Tag Archives: John Monfredo

WPS students – always in style! … AFTER 15 YEARS THE MISSION IS THE SAME … THE HOME AND SCHOOL WORKING TOGETHER

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WPS inner-city students and families … ASPIRE!! pic:R.T.

By John Monfredo, Worcester School Committee

Congratulations is sent out to InCity Times‘ editor and publisher Rosalie Tirella on their 15th anniversary. The newspaper continues to be an alternative newspaper, with a goal to support those individuals most in need in our community.

One may not always agree with editor “Rose” (including me), but the idea of supporting, giving advice and advocating to those in need is a good concept. Rosalie grew up in the Green Island area of the city and knows the hardships that individuals experience – she has been a strong supporter of our inner-city parents.

As a matter of fact, at the age of 21, my first teaching assignment was at Lamartine Street School, and that’s where I first met Rosalie and her lovely mother. Rosalie was in my 5th grade class!

Since those early days, I have continued to reach out to our inner city parents with ideas and advice that hopefully make a difference in the lives of their children. I did it as a teacher, as the principal of Belmont Community School, and when I retired I still wanted to make a difference. That’s why I ran for Worcester School Committee.

Believing that a parent is a child’s first and most influential teacher – every school needs to have as its highest priority parent involvement within the schools.

You don’t need to be a researcher to know that family involvement can make a positive difference in school attendance, student behavior and academic achievement. What is needed is for schools to develop and ensure that parent involvement is embraced and not just given lip service. All schools need to welcome family members to their school. If schools don’t, the lack of positive interaction will stifle family-school connections.

Here are just a few suggestions for all schools:

Place positive signs on the schools entrance doors welcoming parents to the school.

Invite family members to eat lunch with their children. I can tell you that it works because I did it at Belmont Community School. We don’t have to feed the parents – they can bring in a lunch and spend time with their child. How about having lunch with parents on the first Friday of every month?!

Invite family members to attend workshops on important concepts that are taught to their children on a regular schedule. Inviting parents into the school for a special workshop does work! It serves as a way for the parents to assist their child at home.

Have staff and the principal make phone calls to invite families to participate in special events, meetings or other activities. Here in Worcester we have the Connect Ed. system where the school can invite parents to special events via the telephone.

Let’s go a step further and call parents with good news! It could be if a child had success on a test or just had a great day in school. Let me tell you it works! I did it for over 20 years at Belmont! Parents loved hearing good news and were more receptive in coming to school because of the call. Let’s start with that one positive telephone call.

Be sure that language translation is available in the office and for conferences and other contacts with parents.

Have workshops on reading and math. All families want to help their children, but many parents may not know how and that’s why the schools must reach out to our inner-city parents.

Have a family center stocked with learning materials that families can take home. Such a center would be a welcome addition for the schools . A Family Center should be part of each school – a special place in school where family members can meet, plan and implement programs.

In essence, schools must create a culture of wanting parents to be involved by modeling their beliefs, in both words and deeds, to the entire school community.

When families of all backgrounds are engaged in their children’s learning, their children tend to do better in school, stay in school and pursue higher education. Clearly, children at risk of failure or poor performance can profit from the extra support that engaged families and communities provide.
Remember, the research is clear: When parents play a positive role in their children’s education, students tend to do better in school. That all important teacher and parent PARTNERSHIP must be part of every school!

Good luck, InCity Times, on your 15th birthday and for the next 15 years! Continue your mission of involving inner-city parents in the learning process!

Let the newbies in!!!

By Rosalie Tirella

Last election cycle we supported Hilda Ramirez for Worcester School Committee. We thought this super educated, super smart woman would be a boon to the education scene in Worcester. We wrote a cover story on her. We talked to her supporters. Everyone seemed so jazzed about her candidacy. But election day came and went and Worcester voters could not see the light.

This Latina lady, a woman who, like InCity Times, supported district representation on the school committee, needs a good second look courtesy of the Woo voter this November. Please vote for her election day! We need her and more new young voices. We have a majority minority school district. We have challenges and new perspectives to accommodate and to UNDERSTAND.

