $100,000 just because you’ve parked your arse in the same seat behind the same teacher’s desk for 25 years.

Everyone is sick of the way lots of bad – or even average – teachers continue to teach. This doesn’t help our kids – especially our neediest students. For years and years and years due to union protection below average teachers have continued to teach! Many people – including President Obama, a progressive enough fellow – would like to see a merit system in place. If you are a better teacher than the teacher down the hall, you should be making more money than that teacher, regardless of whether your colleague down the hall has been working “in the system” longer than you have.

And let’s not forget: Teachers or anyone who works in municipal government has always known this: You may not make a ton of money working for your city/town, but your benefits will be super and you will have job security. So to scream for more money, a la WPS teachers, is silly.

And finally, we agree with City Council Vice Chairwoman Konnie Lukes: get rid of some of the dead wood at the WPS administration building on Irving Street. Lukes is correct: Let’s not take anything away from the education side of our public schools, but let’s dump some of these “administrative” types who make $80,000 a year and do … very little … or nothing at all.

A case in point: Last week I went to the WPS administration building on Irving Street to find out about a program. I entered the first room I saw. Inside this room: three women at desks. They were just sitting at their desks – doing nothing. Not answering phones, not filling out paperwork, not filing, not entering data into a computer. It was about 2 p.m.

I asked them my question. Could they help me?

No response from these ladies. Then: We don’t know.

And they went back to doing nothing.

So I said I was the owner of InCity Times and then puff! Like magic, they began to use their brains, one of them made a call and then directed me to the right place.

I told this to a friend – a parent whose child used to go to WP school. The parent said: At Irving Street, they don’t want to see adults – they think they are WPS students’ parents. They don’t want parents asking questions.

Let’s dump these useless people on Irving Street and save our city some serious money. Like Lukes says, the City side of local govenment can help handle any overflow (probably not a lot).

To Tracy Novick and Company: Let the Goddard School move on

Tuesday, February 15th, 2011

By John Monfredo, Worcester School Committee

Goddard Elementary School has been in the news for several months due to their MCAS scores. Following a four month joint investigation conducted by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Worcester Public Schools a press release from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education was released. It stated, ”State officials have invalidated the 2010 MCAS results for the Goddard School in Worcester following a joint investigation conducted by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Worcester Public Schools that found educators provided students with inappropriate coaching during testing.”

As stated in their press release and reiterated by Dr. Boone the department found through investigatory interviews with school personnel that staff who administered the 2010 MCAS tests reviewed students work on the test, coached students to add to their responses and scribed answers or portions of answers that were not worded by students. According to the guidelines no test administrator or other school personnel may coach a student during testing or alter or interfere with a student’s response in any way.

In essence, according to the State, the school broke the protocol guidelines, but keep in mind that this was not a case of someone cheating to inflate the MCAS scores of the children. As Commissioner Chester stated in a letter to Dr. Boone …”irregularities occurred at the Goddard Science and Technology School and those guidelines were not adhered to in this instance.”
As part of the remedy, Superintendent Boone was asked to prepare a report to outline how the district will train staff in proper testing procedures and how it will oversee the proper administration of the spring of 2011 MCAS tests. Dr. Boone has already completed the plan and has submitted it to the Department of Education. In addition, Dr. Boone went beyond what the State had asked for in her plan.

Dr. Boone stated, “I have pledged to the Commissioner that the district will continue to work cooperatively with the Department to ensure that all educators in Worcester are trained in proper MCAS testing procedures and will follow those procedures explicitly at all times. Despite the irregularities during the last year’s testing, I am confident that the instructional practices at Goddard are sound and represent the best practices nationally to raise student achievement.”

The school and the principal have been penalized by the state and now it’s time to move on while learning from mistakes that were made. The School Committee in a 4-3 vote did just that and voted for administration to move on and accept the findings of the State. However, there are many in this community who are still not willing to allow Goddard to “move on.” We live in such time where individuals want to be punitive and want “heads” to roll. Just listen to the talk shows or read the blogs and you’ll know what I mean. Even after all this disclosure talk show hosts are still complaining about the lack of transparency.

Many of these people making such outlandish accusations know nothing about this school. I have visited this school many times and have been impressed with Principal Marion Guerra who brings passion and a sense of purpose to the job and in addition surrounds herself with a very competent staff. There is a warm and caring environment in the building and everywhere you go you see data walls telling of where the children are in their Measurement of Academic Progress, you see students goals being written and you see lots of evidence of good teaching practices. The school believes that it takes a “village to raise a child” and therefore there are many neighborhood partnerships with church groups and social agencies. All the groups speak very highly about the school!

At last week’s school committee meeting over 100 parents, community members and student came to support Goddard! Many walked up to the microphone at City Hall and spoke about the school and the respect that they have for their principal.

You could hear statements such as ..”Mrs. Guerra loves the children for she is out in the morning greeting parents and students with a smile.”… “She encourages us all to read together as a family.”… “We see her working with students in the summer time developing a neighborhood garden.”… “I attribute my child’s success to the leadership of Mrs. Guerra.” Parent Khedeja Al-Iman spoke to me about how her son was in a charter school but after talking to other parents enrolled her son at Goddard. She stated that it was a great move for she is very satisfied with the caring and education that goes on in the school.

School Nurse, Catherine Robotis perhaps said it best, “Mrs. Guerra is deeply committed to the education of the children at Goddard. She works with children, their families, and the teachers to remove barriers to learning and promote achievement.  I can think of countless instances where her input and assistance directly helped children in need.  She is truly loved and respected by the children and their families for all she does throughout the year for them.  Several have voiced to me a wish for this process to end so they can get on with the business of learning without further distraction.”

Let’s look at some facts about this school. It is located in the main south area of our city. Goddard School is home to over 600 students and 98% of the families qualify for free and reduced lunch. The families at the school originate from all over the globe with 85% of students and families non-native speakers. There are more than 22 languages spoken at the school and these students are supported by English Learning labs. The school houses Special Education programs for Spanish speaking students and has a number of support programs for students with behavioral disabilities. The poverty level in the last nine years has increased from 65% to 98%.

Despite these odds the school has shown academic growth but not enough to close the achievement gap and to support all students to be college ready. Thus, they have taken the initiative and have applied to become an Innovation School. The Innovation School concept is a component of the educational reform agenda and has the potential to dramatically increase opportunities to improve student achievement.

Goddard School has an exciting future. In their innovation application the introductory page stated, “Research tells us that highly effective schools that beat the odds are effective because the staff has a strong culture of shared expectations for student achievement and a shared belief system built around commitment, responsibilities, and expectations…Decisions around curriculum, instruction, scheduling and resources both human and material are made collaboratively based upon data.”
Their idea is to move the culture of the school to the next level of commitment and responsibility where everyone is involved the complex issues around student achievement.

I believe it is time to move on and concentrate on ensuring that students at Goddard continue to receive an excellent education. Mistakes that were made are being addressed and now it’s time to support their efforts as they focus on meeting the needs of their students.