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Worcester School Committee meets Thursday

Yes, I’m sorry, I missed the first one of the year…too much to keep track of this January! 

I’m flagging this one in particular because it’s FIRST LOOK AT THE FY19 BUDGET!
That’s the report of the superintendent this week. The quick glance I gave Worcester’s numbers earlier this week had the foundation budget up by $3.7M; to that, add some from the $15M intended as a grant for the students evacuated from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands…I’m guessing another $2.4M or so?
That won’t, of course, be enough, as it doesn’t even cover real inflationary costs.

There are some appointments and congratulations.

The administration is reporting on the $5000 received under McKinney-Vento for homeless students, rather, reporting that it did receive it. I wonder what it will be used for?

There’s also a report on the process of making referrals to DCF.

There are two donations:
$250 from Walmart to Woodland Academy
$286.80 from Box Tops for Education to Tatnuck Magnet School
…as well as a $20,000 grant from UNUM for the “Strong Schools” grant to purchase books and curriculum…that report is very vague….

Miss McCullough is asking for a report on indoor recess policy.

And BOTH Miss McCullough and Mr. Foley are asking what the difference between an excused and an unexcused absence is (I have no idea). Miss McCullough also calls out the scary letter they send if your child gets a certain number of absences (I’ve gotten it; it’s frightening).

The annual audit is coming (it’s not here; it’ll be referred to F&O).
And the annual handbook review is coming (it’ll be referred to Governance).

The administration is looking to amend the innovation plan of Worcester East Middle to drop the sixth grade to have a new “Citywide Health and Science Gifted Academy” starting next year.

At the request of Miss Biancheria, the administration is reporting out on the use of the returned health insurance funds; the recommendation looks like this:

There is approval of the allocation farther down the agenda.

Miss Biancheria is asking if students could do community service at the senior center.

Mayor Petty, following up on his inaugural address, is asking for a review and update on the health curriculum. It’s worth noting that the state is about to start a comprehensive review of the state standards for health.

The administration is referring two sets of curriculum to the school committee for approval: grade 8 and AP science texts and elementary reading curriculum.

There is an executive session to discuss contracts for the IAs and Plumbers and Pipefitters, and also to discuss litigation.

My hope is to be there for the budget presentation. 

Preview: City Council agenda (January 23)

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

This week: The littlest agenda. There’s a million dollar DCU item, and a two million dollar health insurance item, and everything else seems routine.

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

  • Constables: Jeffrey Cammuso has been appointed a Constable.
  • Boards and Commissions: The Council will vote on appointing Nicole Dicello to the Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Committee.
  • Downtown Gentrification: Tabled from the last meeting. Councilors Rivera and Mero-Carlson would like to know what the city can do for people at risk of being displaced as downtown becomes more expensive.
  • Mobile City Hall: In response to Councilor Rosen’s suggestion that there should be a van driving around the city for people who need to do municipal paperwork, Councilor Toomey last week proposed (and the Council approved) an item asking the Manager if it would work to use our existing bookmobile for that sort of thing.

Preview: City Council agenda (January 16)

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

This week: A very brief agenda.

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

  • Private and Public Streets: Nick Smith has a petition for the city to remove the private Warmland St from the Official Map, presumably because he wants to do some construction.
  • City Hall to Go: Councilor Rosen has an item asking the Manager to look into having a van drive around neighborhoods where people could do municipal paperwork if they can’t get downtown or go online, modelled after an effort in Boston.
  • Gentrification: Councilor Rivera has an item asking the Manager if the city has a person people should contact if they are at risk of being displaced by gentrification.
  • Changing the Details of Council Service: Councilor Bergman has an item asking the City Solicitor what the Council would have to do to revise things like the length of City Council Terms, meeting attendance requirements, etc.
  • Abby Kelley Foster Memorial?: Mayor Petty has an item asking the Manager to cooperate with city groups working to establish a memorial to the legendary abolitionist, feminist, and Worcesterite radical Abby Kelley Foster (1811-1887).

Preview: City Council agenda (January 9)

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

This is a meeting of the new City Council! Now with Sean Rose and Matt Wally.

