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This week’s School Committee Agenda

And the agenda is here. Much of it, the–finally!–report of the superintendent on FY20 included, is items held from last meeting due to the three hours of public testimony on sex ed.

Relatedly, if for some reason you didn’t read Bill Shaner’s comprehensive cover story in last week’s Worcester Magazine on Worcester’s long and winding road to not getting anywhere on sex ed, you really should.

That FY20 report appears also to be the only place as yet that anyone has compared actual impacts of the three (as yet) bills proposed in the Legislature on reforming the foundation budget, ‘though of course it only does so for Worcester. Scott O’Connell asked Secretary Peyser about the lesser funding in the Governor’s bill in his interview covered in yesterday’s T&G, to which Peyser responsed that he thinks “people should wait to see how these proposals unfold,” before responding.

A number of the other items that have been held from the prior meeting are related to transportation, responded to here.  Also of note: going to subcommittee is this:

To review bid specifications for student transportation services and award contract to lowest responsive and responsible bidder for a contract term to begin in June 2020.

That’s the bid for school buses! If you haven’t been happy with the WPS bus service, now is the time to speak up (and keep an eye out for that Finance and Operations subcommittee meeting)! Goodness knows I plan to.

There are an array of recognitions, thanks, appointments, and such.

There’s also still a prior year payment (of $48 to Learnwell Education) and I am curious if anyone at any point is going to bring up that this is not good practice.

There is…I wouldn’t really even call this a response…an acknowledgement of the request for information on how the district plans to implement civics education (“we’re going to pilot some things” is not an answer). The bill is much longer than quoted, has many more pieces than referenced, and this doesn’t answer the question posed.

There is a multi-part response to an item on a specific dyslexia program (the link goes to the part that actually responding about the program; there is a summary of district sped literacy initiatives here, a summary of the dyslexia screening law here, a dyslexia evaluation checklist here, and what appears to be a copy of an individual’s discussion of types of dyslexia here), of which the upshot appears to be no, we’re not going to do anything with this.
Mr. O’Connell and several other members propose to comment on the state health education standards (which won’t be set out for public comment for a bit as yet).

Several members wish to support HR 141, which would make those who get a government pension, currently not eligible for Social Security eligible; you can read the argument from those in favor here. 

There’s a request for an update on bringing down school suspensions.
There’s a request to administration to change policy in the handbook regarding headwear (as that’s under policy, the committee can just do it).
There’s a request from Mr. Comparetto and others to use some of the taxes from marijuana for schools, and also to increase school funding “in light of new revenues coming into the city.”
Five members have co-sponsored an item to support the PROMISE act.
Mr. Comparetto also wants to reduce state spending on prisons and spend money on schools.
Miss Biancheria wants an update on the use of the Shannon Grant.
She also wants an update on lawsuits.
Mr. Monfredo, who is under the impression the school districts bans cell phone use in school (it does not) wants to consult with “secondary school principals” about their use. Perhaps we’re missing several groups of people to consult there?
Miss McCullough is asking for an update on graduation rates by ethnic categories.
Mr. O’Connell wants an update on a court case.
The Committee is being asked to approve:

There is also a posting for an non-specific executive session, which is not something that one can do legally under the Open Meeting Law.

Worcester School Committee meeting preview (April 9)

Cross-posted from Tracy’s blog.

The Worcester School Committee has the first April meeting this Thursday, April 8 at 7pm. You can find the agenda here.

There are two things that may well be of general or continuing interest:

  • We are (finally) scheduled to set FY16 budgetary priorities. We were required to submit our ranked list last week; that has been shared with the committee members, and we’ll be discussing this at the meeting. The budget comes out May 8.
  • We also have an facilities update on the Advanced Academy. It looks as though Doherty does not currently have room for it.
  • We are starting off the meeting with recognitions, and we have a TLSS subcommittee report to accept. We also have some personnel reports to accept.

    We have reports coming back on Read Across America day, on the Spring into Books book drive, and on internal v public documents.

    It’s time to elect a delegate and an alternate to the MASC annual meeting.

    Mr. Monfredo asks if the testing calendar changed as a result of snow days (the response is we extended the window).

    Miss Biancheria is looking for an expert to talk about linking cameras to the police department, and also about budgetary means for additional positions at North. Also, she’s interested in what training is giving to staff regarding electronic media use.

    Mr. Monfredo would like to recognize our facilities staff for their fine work this winter. He’d also like to set a date in October to meet with our delegation, and to encourage students to take part in the Worcester Bravehearts Home Run club (which I can’t find anything about online).

    Mr. O’Connell would like to congratulation the Burncoat Green Reapers and the crew team.

    Mr. Monfredo wants to know if we can give preference to people who reside in Worcester in hiring (see MGL Ch. 71, sec. 38).

    We’re being asked to declare as surplus a sliver of land directly next to Nelson Place School as part of the land swaps necessary to build the school. THIS IS NOT THE ASSUMPTION DEAL. This is essentially trading land with a neighbor to improve things for construction.


    We’re going to be considering summer reading and new courses in TLSS and considering the student handbook in Governance (those meetings and specifics to come).