The Worcester School Committee is filled with folks who are eligible for AARP membership. There are people like Brian O’Connell and John Monfredo who have been on the committee FOREVER. For O’Connell it’s basically been his life for DECADES. Decades!!!! Monfredo has been involved in the schools for almost half a century- starting out as a teacher at the old Lamartine Street School and ending as a school principal at Belmont Community School. After he retired from Belmont, he made the jump to the school committee. He’s been in the public spotlight for almost half a century. John loves the limelight. He needs to know that there are fantastic candidates, candidates not embedded in the community the way he is, who need a chance. When does community service morph into a warped egomania? We wish he, along with O’Connell, would gracefully retire and FUCKING GIVE SOME OTHER CANDIDATE A CHANCE.

Close to a century of Worcester Public Schools between these two guys.We applaud their dedication but new blood is needed. New ideas. New perspectives. New supporters. We need a Hilda Ramirez … How long will it be before she just shakes her head and moves on?

We need Monfredo and O’Connell to take their final bows and have the curtain drop. On them, if necessary!

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

By John Monfredo, Worcester Public School Committee member

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

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

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

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

Children experiencing homelessness face many barriers to education. Looking at the data, one sees a high absence rate, lots of moving from place to place, and poor health and nutrition. Again, according to the data, homeless children are likely to be ill four times more often than other children, with four times as many respiratory infections, and they are four times more likely to have asthma attacks. Unfortunately, homeless children go hungry twice as often as other children.
Unless you have your head in the sand, you realize that poverty has a major impact on academic progress. This is not given as an excuse but as a fact. Just think about it. Can you function if you’re hungry and have a tooth ache or are worrying about where you’re sleeping tonight?

Looking at the data on MCAS scores in grade three to twelve one sees that homeless children have a much higher percentage in the area of needs improvement and failing. Here is an example: In grade eight, the percentage of homeless children receiving a warning on their English Language Arts test was 23.2% with non-homeless children only 9.6%. In math, homeless children had a warning rate of 56.8% as compared to 34.0% of non homeless students.
Nevertheless, there are resilient students among the homeless and they are able to persevere for we do see students in the advanced and proficient range -but not many. So when looking at the scores of a district one needs to keep in mind the over-all circumstances of that district.

Another reason for those low test scores is the high absentee rate from kindergarten through high school for those children labeled as homeless. Common sense would tell you that it would be higher due to health issues, psychology issues, and hunger. Many of these children are bright but their physical needs have hindered their progress. Homeless youths are one of the most marginalized and victimized populations in schools. They experience more daily stressors and are more vulnerable to victimization than housed youth. Youth who are homeless have sustained higher rates of physical and sexual abuse prior to becoming homeless than the general population, and they are at continued risk for being physically assaulted and exposed to sexual exploitation. Similarly, rates of substance use, family violence, health issues and suicide are higher in this population.

These children live in shelters, doubling up (sharing the housing of others due to loss of housing, and economic hardship), with some living in cars, parks, and many others awaiting foster care. There are many causes of homelessness for the economic downturn has forced more families into poverty thus jeopardizing children’s educational success. Other causes of homelessness according to the National Coalition for the Homeless are shortage of affordable housing, decline in public assistance, domestic violence and poverty. In addition, most people live a paycheck or two from having no money for a roof over their heads.

Congress attempted to assist homeless children in the 1980’s. In late 1986, legislation containing Title I of the Homeless Persons’ Survival Act was introduced as the Urgent Relief for the Homeless Act. After an intensive advocacy campaign, large bipartisan majorities in both houses of Congress passed the legislation in 1987. After the death of its chief Republican sponsor, Representative Stewart B. McKinney of Connecticut, the act was renamed the Stewart B. McKinney Homeless Assistance Act. Then in 2000 President William Clinton renamed the legislation the National Coalition for the Homeless and the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act after the death of Representative Bruce Vento, a
leading supporter of the act since its original passage in 1987.

