Tag Archives: majority minority school system

Gordy in fashion: Wrong Time for Meet And Greet of WPS Superintendant Candidates

By Gordon Davis
 
Last night’s meet and greet event for the candidates for the Superintendancy of our Public School District was mistimed. The event should have taken place after the announcement of the newly appointed Superintendant on March 14, 2016.

I only saw two Worcester School Committee members at the event. John Monfredo, who said that he would vote for candidate Maureen Binienda, and Brian O’Connell, who was noncommittal, came.

It is not entirely clear how the opinion of the people who came to this event could affect the opinion of the Worcester School Committee. This has not been the first meaningless political show put on by the City of Worcester.

Three of the candidates are qualified for the job: Dr. Rodrigues, Dr. Binienda and Dr. Allen. Dr. Mulcahy is not quite ready to be school superintendant, but I think she will, in the future, be a stronger candidate for a superintendency.

Dr. Rodriques presented the strongest credentials for running the Worcester School District. He said his experience as the interim superintendant of the WPS, assistant superintendant of our school district, and the manager of special education has shown that he knows and can run the complex Worcester School District. For every question I asked him, he was able to give me a detailed answer.

Dr. Rodrigues spoke of his experience regarding his moving to Worcester. He said that many students in the Worcester Public Schools are new arrivals to America, and sometimes English is not their primary language. He felt that he might be able to connect to the students in Worcester Schools in ways more associated with their circumstances. It is well known that the Worcester School System is transiting to a majority minority student body.

Candidate Binienda touted her years as principal at South High School and another Worcester school.  She was also a special needs teacher. Dr. Binienda has an interesting idea of collaboration between Worcester State University and the Worcester high schools, especially in the area of criminal justice education.
 
However, her answers to questions about the Worcester Schools were generalized without the details that, in my opinion, a person would need to hit the ground running as our school superintendant.

Candidate Allen talked about the need to make the Worcester Schools more efficient. She also touted her years as principal of Norback School. Like Dr. Binienda, Dr. Allen spoke in general terms. Nonetheless, I was impressed with her sense of organization and place.

I suppose there will be another meet and greet after the Worcester School Committee appoints Dr. Binienda as next Superintendant of the Worcester Public School District.

I think that Dr. Rodrigues will continue to work diligently and loyally as an Assistant Superintendant until the time some school system sees his abilities and experience and steals him away.
 
It is my opinion that Dr. Allen has the ability to turn around a school system in receivership.

I give Kudos to Dr. Mulcahy for throwing her hat into the ring.

Time will tell if Worcester will make a good decision on Monday.

The lives of our children depend upon it.

Worcester Public Schools Superintendent Search = Shit Sandwich

From the Search Committee for the
Selection of the Next Superintendent of the Worcester Public Schools
 

The Search Committee for the Selection of the Next Superintendent of Schools, appointed by Mayor Petty, received four applications for the positon of Superintendent of Schools.

Based on our review and evaluation of the applications, and of the supporting materials submitted, we are pleased to advance all of the applicants for further review and consideration by the School Committee.

The candidates all bring to the selection process superlative records of achievement. However, they vary dramatically, one from the other, in areas of expertise, focus, training, experience, and concentration. They provide, collectively, a superb opportunity for the Worcester Public Schools to select, from them, the candidate with the optimal mix of training, talent, and vision which will assist the WPS in addressing the challenges and opportunities which it can reasonably anticipate in the years ahead.
 
The candidates are as follows:

Karrie J. Allen, Ed.D.

Dr. Allen, the Principal of Norrback Avenue School, brings to the selection process “15 years’ experience transforming school cultures, implementing effective initiatives and systematically building structures vital to student achievement”, as she describes well in her letter of application. During her decade as Principal within the WPS – at Norrback and at May Street School – and in her years of experience as a teacher of children with moderate needs, she has won the respect and allegiance of staff members, students, parents and the community for her focus on student achievement, collaboration, and parent/community involvement. Her former supervisor highlights her “breadth of knowledge, candor, confidence, sense of humor and rapport”, which, combined with her record of achievement in elementary education, would serve her well as Superintendent. As a letter of reference regarding her noted, she “has a deep rooted passion for facilitating learning and positive growth; she would be a positive asset to the Worcester Community as the Superintendent.”

Maureen F. Binienda.