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

  • Rezoning Ed Hyder’s: Ed would like part of 408 Pleasant St and an adjacent part of Winslow St rezoned from residential to commercial and added to the Commercial Corridor Overlay District. The first step in this process is a hearing before the Planning Board.
  • Boards and Commissions, Part One: The Manager is appointing or reappointing a bunch of people. Newly added as constables are Stephen Casey, Peter Derry, Scott Derry, Patrick Duggan, Krystal Gagnon, John Gaimari, Denise Marois Lecuyer, James Racicot, and Anatoly Yankovsky. Diane Long and Tomi Stefanie have been appointed and Robyn Conroy reappointed to the Historical Commission; Jacqueline Yang, Jose Medina-Santos and Luis Portillo Reyes appointed to the Human Rights Commission; Edward Wheeler to the GAR Memorial Hall Board of Trustees; Richard Shea to the Elder Affairs Commission; and Stephanie Mireku to the Worcester Arts Council.
  • Boards and Commissions, Part Two: The City Council will vote whether or not to appoint Benetta Kuffour to the Citizens Advisory Council, and John Deedy to the Hope Cemetery Board of Commissioners.
  • Hub/Cor: The city is starting a new project to improve communication between public safety and social service organizations called Hub/Cor. Worcester already does an okay job of this—we’re even occasionally cited by cities trying to do a better job. I’m curious to see how Hub/Cor operates and what results come out of it.
  • PILOT: Like Ahab chasing the white whale, the Council continues to try to find a way to tax nonprofits. This week there’s an item on the agenda pushing forward a plan for the city administration to work with our state delegation on this.
  • Changing Apartment Tax Rates: The Council will request a report as to what it would look like, financially, if we started taxing 4+ unit buildings as commercial rather than residential property. The commercial rate is almost double the residential.
  • Cracking Down on Johns: Councilor Rivera has an item asking the city police to start running stings to target customers of prostitutes. (This item confuses me, I’m sure we already do this.)
  • Eliminating Boards and Commissions: Councilor Lukes suggests that, as we have trouble filling all the city boards and commissions, we should reorganize things to require fewer members.
  • More Dog Parks: Councilor Rosen wants a plan for dog parks in districts 1, 2, and 4.
  • Please Can We Stop Recycling from Blowing Around the Streets: Councilor Rosen has like his millionth agenda item regarding people’s recycling blowing out of our open-top recycling bins.
  • Suing the State for More Education Funding: The Council will likely ask the Manager to go ahead and sue the state for “underfunded Chapter 70 funding and Charter School Funding.”
  • New School Buildings: Councilor Lukes asks if there will be any design review procedures regarding the construction of our new school buildings.
  • Alcohol and Marijuana: Councilor Lukes has a couple items asking if the city can do more to limit the number of establishments that sell marijuana or alcohol.
  • Revising Church Street: This week on the agenda is a decree to rearrange and officially “make public” Church Street, the street behind the Common. This is just legal mumbo jumbo, but also a nice milestone in the long effort to reconfigure a big chunk of downtown Worcester.

Preview: City Council agenda (December 5)

The Worcester City Council meets Tuesday at 7pm. The agenda is here.

This week: Setting the municipal tax rate.

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

  • Boards and Commissions: The Council will be selecting 2 new members for the Library Board.
  • Tax Rates: This was pushed off from a previous meeting. This week the Council will presumably set tax rates for the year.
  • Bike Racks with Ads: The Public Safety Committee would like the city to have bike racks paid for by sponsors, who would get ads on the racks.
  • Limiting Marijuana Sales: The Economic Development Committee is requesting that the Council approve a new ordinance which would limit the number of marijuana businesses in the city to 15 (calculated as 20% as many “off-premises alcohol licenses” as we allow), and put a 3% sales tax on marijuana (the maximum state law allows us).
  • Complete Streets: The Public Safety Committee wants the full Council to approve the City Manager’s “complete streets” proposal. This proposal reads a little vague to me, but it basically wants us, when doing future maintenance or rebuilding of streets, to put an emphasis on things like wider sidewalks, more street trees, more crosswalks, more bike lanes, more left turn lanes, more traffic signals, and more bus shelters.

Preview: City Council agenda (October 3)

The Worcester City Council meets Tuesday at 7pm. The agenda is here.

