Tag Archives: Worcester School Committee

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 in Disarray

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The pretend-search for the next superintendent of the Worcester Public Schools begins!

By Gordon Davis

A subcommittee of the Worcester School Committee held a “forum” this week on what qualities Worcester residents want to see in the new Superintendent of the Worcester Public Schools.  

The so-called forum was confusing and to some extent showed how inexperienced or confused the three so-called panelists from the school committee were.

As a rule, the panelists are the speakers. In this forum the panelists said nothing and Worcester residents spoke from the floor.

School Committee woman Molly McCullough ran the “forum” like a school marm.

She seemed a little nervous and unsure as she told speaker after speaker “your time is up”, “please only talk about skills”, and “hold your applause.”

The irony here is that the first speaker from the audience asked what are the objective requirements for selecting a new school superintendent and whether direct experience as a superintendent was required.

The same speaker asked if speaking a second language other than English is a requirement. 

The three school committee women on stage, Donna Colorio, Dianne Briancharia and Molly McCullough, could not answer the questions. Ms. McCullough said she would refer the question to the school committee.

After the so called “forum,” Ms. McCullough and Ms. Briancharia took the time to share their personal criteria for a new superintendent; the successful candidate they said would be effective, communicative and a problem solver.

Ms. Colorio went out of her way not to give a statement on the qualities that she thinks a new superintendent should have. I suppose that she might have worried about a question regarding her vote to take money away from the Worcester Public schools and give it to charter schools.

School Committee members John Monfredo and Brian O’Connell, although not on the stage, gave more coherent answers as what are the preferred requirements for a superintendent. Mr. O’Connell said previous experience as a superintendent was preferred and the ability to speak a second language was a plus. Mr. Monfredo said that a Certificate of Superintendency was a must but a doctorate was a preference.

The president of the teachers union spoke and asked that a member of his union be on the search committee.

A representative from the Worcester Educational Cooperative said a superintendent should be able to fight for full funding from the state. The Worcester Public Schools are underfunded per the State of Massachusetts’ educational formula. This is especially true for special needs students.

A parent said a school superintendent should also be able to get funding for gifted students.
Worcester resident, Ken Person, said the Worcester schools were actually good schools when compared to other schools in the country. He wanted a superintendent that could continue and hopefully improve what is good about the Worcester Public Schools.

A couple of teachers felt that there is a need for a superintendent to be able to communicate well with all principal parties: students, parents, teachers and staff.

School safety was brought up by one speaker who thought that the decision to limit the search for a superintendent to within the Worcester School District was a mistake. He felt that a superintendent from a larger urban area with experience in school safety was needed.

Although the speaker on school safety was one of only a few who described an objective requirement, the school committee had previously decided against it.

Some speakers mentioned diversity and the fact that more than 90 languages are spoken by students in the Worcester Public schools. They suggested that the new superintendent should be able to relate to this diversity, not only educationally, but in terms of personal experience.

It was pretty clear that some of the school committee members could not or did not want to state objective criteria for a superintendent.

To some extent, this so called forum was a charade, masking a subjective choice that seems already made.

The Worcester School Committee will likely choose Maureen Bienienda, principal of South High School, as the the WPS Superintendent because she grew up in Worcester and worked her whole career in the Worcester Schools.

The Worcester School Committee will ignore the facts that WPS Interim School Superintendent Marco Rodriques has run an urban school district – ours – and has the same experiences of many in the Worcester Public Schools who have recently come to Worcester, as the Worcester school have become more diverse – a majority-minority school district.

The Worcester Way: The apples before the cart before the horse

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Lots of Worcester Public Elementary Schools have all-white teaching staffs while the schools’ students are predominantly minority kids. We hope new WPS Superintendent Maureen Binienda rights this wrong! Ha!

By Rosalie Tirella

Why attend any one of the Worcester Public Schools Superintendent Search “community,” “open,” “forums” that the City of Worcester is hosting next week and urging us Worcesterites to attend when we all know Maureen Binienda, principal of South High School and a lady at the tail end of her education career, will be crowned prom queen? The brandy new superintendent of the Worcester Public Schools!!!

For the City of Worcester to hold these two community “listening sessions” insults our collective intelligence. We Worcesterites should call ’em out and shout: LUDICROUS!!!