The goal of the McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Assistance Act is to ensure that each homeless child or youth is able to benefit from their educational program in spite of the challenges of their living situation. In an attempt to stabilize the child’s education and cut back on the mobility issue transportation is provide to children if they have had to move to a shelter or another setting. The child may continue to go to the same school.

As the Worcester Public Schools flyer states, “To the extent as practical and as required by law, the district will work with homeless families to provide stability in school attendance and other needed services.” The one flaw in this act is that it is an unfunded mandate. The Worcester Public Schools pays out of their budget over $400,000 to transport homeless students but does receive $60,000 in grant money that pays for head start home visits…staff outreach and case management, student materials such as first aid classes and emergency supplies for families, some school vacation programs, administrative support, and professional development training for teachers. I believe that Congress needs to do more!

In Worcester, Judy Thompson who wears many hats in the Worcester Public Schools (Coordinator of Counseling, Psychology and Community Outreach Services) is the liaison person for homeless programs for our students. The Worcester Public Schools, under Mrs. Thompson’s direction, attempts to educate staff about the homeless including the following: Reminding staff that the start of a new school can be stressful and intimidating for students, emphasizing the importance of establishing rapport with the students to let them know that the school is there for assistance, informing students of school programs and extracurricular activities that the students may be interested in participating in, have clothing and school supplies available to provide for students as needed, coordinating with the liaison and other administrators to facilitate access to programs, activities and transportation, be supportive and encouraging the students to do well, encouraging parental involvement even while families are in a shelter, and having a mentor for shelter/foster children who are entering a new school so that they can adjust to their new environment. These are just a few of the suggestions given to schools as they attempt to do all that they can for students in need.

A city defines itself in the way we assist those in need of service. Therefore, we need to consider other ways of assisting our children, such as establishing a center coordinated by United Way and the Worcester Public Schools. This way the public could donate supplies such as clothing, soap and other toiletry items. Most importantly, we need to find mentors for those children so that they know they are not alone. If any of our readers have other ideas write to the InCity Times with your thoughts. Let’s not just talk about this situation – let’s do something about it! Let’s do it for the children.

Who’s thinking about the kids?

By Parlee Jones

I am not a political person by nature, but that has been changing over the last couple of years. I have come to see that attention to Worcester’s elected officials is needed if I hope to offer the best opportunities for my children. Most would consider me to be a very active parent. You can find me at parent’s night and PTO’s.

I can sit with my children every day after school and help them with their homework, meet with the teachers to discuss teaching strategy and plans for next year, but I continue to find road blocks along the way.

I joined a community organizing group called Black Legacy almost two years ago. The group was just starting. We came together to talk about the health of the community, and the disparities that exist. We wondered why members of Worcester’s Black community were becoming sicker, more often, and more severely than our White counter parts in so many areas including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, various cancers, and infant mortality. What was going on? What we realized is that all of these health issues are related to socio-economic income, which is largely dependent on the quality of education someone has. When we looked at the data, we found that there was a major income gap in the city of Worcester by race and ethnicity, and indeed this gap is found in our public education. So, as folks committed to making as big an impact as possible, we decided to focus on closing the academic achievement gap knowing this will help close the gaps in income and finally overall health.

This past September, we held our second Black Families for Education Conference, intending to raise awareness of the school-to-prison pipeline. This pipeline is a national problem which recognizes that failures in education have a direct link to the likelihood that a person might find themselves in prison. By exploring the pipeline, some communities are making major changes that increase student success and stop that path.

• Uneven disciplinary practices
• Low expectations of students
• Under resourced schools

When we put all three of these issues together, it is easy to see why we have achievement gaps. It also becomes relatively easy to see what needs to happen to close those gaps.

• Eliminate disparities in disciplinary action that is the result of unintended bias
• Increase expectations for all students for high academic achievement
• Increase a more equitable distribution of resources in the schools and neighborhoods so that all children are able to be in strong schools, not just the ones in wealthier communities.

