All posts by Mike Benedetti

Preview: City Council agenda (November 13)

The Worcester City Council meets Tuesday at 6:30pm. The agenda is here.

This week: A pretty light agenda.

If you know of anyone else who’d like to get our weekly preview via email, the link is here.

  • Boards and Commissions: The City Manager is appointing Tracey Weeden to the Human Rights Commission, Mariana O’Brien to the Elder Affairs Commission, Lisa Malo and Yasmin Goris to the Worcester Arts Council, and Kira Terrill to the Mayor Thomas Early Scholarship Fund. The Council will vote whether or not to appoint Savvas Kosmidis to the Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Board, Marie Dicardy to the Cable Television Advisory Board, George Cortes to the Zoning Board of Appeals, and Rachel Brown to the Citizens Advisory Council.
  • Christmas Tree Crackdown: The mayor wants a report “regarding the regulations and enforcement plan for the selling of Christmas trees for this upcoming holiday season.”
  • 4 Winslow Rezoning: The council will vote whether to accept the Planning Board’s recommendation to rezone all of 4 Winslow, the property adjacent to Ed Hyder’s Market, to residential.

Preview: City Council agenda (October 30)

The Worcester City Council meets Tuesday at 6:30pm. The agenda is here.

This week: A pretty light agenda.

If you know of anyone else who’d like to get our weekly preview via email, the link is here.

  • Sunderland Road Parcel: Councilor Russell would like the city to sell, if possible, the city-owned lot at Sunderland Road and Lake Ave, as well as zone it for single family homes.
  • Auction City Stuff Online: Councilor Russell would like the city to start selling off surplus real estate, equipment, etc. via an online municipal auction service.
  • Craigslist “Safe Trade Station”: Councilor Bergman would like the city to establish areas in the parking lot and lobby of the main police station where people can meet to consummate Craigslist deals.
  • Jones Memorial: Councilor Bergman would like us to have a monument to Edward Davis “The Jones in Dow Jones” Jones.
  • A Beautiful Tree: Councilor Rose would like the city to plan “an eight foot evergreen tree” at Burncoat and Mountain, to make the area nicer and to allow tree-lighting events.

Preview: City Council agenda (October 23)

The Worcester City Council meets Tuesday at 6:30pm. The agenda is here.

This week: A pretty light agenda.

If you know of anyone else who’d like to get our weekly preview via email, the link is here.

  • Stop Putting Signs in the Newton Square Rotary: The great Paula Bushey and Denise Billotta have a request that the Council prohibit people from putting signs in the Newton Square Rotary. (They are active in maintaining the area.)
  • Recognizing Local Businesses: The great Bill Coleman has two items asking the Council to recognize long-time city businesses. First, “Mark Ruffo, President and Owner of K & N Supply Plumbing & Heating Company of 159 Water St., a Worcester landmark since 1978.” Second, “S. Richard Sachs, his family and employees of A-1 Wholesale Window and Siding Co. for their long time commitment to the City since 1949.”
  • Boards and Commissions: Lowell Alexander will be reappointed to the Civic Center Commission. The Council will vote whether to reappoint Stephen Stolberg to the Commission on Disabilities, and Patrick Hare to the Diversity & Inclusion Advisory Board.
  • 521 Sunderland Road: The Manager would like the Council to authorize the city to sell a 2,881 square foot parcel there to a private person for $3,800.
  • Development Tax Breaks: The Manager has an update on our current Tax Incentive Financing deals, which he credits with generating $300 million in investment and 1,700 jobs. This particular report doesn’t outline the extent of the tax breaks themselves.
  • Hazardous Waste Collection Day: This will be Saturday, November 3, 2018, 9:00am–12:00pm. If you make an appointment to make a dropoff (1065 Millbury Street, 508-929-1300) you can give the city your hazardous waste to be disposed of in a responsible manner.
  • Leaf Collection: The city begins leaf collection November 5. All the details are here.

Preview: City Council agenda (October 2)

The Worcester City Council meets Tuesday at 6:30pm. The agenda is here.

This week: A pretty light agenda.

If you know of anyone else who’d like to get our weekly preview via email, the link is here.