The move is almost as big a joke as the not so long ago hiring of Worcester boy and political insider Ed Augustus as new Woo City Manager AFTER Augustus swore up and down on his granny’s grave that he wasn’t interested in the CM job and would not take it even if it were offered to him as the big prize in a really cool gum ball machine from Unique Finds Antiques and Vintage Gift Store at Webster Square, the neighborhood where Augustus grew up …

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… AFTER the City of Worcester hired The Three Stooges Professional Search Firm to conduct a national city manager search to bring in some great job applicants outside the Worcester (cess)pool to be interviewed by supposedly unbiased city leaders …

… who decided AFTER those poor chumps (I mean job candidates) jumped through a billion quirky Worcester hoops to only learn that this screwy city was gonna hire the insider Augustus, but THANK YOU FOR LETTING US WASTE YOUR PRECIOUS TIME … You must have loved spending time HERE IN WORCESTER, spending a few weeks glad handing and schmoozing and answering a million questions posed by sometimes dense city leaders and honest regular folks, some of the questions very personal (remember the WPS Superintendent candidate who had declared bankruptcy or the most EXCELLENT, HARVARD-educated WPS Superintendent candidate who came in all the way from New Mexico?). … THANKS FOR BEING IN THE WORCESTER DOG AND PONY SHOW, folks! We’re certain you’ll speak highly of our city to friends, family and colleagues wherever you go!

If any serious candidate for any serious, seriously important City of Worcester job Googles Worcester, job search and hiring practices the search will yield: MORONS! BE VERY AFRAID! STAY AWAY!! Maybe the prospective job applicants will take the time they had planned to use to write their letters of interest, polish up their resumes, meet with headhunters and instead book a trip to Disneyland – the experience will be just as Goofy and surreal and mind-numbing! But at least you get cotton candy and pink lemonade and rides in the sky!

Most Worcesterites know our city government is dysfunctional and, like the little kid who’s seen mom and dad fuck each other over left and right, feels 1. This is normal behavior and 2. Is deeply depressed. Why just look at our city!

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Garbage strewn everywhere – some of it hanging from the tree branches. Stabbings galore, used syringes all over our backyards, people brandishing guns, entering homes with babies and mothers in them, mothers corralled into bedrooms, ever watchful babies scarred for life.

The insanity of Worcester city government (and America’s messed up economy) is reflected in the governed. And most Worcester peeps are saying: FUCK YOU! We know we’re zero in your eyes, Worcester city leaders; we know we’ve got to slog through our days while your relatives and cronies get $90,000 a year city jobs and other perks just because they know you. So here’s your shit sandwich, City Councilor Lukes!!! (BTW, Konnie Lukes is one hell of a slumlord!) Screw your combs and yellow city trash bags, City Councilor Gary Rosen!!!

Is it any wonder that after the City of Worcester has decided to CLOSE the WPS Superintendent Search and just interview LOCAL (read WORCESTER pal) candidates and AFTER city bigwigs have made Maureen Binienda Mayor of our politically important Worcester St. Patrick’s Day and after the muckety-mucks have all gone on record in one way or another to tell the world: MAUREEN BINIENDA WALKS ON WATER. SHE IS A WORCESTER IRISH CATHOLIC GAL. SHE KNOWS WHAT LIES IN THE HEART OF EACH AND EVERY ONE OF OUR STUDENTS IN OUR MAJORITY MINORITY SCHOOL SYSTEM, A SCHOOL SYSTEM FILLED WITH POOR AND DISENFRANCHISED STUDENTS. … Those students are about to learn Woo lesson #1: In Worcester it’s WHOM you know, not WHAT you know.

I mean, the fix is in.

Mo is in.

As usual, when it comes to hiring people for the City’s most prestigious (read politically powerful and connected), highest paying, bestest, coolest, most freakin’ PLUM jobs, the City of Worcester has shit all over itself.

Again.

It’s put the apples before the cart before the horse and made Worcester, the second largest city in New England, seem provincial, totally closed off, myopic, fearful of the future …

There will never be any NEW VISION in Worcester because city leaders are waiting at our half-empty airport with hot pokers in their fists ready to pounce on the next Melinda Boone – to stab his or her eyes out.

(Fashionably late?) … WPS Superintendent Search – open community forums

As you are aware, the School Committee has initiated its search for a new Superintendent.  

The Community Involvement Committee would like to extend an invitation to you to be a part of a very important step in this process which is to identify the qualities the members are seeking in our new Superintendent.

The open Community Forums will take place on Tuesday, February 2, 2016 at 7 p.m. in the Auditorium at Doherty Memorial High School and on Wednesday, February 3, 2016 at 7 p.m. in the Auditorium at North High School.

We hope to see you at one of these two sessions because your input would be most valuable to this process.

– Helen Friel

 

How the Old Worcester Network will hire Maureen Binienda as the next WPS Superintendent

By Gordon Davis

The Old Worcester Network will hire Dr. Maureen Binienda for Superintendent of the Worcester Public Schools, instead of interim WPS Superintendent Dr. Marco Rodrigues.  All of the signs and elements are in place.

Some of the people backing Dr. Marco Rodriques have been voted out of office – which is the sign that the fix is in.