You can learn more about the school to prison pipeline at www.blacklegacynow.org.

What has become clear is that many on our current school committee are not committed to these goals. In fact, some school committee member’s like Ms. Tracy Novick campaigned against high expectations for all students, and not expectations for teachers. Her cry’s against MCAS seem, on it’s surface to be a concern for unequal negative impact on poor students and students of color, but in reality it is a strategy to save teachers from being subjected to the same high stakes evaluation as high school students are. Again, on it’s surface, this looks good. Most of us agree that MCAS should not be a score that can keep a student with passing grades from graduating from high school. That seems completely unfair. We do want to be able to have multiple measures of what students are learning, but it shouldn’t be used in the way it is.

But in reality, her organizing is not to eliminate MCAS as a high stakes test for students. Her organizing is to stop MCAS from being a criteria for teacher evaluation. The state and feds are revisiting how teachers are evaluated and they think one of the measures of a teachers success should include how much students learn. I agree. Should it be the only measure? No. But it should be one. And MCAS doesn’t need to be the measure.

Actions speak louder than words.

The current discussions about the extension of the superintendents contract is a place we can see where candidates values lay. Again, the primary role of the school committee is to hire, oversee, and collaborate with a superintendant that is able to support strong education of students in Worcester Public Schools. Our current superintendant has demonstrated a list of accomplishments for the district that outshines any recent superintendants including the ability to maintain 100% of programming during such dire economic times. In fact, she’s been able to bring more programming to the district.

I support:

• John Monfredo
• Jack Foley
• John Trobaugh

They have shown that, in addition to their personal agendas and perspectives that they will bring to their work, they understand that the bottom line is a strong leader who is able to show growth and improvements across the district. A leader who is able to balance the needs of the neediest students with the needs of the most advantaged and gifted students. I know that Dr. Boone is taking this school system in the direction we need to go in, and there’s proof to show it. I am concerned about the intention of those that would rally so hard to remove a proven successful leader, such as Tracy Novick. What direction does she want the schools to go in? I believe she would love to see it go back to the old system where the superintendent wasn’t focused on all students, only those students who’s parents voted and voiced their opinions through school committee members. Ms. Novick, Ms. Biancheria, and Mr. O’Connell who are elected to represent all the families of WPS’s have demonstrated again and again that they are committed to the constituents that voted them in, not the needs of the student body they were elected to shepherd.

Ms. Dianna Biancheria is proud of her role in bringing new programming to North High. She should be. However she seems completely apathetic to the fact that the policies for those programs are biased against poor white students and students of color.

Mr. O’Connell has admitted that Dr. Boone has been very successful in the past two years, yet says he would not want to renew the Superintendents contract for the standard 3 years to “send a message.” He has said that he thinks there are some areas he’d like her to focus more on, so holding back and suggesting only a two-year extension would make his point. What kind of a message is that? The school committee should not be a place where individual committee members play with peoples contracts because they are not willing to bend to individual whims. The school committee is supposed to set policy collectively, through the democratic process as part of a shared agenda. Enough with the personal agendas.

In fact, some school committee members have been much more concerned with the teachers than they have been of the students. I feel we have to care about both, but when it’s time to make decisions, the bottom line has to be “what is in the best interest of the students?” When we ask that question, we get answers that include strong teachers, happy teachers, teachers that have the resources needed for instruction, well trained teachers, and so much more that is pro-teacher.

The current school committee began two years ago with a newly hired Superintendent. Now, not everyone was pleased at this new hire. Maybe it was because she isn’t from Worcester, or because she’s a woman, or because she’s a person of color, or just because it wasn’t the guy most thought was a shoe-in… the one that was part of the same old network. On top of that, Worcester was identified as having two underperforming schools that the state was requiring immediate drastic action on. The state was basically telling us that we weren’t making the necessary improvements and, we needed to choose from a small array of choices for change or they might come in and take over the schools themselves. The tough decision needed to be made and our new Superintendant make the recommendations and lead the transformation of those two schools which included the removal of the principals at both schools.