  • Skate Park: Councilor Rosen has an item asking for “a public hearing on the progress being made in discussions between the city administration and the local skateboarding community as both parties work together to find an acceptable, affordable and safe site for a new skate park.”
  • Let’s Get Those Streets Fixed: Councilor Rosen has an item asking the City Manager to change the process of writing contracts for street or sidewalk repair, such that the contractors would “complete their work in a reasonable length of time.” If we can find such a solution, I think it would revolutionize the practice of construction worldwide.
  • Live-Streaming Meetings: Councilor King wants to know if the city is any closer to being able to livestream city meetings and events on social media.
  • Trans Rights: Councilors King, Mero-Carlson, Rivera, and Rose would like the Council to endorse ballot question 3, which would preserve transgender rights in the state. This was held over from last week’s meeting.

This week’s School Committee agenda

The report of the Superintendent is on “Innovation Pathways” (and it’s impossible to miss that someone else put this PowerPoint together and got it scanned), which looks like an extention of the vo-tech paths within the district; non-Tech kids are being bussed to Tech to take four sorts of vocational programs after school.

There are resignations, hires, transfers, as per usual this time of year. There are also congratulations of various sorts.

Mr. Monfredo is requesting a report on Buddy Benches, the Middle School Kindness Challenge, and a comparison of Worcester with other Gateways and Boston on financial aid, assessments, dropout rate, graduation rate, chronic absenteeism. With the exception of financial aid, if one assumes he means college aid, that would more or less be the report that Mr. O’Connell should probably request instead. 

Mr. O’Connell is requesting a report on 2018 MCAS scores; two thoughts: one would expect that to be this week’s report of the superintendent, and one might do better requesting a report on accountability results. 

Miss McCullough is asking for a report on ALICE training to include I’m not Scared…I’m Prepared programming.

Miss Biancheria would like a report on transportation that was moved to Fremont Street (the new full-size buses run from there, as the WPS-operated special ed buses always have), a report on those ten new buses, and a report on snow removal equipment (is this going to be a list of snowblowers at every school?).

And Mr. Foley has the following:

Request that the Administration consider the implications of excessive heat and humidity upon the learning environment in the classrooms and the schools without air conditioning and the adverse conditions for students, teachers and staff. The Administration should develop a policy to be followed when the city has experienced consecutive days of excessive heat and humidity and the conditions in many of the schools are intolerable.

There is a request to approve a prior year payment $2,060.20 to a parent for transportation of a McKinney-Vento student.

There is a request to accept:

  • a Project Lead the Way grant for $7500 (for “higher-order thinking”) at Jacob Hiatt Magnet
  • $399.21 from Lifetouch to Lake View School –
  • $50.00 from American Income Life Insurance Company to Belmont Street Community School
  • $24.50 from American Income Life Insurance Company to Tatnuck Magnet Elementary School
  • $515.16 from Lifetouch to Woodland Academy
  • – to Worcester Technical High School:- $5,920.00 from Sarah Daniels Pettit & William O Pettit, Jr Fund/Greater Worcester Community Foundation

    – $560.00 from Saul A. Seder Fund/Greater Worcester Community Foundation for participation in Skills USA

    – $291.00 from Thurston E. Solomon & Everett J. Morter Memorial Fund/Greater Worcester Community Foundation for participation in Skills USA

    – $500.00 from Air-Tite Products Co., Inc./Mr. & Mrs. Neil Garnache to be used as a scholarship for a student who will be furthering their education beyond high school in memory of Donald P. Garnache, graduate of Boys’ Trade

  • – to Worcester Arts Magnet:- $100.00 from various donors to be used for Chromebook licenses

    – $500.00 from JMH Solutions

  • – to support the Exhilarate Worcester Initiative at Woodland Academy:- $4,414.65 from various donors

    – $125.00 from On the Rise Baking

    – $500.00 from Blaine Warren Advertising

    – $750.00 from Commonwealth of MA Mid-District District Attorney’s Office

The administration is also requesting the school committee approve a five year lease for Chromebooks and a six year lease on desktops and such.And there are some new nurses to approve the hire of.