This does not come as a surprise: the Old Worcester Network never really accepted the outsider, former WPS Superintendent  Dr. Melinda Boone. She was undermined most of her superintendency here in Worcester. She and Dr. Rodriques never got the credit they deserved for the improvements in the Worcester Public Schools. Some of the criticism of her and the students of the Worcester schools was race-based, as the Worcester School District has become a so called Majority-Minority school district.

Dr. Rodriques will fail to get a contract for the Superintendency of the Worcester School District partially because of race but more for the reason that the Old Worcester Network feels comfortable with a person whom they understand and who understands the exclusionary qualities  of Worcester politics.

When the politicians deal with Maureen Binienda they will know what she will do before hand. When the politicians deal with Dr. Rodriques there will be an anxiety, as Dr. Rodriques has experience outside of Worcester that some in Worcester have yet to grasp.

Given the racial transformation of the Worcester Schools, the Old Worcester Network has nostalgia for the nearly all-White Worcester school system of the 1950s and 1960s – a time when many in the Old Worcester Network went to school. Maureen Binienda will be a return to those times of yesteryear, pleasant for some White people and not so pleasant for some Black people.

I have worked in Discrimination Law for a decade.

I have seen how old boys’ networks discriminate in hiring while skirting the law. It is likely that something similar will happen in the awarding of the contract to the new Worcester Public Schools Superintendent.

The first thing that I have seen in discrimination in hiring of the next WPS Superintendent is to reduce the pool of qualified applicants. In a truly open search there would  be several applicants as or more qualified than the Old Worcester Network candidate. The Worcester School Committee has already reduced the candidate pool by declaring an “internal” search.

Another example of discriminatory hiring practices in Worcester: I remember recently a City of Worcester job was posted as “part-time.” When the person the former City Manager wanted was chosen for the job, the position quietly became “full-time.”

Another thing that will be done to mask the hiring of the Old Worcester Network’s chosen WPS Superintendent candidate is to tailor the requirements of the job to fit the resume of the group’s anointed candidate. Already there is talk of how well Dr. Binienda “motivates” students, which is not a real requirement of School Superintendency. The Old Worcester network is not talking about how Mr. Rodriques has worked in Worcester as an Assistant Superintendent and now as the Interim Superintendent. How he has experience DOING THE JOB. A more objective requirement is hands-on experience.

What will also be a part of the decision are the connections to the Worcester community. Dr. Binienda, being a Worcester native, being Catholic and Irish-American, (not so coincidently?) just being named the Grand Master of Worcester’s hugely politically important St. Patrick Day Parade will all be felt as positives. This has nothing to do with the Worcester School Superintendency.

Many of the students in the Worcester Public Schools are native to Worcester and they or their parents speak Spanish. This seems to be a more objective consideration for the superintendency and strengths of Dr. Rodriques.

Please do not get the wrong idea. Dr. Binienda is a very good candidate and well qualified. However, Dr. Rodriques is better qualified when using objective standards.

Hopefully, the people making this important decision can overcome their biases and make their choice objectively.

The City of Worcester’s Misuse of Police  

By Gordon Davis

The order by a city official to arrest community activist Chris Horton at the Martin Luther King Jr. Breakfast came as no surprise to me. The City of Worcester has a history of misusing its police force to solve what are social issues.

In the 1990s, then Mayor Raymond Mariano ordered the police to arrest students not in school during school hours, despite the fact that the Worcester Public Schools had truant officers who did the same job. This practice was opposed by a small group, the International Committee Against Racism, which argued police arresting children was a traumatizing event. The City leaders did not listen. The practice of the police arresting children for playing hooky was effectively stopped by a complaint made to the State Department of Labor Relations. The Hearing Officer ruled that arresting children for playing hooky was outside of the police contract.

Recently Mayor Joseph Petty and others passed an ordinance allowing the arrest of panhandlers. The proponents of the use of police force against this social issue used the pretext of “public safety.” In memory there was never anyone injured by a car while panhandling. Hundreds of people were wrongfully arrested under this ordinance. The Supreme Court of the United States has ruled the ordinances unconstitutional. The ACLU and a small group of activists, Real Solutions, opposed the unconstitutional ordinances.

Last year the Worcester City Council instructed Worcester City Manager Ed Augustus to put police officers full time in the Worcester Public Schools.  The City Council and Worcester School Committee had assigned full time police officers to each of the high schools. They did this BEFORE the Safety Report was completed. They did this BEFORE the State of Massachusetts required Memorandum of Understanding was completed. It is still not completed.

There is no evidence that the Worcester Public Schools had a serious safety issue. There is no evidence that police in the schools have made any school safer today. 