I attended to school committee forums and was the first place I saw how different some of the school committee members views were from mine and those of my community. The conversations were primarily focused on the teachers and the terrible conditions they had to work under in “those” schools with “those” kids who had “those” parents. There was a lot of code speak but it was clear that there was an assumption that teachers and principal should not be held accountable because there was no way to do any better with “those” kids. The forums were not focused on what needed to happen to improve the student outcomes of the “those” kids.

Dr. Boone has walked her talk of high expectations for students, teachers, administrators, and the community.

During that same time, I have come to have a greater appreciation for some of the school committee members that are willing to learn about the student body and their families, in order to recommend policies that they think will benefit all WPS students.

The biggest job of the school committee is to hire, evaluate, and collaborate with the superintendant of schools. That’s pretty much it. To make sure they hire a qualified individual that can demonstrate continuous movement toward strong student achievement.

What I’ve come to learn is that all of the committee members are not focused on student achievement at all. At least, not for all students. For example, Tracy Novick has spent the last two years fighting against the superintendants focus on student achievement. That has been Ms. Novick’s platform. She has wasted hours on hours of school committee time on soap box rants against the MCAS. Why do I say wasted? Well, I think most of us believe that the MCAS test used as a high stakes exam has been bad policy, but it is a state requirement and more than 60% of the WPS’s funding is tied to the state. Unless Ms. Novick plans on telling the state “no thanks” to its funding, the school committee meeting is not the place for her personal opinion. What’s worse is she has twisted this contractual obligation as an assault on the superintendent, who has done an amazing job meeting those obligations and surpassing statewide improvements.

As I listen to the politicians speak over the last two years and during the current forums, it has become abundantly clear that the big difference is who the candidates are most focused on. It is my opinion that some have their priorities wrong given their role in the city.

There are seven committee members that include six elected, plus the mayor. Of the six elected, more than half come from the West Side of the city. Including the mayor, all of the members are White and have middle – upper income levels. So, what does this have to do with anything? Well, the school committee is responsible for setting policy and they also work with the Superintendent to identify priorities for the cities schools. That means, what they think is important… what is important in their lives and the lives of their family and friends is typically going to be what is at the forefront of their minds to focus on… to set as priorities. This is where perspective can come into play.

Mr. Foley has worked at Clark University in Main South for many, many years. From these experiences, and others, I can see that he has a deeper understanding of the students of the Worcester Public Schools.

Mr. Monfredo was a principal for 20 years. He always had a full parent room and his teaching staff enjoyed working with him.

Mr. Trobaugh wants to work with the present administration to bring positive changes. Also supporting real parent involvement.

It is the responsibility of us to choose the school committee that will work for our children. All children in Worcester, regardless where they live or where they go to school. We must work together as a community to keep all children out of the school to prison pipeline.

Vote Tuesday, Nov. 8! InCity Times candidate endorsements

Do Worcester (and yourself) proud! Please go out and vote!

Thank you!

– R.Tirella

INCITY TIMES ENDORSES THE FOLLOWING CANDIDATES/Please vote for:

Mayor: Konstantina Lukes

City Council District 4: Barbara Haller

City Council District 1: Virginia Ryan

City Council-at-Large:

Konstantina Lukes
Bill (William) Coleman
Mike (Michael) Germain
Joseph O’Brien

Worcester School Committee:

Hilda Ramirez
John Monfredo
Jack Foley

Ballot Question
Vote YES for School District Representation! YES!

Worcester School Committee evaluates WPS Superintendent Melinda Boone tonight!

Here is Worcester School Committee member John Monfredo’s evaluation of Dr. Boone:

Dr. Melinda Boone completes her second year as WPS Superintendent … My Evaluation

By John Monfredo, Worcester School Committee

Each June the Worcester School Committee, by law, evaluates the performance of Worcester’s School Superintendent. Tonight all members of the Worcester School Committee will stannd up and publicly gave their evaluation summary of Superintendent Boone on her second year as Superintendent of our city schools.

