Tag Archives: Public Schools

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

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

By Edith Morgan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Save Our Schools

By Edith Morgan

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

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

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

So what did we get?

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

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

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

A good public education is the foundation of our democracy!

Edith’s parked in A.I: Summer thoughts

By Edith Morgan

School’s out – the kids say “hurrah,” the parents groan. The City of Worcester offers a wonderful array of things to do, using our school buildings, our parks, and a summer staff to keep them occupied, and learning experiences to prevent their backsliding and forgetting much of what they learned in the past year. I applaud all these efforts and really hope that those children who need such support the most will take full advantage of all these offerings.

These programs are a far cary from what we knew when we were young: summer was a time for outdoor activity, for getting around the neighborhood and for pursuing our own interests – hobbies, arts, explorations of all sorts. Most parents were very busy just surviving, and we kids did not need (nor WANT) to be constantly entertained. We were told “Go out and play, get back in here for supper,” or “when it gets dark.” We roller-skated, played football or baseball (if we could round up enough players) and read a mountain of comic books when our parents were not looking, as mine frowned on them, and since we had no money to buy a lot of them, we had a store around the corner where we could exchange the ones we had bought for 10 cents, receive 2 cents for the ones we had read, and trade five old ones for a new one. We were all well acquainted with Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Archie and the classic comics. It was not great literature, but generally harmless and easy reading.

Our “Superheroes” fought evildoers and won without a great deal of destruction and bloodshed, and did not, by and large, bend the law. How times have changed … .

For parents, this summer time might be a great time to think deeply about our schools this summer: we have a lot of decisions to make, not just about our own children, but also about all the other children in our schools.

I believe that EVERY child, in EVERY Public School, is entitled to a quality education – and that the schools are the place where children learn to be fully functioning citizens, responsible human beings and lifelong learners.

And they should be taught the skills and attitudes and habits they need to live decent lives, develop their talents to the fullest and pay forward to the next generation what they were given.

We were promised that when we established charter schools that they would have the freedom to innovate, try new and better things, and share their discoveries with the public schools. Instead, too many of them have cut corners, have hired persons ill prepared and unqualified and, in some instances, put profits ahead of performance. When we knew all along that excessive bureaucracy and insufficient support of teachers who innovate were major stumbling blocks to improvement, why did we not just change what we knew to be wrong in the existing schools so all of them could be innovative?

Was there another agenda, hidden behind the promise of “Choice”?

Have we been had?

Great learning opportunities! From Mass Farm to School Project


From Mass Farm to School:

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

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

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

Raised Bed Workshop at Gore Place

May 21

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

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


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

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

CLICK HERE to buy tickets!


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

June 1

Harvard University, Cambridge

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

CLICK HERE for registration & Full Conference Agenda.

What’s fair pay?

Worcester’s Grafton Street Elementary School. For years elementary school teachers all over America – mostly women at the time – were grossly under-paid. pic:R.T.

By Edith Morgan

We are at last at the place where there is some hope that women will be paid the same as men for equal work. That has taken a while. As a former teacher, I can remember the days when women teachers were paid less for the same or greater effort, did not get regular raises for experience, could not teach if married, then could not teach if pregnant, etc. I recall being told that only men could get a raise, as they were heads of household, and I as a woman could not be a “head of household” – despite the fact that I, like many women, was the main wage earner in my family, as my husband was in school and received only a meager stipend.

It was really high school teachers who spearheaded the move to organizing for more fair pay. Too many of us who were elementary school teachers were female, and we were accustomed to serving but not expecting proper pay. We taught children; high school teachers said they taught subjects. But now, after decades of battling, all teachers are on a multi-step schedule, based on educational level and years of service, not on the sex of the teacher.

It has been a tough battle to get fair pay for female-dominated professions – and the battle is by no means over.

This society still gives lip service to the vital role of raising and educating children, said to be our future. But we still pay near-starvation wages to those to whom we entrust our allegedly most precious possessions: our children. Early childhood programs of top quality are few and far between, very expensive, and overfilled. I went to a public preschool at three years of age, in France, in 1933 – that is how far behind we are here in America. My parents, who never even entrusted us to a babysitter, entrusted us to that French public school program. They could not have afforded a private program, as we came to France with nothing. Of course, there, teachers were honored and looked up to, and I do not remember my parents ever saying a bad word against teachers. If we children complained, they said we should learn all we could from this year’s teacher(s), and next year we might get one we liked better.

I recall coming home one day and announcing to my parents that henceforth I would have nothing to do with money, as the teacher had told us that “money is the root of all evil.” As a testament to the power of teachers’ influence, it was years before I really felt comfortable having anything to do with what was popularly called “filthy lucre.” My parents, loath to contradict the teacher, explained gently to me that the real saying was: ”THE LOVE OF MONEY is the root of all evil.”