There is evidence that more students are being arrested at school for non-criminal activities that should be handled by the State mandated disciplinary policies found in M.G.L. Chap 222, Acts of 2012.

There is evidence that these arrests are traumatic experiences for the students and contribute to the school to jail pipeline. 

Two small groups, Mass. Human Rights and the Progressive Labor Party, are opposing the arresting of students at school.

The groups are hosting a “Students’ Rights Forum” on January 30 at 1 PM at the Worcester Public Library, 3 Salem Square.

 
The most obvious misuse of police force was the malicious prosecution of the BlackLives Matter protestors after the Kelly Square demonstration of 2015.

There was not enough evidence for either the police or the DA to file charges. City Manager Augustus then ordered the police department to use an unauthenticated video to take to the Clerk Magistrate.

The Clerk Magistrate ruled that there was some evidence of disturbing the peace.  At the trial the police sergeant said he did not see anyone at the demonstration do anything criminal. The judge has ruled that there were no criminal penalties. At this point: 3 of the 4 have been fined $100 each for disturbing the peace.

Phil Niddrie, co-chair of the MLK Jr. Breakfast, could have talked to Chris Horton BEFORE he called the police.

The so called liberals in our city government are quicker to use police force than to talk about other solutions.

In each of the events above there was an element of direct or disparate racism impact. This is especially true in the Worcester Public Schools, where thousands of students face an increased risk of arrest for non-criminal matters.

Many in the Black Community wonder aloud how did the MLK Jr. Breakfast get hijacked by the political establishment???

The use of police force to solve social problems is a sign of laziness and a lack of creativity among our city officials.

There is certainly a need to consider this when choosing who controls the police in our city.

Corporal Punishment, School Discipline and Arrest Trauma

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Corporal punishment IS physical and emotional abuse! … Arresting students in our schools traumatizes the student being arrested and the students witnessing the arrest.

By Gordon Davis
 
The Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts recently ruled that a couple who disciplined their child using corporal punishment could not be foster parents.

The couple argued that they would not used corporal punishment on the foster children, but only their biological children. This argument was rejected by the Court.

The Court based its ruling affirmed the decision of the Department of Children and Families (DCF) that the foster parents use of corporal punishment on foster children who have likely suffered traumas of abuse or neglect was potentially harmful. It also ruled that even if the foster parents did not use corporal punishment on the foster children, their use of corporal punishment on their biological children could be emotionally upsetting to the foster children.

“… that children placed by the department have been exposed to an array of neglect and abuse, and their awareness of acts of corporal punishment in their foster homes “could well trigger the very trauma the placement was intended to mitigate.” The hearing officer stated that the department could not simply place with the Magazus a child who had not been physically abused because foster children often do not disclose the full extent of their experiences until after being placed in substitute care. Moreover, she continued, the Magazus’ willingness to refrain from using corporal punishment on a 9 foster child did not alleviate the department’s concerns regarding the discipline of such child postadoption, when the child would no longer be under the purview of the department”

The Worcester Public Schools are legally similar to foster parents.

They are parentis in loco which means that the schools have the same parental responsibilities as biological parents, foster parents and guardians when the children are at school.

Corporal punishment is not allowed at the Worcester Public Schools with the exception of the use of police force. The use of police force and arrest is traumatic and emotionally upsetting. Yet it is increasingly being used in the Worcester Public Schools for non-emergency matters such as school discipline which is covered by Chap. 222 of the Acts. 2012.

Robert L. Simon M. D. has written: “False arrest and imprisonment can be an extraordinarily traumatic event. The author’s evaluation of three cases, and a review of the recent forensic psychiatric literature and reported legal cases, clearly demonstrate that serious psychological impairment may follow false arrest and imprisonment. These cases are frequently litigated.“

Arrests made by the police for “disturbance and disorderly,” as defined in Chapter 222, are false arrests and imprisonment. These situations should be handled per the statutes by the Worcester Public Schools – administratively and not by falsely arresting and imprisoning children.

The number of arrests of students at Worcester Public Schools is higher than last academic year with at least two students arrested in our middle schools. A Worcester Public School official has stated most of the arrests have been for disturbances and disorderly, which are not crimes.

The Worcester Public Schools published an outdated Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on December 18, 2015.

I am sorry to say that the MOU published on that date was a sham and a political stunt.

The MOU published is the outdated MOU which does not cover police being full-time in our schools, their duties and restrictions, their training, nor their chain of command (can a principal order a police officer to stand down?).

Dr. Rodrigues, acting superintendent of the Worcester Public Schools, said at a December 2015 meeting an updated MOU would not be available until after March of 2016 when there would be some sort of curriculum for the training of police in schools.