Mrs. Binienda has devoted her entire professional life to the students of the Worcester Public Schools, first as a teacher of moderate special needs students, then as a special education curriculum specialist, then, for the past two decades, as Assistant Principal and Principal of South High Community School. Her dedication to community service – for her students as well as for herself – has earned her an extraordinary array of awards and commendations from civic and educational organizations. At South High Community School, where she has worked since 1978, she is, as summarized so well by the author of one of her letters of recommendation, “everywhere at once, supporting, nurturing, and coaching the entire community, especially her students.”  Her focus has been equally on setting ambitious standards of academic achievement for her students, epitomized by her Advanced Placement initiatives.

Kerry E. Mulcahy. Ed.D.

Dr. Mulcahy has a rich educational pedigree which is tailor-made for leadership in Worcester. She earned her doctorate from the Leadership in Urban Schools program at the University of Massachusetts Boston, having written her thesis on “An Examination of School Committee Municipal Representation in the City of Worcester.” She is described today by an associate professor who was her thesis advisor as “the finest student of education politics that I have met in my career in higher education.” In Worcester, where she has taught English for more than a decade, currently at Doherty Memorial High School, she is noted for the success of her students on MCAS, for her innovative role with the Engineering Small Learning Community, for her energetic dedication to her school, and for her rapport with her students. As her colleague has emphasized, “[i]n all aspects of her life she has demonstrated the leadership, modesty, passion, determination and integrity that make her an excellent choice for this position.”

Marco C. Rodrigues, Ed.D.

Dr. Rodrigues has truly experienced all instructional levels of public education, beginning as an instructional assistant at Woodward Day School in 1991, ultimately rising to the position of Executive Director a decade later. He served as Executive Director of the Central Massachusetts Special Education Collaborative for three years. Since 2010 he has been an instructional leader within the Central Administration, culminating in his current position as Interim Superintendent. In each of these positions, he has demonstrated a particular sensitivity to the most challenged students of the WPS, while, as Chief Academic Officer and as Interim Superintendent, he has maintained a clear, thoroughly-informed focus on student achievement and on data-informed instruction methodology. As his predecessor as Chief Academic Officer has noted, he “promotes success for all students by nurturing and sustaining a school culture of reflective practice, high expectations, and continuous learning for staff.” As Interim Superintendent, he has shown an ability to formulate, and to consider, novel approaches to school issues, addressing them in a practical, cost-effective manner.

The Committee is delighted that these four talented and dedicated educational leaders have chosen to apply for the position of Superintendent, and we anticipate a lively dialogue on issues of Worcester public education, informed well by their perspectives and insights, as the selection process continues.

The Committee highlights the following as the next stages on this process:

Friday, March 4 – the resumes of the candidates, their letters of application, their reference letters, the application forms, the responses to essay questions, and other pertinent information will be posted on the WPS website.

Monday, March 7 – the School Committee will interview the candidates, in the City Council Chamber, in the following order, as determined by random drawing:

 
5 PM – Dr. Rodrigues
6 PM – Dr. Mulcahy
7 PM – Mrs. Binienda
8 PM – Dr. Allen
 
The interviews will each begin with a three-minute introductory statement by the candidate, followed by presentation of twelve questions, in order, each with three minutes as a general time guideline for responses. A closing statement of two to four minutes by the candidate will conclude the interview, which is designed to take no more than one hour. The questions to be asked of the candidates will be released to the candidates, and to the public, to allow the candidates to formulate well-considered and thoughtful responses. We will invite candidates to bring with them, and to share with us, any pertinent documents which support, supplement or elucidate the answers they provide to the questions they are asked as well.
 
Wednesday, March 9 – the Committee will hold a “meet and greet” reception for the candidates from 5 to 7 PM, at the Cafeteria of Doherty Memorial High School. This reception will allow the members of the community to interact with the candidates in an informal setting, to raise questions of interest to them, and to form their own impressions of the candidates through their conversations.
 
Monday, March 14 – The Committee will convene at a Special Meeting, at 6:15 PM, in the City Council Chamber, to deliberate on selection of the next Superintendent. The selection of the Superintendent will require a majority vote of the members of the Committee present and voting.
 