They’ve also once again posted a non-specific executive session, which isn’t cricket.

7 pm, City Hall. If an item is on the agenda, members of the public may request a suspension of the rules in order to speak to the item.

 

Preview: City Council agenda (September 12)

The Worcester City Council meets Wednesday at 6:30pm. The agenda is here.

This week: Immigration, Wu-Sox, preservation, driveways.

If you know of anyone else who’d like to get our weekly preview via email, the link is here.

  • Immigration: The Mayor has an item asking the Council to endorse a statement that the US shouldn’t deport anyone with Temporary Protected Status and to preserve the DACA program.
  • Zoning: There’s a request to rezone 4 Winslow St. from business to residential. There’s a request to rezone 8 (aka 8 1/2) Washburn St. residential to business.
  • $50m to Preserve the Aud: It will cost $50 million just to do the basic renovations the Worcester Memorial Auditorium would need to bring it up to code.
  • Mt Carmel Deed Restriction: There’s a letter from the state about the deed restriction on the Mt Carmel property. The property is indeed restricted to be used for “religious, educational, or recreational purposes.” However this doesn’t prevent the diocese from demolishing the church and selling the property. It would restrict what the new owner could do with the property, and would require legislation on the state level to remove the restriction.
  • The Wu-Sox: The Council will have many items related to the Red Sox minor league team moving to Worcester. The City Auditor has a report saying the project is finally an ok deal. The most important item asks the Council to vote yes-or-no on the whole $100 million deal.
  • ROTC for Police: Councilor Rivera would like the city to create a “three tiered program” giving Worcester children a path to becoming a police officer. This “would include a Youth Academy for middle to early high school students, a second Academy modeled after ROTC for the purposes of law enforcement for older high school students, and a third Cadet Program for high school graduates … seeking a career in law enforcement … as a pipeline … into the Police Academy.”
  • Taxing Apartment Buildings as Commercial: The Municipal Operations Committee wants the whole Council to vote in favor of a proposal that would tax properties with 5+ housing units at commercial rather than residential property tax rates. As things currently stand, this would increase property taxes on those units, although of course these tax rates bounce around year to year.
  • DIY Driveways: Councilor Rosen tabled his own item on this issue last time—it should be popping back up this week.
  • Bonus for All Fans of Driveway Ordinances: Here are what the city ordinances say about sharing a driveway: “1. Common driveways that serve three (3) or more lots are prohibited except through the issuance of Special Permit by the Planning Board. 2. Common driveways cannot be used to satisfy or calculate frontage requirements. 3. The construction of common driveways must be in accordance with the standards outlined in the City of Worcester Subdivision Control Regulations. 4. Common driveways must access the lots over approved frontage. 5. Common driveways may not exceed three hundred (300) feet in length.”

Preview: City Council agenda (August 21)

The Worcester City Council meets Tuesday at 6:00pm. The agenda is here.

This week: Wu-Sox, weed, driveways.

If you know of anyone else who’d like to get our weekly preview via email, the link is here.