The facts are the following:

·        the police in the schools have not been trained for being School Resource Officers, as there is no curriculum

·        there is no clear description of the police duties and restrictions in the schools

·        the police have not recognized that a principal of a school can make them stand down

·        most of the arrests made in Worcester Public Schools are for non criminal events, which are more appropriately handled by school administrators

·        there is evidence that police arresting children and children witnessing arrests cause trauma

At the December 17, 2015, Worcester School Committee meeting, Ms. Idella Hazard opposed cops being in schools as it sends the wrong message to our children, is potentially damaging, and the resources could be better spent.

Although she did not say that cops in the schools are a part of a racist school-to-jail policy, I believe that it is racist.

This is especially true as the Worcester School Committee is all white and the majority of the children in the Worcester Public Schools are not.

A healin’ helping of JOE! – Worcester Mayor Joseph Petty’s inaugural speech

Delivered January 4, 2016 …
 
Good Evening.

Before I begin, I first want to thank my wife Gayle & my children, Nicole, Joseph and Andrew; as well as my parents. Without their support, I would not be here.

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Worcester Mayor Joseph Petty. photo: mayor’s office

I want to recognize my colleagues in government, my fellow councilors and members of the school committee. City Manager Ed Augustus, School Superintendent Marco Rodriques; and City Clerk David Rushford who deserves our thanks for organizing tonight’s ceremony.  And all of us on stage tonight owe our gratitude to the voters who have entrusted us with elected office.
 
Honored Clergy, Ladies and Gentlemen:

I have to say that over the last two years the thing that has made the greatest impact on our City is the hiring of our City Manager Ed Augustus.  Ed and I work together hand-in-glove on so many issues.  And it is that synergy that has led to an unprecedented level of cooperation between the administration, the city council, and our school department.  Our city cannot move forward if the schools, the school committee, the city and the City Council are not working together in the same direction.
 
I chose the Hanover Theatre for tonight’s ceremony because in a sense, this theatre represents the history of our city.

It first opened in 1904 as the Franklin Square Theater and then became the Loew’s Poli Palace.  What began as a stage for vaudeville became a movie theater, which closed in 1998, then falling into disrepair. Eventually because of the vision of Ed Madaus and Paul Demoga, it was restored with the help of the WBDC and business community, government and the people of our great city.

I cannot think of a more appropriate metaphor for Worcester.
 
Worcester has a rich history.  Our city like every other city in America changed with the shifting population patterns, as people chose to live in suburbs.  At the same time we suffered job losses, as industries moved south and eventually overseas.

But I am here to tell you this evening, that Worcester is back and it is better than ever.  Today we are building a future that is worthy of our past.

In the last two years we have made great progress.  So many projects were completed, such as the Myra Hiatt Kraft Bridge at Elm Park, and many other projects moved closer to reality. We now finally see City Square rising. None of this would be possible without the concerted and coordinated efforts of the city council, the manager, the private sector, and of course our partners in state government. 
 
This is an exciting time in our City.  Over the next two years we will have an unprecedented building boom across our City.  We are seeing some of our long vacant buildings repurposed and reinvigorated.  We are seeing this at the old Courthouse which is in the process of becoming market rate apartments.  The Osgood-Bradley building is being turned into student housing for 250 students who will be just steps from Union Station and downtown. 
The economic development fight of Gateway Cities like ours is how we attract outside investors to take these long vacant buildings and bring them back to life, creating the space that the innovation economy requires and that many residents seek.  

Through judicious use of our TIFs and working closely with our developer community, we can see that Worcester is winning this fight. 

The new hotel at Gateway Park is almost complete, the ground breaking for the hotel at Washington Square will be held in the next couple of months, and the AC Marriot at City Square will soon start to rise from the long vacant land that was once the Galleria. The parking garage behind the Unum Building will be open this spring.  

MAKE NO MISTAKE: Worcester is under construction and open for business.
And this message is being heard across our region.  Boston knows it.  Hartford, Springfield, and New York City knows it.  And the twice-daily express trains starting in May only confirms that Beacon Hill knows it. 
 
Union Station to South Station in under an hour has been a dream that will finally come true. This plan that started under the Patrick/Murray administration will become a reality under the Baker/Polito Administration..  But 2 trains are not enough, so I call upon Governor Baker to increase this service.

Connecting Boston to Worcester will change our state and our city. Young families priced out of Boston, can move here. 

There are several pieces of the economic puzzle that still require work.  Our major task over the next two years is to create a comprehensive plan for the North end of Main Street.  Construction is underway at the old court house, but we need to rehabilitate and activate the Memorial Auditorium. I can report that talks have been going on between the large stake holders in that neighborhood, including the Worcester Art Museum and WPI.

The WRTA is moving from Grove Street, to South Quinsigamond Ave., which will create a valuable parcel ready for development.  Plans are already underway for a grocery store on this 4 acre site.

