Tag Archives: teachers

The 4 R’s: Reading, wRiting, aRithmetic and … RESPONSIBILITY

By Edith Morgan

We’re “Worcester – the City that Reads,” and we test our students constantly for some kind of alleged proficiency in what used to be known as “The 3 R’s” – “Readin’, writin’ and ‘rithmetic, taught to the tune of a hickory stick,” as the tune went when I was growing up.

A few decades later,  there was a lot of talk about  adding a fourth “R” – Responsibility.

It enjoyed an all too brief emphasis. In today’s test-driven learning environment, the idea cannot really survive, as there is no way to build a multiple-choice, machine-scored test that will give us numbers and rank schools and children. And so, like much of what goes into making a good, total human being, a life-long learner and an adult able to live a full life as a fully contributing member of his/her family, neighborhood, state and country, the effort has been de-emphasized , defunded and devalued. It is still, of course, being given lip service, but as we all know: What is honored and valued is what is PAID for.

Responsibility is not inborn. It must be modeled, taught daily and continually updated, as we assume more responsibility .

But we have turned the old model on its head, and now even the unborn have rights without responsibility. So we have empowered those who have not demonstrated the ability to assume responsibility  for their decisions and actions, and taken the power away from those who must take responsibility for what happens.

When I first began teaching in the schools, in the mid-1950’s, I had a pretty clear idea what my class should be able to do by the end of the school year. It was up to me to develop materials that would be appropriate for the individual students before me, create any extra materials needed to get the ideas across, and then administer whatever kinds of tests were needed to see if my students had mastered what had been taught, and to reteach what they still could not  show me they knew and understood.

By and large, students understood that their responsibility was to learn what was being taught, practice what was still weak, and move on to the next grade, building on what had been mastered the previous year, or risk having to do it over. Once I closed the door to my classroom, I was in charge. As a “liberal arts retread.” I had to learn a lot at first about keeping a group under control, working together, individually or in groups, and achieving the school’s stated goals.

I grew up an environment where teachers were revered and respected – and God help any of us. students had  the school complained about us, our behavior or our achievement. Our job (“responsibility”) was to learn everything we could, regardless of whether we loved our teacher,  liked the subject,  or had a lot of self-esteem, etc. In my day, “self-esteem” was earned and grew from a recognition that we had assumed responsibility.

But the system has been turned upside down, and trust and power are bestowed on those who do  not assume the needed responsibility.

Kindergarteners have more freedom than high schoolers, yet in normal development, the older the students, the more they should have learned to assume responsibility.

For every right, there must be a corresponding responsibility. Without that balance, you have the tyranny of the ignorant, the greedy, the evil and the power-hungry.

City of Worcester employee salaries are out …

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

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.”

For the new school year: I have a dream …

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 regardless where they live. Sometimes that two mile walk is just enough for a young person to find something else to do for the day. It can also add to tardies and decreased attendance in cold, rainy, snowy weather. Not to mention, unsafe shortcuts, throughways and predators.

I dream a school where there is breakfast waiting for each child ~ regardless of their family income. Something for everyone’s tummy so the grumbling bellies who got up too late to eat, or found there was no cereal in the cabinet at home, won’t interrupt the learning process. Oh, this also includes a delectable lunch.

I dream a school where the principal can invite parents into the school regardless of past mistakes. CORI can be looked at with common sense and parents who are not child molesters or killers, or drug dealers can be involved in their child’s education without the stigma of CORI attached. A three or five year+ clean record would exempt you from the letter stating you are not allowed at your child’s school. I dream a school where discipline is administered to all in an equal, fair and just manner. Whatever happened to parent rooms and parent liaisons?

I dream a school where the principal, teachers, secretaries, cafeteria workers, aides and maintenance team reflect the population of the school.(staff) People who are African American, White, Asian, Hispanic, Middle Eastern and from the African Diaspora all working hand in hand for the future of our fair city and Nation. Each school employee would be required to take a Cultural Awareness class that educates about all the cultures that are calling Worcester home. Also, learning about the issues that face some children on a daily basis, from unemployed and underemployed parents, homelessness and domestic violence to limited food in the home, just to name a few.

