Category: Woo Schools

Burncoat Middle Robotics team raising funds for World Competition

Burncoat Middle robotics team seeks $ to compete in world meet

WORCESTER – A handful of Burncoat Middle School students are readying for the challenge of their young lives, but first they must raise the money to follow their dream. Five eighth-graders will board a bus bound for the 2016 VEX Robotics World Competition, being held April 20-23 in Louisville, Kentucky.

School Committee to Vote on new Superintendent

Tonight: Worcester school board set to vote on next superintendent

WORCESTER – Faced with one of the board’s biggest decisions in seven years, most School Committee members have seen enough. They’re ready to vote for a new superintendent Monday night.Board members said Friday they’re confident the next school chief is among the four candidates they’re considering for the job: Norrback Avenue School Principal Karrie J.

Pezzella Makes Safety Recommendations for Worcester Schools

Safety equipment upgrades, more police officers recommended for Worcester schools

WORCESTER – The district’s school safety liaison and a special advisory committee advises implementing several recommendations from a recent independent audit of the district’s safety systems, including upgrading school security hardware and adding two police liaison officers. Robert Pezzella also suggests changing the title of his current position from school safety liaison to director of school safety and communication.

Worcester School Committee reviews the over testing of Kindergartners

Are kindergartners being over-tested? Worcester school board to take a look

WORCESTER – The School Committee will look at whether kindergarten students are being made to take too many tests, despite the interim superintendent’s argument that assessments are critical at that age.”I’ll proceed very cautiously before we start interfering” with the district’s testing schedule, said Mayor Joseph Petty, who agreed to send the issue to the board’s Teaching, Learning and Student Supports Standing Committee for further study.Several

Monfredo: Moving Up School Starting Time On The Secondary Level – A Community Discussion

Is pushing the starting times back for the high schools a good idea?  The stats have shown that later start times, do in fact work.  Can Worcester put a plan together that to do this?  Will there be a ripple effect throughout the lower grade schools?  These are the questions that need to be asked and considered when putting this plan together.  School Committee Member John Monfredo discusses this very topic, as the Worcester School Committee begins to tackle this issue.


John Monfredo, Worcester School Committee Member

One of the “hot” topics discussed this week at the Standing Committee on Teaching  Learning and Student Support was on whether the starting time on the secondary level can or should be changed.

Sleep deprivation among teens has become a major public health issue across the nation for research has shown that not enough sleep puts teens physical and physiological health at risk. According to studies lack of adequate sleep can result in memory impairment, poor academy performance and decision making, moodiness and aggression, anxiety, and even more car accidents.

It was ten years ago that School Committee member Brian O’Connell brought psychologist and professor at the College of Holy Cross Dr. Amy Wolfson to a sub-committing meeting to discuss her findings of this topic. Dr. Wolfson’s research in Worcester  found in a survey with more than 3000 students that students getting low marks obtained about 25 minutes less sleep and went to bed 40 minutes later than students who reported they were getting A’s and B’s.

Since then more and more research has been done. Again the data shows a positive relationship between starting time and academic performance. The evidence points out that adolescents need more sleep and the effects of sleep deprivation has had a negative effect on their learning capabilities.

Multiple factors, “including biological changes in sleep associated with puberty, lifestyle choices, and academic demands,” negatively impact teens’ ability to get enough sleep, and pushing back school start times is key to helping them achieve optimal levels of sleep – 8½ to 9½ hours a night,” says the American Academy of Pediatrics in a 2014 news release.

Judith Owens, director of sleep medicine at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C., and lead author of the American Academy of Pediatrics also stated, “Chronic sleep loss in  adolescents “can, without hyperbole, really be called a public health crisis.”

In the past several years many schools around the country have pushed back the school starting time  such as the city of Seattle after receiving a great deal of community input. In addition, more school districts around the U.S. are heeding the advice of scientists who have long said that expecting teens to show up to class early isn’t good for their health or their report cards.

Now in our state, the Massachusetts Association of School Committees has established a committee to review the starting times of secondary schools as more and more research shows the positive side of a later starting time. n addition, many surrounding towns such as Northboro, Southboro and Lunenburg are considering a new starting time for next year.

Based on all the research in the past ten years why aren’t more districts not changing their starting time? It’s the same reasons that were articulated at the standing committee meeting this week … disruption in child care for in many cases older children care for younger children when they get out of school or even before school, the challenge of coordinating interscholastic activities and sports with other districts, students with after school jobs and the biggest reason is the financial aspect of what it would cost in transportation.

However, we as a community need to make healthy policy decisions for all students. Is it possible that these problems can be worked out? We know the benefits from the research but at the moment we are stuck in neutral. Let’s look at the obstacles and see if they can be solved. Thus, as a  School Committee we have asked administration to come back next month with additional ideas and to review and changes in the cost for transportation. Let’s examine our options and not just sweep the item under the rug.

John would like to hear from our you on this issue … e-mail John at


The Most Important 20 Minutes of Your Day….Read With Your Child

South High Band Needs Our Help

John Monfredo, Worcester School Committee

South High School Band

“The South High Community School Band will serve as an official representative of the State of Massachusetts in commemoration of the 240th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence”, stated John P. Wiscombe, president of the Music Celebration International, L.L.C.  in a letter sent to Principal Maureen Binienda and to band director Johnetta Smith. Once again the South High band will represent our state in this national celebration for it was in 2012 that the band made Worcester proud as they represented Massachusetts in the National Independence Day Parade as part of the Fourth of July celebration in Washington, D.C.