    And we have an executive session to consider a grievance. <

    Preview: City Council agenda (November 18)

    The Worcester City Council meets Tuesday, November 18. The agenda is here.

    • Two citizen petitions of note: one requesting that companies receiving TIF’s purchase from Worcester business; the other looking for regulation of door-to-door salesmen.
    • Taxes: the City Council will do its annual tax rate classification hearing on December 2.
    • Energy upgrades: the City is working on energy efficiency, and plans, among other projects, to upgrade streetlights to LEDs.
    • Library: there are two vacancies on the Library Board coming up January 1.
    • Downtown safety: the Public Safety subcommittee is looking for reports on downtown incidents, as well as safety concerns of downtown businesses.
    • Pools?: Councilor Rosen has asked for plans “for constructing aquatic facilities, especially spray parks”
    • Foothills: Councilor Rosen would like to save the Foothills Theatre sign.
    • Skating: Councilor Bergman is looking for free skating rental hours.

    Preview: Worcester School Committee (Feb 6)

    All three of the main functions of the School Committee happening on Thursday night! You can find the agenda here.

    Note also: no executive session on Thursday. 

    Spring Programs at the American Antiquarian Society

    All programs are at the American Antiquarian Society on the corner of Salisbury and Park unless otherwise noted.

    Friday, April 19, at 7:00 p.m.

    Emancipating Lincoln: How the Great Emancipator Led –and Misled –America to Freedom,”
    By Harold Holzer
    Co-sponsored by the Franklin M. Loew Lecture Series at Becker College

    In its own time, the Emancipation Proclamation was considered a politically risky, even revolutionary act. In more recent years, many Americans have been taught that it was cautious, insincere, and ineffective. What was the true impact and intent of Lincoln’s most famous executive order? And what did he do to prepare the public for its announcement–sometimes to the detriment of his own reputation? This lecture will examine the weeks leading up to the Emancipation Proclamation, and explore the occasional differences between what Lincoln said and what he did on the issue of slavery.

    Wednesday, April 24, 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. at the Hanover Theatre, 2 Southbridge St., Worcester, MA
    “Creating Historical Theater: A Dramatic Reading of Sockdology”
    With Jeffrey Hatcher
    In partnership with the Hanover Theatre
    Cost: $10 for the general public, free for Hanover and AAS members
    Reserve tickets by calling: 508.471.1781

    This program will feature a reading of the play Sockdology by Jeffrey Hatcher and a discussion about creating historical theater. Sockdology is a nineteenth century boxing term that means a “finishing blow” or the “brutal end of everything.” It is part of the dialogue of the play Our American Cousin and was likely the last word Abraham Lincoln heard before he was assassinated while watching this play at Ford’s Theater. Hatcher used this historical footnote to create a play about the acting troupe performing Our American Cousin and the impact Lincoln’s death had on them and the nation.

    Thursday, May 2, at 7:00 p.m.
    “Bunker Hill: A City, A Siege, A Revolution”
    By Nathaniel Philbrick

    For most of us the American Revolution is about the Founding Fathers, the Declaration of Independence, and how George Washington led the colonies through the decade-long struggle that ultimately led to the formation of the United States. Lost in this account toward liberty is the truly cataclysmic nature of how the revolution began: the interplay of ideologies and personalities that provoked a group of merchants, farmers, artisans, and sailors to take up arms against their own country. In this lecture, based upon his forthcoming book Bunker Hill: A City, A Siege, A Revolution, award-winning and bestselling author, Nathaniel Philbrick, describes pre-Revolutionary Boston—a city of 15,000 inhabitants packed onto a land-connected island of just 1.2 square miles—and the gradual up-tick of tension that climaxed in June 1775 with the Battle of Bunker Hill, the first major and decisive battle of what became the American Revolution.

    Thursday, May 9, at 7:00 p.m.
    “Spectacle and Reform in Nineteenth-Century America”
    By Amy E. Hughes

    In the nineteenth century, long before film and television arrived to electrify audiences with explosions, car chases, and narrow escapes, it was America’s theaters that offered audiences such thrills, with “sensation scenes” of speeding trains, burning buildings, and endangered bodies, often in melodramas extolling the virtues of temperance, abolition, and women’s suffrage. Based upon her latest book, Spectacles of Reform Theater and Activism in Nineteenth-Century America, Hughes program scrutinizes these peculiar intersections of spectacle and reform, revealing that spectacle plays a crucial role in American activism. Engaging evidence from lithographs to children’s books to typography catalogs, she will trace the cultural history of three famous sensation scenes—the drunkard suffering from the delirium tremens, the fugitive slave escaping over a river, and the victim tied to the railroad tracks—and argues that spectacle was central to the dramaturgy of reform. Ultimately, she suggests that today’s producers and advertisers still exploit the affective dynamism of spectacle, reaching an even broader audience through electronic media and the Internet.