The evaluation is based on the goals and objectives that were mutually agreed upon by the Superintendent and the School Committee at the beginning of the school year.

Two years ago I was the first school committee member to greet Dr. Boone as she came to Worcester from Virginia for her interview. I found Dr. Boone to be a person who was easy to talk with and passionate about education. At her interview Dr. Boone said, “The difference between success and failure is opportunity…. I believe that all students need access to the same standards.” She also said she was high on best practices, a strong supporter of parent involvement and believes that the challenge ahead is the quality of teaching.

Here is my evaluation of Dr. Boone as will be presented tonight at City Hall:

Dr. Boone has stated on several occasions, “I see ourselves competing with private, charter, parochial and other public schools. Our goal is to make sure that we become the school of choice.” Again, she reiterated that at the “Parent/Guardian Expo” Saturday, June 11, held at WPI.

She has demonstrated by her actions that parents are an integral part of the success of children and education in general. Dr. Boone has worked closely with our schools to maintain an inviting and welcoming atmosphere along with working closely with parents to gain their trust and show them that the Worcester Public School’s is truly a partner with them.

Dr. Boone believes that parental involvement is a key piece to educating our children and has reached out to the community in an attempt to make the “Village” concept part of the educational solution. She has participated in the Worcester Educational Collaborative Community briefing on Innovation Schools, been the keynote speaker at the Worcester Community Action Council United Service Executive Group Breakfast and served as MC at the annual community MLK Breakfast. She has been a guest speaker at the Worcester Business Leaders meeting, the Worcester UNUM Girls’ Leadership Conference Panel, spoken at several Worcester Community Action Council seminars and in general has met with interfaith leaders, social agencies representatives, business leaders and many school group parent organizations. Continue reading Worcester School Committee evaluates WPS Superintendent Melinda Boone tonight!

“Reading in our City Week” now through June 18! Join the fun!

By John Monfredo, Worcester School Committee

Five years ago my wife Anne-Marie and I started the committee Worcester: the City that Reads to bring books to all children in Worcester. Research continues to point out that reading regularly increases one’s vocabulary and improves skills.

Study after study finds that the ability to read well is the single best indicator of future economic success – regardless of family background. We know that once a child is “hooked” on reading, his/her skill develops rapidly. The more he/she reads, the better he/she reads and the more he/she brings to each new reading experience. It is because of those reasons that Worcester: the City that Reads was started. The week of June 12 is the culmination of our and many others’ efforts over the past year with the Third Annual Literacy Week.

Activities for the week:

There will be a proclamation read by Mayor Joseph O’Brien in the City Council Chambers declaring the week as “Literacy Week in our Community.” During the week across the city our Worcester Public Schools will have their “Kick-off for Summer Reading.” Parents at many schools will also be informed that they will be able to borrow books from their school library for summer reading. Celebrity reading events as well as book character events will take place in the schools. Continue reading “Reading in our City Week” now through June 18! Join the fun!

Please donate new or gently used books!

HAVE YOU DONATED ANY CHILDREN’S BOOKS TO WORCESTER’S BOOK DRIVE?

Worcester School Committee member John Monfredo and his wife (former Nelson Place teacher) Anne-Marie Monfredo, co-chairs of Worcester: the City that Reads, have a goal: to collect 25,000 books for city kids. The books will be given to low-income children, social service agencies, Head Start, the A.C.E. summer program, and a host of other groups for summer reading.

Studies clearly indicate that children in homes that have books are more likely to succeed in school, while children who don’t have adequate reading skills are much more likely to drop out of school. A recent study found that the ability to read well is the single best indicator of future economic success – regardless of family background.