Our system of compensation for work, our reward system, seems to reward those who do the least, with the most. Hedge fund managers, who move money from here to there and catch billions in between, are fabulously rich; CEOs who barely know what goes on in their businesses get millions and bonuses; speculators of all sorts are rewarded outrageously, while those who die for us have to battle to get treated for the horrendous diseases they pick up in battle. The list is endless! Suffice it to say: We reward the most vital jobs the least, and the least vital the most.

Go, Mass Farm to School!!!!


Celebrate the Local Harvest!

Massachusetts Farm to School Receives USDA Grant to Host Statewide Farm to School Conference

Massachusetts Farm to School is pleased to announce that they have received support through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Farm to School Program, a national effort to strengthen the connection between school cafeterias and students with local farmers and ranchers. Massachusetts’ non-profit organization Mass Farm to School received a $25,000 training grant to impact cafeterias, classrooms and communities across the Commonwealth.

“Farm to school programs work—for schools, for producers, and for communities,” said USDA Secretary Vilsack. “By serving nutritious and locally grown foods, engaging students in hands-on lessons, and involving parents and community members, these programs provide children with a holistic experience that sets them up for a lifetime of healthy eating.”

“Every student deserves access to healthy food and the farm to school program helps families, farmers, and our local economy,” Congressman Jim McGovern said. “Connecting our local farmers and local schools ensures that each student gets the fresh fruits and vegetables they need to stay healthy and succeed as they continue to learn and grow. I am grateful to Secretary Vilsack for investing in our farmers and students and to all of our partners in Amherst and throughout Massachusetts who are helping to make this program a success.”

Mass. Farm to School will use the funds to organize and host their fourth statewide Farm to Cafeteria Conference. This conference, last held in January of 2015, brings together over 400 farmers, school foodservice directors, educators, students, policy makers and community advocates for a full day of learning and networking.

Attendees will spend the day learning about local food procurement practices, school garden resources, agriculture education opportunities, and farm to school best practices from around the Commonwealth.

Farm to school programs are one of the many tools and resources USDA offers to help schools successfully serve healthier meals.

In the past three years since the bipartisan passage of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, kids have eaten healthier breakfasts, lunches and snacks at school.

Over 97 percent of schools report that they are successfully meeting the updated nutrition standards.

Massachusetts Farm to School was founded in 2004 as a grassroots initiative to increase access to healthy, locally-grown food in schools and other institutions across the state.

The organization facilitates sustainable purchasing relationships between local institutions, distributors and local farms, promotes local food and agriculture education for students.

Mass. Farm to School works to support a thriving Massachusetts food economy where institutions are a profitable and accessible market for farms and where buying, serving, and teaching students about local food is ingrained in the fabric of public schools, colleges and universities.

Charter Schools, Race and the Success of the Worcester Nativity School Model

By Gordon Davis

Governor Baker’s is trying to lift the limits on the number of charter schools in Massachusetts. Like with health care and social security, this Republican governor is trying to undermine public schools, an institution designed to help people most in need.

There are at least three charter schools in Worcester. It is my understanding that at least one and possibly all are doing well.

In Massachusetts the charter school had its origin in the racist anti-busing resistance to the integration of Boston schools. Many of the White people of Boston set up private schools instead of sending their kids to sit next to Black kids. William Bulger was the Massachusetts House Speaker. He bullied through a charter school bill for Boston and Worcester. Worcester representatives were not aware of this “midnight maneuver.” The private schools in Boston set up to defeat integration became “public” charter schools.

There is no evidence that charter schools, as a group, have performed any better than publicly run public schools.

The evidence for the failure of charter schools to do better than public schools is seen in the charter school system found in New Orleans. 

There is no evidence of more successful-ness of charter schools in Massachusetts. Please note that Governor Baker has not provided any statistical evidence to justify his push for more charter schools.

There is evidence that some charter schools are cheating in the way their graduation rates and test scores are calculated. Ms. Ruth Rodriquez, an administrator for United Opt-Out National, has said that “all the Charter Schools have a policy of ‘counseling out’ students they fear will not pass the test. At a high school in Roxbury where I worked, we used to get students from Charter Schools one or two months before the test.”

Wealthy people with real choices do not send their kids to charter schools. They go to well established private schools or well endowed public schools in the suburbs. Governor Baker admits this when he says that the new charter schools will be limited to low-income areas and areas with Black and other dark-skinned people.

It is a shame that Governor Baker cannot come up with a better solution to the education of poor and dark-skinned children than the same old mantra of “charter schools.” It reminds me of the people chanting “standardized tests” without evidence that standardized tests help kids and for some evidence that they have harmed kids. 