From the Old Courthouse to the bus company, we will create a corridor of economic prosperity. 

Economic growth cannot be limited to downtown; it must include neighborhood development as well.  And Worcester is growing from its Downtown out.
 
In order to sustain this economic growth we need active and healthy citizens.

The Community Health Improvement Plan continues to develop, leading us towards our goal of being the healthiest city in New England by 2020.

Our citizens become healthier by being more active.  We need clean and safe parks, where both children and adults can enjoy our green space.

And with a new Health Commissioner in Dr. Mattie Castile, we are changing the way we are talking and thinking about health.   
 
But there is one public health challenge that is growing and that is the nationwide opiate epidemic. We must find a way to end this plague that is taking the lives of our children, friends, and neighbors.

Because addiction does not recognize neighborhoods or city and state borders, this is truly an issue that requires a collaborative approach.  Working with our state and federal legislators, I will continue to advocate for the resources and funding to address this crisis.
 
We cannot separate the health of our families from the performance of our students.  Healthy families send healthy students to school.  Healthy students spend more time in the class room, focus more, and achieve more.  We have to create the understanding that what is happening at home and in our neighborhoods has a direct connection to what happens in our schools.  We CANNOT separate the two. 

To this end, as the Chair of the School Committee, I am calling for an enhanced health program for our students.

A more comprehensive health program will make Worcester students better informed about the choices they make and how they can stay active, safe, and out of trouble.  We must prepare our children for TODAY’S world, not the world of our childhood. This is especially true in the area of health.   

Our schools have achieved so much and continue to move in the right direction.  Let us put an end to the misinformation spread for political gain. 

The truth is that Worcester has the BEST urban school district in the Northeast by most every measure.  Our graduation rates are the highest of any large urban system, almost 15 points higher than Boston and nearly 20 points higher than Springfield.

We have aging schools and we are investing in them, with over 45 million dollars spent on repairs. I am proud that the new Nelson Place School will be finished in 2017.  South High School has entered the five year eligibility phase and will most likely be seeing a massive refurbishment, if not a complete replacement of that school. Burncoat and Doherty High Schools still need to be repaired and replaced. I will not give up that fight.

I am also looking forward to the establishment of the Advanced Academy. This academy will cater to the best and the brightest of Worcester’s students and help them achieve even greater success. 
And as we enhance our school facilities we must continue to open them up to the public and to the community. 

Manager Augustus, our former superintendent, and I began discussing opening our school facilities for after school programs.  We must continue to make our schools the epicenters of our neighborhoods.

All of these issues will continue to develop over the next year and I am going to make sure that whoever the next superintendent is, that person will be dedicated to making this vision for our schools a reality. 
 
Part of having healthy and active students, parents and residents is through the cultivation of our parks.

We all take pride in our parks and for a number of years we have had a concerted effort to create conservation land and open space in our city.

But we have largely ignored and forgotten one of Worcester’s most valuable natural resources-our Blue Space-our lakes, ponds and rivers.  Our rivers were once used as sources of power, damned and used as sewers.  

It is time that we treat our Blue Space as we treat our Green Space. It is time that we pay attention to Indian Lake, Coes Pond, Salisbury Pond and Bell Pond.

I am calling for an innovative program in our Parks Department that will bring the people of Worcester to our water and the water to the people. 

I envision a boardwalk around a portion of Salisbury Pond.  This space will allow for recreational activity, drawing students from WPI and connecting them with the economic growth we’ve seen at Gateway Park, driving development further down Grove Street.  This will be yet another addition to a changing neighborhood.

Indian Lake has long been a venue for boating and swimming, but it needs some loving care.  We need to work with both the YMCA and Bancroft School to return sailing to Indian Lake.

Lake Quinsigamond is one of the premier rowing venues in the world.  It must be better utilized as a tourist attraction and rowing destination.  In 2016, Worcester will host the US Rowing Masters Championship, which will bring upwards 6,000 people to the lake this August.

In 2013 the Public Works subcommittee endorsed the plans for a linear park running from Lincoln Street to the 290 bridge, providing a walking and bicycle path and a canoe launch.

While keeping a two-way road, we can explore a larger boardwalk during Phase Two that runs the length of the lake.  This project would draw visitors who want to row, kayak, canoe, run or simply walk, enjoying one of our forgotten jewels.

We must continue to engage our cityscape and accentuate the beauty of our City. We are seeing this already at the Coes Pond project. 
The Blackstone Visitors Center and the improvements along the Middle River Park will create a blue space corridor for the College Hill and Quinsigamond Village neighborhoods.
Walkways and boardwalks will allow our residents and businesses to use these spaces to their fullest potential. A city like ours must celebrate its green AND blue space. 
 