Books can donated by May 15 at the following sites:

• People’s United People’s Bank (Flagship Bank) (all six city branches) including the town of Shrewsbury, Marlboro and Leominster
• Commerce Bank (all four city branches) including Holden
• Bay State Savings Bank (all branches)
• Bank of America ( all Worcester branches)
• Barnes and Noble Book Store on Lincoln Street
• Worcester Public Library
• Stop and Shop on Lincoln Street
• Stop and Shop on Grafton Street
• Stop and Shop on West Boylston Street
• Shaws Market on West Boylston Street
• Shaws Market at Webster Square
• RSVP and the Senior Center on Vernon Street
• Worcester Credit Union
• Starbucks Coffee on one West Boylston Street
• Panera’s on West Boylston Street
• Ben Franklin Book Store on Salem Street
• Light Labs on Shrewsbury Street
• Flying Rhino Restaurant on Shrewsbury Street
• DCU Center
• Jewish Community Center on Salisbury Street
• Worcester East Side CDC at 409 Shrewsbury Street
• Leader’s Way – Kung Fu Academy on Burncoat Street
• Greendale YMCA

Thank you!

– John and Anne Marie Monfredo

Nelson Place elementary school students making a difference!

By John Monfredo, Worcester School Committee

Reaching out and caring about others is what we hope our children will learn in their school years; we want them to grow up to be caring and productive citizens. These are qualities that are not measured by MCAS test scores- they are part of educating the whole child.

During the last few years, fourth grade teacher Donna Quitadamo at Nelson Place Elementary School has been working with her students and parents about reaching out to others. Her class led the way in working with “The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp.” This organization was created by Paul Newman and his friends in 1988. The camp is located in the state of Connecticut and has served as a non-profit residential summer camp and year-round center for children coping with cancer and other life-threatening diseases.

The camp houses children between the ages of 7 to 15 who attend one of 9 weeklong sessions. The students experience fun-packed days and develop friendships with children like themselves with very caring adults watching over them. In addition, “The Hole in the Wall Gang Hospital Outreach Program brings the hope and playful spirit of camp to seriously-ill hospitalized children throughout the Northeast region. Twelve full-time hospital outreach specialists make weekly visits to the bedsides of ill children to provide games, crafts, companionship, and comfort to these courageous patients. They also provide a much – needed break for parents and give special attention to siblings. Most importantly, they remind kids, who are physically and emotionally drained by the effects of chemotherapy and long hospital stays of what it’s like to be a kid again.

As part of the character education concept, Ms. Quitadamo encouraged her students to look for heroes in their everyday lives and often shared her heroes with them. Thus one day in the fall of 2008 she shared with the present 6th graders that one of her heroes, Paul Newman, had passed away. She told them about the Newman’s Own Foundation and the “Hole In the Wall Gang” Camp. Then in December of the same year, her students published a classroom newspaper which included persuasive essays written by the students that encouraged people to make donations to the “Hole In the Wall Gang.” Continue reading Nelson Place elementary school students making a difference!

Freedom Writer teacher speaks to students at Worcester Tech High School

By John Monfredo, Worcester School Committee

Worcester Technical High School two weeks before the MCAS, as they have done the past two years, brought in a motivational speaker to talk to the students. The event was held at the Hanover Theater in Worcester and the entire school was bused to the event.

This year’s speaker was Erin Gruwell, a former teacher, who has the distinction of having a movie made about her making a difference in the lives of her students. The movie is entitled, The Freedom Writers. A week before Ms. Gruwell’s presentation the students had the opportunity to watch the movie and discuss it with their teachers.

Erin Gruwell, a most dynamic speaker with an outgoing personality, had the students’ attention within a minute. She spoke about her first day at Wilson High School in Long Beach, California for as a recent college graduate she landed her first job in Room 203, only to discover many of her students had been written off by the education system and deemed “unteachable.” Her students lived in a racially divided urban community; they were already hardened by first-hand exposure to gang violence, juvenile detention, and drugs. Continue reading Freedom Writer teacher speaks to students at Worcester Tech High School