Education is somewhat like health care. People heal as individuals and at their own speed. Kids, to a large extent, learn in their own way and at their own speed. There is a need for more individualized instruction, at least reduced class sizes.

A real alternative is a school like the Nativity School in Worcester which has a proven record of graduation rates and success for its graduates. This model is unfortunately not applicable to large populations. It is based on 12 hours days of school and school activities, including Saturdays and summer months. It removes the students from the negative environment of poverty. It replaces that environment with structured expectations. The teaching methods are not much different from the public schools or the charter schools in terms of the subjects.

The successful pedagogy of the Nativity School is based on the statistically proven fact that the greatest indicator of the success of child is his economic and social environment. The Nativity School removes the child out from the negative environment. There is a long waiting list for the Nativity School. Every school set up in this manner in cities throughout the country has almost a 100 percent graduation rate and successful graduates.

The money allocated to charter schools could be better spent setting up 12 hour school days and summer months pilot schools within the public school systems of Massachusetts. Let us put our money into improving the public schools and pedagogy. Let us not throw more money away creating a competive and unproven school system of charter schools.

Governor Baker’s continued support of charter schools can be inferred by a reasonable person to be a pretext for the anti-public institution philosophy of his Republican party. If this is so, his limiting charter schools to low-income and people of color neighborhoods is racist.

From Mass Farm to School …

Submit your Recipe for Farm to School Success!

Do you have a great idea for farm to school success?

We want to hear it!

Mass. Farm to School is excited to announce the Farm to School Recipe for Success contest. 

The contest is sponsored by Northeast Regional Steering Committee of the National Farm to School Network and is designed to find and share the most innovative projects and ideas in Northeast Farm to School programs. We’re not looking for cooking recipes, but for great activities, lessons, strategies and projects that improve food and farm education, school meal programs, farm to school connections and more.

Enter your recipe by March 2 for a chance at $500 in cash prizes, free registrations to the Northeast Farm to Institution Summit, and a chance to present and share your great work.

CLICK HERE for more information! 



The Farm to Institution Summit is a first-year conference that will bring together leaders from the Northeast who are working to get more local and regional food into schools, colleges, health care and other institutions.

Please join us — and up to 800 other farm to institution advocates — for three exciting days of learning, sharing, exploring and connecting.

The Farm to Institution Summit will be held at UMass Amherst in Amherst, Massachusetts on April 7-9, 2015. Learn more and register at www.farmtoinstitution.org/summit.

The Summit is hosted by Farm to Institution New England in collaboration with the National Farm to School Network, Health Care Without Harm, Farm to Institution New York State and other partners.

Scholarships available!  Scholarship applications will be accepted until March 2.

Please visit the conference website as they add more info about the programming — keynotes, workshop descriptions, and more: www.farmtoinstitution.org/summit.

Massachusetts Farm to School Conference at Holy Cross college! BE THERE!

Today is the last day to register at the early bird rate!

Join over 300 other enthusiastic farm to cafeteria advocates from the preschool, K-12, and college sectors for a full day of workshops, networking, cooking demonstrations, and fun.

We will have over 20 different workshops including:

Farm to School Policy and Advocacy

Funding Farm to School Programs

On Campus Farming

Farm to Preschool 101

Farm Based Education Initiatives – Urban and Rural Farm Field Trips

Sea to School: Incorporating Local Seafood in School Meals

The conference will also include Farm to Cafeteria Regional Networking Sessions so that you can connect with others in your community who are involved in farm to cafeteria activities. Learn from their best practices, share your own tips, and move forward together!

We will be holding a concurrent Buyer Tradeshow and Networking Session for Farmers and Distributors. This will be a great opportunity to make direct connections with farmers from your region and discuss local sourcing with distributors.

REGISTER HERE to secure your spot! Discounts are available for students and conference presenters.

We expect the conference to attract over 300 individuals from a variety of fields including school and college dining services, farmers, non-profit organization staff, state agency representatives, legislators, school educators and administrators.

Massachusetts Farm to School

34 Main Street, Suite 10

Amherst, MA 01002


And …


December 2014

Dear friends:

Nearly 365,000 Massachusetts schoolchildren rely on school meals for more than half of their daily calories.

Serving children healthy food that they like to eat is a simple and effective way to protect them from hunger, ward off health risks, and help them to do better in school, but all too often kids are denied the critical benefits that daily access to fresh fruit and vegetables can provide.

These same children often have limited exposure to where real food comes from, a connection that we know plays an important role in developing healthy eating habits.

That’s why Massachusetts Farm to School introduces school children across Massachusetts to local fruits and vegetables, and to the farmers who grow them.

Through this program, schoolchildren regularly enjoy fresh Massachusetts vegetables, fruits and dairy products as part of their school lunch.

