Tag Archives: WPS Superintendent Dr. Melinda Boone

On choosing the next superintendent of the Worcester Public Schools

By Edith Morgan

Once again, there is room at the top: with the departure of Worcester Public Schools present superintendent Melinda Boone, the mad scramble to replace her begins.

This is a good time for me to put in my take on the job:

The position of superintendent has become increasingly difficult. There are pressures from all sides, from those who see the glass as half full, and those who see it as half empty.

There are those of us who support public schools and their very vital mission in ensuring the future of our country, and there are those committed to privatizing, milking the “cash cow” (as Chris Whittle, of Channel 1 fame) is said to have called the American Public Schools system.

There are those who want to give every child a chance at a great education and a good start in life; and there are those who want to strangle the public part of education and slowly starve it to death, under the guise of providing “choice.”

And then there is the vast group in between, who have no children in the public schools, who are divided among those who willingly pay taxes to maintain and steadily improve our schools, as a payback for the education WE received that laid a foundation under our future successes.
Trying to head up an enterprise that is under pressure from so many sides, with so many different points of view, from above as well as below, is a job for a superhuman being. 

And to take that position, while having limited power to carry out the various mandates put upon one by the State, the Federal Government, and local politicians, in addition to keeping parents, students, teachers, and others contented, is to accept a nearly impossible task. And then, to be expected to be physically visible at functions at the schools, be visible to over 25,000 students at over 50 different school buildings – that is truly an impossible task. So whoever occupies that position has to set priorities.
Worcester Public Schools have so many great programs, so many staff members doing exceptional things, and so many students applying themselves to the task of learning, that we often lose sight of the fact that in the aggregate we have much better public schools than we deserve.

We hear about every event, blown up by the media and those who seek to point fingers, but pay scant attention to the day-to-day achievements of the Worcester Public Schools. 

And responsibility is not equally distributed: when I was growing up, my parents expected me to learn all I could, be respectful of teachers and fellow students, and meet them halfway.
In an environment where responsibility is so unevenly distributed, but where everyone’s opinion counts equally, regardless of the amount of thought or knowledge behind the opinion, and where children grow up in a culture steeped in violence, it is more and more difficult to steer the ship steadily.
I applaud State Senator Harriet Chandler’s push for the return of Civics to our schools. Hopefully, teaching citizenship and its duties again will help. Maybe a better understanding not only of how things function, but of each student’s role in it, will improve our dismal voting participation.

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.
Melinda J. Boone

My thoughts on the resignation of WPS Superintendent Dr. Boone

Dr. Boone 2
Dr. Boone, seated, top left, at a Worcester School Committee meeting.

By Gordon Davis

Dr. Melinda Boone has voted “No Confidence” in the direction of the City of Worcester by resigning  her job as Superintendent of Worcester Public Schools. She has been hired as the Superintendent of Schools in Norfolk, Virginia.

At first I was surprised, but after giving it some thought it has become clearer that Worcester is a hostile environment for Black women. Dr. Boone, Dr. Joyce McNichols, Brenda Jenkins, Stacey DeBoise Luster and Keesha Latulippe are some of the Black women who have faced a hostile Worcester. This city is developing a reputation as a bad place for people of color to work.  Dr. Boone’s resignation will only add to that perception. It throws into question the sincerity of the proclamations by so called city leaders about diversity.
Worcester City Councilors Gaffney and Rosen’s “I am not a racist” play acting, while hammering Black women has not gone unnoticed. Mr. Gaffney’s press release in which he said that he was happy Dr. Boone was gone without commenting on the good she has done is an example of the contempt he has for Black women. Another example is his attacks on Brenda Jenkins, a Black woman who has devoted most of her adult life to helping those in need of help. Councilors Rosen, Gaffney, and Konstantina Lukes, whom some say are in the Tea Party, have a notorious record of what many say is racism.