This week: A slow week.

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

  • 1060 Main St: Michael Morris has a citizen petition detailing alleged financial irregularities in the use of the Tenant’s Council bank accout at the Worcester Housing Authority senior citizen high rise at 1060 Main St.
  • Wayfinding: Councilor Lukes has previously asked about the status of our 2007 “wayfinding” signage project now that times have changed and we are in an age of mobile computing. The city’s Chief Development Officer replies that the city has been rethinking this project and is now planning fewer signs but also an app.
  • Senior Raking Assistance: 10 groups (list below) have volunteered to help Worcester’s seniors rake their yards.
  • How Much Does a Special Election Cost the City?: According to the City Clerk, $150,000.
  • 90 Residential Units at the South End of the City?: This is not a Council agenda item, but rather a news item that seems relevant. A local developer wants to demolish the old factory at 261 Clover St and build low-rise housing there.

Worcester School Committee meets Thursday, October 5

Cross-posted from Tracy’s blog.

You can find the agenda here. There is also an agenda for an executive session for litigation on discipline of a teacher; the regular agenda posts three litigation items on worker’s compensation and negotiations with custodians, nurses, and computer technicians.

The report of the superintendent will be “will be a summary of initiatives in process and planned in this school year” with a backup to come.

There is the usual beginning of school rounds of appointments, transfers, resignations, and retirements. The committee is also being asked to approve the appointment of a number of nurses (a power reserved to School Committees in Massachusetts).

There is an update on Ch. 74 and other career pathways at North and at South.

There are a series of responses to sharing information with students about various programs.

Mr. O’Connell is requesting the committee consider the resolutions that will be before the MASC Delegate Assembly on November 1. The committee has previously voted to make Ms. Colorio their delegate.

The administration is asking for authorization to rent space for parking school buses (this would be the buses the district owns; there’s no backup).

There are a number of prior fiscal year payments (which I’ll post if I get a chance).

Mr. Monfredo would like a report from the Wellness Committee, and a program on secondary allergens.

Mr. O’Connell wants to develop a process for consulting on school improvement plans.

Ms. Colorio is asking about a confidential drug hotline.
Relatedly, Miss Biancheria is asking:

Request that the Administration develop a protocol to train teachers to handle students in need of drug education and indicate how teachers can develop ways by watching, looking and listening to deal with problems of substance abuse.

which seems a smidge…problematic.

Miss Biancheria is also suggesting the use of in-house attorneys rather than hiring one (one should perhaps note that school committees having legal differences with their municipality is not unknown, even currently).

There are a series of donations (coming through on a single item!).

Preview: City Council agenda (September 26)

The Worcester City Council meets Tuesday at 7pm. The agenda is here.

This week: Accessory apartments, taxes, opiods.

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

  • Rezoning 1097 Pleasant St: Allyn Jones has a citizen petition asking 1 Tiverton Parkway and the adjacent 1097 Pleasant St to have their zoning changed so the whole parcel is commercial.
  • Accessory Apartments: Attorney Donald J. O’Neill is submitting a petition from Guri Dura and Marjeta Skenderi asking that zoning rules be changed such that people can create “accessory apartments” by splitting off part of their existing dwelling, with a permit. I am not really sure what this means, but I am very much in favor of expanding our housing options.
  • Single Tax Rate: For many years, Worcester has had different property tax rates for residential and commercial properties. The Council’s Economic Development Committee requests that the City Manager, Chamber of Commerce, and Research Bureau write up a report on how things have gone in Auburn since that town switched to a single property tax rate.
  • Resurfacing More Streets: Councilor Rosen has an item asking for a report on ideas that would allow the city to resurface streets and sidewalks more quickly. At the moment, once you have put in a resurfacing request with the city, I believe it takes around 2 years for the resurfacing to happen.
  • Suing Drug Companies: Mayor Petty will ask the Manager about Worcester suing opiod manufacturers and distributors, presumably for the problems their products have cause the city and its residents.
  • Finance Committee: At some point, this Council meeting will temporarily become a Finance Committee meeting as councilors consider Councilor Lukes’s proposal to reduce taxes based on how our finances have gone so far this year.

Preview: City Council agenda (September 19)

The Worcester City Council meets Tuesday at 7pm. The agenda is here.