Our approach is hands-on, personal and effective:

We connect school districts with farmers who provide affordably-priced local food;

We provide cafeteria cooks with healthy recipes that are easy to prepare and kid-tested;

Students are introduced to a wide range of local fruits and vegetables; and

New, life-long healthy eating habits are instilled.

Visits from Massachusetts farmers and special field trips to local farms spark curiosity, and can be transformative for those children who rarely see anything green and growing in their neighborhood.

Massachusetts Farm to School is already very successful, but the number of students who benefit is still small. Hundreds of thousands of children across the Commonwealth still need our help.

Your generous tax deductible gift can help Massachusetts Farm to School ensure that every child in our state has access to the fresh and healthy food they need to grow and thrive.



The Mass. Farm to School Team

P.S. Your support today will help students across the Commonwealth to have access to a well-balanced school lunch every day this school year – giving a chance for a brighter future.

Massachusetts Farm to School

34 Main Street, Suite 10

Amherst, MA 01002

FYI, local schools and local organizations! A message from Mass. Farm to School Project

Mass. Farm to School Project works to build sustainable local foods purchasing relationships between food service directors, farmers, and distributors. This relationship-building is a cornerstone of our work, but we also consult and partner with a number of organizations, advising about the implementation of farm-to-institution practices and educating about the challenges and opportunities in a particular industry sector or geographic region.  If your organization is interested in working with us please be in touch.  As we wrap up 2013 here is a look back at a few of this year’s partnerships:

Healthcare – Through our involvement with the Eastern Mass. Healthy Food in Health Care Work Group (coordinated by Health Care Without Harm), we are excited to explore opportunities to bring Harvest of the Month to the health care sector next year, where dining directors are interested in the clear and concrete steps the campaign provides for increasing local foods in their cafeterias and in patient meals.

Regional Procurement – We helped develop a new toolkit for institutions interested in sourcing local foods through a distributor.  Written with partners in the Farm to Institution New England group, this resource is designed to assist institutional purchasers in communicating with a current or potential distributor about meeting the institution’s need for both product and tracking reports that document local and sustainable purchases. You can download the toolkit for free here. It includes:

  • Contract negotiation tips specific to local food procurement
  • Points to keep in mind when considering what you want from a local food distributor
  • A guide to conversations with a distributor including sample questions
  • A sample letter requesting locally grown foods from a distributor
  • A directory of New England produce vendors known to source local and regionally grown foods

Mass in Motion – We have worked with a number of Mass in Motioncommunities across the state.  Simca Horwitz, our Farm to Cafeteria Director, has worked with Salem Mass in Motion to help expand school gardens throughout the city’s elementary schools and provide professional development opportunities for school garden coordinators.  Lisa Damon, our Farm to Cafeteria Coordinator, has a strong partnership with the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition (NBCC) through their Mass in Motion programming.  NBCC contracts with Mass. Farm to School to help strengthen local procurement relationships within schools throughout the northern Berkshires and expand the availability of, and access to, healthy local foods throughout the region.

Food Corps – We are also able to provide trainings to on-the-ground service organizations. Simca recently provided training services toConnecticut Food Corps Service Members and supervisors.  She gave an overview of school food procurement and tips for how service members can best support local foods procurement in the 12 Connecticut districts where they are based.

Planning Commissions – In December we joined the Pioneer Valley Food Security advisory committee, organized by the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission.  This committee, comprised of a broad range of stakeholders from throughout the region, has just published acomprehensive assessment of the region’s current food system, and outlines strategies for achieving food security.  We are looking forward to sharing ideas about how institutions like public schools and colleges can positively impact the regional food system.

School Wellness Committees – We are happy to advise districts concerned about healthy school food about how to use wellness policies to encourage local procurement.  Mass. Farm to School’s Erika Zekos recently participated on the Amherst Regional Public Schools’ Wellness Committee and contributed to the revision of the district’s wellness policy to include a provision for incorporating locally grown produce into school meals.

AgComs – Local Agricultural Commissions (AgComs) are a fantastic resource for farmers in towns across Massachusetts.  In December, Lisa Damon attended the Western Mass. Winter Gathering of Agricultural Commissions in Berkshire County.

Lisa talked with the group about avenues for AgComs to support farm-to-school efforts in their communities (for example, in the Berkshires, the Lanesborough AgCom helped build raised bed gardens at the public schools and continues to give garden based lessons with younger students).  AgComs can also support farm-to-school by contacting school administration or food service to inquire about their use of local foods and offering assistance connecting them with area farms; encouraging their members and other farmers to evaluate schools as possible profitable customers; encouraging town officials to serve local foods at town events; and by drafting and promoting a preferential purchasing ordinance for the city or town.