The Worcester teachers’ union leadership also got caught up in this attack frenzy on Black women. It is rumored that this was one of the reasons that Ms. Deboise Luster left her job as Human Resources Director with the Worcester Public Schools. Although the teachers’ union has done a lot of good and I support it, the union has taken narrow-minded positions at times. Perhaps if it defended its teachers in terms of the education and welfare of the students, the union’s views would not be perceived to be a bad thing.

A columnist, a teacher at the Recovery School and a member of the teachers’ union slammed Keesha LaTulippe. Led by the hypocrite Dianna Brianchara of the Worcester School Committee who sought the support of Black women when she ran for state representative and now she is adding to Worcester hostile environment to Black women. She sought a no confidence vote against Dr. Boone. It is hard to believe Ms. Briancara’s complaints against Dr. Boone’s handling of issues that are common to all school systems.

Ms. Briancara demands that the criminal justice agencies set up shop in Worcester schools is without merit, and I am happy that Dr. Boone understood the harm that such a policy would cause. There has been much study that the policy of criminal justice inside of school is a factor in the school to jail pipeline of children in urban schools.  

Dr. Joyce McNichols, a community activist, has faced attacks from the racist right wing when she spoke up at the City Manager’s failed discussion on race relations. Worcester City Manager Ed Augustus has now dissolved the City’s Affirmative Committee and created a City Committee of Diversity. This Diversity Committee now has less of a chance of being successful,.as not only is its purpose unclear, but with Dr. Boone’s vote of no confidence in the direction of the City there is less chance of diversity.

To some extent, Worcester is becoming like Boston in the 1970s, a hostile place for Black people to live and work.

Dr. Boone brought up students’ test scores, kept the students safe, increased their graduation rate, and decreased the drop out rate.

I wish Dr. Boone good fortune in her new position. I think I can say that she did not compromise her principles of improving the school system of Worcester. I believe she left when the racist right wing in the City began to adversely affect her job of providing quality education to our diverse, majority-minority school system.  

Worcester Mayor Petty on Dr. Boone’s resignation …

Statement by Mayor Joseph M. Petty
on the resignation of Worcester Public Schools Superintendent Melinda Boone:

Worcester is losing a passionate and talented leader. I’ve worked with Dr. Boone the past six years, and I want to wish her the best of luck as she returns home to become Superintendent of the Norfolk, Virginia, Public Schools. 

Despite the many challenges inherent in a large, urban school district, the Worcester Public Schools have improved in almost every way over the past six years. Thanks to Dr. Boone’s tireless leadership and the hard work and dedication of every parent, student, teacher, staff member, and volunteer involved with the Worcester Public Schools, we have achieved extraordinary results. 

Worcester now has the highest graduation rate of any large urban school system in Massachusetts.

Our graduation rate has risen every year the past five years, and last year was 79 percent — 13 points higher than the City of Boston.

Our dropout rate has fallen to 2.4 percent, its lowest point in two decades.

Average SAT scores are higher.

And more students are taking Advance Placement courses that ever before. 

Worcester Technical High School was recognized as a National Blue Ribbon School, and its Principal Sheila Harrity was named National Principal of the Year. The school was so successful training Worcester’s young people in the skills needed to succeed, President Barack Obama chose Worcester Tech as his only high school graduation to attend in 2014. 

We must keep the momentum going. At next Thursday’s School Committee meeting, I will submit a recommendation to my colleagues to enter into executive session to end Dr. Boone’s contract.

I will then ask that we appoint Chief Academic Officer Marco Rodrigues as interim Superintendent for the remainder of the school year, while we conduct a search for a new leader.

I will also lay out a proposed timeline for the search, and start a discussion on an RFP to hire a search firm. 

Worcester has good reason to be proud of its public schools. I am confident that Dr. Rodrigues can keep us heading upward, while we find a new leader that can guide the Worcester Public Schools even higher.

Our children deserve a world-class education, and I plan to continue working every day to make sure they have it.