I dream a school where administration can actually tell when a teacher is burnt out and find some supports for them so they can get back to doing the profession they chose and love. Or if they don’t like the children, anymore, they can relieve them of their duties so our children do not suffer. Yelling, screaming, and no confidence in the children you are teaching, and bullying don’t belong in the classroom. I dream a school with a 15 to one classroom ratio. Where a true quality education can be given and the teacher can really get to know the student and their family.

I dream a school that is compatible with parent working hours. Anywhere from 8 am to 5 pm sounds ideal. That would help the issue of latchkey kids, afterschool daycare and unattended children. And, do I remember a time, when you actually started school the day after Labor Day? What ever happened to that? I dream a school that would allow khakis and a polo as a uniform that can be purchased anywhere the parents find a deal. No mini skirts and revealing shirts allowed.

I dream a true community school where businesses, neighbors, children, parents and administration have input about what happens in their community. Understanding that it takes that Village to raise our children we should become that village. I dream a school where parents understand it is part of their duty to volunteer even an hour a week or attend the PTA meetings and know your school night, and I dream a school where they will be accepted with whatever they have to offer without being made to feel small.

I dream a school where everything works. From the bubblers in the halls to intercoms in each classroom, everything should be working properly. Each school should have the modern technology that our children need to compete in the work force when they graduate from school even with a high school diploma. I dream a school that automatically has sports teams with coaches that provide their athletic students with uniforms, principles and educational expectations.

I dream a school where each child is actually involved in the say as to what they want to do and put on the right track. I dream a school that is equal in all communities. I dream a school where all children get new books, and supplies are available without the teachers spending their own money. I dream a school where special education … is special!

I know, I am only dreaming, because until the government stops spending so much money on war, nothing else will be allowed to prosper, but that’s another article. We should get together and see what can be changed or improved without a lot of money. I do not doubt the skills and desires of teachers and administrators. Everyone starts out with that determined idea that they will make a change. And some of you do, one child at a time. But we need to acknowledge what works and what does not work without worrying about whose toes we are stepping on.

Course on nonviolence at Clark University for public school teachers

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

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.

We had a one-year-old baby around 1974. New babies are pristine. I also had a brand new job. That is pristine. I was truly an idealist and that is what schools need today, true idealists.

Then the ultimate in pristine happened, opening day at school. I remember taking my little boy and my dear wife up to Providence St. Jr. HS around that time. I recall that some of the other teachers gathered around oogling and googling our little boy. One teacher made a comment that I never forgot. It was something to the effect of “Look how thoughtful the baby is when he looks at us.” I took those compliments as insightful and that he would be intelligent. I thought it all as a good omen for our little fellow. I was proud.

I loved the students at Providence St. Jr. High School. I am not exaggerating here. I loved them and loved teaching them. The children were beautiful and I was the idealist. (Did you know that our founding father, President John Adams, also taught in Worcester? Coincidentally, my present second and last wife is a descendant of President John Adams. Amazing.)
Rosalie Tirella, the editor of this paper, was a child in one of my favorite classes. She was bright as anyone of those little gems could be.

I will never forget one time brought tears to my eyes.

I was always trying to devise exciting reasons to coax my students to write. I said, “Ok, let’s write a letter to our parents.” They all bent over and started writing. I was thrilled! Wonderful!

As I strolled quietly around the room, I stopped by Henry T.’s desk.

I wanted them to learn how to address a letter, so I told them how to write the street number and all that. Henry raised his little hand and said he did not know where his father lived. I immediately started to choke up. “Henry, do you not know where your father lives?” Henry answered, “No.” Here is my innocent part. I asked Henry, “Well, where do you think he lives?” Henry had no idea.

“When was the last time you saw him?” Henry said, “I cannot remember.” I said, “So, you have not seen him in a long time, and you do not know where he lives?”

Henry said, “No.” I told Henry, “That it is ok. Just write him your letter, and we will figure out where to mail it at another later time.”