We strongly encourage all interested members of our community, and of the Worcester Public Schools, to participate in this process with us, by attending the interviews, by joining us for the “meet and greet”, and by coming to City Hall for the March 14 meeting. We urge all Worcester residents, and community and educational leaders, to share with us their thoughts as to the candidates, and as to the particular skills and priorities the WPS most needs in its next Superintendent. As noted above, we are most pleased with the caliber and quality of these fine members of our staff, and with the expertise, knowledge, skill, training, talent and energy which they will clearly bring to this position. We are most anxious that our community join us as we work, together, to select the qualities, and the leader, which will prepare us best to address the many varied challenges, and fine opportunities, which await the WPS in the years to come.
 
 
The Search Committee for the
Selection of the Next Superintendent of Schools
 
Brian A. O’Connell, Chair
Jack Foley
John Monfredo

Interview Questions

1.        We read frequently that a leader of an organization must have a vision.  What is your vision for a mid-sized urban school system?  What have you done to achieve that vision in your present situation?  How would you go about achieving that vision in a new setting?

2.        What do you see as the opportunities and challenges facing the Worcester Public Schools at present and in your experience, how has the Worcester Public Schools met the opportunities and challenges facing it during your tenure with the district?

3.      What will you do to solidify a strong relationship and develop a shared strategic direction between the Worcester School Committee and the Superintendent?

4.      Explain how you would build a strong relationship within the community, with our community leaders, higher education officials, legislators, social agencies and other governmental leaders.

5.      What role should the community and parents play in the schools and provide examples of what you might do in your first six months as Superintendent to enhance the role of community and parents in this respect?

6.        How would you create consensus regarding the priorities of the district and develop budget recommendations that reflect those priorities?

7.      Nationwide, we hear about the achievement gap, especially in the urban districts and with English language learning students.  What can we do to move all of our students to the next level in their educational career?

8.       What plans do you have to inform the public of the many positive accomplishments within our district and how will you keep the public informed regarding district initiatives, needs and priorities?

9.      How would you create a welcoming community where parents/families are partners in the academic success of their children and how would you create a staff which reflects and embodies this diversity?

10.    As Superintendent, you will have an opportunity to appoint a number of principals and central office administrators.  What criteria, philosophy and guidelines would you apply when making these decisions?

11.    What is your leadership and management style and what would be your plan to effectively communicate with educators in our schools?

12.    In recent years, the Worcester Public Schools has addressed opportunities and challenges in such areas as:

1.    expanding interest in vocational education on the part of students
2.    special education
3.    arts and music education
4.    gifted student education
5.    technology
6.    student and staff safety and security

Please share with us your thoughts as to topics and considerations we should address in each of these areas.
 

Election fall out: New Worcester School Committee takes a turn for the worse

By Gordon Davis
 
The two liberal or progressive members of the Worcester School Committee, Hilda Ramirez and Tracy A. O’Connell Novick, lost the election and will be replaced by what some consider to be a right wing challenger, Donna M. Colorio, and a relatively unknown Molly McCullough. I say that Ms. Ramirez and Ms. O’Connell Novick are progressive because from my experience they understood the changes that the Worcester Public School system is going through as it becomes more of a majority minority school system. They did more than just maintain a “color blind” system of public education but instead tried to accommodate each child’s level of educational ability.

It is clear what the newly elected Worcester School Committee members will do: It has been my experience that Ms. Coloria does not understand the school system’s changes and is resistant to them.  There are some who say that she is connected to the right wing Tea Party which has consistently displayed bias toward newcomers, especially Hispanic people. I suppose we can expect what, on the surface, will be called “color blind” decisions by Ms. Colorio to prove to have a disparately adverse impact on many poor Worcester kids – kids without adequate educational resources outside of our schools, especially Black and Latino students.

I only know Ms. McCullough from her literature, and I do not have any strong opinions about her. Most of her election statements seem to be the usual campaign cliches that do not say much nor offend anyone. I suppose we will soon find out about her real thinking and character in the near term.

It is unfortunate to have lost both Ms. O’Connell Novick and Ms. Ramirez. The City’s failure to re-elect Ms. Ramirez is especially a blow, as there are now no so called minorities on the Worcester School Committee. There are no Asians, no Blacks, no Latinos.

I know and like school committee members Messrs Brian O’Connell, Jack Foley and John Monfredo – incumbents who the voters re-elected. They are decent people and well qualified such that it is likely their decisions will be based on a pedagogy that will do no harm to Worcester’s students and their families.

School committee member Briancharia has not shown to me that she has the capacity or the compassion to be on the Worcester school committee. Her almost irrational demands about police in our schools are particularly worrisome. Sometimes I feel her lack of a college degree and any experience in education makes her less capable than some of the others who ran for school committee.