    Tuesday, May 14, at 7:00 p.m.
    “Factual Flights and Fictional Worlds: Historical Truth and Narrative Invention in The Movement of Stars”
    By Amy Brill

    Amy Brill’s debut novel The Movement of Stars was researched at the American Antiquarian Society and is inspired by the work of Maria Mitchell, the first professional female astronomer in America. The novel tells the story of Hannah Gardner Price a young woman living on Nantucket in 1845 whose passion for astronomy and her relationships with a whaler from the Azores put her in direct conflict with the mores and conventions of the Nantucket Quaker community in which she was raised, where simplicity and restraint are valued above all, and a woman’s path is expected to lead to marriage and motherhood. During this presentation, Brill will read selections from her novel and comment on the journey of research and writing that led to its creation.

    Thursday, May 23, at 7:00 p.m.
    “Hidden Histories in Nineteenth-Century Scrapbooks”
    By Ellen Gruber Garvey

    Men and women 150 years ago grappled with information overload by making scrapbooks – the ancestors of Google and blogging. From Mark Twain to Abraham Lincoln to Susan B. Anthony, African American janitors to farmwomen, abolitionists to Confederates, people cut out and pasted down their reading. Their scrapbooks some of them at AAS – left us a rarely examined record of what they read and how they read it. This talk, based on Ellen Gruber Garvey’s new book, Writing with Scissors: American Scrapbooks from the Civil War to the Harlem Renaissance opens a new window into the feelings and thoughts of ordinary and extraordinary Americans.

    Thursday, June 6, at 7:00 p.m.
    “Parallel Lives of a Patriotic Heroine and a Spy”
    by Nancy Rubin Stuart

    Ever wonder why the rights of women are still endangered today? Or how marriage can change the destiny of those who marry powerful men? Award-winning author Nancy Rubin Stuart’s presentation from her double biography, Defiant Brides: The Untold Story of Two Revolutionary-Era Women Who Married Political Radicals illustrates how two teenage brides managed long, happy marriages to famous Revolutionary-era men. Their husbands were the handsome traitor Benedict Arnold and the patriotic General Henry Knox.

    Thank You, Monkey Boy!

    If you have younger children, there’s a decent chance that you’re already familiar with Jarrett Krosocszka, who was raised in Worcester and is a proud Gates Lane graduate. Krosocszka recently did a TED talk at Hampshire College, telling his story of growing up and what art meant to him. I don’t often recommend lengthy videos, but this one, entitled “Imagining Beyond Your Circumstances,” is well worth it:

    You can read more about that talk, and the importance of art–and libraries!–in this post that The Atlantic did about him.

    For the third year, Krosocszka is running an auction to benefit the scholarship he established at the Worcester Art Museum in honor of his grandparents. You can go bid—wouldn’t you love for him to draw your Christmas card?–or send a donation to the Worcester Art Museum, memo: the Joe and Shirl Scholarship, 55 Salisbury Street, Worcester, MA 01609.

    And from those of us who fight hard to keep funding things like art classes and libraries: thanks, Jarrett.

    cross-posted at Who-cester 

    Election Commission exhaustive coverage

    Yesterday’s Election Commission meeting was one of the more thoroughly covered events Worcester has seen recently. This morning’s Telegram and Gazette report from Nick Kotsopoulos is only the beginning.

    T&G reporter Steve Foskett was also at the meeting and livetweeted it. Walter Bird adds a bit of Worcester Magazine coverage here, with an odd take this morning on some of the exchanges. GoLocalWorcester has their coverage here.

    Nicole liveblogged most of it, with MainSouthMom picking up where Nicole’s power ran out.

    The flowchart created by Assistant Clerk Joshua Meduna, referenced several times during the meeting is available online here. It spells out what happens with inactive or ID-needed voters.

    Audio of the entire meeting is here.

    In addition, the following requests were made by the Voter Protection Network:

    • Request that the Election Commission and the City of Worcester continue to prioritize the pressing need for greater training of poll workers as well as for police officers who work at polling locations.
    • Request that the Election Commission place 2 large signs in the same languages as the ballots at all polling locations stating; “ALL ELEGIBLE VOTERS HAVE A RIGHT TO VOTE TODAY” and a second of the City’s official list of acceptable proof of residency.
    • Request the names of anyone that was removed from polling locations by the Worcester Police Department, or asked to leave by the Worcester City Clerk, be submitted by the City of Worcester to the Attorney General’s Civil Rights Commission and the City Solicitors Office to be reviewed and recommended for potential sanctions.


    For those interested, the next meeting of the Voter Protection Network is Wednesday, September 26 at 6:15 pm at the YWCA, 1 Salem Square.  For more information, see here.

    Perspectives on Congress lecture

    The public is invited to Congressman Neal’s lecture “Perspectives on Congress” as part of the Franklin

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    M. Loew Lecture Series at Becker College.
    Tuesday, January 31, 2012
    10 am
    80 William Street, Worcester

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    KKK attacks on Franco-American Catholics in New England

    The Worcester Historical Museum is offering a free lecture on Saturday on a little-known part of New England history: Ku Klux Klan attacks on French Canadian immigrants who came to New England to take jobs in the local mills. Something you may not have know: ” At one point, New England KKK members outnumbered those in the south.”

    The lecture is free with museum admission and starts at 10 am.