A city such as Worcester must also celebrate its arts and its creative economy. 

Our buildings are part of our cityscape and part of our public space.

We have begun a very successful mural program, such as on the wall of this theater and in the Canal District.    We must expand this program.

In addition, we must institute a public art program.  I am calling upon every large developer in Worcester to set aside money for public art.

It is time to add a little excitement to our urban landscape.  It is an affordable way to enrich our City and make it more beautiful.
 
As we make our city more beautiful and livable, we must continue to make it safer.

Worcester is a safe city.  If you have been the victim of a crime, it is personal and nothing we can say will make you feel any better.
But the reality is that crime is down in Worcester and it is down significantly.

There is an old saying that bad news travels around the world, before good news leaves the front porch.

At the August City Council meeting our Chief of Police, Gary Gemme filed a report on the state of crime in our city.  The Chief’s report was a clear and concise assessment that there exists, “the perception that Worcester is not a safe city,” however “This narrative is inaccurate.”  This year, like the four previous years, in most every major area, our City has seen a decline in overall crime from year to year. 

And yet the perception persists, sustained by self- serving political rhetoric and the angry grumblings of the talk radio set and the BLOG-osphere. 

The nationwide urban trends of increased crime and opiate addiction are alarming and we are right to stay vigilant and continue to fight; there is much work yet to do and losing even one life to violence or drug addiction is one too many.

For my part I have made sure that every time the Police Chief has come before the City Council that we have given him the resources he has requested. And I will continue to do so.  We will give the fine men and women of our police department all they need.  They deserve nothing less nor do the people of Worcester expect anything less.
 
In closing, Worcester is a changing city.  Our population is changing and so is our economy.  The jobs of the 19th and even the 20th century have been replaced by the jobs of the 21st century.

The steel industry has given way to video gaming. The automotive business has given way to biotech and the tool & die industry has given way to medical research. These are the types of jobs that weren’t around when I was younger. 
Yes…our City is changing.  Young college graduates are now staying here and starting businesses.  Our population is more educated and more diverse.

Our immigrant parents and grandparents came here and with strong arms built our factories, with strong backs they built our roads and with strong hearts they built their families and our city.
Today new immigrants are joining the ranks of those who came before them. 

We must welcome these new residents because they are our future.  Someday a young man or woman from Ghana or Syria may stand before you taking the oath of office for mayor.

It is incumbent upon all of us, as Worcester residents, and especially those on this stage tonight to recognize that we set the tone for the discourse in our City.  What those of us on stage do and what we say has real consequence for creating the city that our residents deserve.

Our words matter and words are powerful things.

If we want these professionals and young families to stay in our city and build our city, then it starts with what we say.  We need to realize that when we speak, the rest of the state is listening.
When we speak, businesses that we are trying to attract are listening.

When we speak, qualified candidates who want to lead the best urban school system in the Northeast are listening.

We must create an environment in our city that is welcoming to all people.
 
The campaign is over and it is time to govern and lead our city.
If we want to make Worcester a better place, we must offer solutions.

If we want to make Worcester a welcoming place, we must offer hope.

If we want Worcester to be a leader in the 21st century, then we must lead.

Yes, words are powerful things.  Let us speak the truth: that Worcester is a safe, livable city whose future has never been brighter.

Thank you.
 
 

The Politics of Safe Worcester Public Schools

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There is hope to be found in the little group of people who are demanding that Worcester students be treated in a manner that will lead to their success – not to the criminal justice system.

By Gordon Davis

The Safety Audit for the Worcester Public Schools was discussed at the December 17, 2015, Worcester School Committee Meeting.

The WPS Safety Audit concerns itself mostly with keeping the students and staff at our schools safe from outside threats. It talks about stronger doors, more security at front entrances, comprehensive responses, etc.

The Safety Audit rightly did not concern itself with internal “incidents” such as students yelling, bouncing basketballs, cell phone use, or dress code which are things that students, who are still developing,  act out on.

The WPS Safety Audit did say that if the police were brought in to resolve these “incidents” many staffers and students would not cooperate with the police. This non-cooperation caused by the criminalization of non-criminal incidents could have an adverse effect on safety. The Audit recommended that for these “incidents” there should be a policy of no arrests and deferral to school disciplinary policy and not the criminal justice system.

It did not seem that many on the Worcester School Committee paid attention to this recommendation.

Many people spoke out against police in the schools and the arrests of students at school. Some in the opposition identified themselves as from the Progressive Labor Party (PLP), Mass. Human Rights, the ACLU and a Unitarian Church.

A speaker from PLP said the City of Worcester was not in compliance with state statutes on the use of police in the schools. The required Memorandum of Understanding ((MOU) was out of date and the City of Worcester faced lawsuits for any harm done by the police in schools. 