Now that Ms. Colorio has won, it appears that interim Worcester Public Schools superintendent Mr. Rodrigues’ (who worked under departing WPS superintendent Dr. Melinda Boone) chances of becoming the contractual School Superintendent are greatly reduced. From all accounts Ms. Maureen Binienda, principal of South High School, is well qualified to be a superintendent of schools. However, I wonder if her backers in the Worcester School Committee have taken into account our schools’ demographic changes aforementioned. Sometimes a color blind policy is not what is needed to address the particulars of a situation.

The police in the Worcester Public Schools was rammed down the throat of the school system so quickly that there is no policy nor protocol for the arrest of kids at school, the use of police force at school, nor the interactions of school administration and police.

The police powers are authorized under a different state statute than are found in the Department of Education regulations.  

There will be a city-wide meeting Nov, 18, 6 PM at Centro, 11 Sycamore St., to discuss this lack of policy issue.

I hope that the inconsistencies between Worcester police authority and Department of Education authority can be resolved in such a way as not to be harmful to our students.

I also hope that a Worcester school committee that is now all-white can make compassionate, intelligent decisions for a school system that is now majority minority. 

Dr. Boone says goodbye …

Worcester Public Schools Superintendent Melinda Boone recently resigned from her job. Dr. Boone, originally from Norfolk, Virginia, and with the WPS for six+ years, was a class act. She understood how to run a majority-minority urban school district! We will miss her! She sent this letter to Worcester Public Schools employees: – R. Tirella
 
Good morning!
 
When I first came to Worcester a little over six years ago, I immediately felt like a lifelong Worcesterite. I committed deeply to this community and to our schools, and I felt that commitment in return. Over the years, thousands of parents, educators and community members have prayed for, embraced and supported our work together to ensure all of our schools are worthy of our great community.
 
Since that time, we doubled the number of students taking Advanced Placement courses… We balanced the budget during extremely challenging times… We provided new beyond-school supports to help meet the needs of some of our most vulnerable families… We reimagined what is possible, particularly in our low-performing schools… We worked with the city to substantially increase funding for needed school repairs… We cultivated highly effective partnerships with the colleges and universities of Worcester, Worcester Education Collaborative, United Way and many other community organizations. We did these things, and so much more, together. I am extremely proud of what we have already achieved — and what lies ahead for our schools as a result.
 
That is why it is with mixed emotion that I share with you my plan to resign my position as superintendent of Worcester Public Schools. This decision did not come easily. To me, Worcester is “home,” a community in which I have planted roots and people for whom I care deeply. I have been called back home to lead the Norfolk Public Schools as its superintendent.
 
But Worcester is now on solid footing, thanks to the hard work of the Mayor, School Committee, city leadership, educators, parents and students over the past several years. I now have the opportunity to share what we have learned here to help the district where I grew up as an educator and a leader.
 
You remember my 2013 State of the Schools Message, based on the children’s book “The Little Engine That Could”, where we realized that the Little Blue Engine reminded us of the work we’ve been doing in Worcester. That Little Blue Engine exhibited a will to serve and to make a difference in the lives of children on the other side of the mountain. The Little Blue Engine dug deep inside to say you know – I think I can do this! We have learned that there’s nothing impossible that the Worcester Public Schools cannot accomplish. We’ve proven our will, our commitment and our passion to make it happen. We know we will make it happen for all of this city’s children!
 
I believe deeply in what we have been able to accomplish together. And while much work remains, your dedication and hard work has laid a foundation for greatness in Worcester. I am honored and humbled for the opportunity to be a part of the Worcester Public Schools family.
 
Respectfully,
Melinda J. Boone
 

Worcester and the Department of Justice – meeting #1, May 18, 2015

By Gordon Davis

The first of several race relations discussions initiated by Worcester City Manager Edward Augustus began last night at the YWCA, Worcester. The discussions, so far, seemed poorly designed and did not reach the people who needed to be at the table.

Young men of color were conspicuously absent.

In the meeting room, which was filled to capacity, young men of color and those who interact with them could be counted on one hand.

Muhammad Ali-Salaam of the Community Relations Division of the Department of Justice (DOJ) explained as best he could what the discussions were about. He had with him a team of facilitators who sat at each table.