Kids will hold onto the thinnest thread, the smallest bit of hope, a wisp of a dream to be near their parent. Where was that boy’s father? What was that father thinking? How did this happen? I know the courts routinely made the fathers in divorce court feel that they were not so worthy to keep contact with their children. Huge mistake. Hard to say what Henry senior’s condition was. I do know that Henry junior was beautiful. He used to write poetry. He was a dreamer and he wanted his father. How does this kind of little tragedy happen?

It takes nearly a life-time of loss for a kid to give up on seeing a parent. It takes a life-time of neglect or abuse. Kids do not give up easily. I learned then that kids need a steady parent, not one who flickers on and off. Kids need an adult parent, not someone who coincidentally possesses reproductive organs.

There should be an extra organ in all of us once a child is born, The Compassionate Organ. It never dies until the last breath. Never give up, Moms and Dads. There is no one on earth who can fill that hole in the child’s soul. No one.

Henry and Rosalie, as children, were the innocent part.

Roger Salloom is a singer/songwriter who lives in Northampton. He grew up in Worcester and taught in our public schools.

School Daze …

Public Information:

Worcester Public Schools 2011 – 2012 School Year and Days Off/Holidays

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

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.

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

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

STARTING DATE: August 31, 2011 – Grades 9-12 (all students)


HEADSTART STUDENTS will report as stated in the individual notification letter sent to parents.

All registration for elementary schools, PreK, Kindergarten through Grade 6, will be conducted at the following location:

Dr. James L. Garvey Center for Parent Information
768 Main Street
Tel: 799-3194, 799-3450
Monday – Friday: 7:30 A.M. – 4:00 P.M.
Evening appointments are available by appointment only beginning August 31, 2011.
Please call Bob Vartanian at 508-799-3194 or 508-799-3450 for an appointment.

New student registrations will be conducted at the home school or at the
following location:
Dr. James L. Garvey Center for Parent Information
768 Main Street
Tel: 799-3194, 799-3450
Monday – Friday: 7:30 A.M. – 4:00 P.M.
Evening appointments are available by appointment only beginning August 31, 2011.
Please call Bob Vartanian at 508-799-3194 or 508-799-3450 for an appointment.
Beginning August 17th

* University Park Campus School’s students register at the school.
Transfers between Worcester Public Schools’ Middle Schools: parent/guardian should go to the sending school to get a transfer slip and return any books and materials to the sending school. Then take this transfer slip to the receiving school to complete the transfer.

New student registrations can be completed at the home high school.
Dates: August 23rd , 24th , 25th, 26th and 29th , and 30th
Time: 9:00 – 12:00 noon
or at the following location:
Dr. James L. Garvey Center for Parent Information
768 Main Street
Tel: 799-3194, 799-3450
Monday – Friday: 7:30 A.M. – 4:00 P.M.
Evening appointments are available by appointment only beginning August 31, 2011.
Please call Bob Vartanian at 508-799-3194 or 508-799-3450 for an appointment.

Transfers between Worcester Public Schools’ High Schools: parent/guardian should go to the sending school to get a transfer slip and return any books and materials to the sending school. Then Take this transfer slip to the receiving school to complete the transfer.

*University Park Campus School and Worcester Technical High School registrations are completed at the schools.

All schools will be serving breakfast and a hot lunch on August 31, 2011.


August 29 – Teacher/Staff Reporting Day
August 30 – Staff Development
August 31 – First Day of School


September 5 – Labor Day

October 7 – Staff Development

October 10 -Columbus Day

November 11 – Veterans’ Day

November 23-25– Thanksgiving

December 23-30 – Holiday Vacation

January 2 – Non-School Day

January 16 – Martin Luther King

February 20 – Presidents’ Day

February 21-24 – Winter Vacation

April 6 – Non-School Day

April 16 – Patriots’ Day

April 17-20 – Spring Vacation

May 28 – Memorial Day

June 14 – Last Day of School

Stand for Children supports student outcomes in teacher evaluations

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 …

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).