School Committee Forum notes – 10/20

Registration was required for this candidate forum (as it was for the other forums) because of limited seating.  (Note that this has prevented some of our t-shirted friends from attending, as far as I can tell.)
We are again welcomed by Maritza Cruz.  [full list of sponsors]
(link to video)


Moderators: M Casey Starr, Monica Thomas-Bonnick

Dianna Biancheria is not in attendance due to a death in the family.

90 second opening statements
Clancey: running for her second term.  Born & raised in Worcester.  Two children in WPS.  Educated at WSU, American International College.  Parents need to have a say in decisions that are made.  Hopes to continue to be part of the team that continues work.
Coghlin Mailman: runs family business, public education system is the lifeblood for many family businesses.  Has been involved for many years with Worcester Technical High School.  Has worked to expand Innovation Pathways.  During last strategic plan, chaired tech part, wants strategic plan updated.
Novick: running for fifth term, not consecutively.  (You know her, people, don‘t make me type.)  The coming school term about policy and hiring a new superintendent.  Need people who can work on this.
Johnson: product of WPS.  Is a social worker for DCF.  Two kids in WPS.  During pandemic, his family, along with many others, struggled.  Decided that he would run for SC for those families who struggle(d).
McCullough: she runs a local nonprofit called Planting the Seed.  Stepparent to two boys.  Wants to advocate for all students.  Proud to work on inclusive health curriculum, dress codes; will continue to advocate for best educational opportunities for all students.
Kamara: early voting from 23rd!!!  Her family came her from Liberia; she grew up in poverty.  Got a scholarship to go to Providence College.  Has a MPH.  Running bc equity for all, community health.  Would love to serve as an inspiration but also an advocate.
Soucy: went to 5 different elementaries, 2 junior highs, had eldest son at age of 14.  Was homeless at 15, struggled through much adversity.  Finished high school, went to Becker, owned a barber shop, now an electrician, as is her eldest son.  Hopes to be a big voice for the students who are growing up in poverty like her.  Kids are struggling immensely.

Q1 from NAACP: why is it important to have adequate representation of black, brown, male educators in WPS?  What strategies in diversity and retention?
Soucy: as a minority woman who is also an electrician and barber, values diversity.  Benefits from opportunities from affirmative action – so there are a lot of opportunities for black/brown people, so makes recruiting and retaining difficulties.  Wants students to see the impact they can have and wants them to think about teaching.  Life experiences and ability to relate to children has hugest impact on their lives.  Would require climate change in WPS.
Kamara: there was a doctor who came to speak when she was in school, sees need for more people of color in schools.  Wants all of us to really mean that, not just in hiring but in retention.  With a woman of color running for SC (herself), we need to elect people who are diverse, and bring in a superintendent who also believes in that.
McCullough: importance of having educators that look like students is crucial.  Teacher Pipeline Proposal with WSU is something she served on – can use that to attract and retain teachers of color.  Make sure mentors are provided beyond first year.
Johnson: there has never been a black male elected to Worcester School Committee.  Translate that down to WPS educators.  Growing up, there were not many educators of color in WPS.  (The PA system is not great so I missed some of what he said)
Novick: ton of research that demonstrates teachers of color important for all students.  Questions of cultural competency, implicit bias, also role models.  People decide to become teachers when they are really young bc they are happy at school.  Disciplinary practices directly contribute to whether people feel comfortable.  Equity audit is needed, as is implicit bias training for all.
Mailman: hiring and retention in the trades take focus, time to develop, need to be measurable, transparent, many models of workforce development (like co-op and apprenticeship) – can be tried in education.  
Clancey: students need to have people in front of them that look like them.  In WPS have serious situation with retention.  Teacher morale is low period.  Listen to staff. Teaching is tough to get into.  Look at alternative pathways to licensure.  Dept relies heavily on test to determine licensure.