Mr. Ali-Salaam said that the DOJ came at the request of the City Manager. The discussions on race relations were intended to vet Augustus’ plan for more diversity in Worcester government/public life and to get input from the community. Augustus said he is hopeful that these discussions would be more fruitful than the other discussions on race held previously in Worcester.

In response to a question about the DOJ investigating the Worcester Police Department for misconduct and Worcester City government for malicious prosecution, Mr. Ali-Salaam said the petition for such investigations should go to Ms. Carmen Ortiz, the U.S. Attorney for this district. She has a field office in Worcester.

Mr. Culin Owyang, Deputy Attorney General for Massachusetts, said he and the Attorney General hoped to have a positive impact on Worcester’s discussions on race and to give them some structure.

On the subject of Worcester District Attorney (DA) Joseph Early Jr. recusing his office from the prosecution of a Worcester police officer accused of beating a shackled prisoner and transferring the prosecution to Attorney General Maura Healy’s office, Mr. Owyang had no comment.

He said DA Early should be asked those questions. He had no comment on why DA Early did not erect a legal wall around the prosecution or appoint a special prosecutor.

Several people in attendance said the racial tension in Worcester has been centered around Black Lives Matter demonstrations and Worcester Police misconduct and alleged public safety issues at North High School.

There were few, if any protesters, from Black Lives Matter and no high school students from North High School.

Why???

The outreach could be better for the city’s upcoming discussions on public safety and education.

Two young men of color who were at the meeting expressed disappointment with the low turnout of young men of color.

Born Taylor, a young Black man, said he felt that some good could come from the discussions, but he also felt that the division of attendees by table could have been better. He thought discussions would not attain some of their goals if more young men of color did not attend.

Caleb Encarnacion-Rivera, a young Hispanic man, said he came in order to help the improvement of the city. He was especially motivated because now he had a child in the Worcester Public Schools.

Like Mr. Taylor, Mr. Encarnacion-Rivera hoped that more young men of color would attend the future discussions.

Two Worcester city councillors, Gary Rosen and Sarai Rivera, said they were there to learn more.

City Manager Augustus said we should not be held captive by the past, where similar discussions started out enthusiastically but nothing significant came about.

One white woman said there is no racial problem in Worcester. She said that there were only agitators stirring things up, causing the problems. While she was speaking, my thoughts went to the old civil rights movement where Bull Connors said something similar about happy Negroes and outside agitators.

Another white woman said some in the room were unaware that the term “color blindness” in terms of race had shifted from a relatively progressive phrase to a code word for institutional racism. Although honest and a plea for discourse, such comments will make the discussions difficult for some people of color.

A black woman who said that the DOJ should investigate the Worcester Police was booed by some white people, even though the facilitators told the participants that they should be respectful of everyone’s ideas and opinions.

Instead of reducing racial tensions in Worcester, the discussions might be the source of increased racial tensions.

One person noticeably absent was Brenda Jenkins of the YMCA and the Mosaic Cultural Complex. She is an important Black leader in the City of Worcester. Several people came to me and asked me where Brenda was. They speculated that she might not have come because the populations she works with did not go.

There are also rumors that the City of Worcester is pressuring Brenda’s program – the Mosaic Cultural Complex-  by reviewing the funds the City of Worcester awards her group. Is Augustus going to pull Brenda’s funding to pressure Brenda to “shut up”? Or has that already happened? Or has Brenda, like other Black leaders in Worcester before her, people of color on the city payroll, people of color with ties to Worcester city government/jobs/funds self-censoring herself??? To save her city money?

I suppose the politics of Worcester might suddenly change, and the city will take more substantial and positive actions towards race relations.

Unfortunately it looks a lot like business as usual – or worse.

Who’s gonna help a brother get further?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5yGVANkaGiM&feature=youtube_gdata_player

At last night’s Worcester School Committee meeting …

… we spied Worcester’s most BEAUTIFUL public official: Stacey DeBoise Luster – Worcester Public Schools Human Resources Director!

The beautiful Worcester former City Councilor, Stacey DeBoise-Luster with a super sized smile, causing infectious good cheer.

Now if only Ms. Luster would use her gorgeousness (and intellect) to RECRUIT/HIRE MANY MORE TEACHERS OF COLOR for the Worcester Public Schools – really pull out all the stops … . If she did that, why we’d put her on the cover of this summer’s InCity Times Swimsuit issue! (Stace, wouldn’t that be the absolute zenith of your public service career?!)

– Rosalie Tirella

(photo by Ron O’Clair)