This week: Boards and commissions, marijuana, panhandling, sober houses.

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

  • Public and Private Streets: Robin Read requests part of St. Marks Rd. be made a public street. Paul Blanchard Jr requests another part of the road be removed as an official road and deeded to him.
  • Boards and Commissions: Councilor Gaffney has been delaying all board and commission appointments by an extra week, as is his right as councilor. So the following are on this week’s agenda but will likely not be officially happen till next week’s meeting. Jim Knowlton will be reappointed to the Civic Center Commission, and Paul Foley and Patrick Maloney will be appointed to the Trust Funds Commission. The Council will vote as to whether to reappoint Shirley Konneh and Aivi Nguyen to the Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Committee.
  • Senior Housing: Previously, Councilor Bergman asked if the Council could approve tax exemptions for property improvements made to add housing for senior relatives of the property owner. This week, the City Solicitor reports that it would be pretty straightforward to approve property tax exemptions for approx $25,000 of improvements, and that this wouldn’t cut the city’s tax revenues too much.
  • Marijuana Regulations: The Manager will report to the Council about his recommendations on regulating marijuana stores in the city. This will include a bunch of licensing restrictions and a 3% city tax. The T&G has more.
  • Raising Revenue: The Council will vote on whether the Manager should go forward with exploring all the options for increasing revenue recommended by the Mayor’s Tax Policy Committee last year. These include things like getting the state to reimburse us for our providing regional social services, and paying us more in lieu of taxes for the various state-owned properties in the city.
  • Panhandling: Are you kidding me? There is no issue on which the Council has screwed up so thoroughly in recent years, from legislative process through to execution through to getting the city’s ass sued, as they have in their attempts to crack down on people begging money on street corners. Councilor Rosen attempts to run an electric charge through the world’s crappiest Frankenstein monster again this week with an agenda item asking the Mayor “to appoint a task force” on the issue.
  • Amazon: Councilor Lukes asks the Manager to work with the surrounding towns to submit a proposal on behalf of the region for Amazon to build a second HQ here.
  • Sober Houses: Councilor Lukes has a couple items asking if the city can have its own set of regulations on “sober houses.” Here’s an old T&G article on the issue. I’ve never lived next to or in a sober house, but I’ve heard a hundred horror stories from people living in badly managed sober houses. I am a little skeptical that the City Council would do a better job than the state legislature in drafting regulations around this. Who knows.

This week’s Worcester School Committee meeting

And it’s the opening of school report! That’s not yet posted, but the agenda is here.

Before the meeting, there is an executive session on negotiations with nurses, custodians, computer technicians, and non-represented personnel, plus two issues in litigation.

This agenda has the lists of resignations, retirements, and moves within the system (there will be more than one round of this); note that the two administrators who have become superintendents elsewhere–Marco Rodrigues in Hudson and Dave Perda in the Worcester Roman Catholic Diocese–are listed.

There is a response on the celebration of Constitution Day (which was yesterday).

There are seven prior year payments:

  • in the amount of $1,470.38 for a student who attended the Waltham Public Schools from September 16, 2016 to June 17, 2017.
  • in the amount of $194.40 for mileage reimbursement for a parent to drive to and from the Thrive day school placement at 100 Hartwell Street, West Boylston, MA in May and June 2017.
  • in the amount of $6,290.00 made payable to May Institute, Inc.
  • in the amount of $8,827.50 for Education Inc. services for home tutoring.
  • in the amount of $2,250 for teacher professional development at Project Lead The Way which was held at WPI.
  • in the amount of $3,000 for Project Lead The Way’s participation fees.
  • in the amount of $1,600 for an employee.

Miss Biancheria wants to celebrate Manufacturing Day (October 6), to recognize Superintendent Binienda’s Healthy Communities award, and to have a report on transportation. 

Mr. Monfredo wants an update on teaching CPR.

There is a request that the School Committee vote to accept a 21st Century Out of School Time Grant for Claremont Academy for $150,000, ‘though there is no backup.

And apparently we’re getting yet another limited admission “academy,” this time at North High for Microsoft Image. The School Committee is being asked to approve the admissions requirement and letter. with no prior conversation…