  • Zoning: The Council will send to the planning board a request to change the zoning for part of 37 Fruit Street from residential to business, thus making all of 37 Fruit business.
  • Boards and Commissions: **Carl Foley will be reported to the Worcester Airport Advisory Committee; Frances Langille and Chizoma Nosike will be appointed to the Elder Affairs Commission; Azal Khaled will be appointed and Christian Escobar reappointed to the Conservation Commission; Jordan Berg Powers will be appointed to the Zoning Board of Appeals. The Council will vote on whether or not to reappoint Amanda Gregoire to the Advisory Committee on the Status of Women.
  • Allen Court Privatized: Allen Court will be removed from the official map and made a private street.
  • Murals: The Council will approve POW! WOW! putting up murals again this summer.
  • Blackstone River Bikeway: The Council will be approving construction of another $7million part of the bikeway, this time along McGrath Boulevard.
  • Can the City Set Hours for Weed Stores?: According to the city solicitor, yes, and in fact the city has previously done so.
  • Seriously, Stop Making Your Own Driveway, Don’t Make Me Come Over There: The city administration is coming up with an ordinance that will stop people making their own driveways, thus taking away chunks of street parking (or causing conflict between street parkers and the rogue driveways they are blocking).
  • Wu-Sox: The Manager has announced the general outlike of bringing the minor league baseball team in Pawtucket to Worcester, creating the Worcester Red Sox. I am still trying to absorb this complex deal. The Manager takes pains to stress that “I approached these negotiations guided by the fundamental principle that no existing city tax revenue would be used to fund the ballpark construction. I am pleased to say that, as a result of our negotiations, the project meets this principle.”
  • Council Procedure Changes: The Mayor would likw to change the Council Rules so that when an item comes before the Council, motions to ignore (file) the item would take precedence over any other motion related to the item, presumably making meetings move a bit faster.
  • Improvements to The Cage: Councilor Rivera would like to see better street lighting at the Fatty Jenkins Memorial Basketball Court.
  • More Bike Sharing: Councilor Rosen (natch) would like to see another bike sharing operation come to Worcester, “especially one that utilizes a docking system.”
  • Deer Crossing: Mayor Petty would like to see a “Deer Crossing” sign installed on McKeon Road.
  • Mount Carmel Update: Councilor Mero-Carlson would like to know the city administration’s opinion as to whether the Diocese of Worcester can actually sell the Our Lady of Mount Carmel church and surrounding property, or whether the original granting of the property would prohibit this. (I think, I might be confused about this item.)
  • Worcester Preservation Fund: Councilor Bergman would like there to be a line on your property tax bill where you can donate money to a Worcester Preservation Fund.

Worcester School Committee Thursday

Worcester School Committee meets Thursday, August 23, the same day that staff reports; school starts Monday in Worcester.
On the agenda:
Mr. O’Connell has a motion to reconsider adding genetics, military service, mental illness, and sexual harassment to the non-discrimination policy in the handbook. Since legal non-discrimination policies are tightly managed by the state, I’m not sure where this one is going.
There are recognitions (Congratulations, Mark Brophy!) and congratulations.
There are a series of responses to budgetary motions.
There are a series of responses–names and numbers–which don’t have public backups (do share!).
The strategic plan is back on; is this just a regular item now? I guess that means that anyone can show up and any meeting and address it.
Administration wants to change the Accountability subcommittee to “Standing Committee on School and Student Performance” (Is that better?)
The annual closing out the fiscal year (making account transfers) item is on, ‘though the backup is not.
Miss Biancheria is asking for an update on the Facilities Master Plan and on the accelerated repair projects. I’ll do a full post on this, but if the School Committee is doing its job, the city’s sudden ability to borrow millions of dollars for a minor league stadium when they haven’t had enough to do school maintenance ought to come up. Watch and see if it does. 
Mr. O’Connell wants JROTC to raise and lower the flag in Hope Cemetery.
Mr. Comparetto wants to add public comment to the agenda; wants to create a Public Policy Forum; and requests a report on site councils.
Administration is coming in with a proposed absentee policy which jumps right to truancy without working with parents or the community, written in language that, particularly in an immigrant community, is incredibly draconian.
There’s updates on policies (coming from MASC) on JFABE – Education Opportunities for Military Children;

JFABF – Education Opportunities for Children in Foster Care;

KI – Add the section on Outside Agencies in Schools; and adding “pregnancy or pregnancy-related conditions” to the various non-discrimination policies.
It appears the dust-up in the home schooling community over the new leadership refusing plans and threatening families with truancy has reached the School Committee level, as there’s an item on that.
The Committee is being asked to approve the MAPLE grant for $47K for the three day MAPLE event (which I think already happened) and the Parent-Child Home Program) Family Child Care Quality Grant for $50K for early learning specialists to visit home child cares.