Ron Madnick, a former teacher at Burncoat High School, said having loaded guns, carried by the police, was troubling in terms of accidents.

The student representative from South High School said he agreed students should not be arrested at school unless there was an emergency. 

Idella Hazard, a former police officer, said police in our schools was racist and part of the school to prison pipeline. Gwen Davis (my wife) said most of the police officers make six-figure salaries and that taxpayer money would be better spent on more teachers in the Worcester Public Schools and better student-to-teacher ratios.

There was one person who spoke in favor of the police arresting students at school. He is the head of the teachers’ union. He said only bad kids get arrested. He then said armed gunmen could have stopped the tragedy in Newtown, where 21 elementary school children and six staffers were massacred. The Minister from the Unitarian Church replied that it was outrageous to bring up Newtown, as there are no plans to station police in Worcester’s elementary schools.

Interim Worcester Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Rodrigues was disingenuous when he said a working MEMORANDUM OF UNDERSTANDING – MOU – existed.

He said the MOU would be posted on the Worcester Public Schools website December 18, 2015. It was not.  

Dr. Rodrigues had said earlier in the month that the new MOU would not be written until after March 2016.

He is learning quickly how to play the Worcester old boy network political game.

It is encouraging that some thought is going into making our schools safer from outside threats.

It is sad that many people think about school safety in terms of threats from students.

Many in our schools and city seem to be afraid of young Black students and anyone adversely affected by poverty – especially teenagers.

It is clear that leadership on this issue will not come from the Worcester School Committee, which has no person of color or even a progressive on board. The leadership will not come from the Worcester City Council, which refused at a recent city council meeting to discuss the lack of a policy about police in our schools. It is not likely to come from the Worcester City Manager Ed Augustus who made a mess of things earlier this year with the U.S. Department of Justice Race Dialogues held in our city.   

There is hope to be found in the little group of people who are demanding that Worcester students be treated in a manner that will lead to their success – not to the criminal justice system.   

Meeting interim Worcester Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Marco Rodrigues

By Gordon Davis

Members of Mass. Human Rights met with Dr. Marco Rodrigues, the interim Superintendent of the Worcester Public Schools, December 8. The meeting was intended to clarify the City government’s policy about full time police officers (school resource officers) in the High Schools and the arrests of students at school. Dr. Rodrigues was open and candid.  The clarifications, however, raised new questions:

Regarding the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that is required by statute to be in place before the full time police officers are assigned to the schools, it has yet to be revised. The revisions will be made, according to Dr, Rodriques, after the special training for SRO is specified.

Dr.  Rodrigues has been in contact with the National Organization of School Resource Officers (SRO) located in Alabama, regarding the development of training requirements for SRO. The training would be about 40 hours. The tentative plan is to have a trainer come to Worcester.  It was fairly clear that the details of the training plan did not exist or were in flux. Sometime in March 2016 is the date of the expected training.

Dr. Rodrigues was uncertain about how parents, teachers, students or advocates could have input into the rewriting of the MOU.

He said the MOU would be based on the specifics of the training and was intended to be a document between the Worcester Police Department and School Departments of Worcester.  However, he did not rule out a public review of the finished document. Ms. Davis said Mass. Human Rights planned to reach out to the Parents Advisory Groups regarding the issues.

The Safety Audit for the Worcester Public Schools is now completed, and it should be presented to the Worcester School Committee at its December 17, 2015 meeting.  Dr. Rodriques did not go into detail about the audit. Ms. Davis said her group was planning to attend the December 17, 2015, School Committee meeting to present a petition against arresting students at school. She also said that was interested in the details of the Safety Audit.

When the issue of the arrests of students at school came up, Dr. Rodriques did not seem to have all of the facts at hand.

He said he could not comment on whether or not the number of arrests of students at school was up or down.

He was not able to break down the arrests by race or by type. It was stated by one of the attendees that most of the arrests were for disruptions or disorderly (behavior), which are not crimes but are subjective.

Ms. Rodriguez of Mass. Human Rights said Latino children are more disproportionately and wrongfully arrested than other groups of students. She said she was very concerned.

Dr. Rodriques said that Worcester has one of the highest graduation rates for an urban school district. He said that at 79 percent, it is much higher than Boston, Lowell or Springfield. He also said the dropout rate is continuing to decline. In regards to a recommendation from the State, the Worcester School System has lower suspension numbers than previous years.

My impression of Dr. Rodriques is he has the enthusiasm and the energy of the young with the professional experience and education to have a significantly good impact on the Worcester Schools. In a majority minority school district Dr. Rodrigues has the potential to make a positive difference that others would not be able to accomplish. He is already making that difference and he certainly seems to want to continue to do so.