Needless to say their teacher, Johnetta Smith, and the entire band made up of 87 student musicians are ecstatic about this once in a lifetime trip.  Princilla Minka, Drum Major and a senior at the school, acknowledged, “Being someone who has never traveled outside of Massachusetts, the Philadelphia trip would mean getting to explore an area other than my little Worcester bubble.  But most of all, this trip means being able to share our hard work, talent and music with people other than residents of the City of Worcester.”

Another senior  student Travis Tran who plays the French Horn, was most excited about the opportunity to show off the band’s talents.  He affirmed what other students felt when he declared, “The preparation for the trip will be one heck of a task, but I actually think having the entire band cooperate toward one goal will make all of us better musicians and consolidate our love of music lasting far beyond  when it’s over.”

The group will leave on the morning of May 20th, a Friday, and return on Monday, the 23 of May.   They will spend one day in Philadelphia and on the second day  travel to Annapolis, Maryland.  There they will see Fort McHenry where the words to the national anthem were written.  Thus, this is also a learning opportunity for the students as they are able to explore first hand important historical sites in our nation’s history.

In Annapolis, at the U.S. Naval Academy they will play side by side with a navy ensemble and receive a clinic from one of the navy conductors.  This clinic will give the students a chance to learn from a high caliber conductor who has brought the joy of music across the U.S. States.

Band Director Smith acknowledged, ”This is a concert tour, so the students will be completely focused on musicianship, as opposed to also being concerned about the quality of their marching… playing in Philadelphia for the Anniversary of the Declaration of Independence will give these students the opportunity to contribute to this national commemoration.”

This hands on experience for the students without a doubt it will elevate their playing and their expectations of themselves. It’s an experience that they will be talking about for a long time.

The band has been persistent in giving back to the community, for under the direction of Ms. Smith, the South High band continues to give of itself to the district.  Each year they march in the Columbus Day and St. Patrick’s Day parades and have received honors for a first place and third place finish.   They have also played at civic events such as the Canal-o-Ween, Worcester State Homecoming, played at Unum, Sam’s Club and GoodGlove USA Grand Openings. They have also been involved in community events such as   Breast Cancer Walk, Walk against Homelessness, and the Special Olympics Dance.

With passion and dedication South High  School has built a remarkable music department in a large urban setting.  It has given the students an opportunity to pursue music and experience its life-changing effects on their desire to go to college and to make a difference in their lives and the lives of their community.

However, this extraordinary experience will need the assistance of the community to make it happen for the school needs to raise a substantial amount of money to support this trip. It will take over $45,000 to cover the cost of the trip and the school has a number of fund raisers planned as well as reaching out to corporate sponsors. South High has a student body where 80% of its population is at or below the poverty level. However, Ms. Smith is undaunted by this issue for she vowed to do all she could to make it happen … “This is a once in a lifetime opportunity that will expand our perspectives and could ultimately change 87 lives… we can’t do it alone so we are reaching out to the community for assistance.”

A fund raiser is planned for tonight, January 30th, at the NU café at 335  Chandler Street.  The café will donate 20% of the ticketed food sales to the band. They will also be involved in a fund raiser at Jillian’s located at 315 Grove Street on February 21st from 2:00 to 6:00 p.m.  This fund raiser is supported by one of the students’ parents, Christine Greenawalt. Christine has committed “The Girls” and the “Far from Eden” singers to perform at Jillian’s and believes that the community will respond with monetary contributions as well as items that can be raffled.

Please consider a donation for this wonderful project. This school has established a fundraising website page or the community can make a donation directly to the school and send a check to “South High Band Association”.  It would be nice if all elected officials joined the bandwagon and reached out to these amazing students and made a donation as well. I know that I’m donating and hope others will follow the lead!  Let’s do it for the students!


The Most Important 20 Minutes of Your Day….Read With Your Child

New School Superintendent Timeline

The School Committee has initiated its search for a new Superintendent.

The Community Involvement Committee would like to extend an invitation 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.

Draft Timeline for selecting a Superintendent for the Worcester Public Schools

January 21 Approve the timeline for the selection of the next Superintendent of Schools.
January 22 Schedule public hearings to gather input for the job description (Dr. Friel).
January 25 Distribute Job Descriptions used in previous searches to School Committee members and make available on the website.
Week of February 1 The Mayor will announce the search and community involvement committees.
February 2 and 3 Hold two public hearings

  • February 2 – Doherty Memorial High School at 7:00 p.m.
  • February 3 – North High School at 7:00 p.m.

Broadcast the public hearings on WEA cable television.

Forward the proposed Job Description to the City Solicitor for approval.

Forward the proposed Job Description to the School Committee.

February 4 School Committee Meeting

Approve the Job Description.

February 10 Advertise the position to staff after review by the Chief Human Resources Officer and the City Solicitor.
February 29 The application will include:

  • a resume with references
  • an essay on candidates’ qualifications
  • vision statement for schools
  • preliminary goals

All applications and related materials will be treated as “public records”. The related materials for the semi-finalists will be placed on WPS website (excluding home addresses and telephone numbers). The selection of finalists will take place in open session.

Applications should be forwarded to Dr. Friel by this date.

March 3 The Search Committee will select up to three finalists.
March 4 Application materials of finalists will be posted on the WPS website.
March 7 – 11 School Committee will interview finalists at a location to be determined.
March 14 – 16 Community “meet and greet” events for each finalist will take place in various schools and will include remarks by finalists and informal discussions.
March 17 School Committee Meeting

Select the Superintendent of Schools.