Committee Corner: A New Year With Many Issues Facing Our School Committee Members
John Monfredo, Worcester School Committee
This past week members of the City Council, the School Committee and the Mayor were sworn into office at a ceremony that took place at the Hanover Theater. The event was well organized with music from students at Burncoat High School and by the Belmont A.M.E. Zion Gospel Youth choir. The swearing in of the elected officials was done by the Honorable Mark E. Noonan. In addition, Mayor Joseph Petty spoke of the many goals needed for our city as we move forward for he sees a busy council agenda taking place. Now its back to work for these elected officials and there is much to be done.
Focusing on my role as a school committee member I am hopeful that we can move the agenda forward and work on issues that need our immediate attention. One of the first issues that needs to be addressed is the process of selecting a new Superintendent of Schools. I have filed an agenda item this week that will be discussed on January 21st to request that the elected committee members of Dianna Biancheria, Donna Colorio, Jack Foley, Molly McCullough, Brian O’Connell and me move on a process of selecting an internal candidate to be in office by July 1st allowing the permanent superintendent to be ready this spring to work on a new budget for the 2016-2017 school year. Optimistically, I would like the process completed by the first week in March.
I am not in favor of a national search at this time as has been suggested for I honestly believe that we have outstanding candidates locally who can move this system forward to greater heights. I am not willing to spend $35,000 for a national search without looking at candidates locally. Having worked as an educator in the system and the last twenty years of my career as a principal I feel very comfortable in moving forward with this agenda item.
I am looking for a candidate who has a proven record as an educator, one who has shown leadership qualities, an innovator, someone who is not afraid to make decisions based on what is in the best interest of our children, one that knows Worcester and has the work ethic and the communication skills to do be an effective leader. Let’s see who applies for the position and then we can make that decision.
Other issues that need to be addressed this year are how do we move forward on the Advanced High School Academy? Where will the location of the Academy be? How will we pay of the Academy and will we be able to sustain the cost of the program? Will we get the much needed financial assistance from the City Council?
We also need to hear from the newly formed Safety Advisory Committee as to what they see as priorities in the safety audit that was discussed last month. Safety is our number one priority and we must do all that we can to continue with a secure environment for our students and staff.
Another item that I filed several years ago is on chronic absenteeism. I hope that we can establish a committee within the schools and the community and make the necessary changes to come up with an action plan with benchmarks. We will need less talk and more action to get the job done.
Let’s also tackle the problem of having children reading on grade level by the end of grade three. We also need to see if we can add additional instructional assistants at the kindergarten level so that all kindergarten classes can have an assistant. We can’t do it all in one year but we can start the planning process. Let’s take the next step in our “Books for Babies” program and have home visits made by volunteers and our school nurses as a follow-up to our literacy initiative. We must try to do everything possible to have children entering the kindergarten with the necessary readiness skills. Can we add additional pre-school programs to the mix? Remember, this is where the achievement gap starts and we must have the necessary resources to deal with this problem at an early age.
Other agenda items deserving our attention are the following:
• To consider the possible benefits and drawbacks of a later secondary school starting time.
• To consider ways of increasing Civic education within our schools.
• To review our policy on cell phone use in our schools
• To begin work on the new school budget for the 2016-2017 school year.
• To continue to increase our AP courses across the system.
These are just a few of the challenges facing the school committee and as a body we need to do all we can to address the issues by working together and looking for assistance from our community partners and from our local legislative delegation.
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