There are a series of prior fiscal year payments:

  • $2,330.58 to the MTA for the printing of the Unit A Collective Bargaining Agreement.
  • $29.98 for in-state travel reimbursement for a teacher.
  • $189.31 for in-state travel reimbursement for the Manager of Curriculum and Professional Learning.
  • $1,500.00 to the Grenier Company for services rendered in FY18.
  • $22,426.60 for the LIUNA Pension Fund.
  • $767.05 made payable to a teacher at Burncoat High School for a hotel reimbursement to attend the Advanced Placement Summer Institute which was held in Fairfax, VA in FY18.
There are a series of donations: 
– to support the Exhilarate Worcester Initiative at Woodland Academy:

– $875.00 from various donors
– $125.00 from Flying Dreams Brewing Co, Inc.
– $250.00 from Coghlin Services Fund
– $500.00 from Cornerstone Bank
– $500.00 from Bollus Lynch, LLC.
– $120.00 from Basil & Spice, LLC
– $100.00 from Engineering Design Services, Inc.
– $500.00 from Mackintire Insurance Agency
– $500.00 from Rigali Roofing and Exteriors
– $250.00 from Seder & Chandler, LLP
– $125.00 from Smokestack Urban Barbeque and
– $250.00 from Tierney & Dalton Assoc., Inc.
– $250.00 from WEDF to Burncoat Preparatory Elementary School
– $7,684.80 from Clark University to support the purchase of Chromebooks at Claremont Academy

There is an executive session at 6 for two negotiations, two grievances, three workers’ comp cases, deployment of security, and…

To discuss a potential lawsuit against the Commonwealth for the purpose of fully funding the State’s Foundation Formula Budget.

Preview: City Council agenda (July 17)

The Worcester City Council meets Tuesday at 6:00pm. The agenda is here.

This week: Affordable housing and homelessness.

There’s a memorial event for the recently-demolished Worcide skate park Tuesday at 5pm. I am told discussions between Worcide people and the city have been productive so far, and thus there is no big protest planned at the Council meeting. “We are beyond city council at this point and if you want to stick it to them find someone from district 2 to run and oppose that counselor.”

If you know of anyone else who’d like to get our weekly preview via email, the link is here.

  • Racial Slurs: Idella Hazard has an item asking the Council to take not that “using racial slurs toward minorities” is a civil rights violation and “a civil complaint can be taken out at the court house.”
  • This Week In Notre Dame: This week’s proposal from the Save Notre Dame Alliance “would include significant new construction on the site, as well as a new destination public element, the Worcester Public Garden, anchored by the Notre Dame building preserved as an architectural monument.”
  • Affordable Housing Update: The latest update on affordable housing in Worcester notes that we have spent $17.6 million of mostly-federal money in the past five years, 84% of which has been for projects in “neighborhoods,” which is to say not downtown. We now stand at 1,752 units, or 13.4% of our units, a percentage only bettered by Boston and Springfield. We also spent a few hundred thousand dollars on down payment assistance for homeowners, and helped 300 families at some level of homelessness to stabilize their situation.
  • More Watershed Land: The Manager would like the city to purchase 93 acres in Paxton and Holden at a cost of $660,000. These purchases ensure the water draining into our reservoirs is clean.
  • Free Gravel for Private Streets: Starting in September, you can get free gravel at the city recycling center if you need to maintain a private street.
  • Solving Chronic Homelessness: The city’s homelessness task force has a plan for helping the estimated 103 chronically homeless people in the city. The plan would cost $4-$6 million. The core of the plan would be to create housing (with additional financial supports) for people in this situation. The 103 units would be complete within the next two years.
  • Stop Making Your Own Driveway What The Hell Is Wrong With You: Councilor Rosen is still bird-dogging the DIY driveway problem, this week asking the city for a report as to the legality of unauthorized curb cuts and the like.

This week’s Worcester School Committee agenda

Not a dull agenda for July!

First, note that there is a Teaching, Learning, and Student Supports meeting on Thursday immediately preceding the full School Committee meeting at 3:30 pm at City Hall; it appears as though this is only to approve the four new courses listed, ‘though they persist in just listing every item that has been referred there on the agenda, which is not okay.

The full Committee meets at 4 pm (it’s summer) at City Hall, but note the “now they’re here, now they’re not” schedule:

  • 4:00 p.m. – Regular Session
  • 5:00 p.m. – Executive Session
  • 6:00 p.m. – Regular Session and Proposed Strategic Plan

The message appears to be that if you’re there for the strategic plan, you should come at 6.

There are recognitions and congratulations.

The superintendent’s midcycle review opens the meeting; this appears to be a 46 page PowerPoint (which is sideways online) in which Superintendent Binienda has filled out the rubric required of school committee evaluators, marking herself as “proficient” in all standards save human resources; law and policies; all of the family and community engagement section; commitment to high standards; communication; and managing conflict, in which she has rated herself “exemplary.” Per the state, an “exemplary” rating means quite literally one could be used as an example of this standard and could teach it. Appropriately assessed, it is quite rare. This appears to be followed with what looks like an update on district work–changes and updates in curriculum, required implementation of changes in standards, continued PD and such–as evidence of goals.

The pre-meeting TLSS meeting will report out.
The Superintendent has posted: School Bus Service Manager, School Bus Router, Acting Transportation Operations Supervisor, Transportation Liaison, and School Bus Driver – Full Size Bus as non-represented (non-union) positions.

The strategic plan, as above, is on the agenda. From the agenda, it looks as though the Research Bureau and Worcester Educational Collaborative are going to be presenting a sort of summary (?); there is no public hearing session, and the committee is meeting in regular formal session, so it isn’t clear how or if things are going to be deliberated formally in order to refine, amend, or develop the plan.
As part of the same item, there is a presentation on the WPS rebranding effort, which would look like this:

You can see the PowerPoint for the process of development.
Did anyone ever ask how much any of the previous parts cost?

Miss Biancheria is requesting the number of staff on leave.
The committee needs to select their represenatives to the MASC Delegate Assembly.

Mr. O’Connell (supported by the rest of the committee save Mayor Petty) has submitted the following item:

To discuss projected litigation as to the obligation of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to assure an “adequate education” to Massachusetts children, including potential plaintiffs, litigation funding sources, and a timeline.

This is of course the push for a new foundation budget lawsuit, which you may have read more over the weekend.
The new crowdfunding and educational surveys policies are up for review.
Apparently, the $7.4M in revolving funds weren’t approved during the budget deliberation, so they–and the updated budget total–are now.
There’s a–quite good!–appropriate school response to immigration activities policy memo for approval. It appropriately centers on the child, requires district response for ICE activities at schools, and reinforces the district’s non-involvement (as per requirements) in enforcement. My only complaint is we should have had this years ago. Nonetheless…

There’s a prior year payment to College Board for testing and to an instructional technology coach.
Mr. O’Connell wants to be sure there are sufficient AEDs.

There’s a request that the committee approve the student handbook; the changes are here. Interestingly, this is being added to the “student access” section: “Certain individuals, including school personnel, police, and employees of certain state agencies may be granted access to students in the performance of their official duties.” That seems…troubling. They’re also cutting inclusion of the actual due process language on student discipline, putting it only on the website, which also seems troubling.
In the homework section, what was a minimum per-subject homework policy of 45 minutes is now being amended to add “or 1 hour for AP.” \.
Also, the non-discrimination policy doesn’t have “pregnancy and pregnancy-related” added yet and it should.
The entire policy manual of the Worcester Public Schools is also up for approval.

Mr. O’Connell wants to review indirect costs again.
Miss Biancheria has asked that the “Accountabilty and Student Achievement” subcommittee be renamed “School and Student Performance” which is apparently what the office is being renamed, as well.
There are donations to be accepted:
– $8,000.00 from SME Education Foundation/General Motors to Worcester Technical High School Advanced Manufacturing Program
– $250.00 from WEDF to Woodland Academy
– $500.00 from Metso USA, Inc., to support the Exhilarate Worcester Initiative at Woodland Academy
– $250.00 from WEDF to Tatnuck Magnet School
– $250.00 from WEDF to Lake View School
– $2,000.00 from Saint-Gobain to Lake View School
– $738.82 from Lake View School PTO to Lake View School
– $2,000.00 from Furniture Trust Organization, Inc. to Worcester Alternative School
– $600.00 from Sunbelt Rentals Inc. to South High Community School Diesel Program
– $250.00 from WEDF to Lincoln Street School
– $250.00 from WEDF to New Citizen Center
There is an executive session for Plumbers, Steamfitters and Tradesmen.