Q2 from YWCA of CM: comprehensive sex ed, evidence-based, culturally informed, etc.?  How will you support such an initiative?
Johnson: as educators, need to make sure students can make healthy decisions.  3Rs can assist – he supports Worcester adopting comprehensive sex ed.  Supports families who feel like opting out as well.  As social worker, works with numerous things: sexual exploitation and can see benefits.
McCullough: she already has supported such an initiative.  Very vocal advocate of 3Rs – need inclusive, medically accurate curriculum.  City needs help in area of health, this will provide students knowledge of how to avoid high-risk situations and being open / accepting of others.  (A lot more, quite good)
Kamara: has taught sexual health education before, supports need for sex ed.  Also interested in the fact that parents may or may not feel comfortable – supports opt out, seamless process to do that.  In that also need to evaluate how this is bringing STI/STD, teen pregnancy down, and promoting good behaviors – not being a bystander – that should be up.
Soucy, who you were all waiting for: one of the biggest problems WPS is facing is huge gap of parent involvement in children.  That is a huge problem and big deficit on children‘s decisions on sex ed.  NOT AGAINST SEX ED – AGAINST 3Rs and ANYTHING LIKE IT.  It is age-inappropriate, pornographic, and she references a website that is not the WPS website, the only place where you can see the WPS curriculum.
Clancey: also supported the initiative and will continue to support curriculum.  Knows how much formalized curriculum was needed.  Once DESE gets act together, will be part of state guidelines.  Worked on by city schools health staff – we have amazing teachers.  She learned how babies are made when she was in elementary school at Nelson Place.  LOOKS RIGHT AT SOUCY – SICK BURN
Mailman: supports sex ed.  Parents can opt kids out.  Participated in presentations by WPS that have reinforced timeliness of this particular program.  Health professionals endorsed – this carried a lot of weight.  Firmly believes that knowledge is power and we underestimate children‘s ability to understand.
Novick: former committee violated Open Meeting Law, didn‘t follow process, and a number of us ran on this issue and fulfilled what community wanted.  This is crucial for sex ed, but also for LGBTQIA students and ALL students.  Ideology and indoctrination – NO; Facts – YES.  MORE BURNS FROM THIS SIDE OF THE TABLE


Q3 from LWV: success of school children – how to collaborate with all orgs in the city, incl business, arts nonprofits, higher ed, social service, to the benefit of everyone.
Mailman:  hopeful that as we transition to new super that this is part of the job requirements.  WPS are viewed as somewhat of a fortress: no one can get in.  We do not have all the answers in Worcester.  Thinking about Shine Initiative.  Should have started years ago, but only started recently bc so difficult to get to the table.
McCullough: agrees.  Incorporate into next strategic plan, next super needs to enhance and build new relationships.  Everyone should have seat at the table.  Tutoring partnerships, dual enrollment, etc. from higher ed.
Clancey: we need to work with leadership that accepts outside orgs.  In midst of pandemic, need to collab with other orgs to assist students/staff.
Kamara: is part of her five-point plan: Office of Community Relationships, to work with WEDF to align to specific needs.  Internship funding, to grow relationship with business, nonprofit world.  Worcester Public School alum network can also provide job opportunities.  Track where kids are going to college, what field they are working in.
Novick: Loves the first part of question – School children‘s success part of city‘s health.  Something can be goals of new super.  Also notion of schools being a place that families feel belong to them.  There are many schools where this is not the case, plays into this as well.
Soucy: during pandemic, NYC doubled up on community school strategy.  Quality ed, infusion of social services, initiative that will allow school staff to collaborate with families.  She has read all this before.
Johnson: surprised that we still need to have this conversation.  Has worked with different mental health agencies.  Need to engage some of these outside providers for care for our kids.  We keep bringing businesses in, but not giving kids access to grow/learn.
[Note: maybe 15 minutes ago they allowed a bunch of people in.  NO SIGNS, though, mes amis]

Q4: about SROs.  What model for authentic way forward that allows least amount of trauma for students?
McCullough: new plan to be rolled out in January.  Need additional adjustment counselors, clinicians, wraparound coordinators.  We have known we have needed more services for a number of years, now even more with pandemic.  Would support community relationship building role – students should feel safe but that things will not lead to more severe punishment.
Mailman: for schools to be place of learning and development, all (students, teachers) need to feel safe.  Need for proper support staff.  School nurses, counselors, etc.  New safety plan in early December.  Plan has taken a long time to be developed.  Wants to hear from students/families impacted by past practices.  This is another area where we can look to others for ideas/best practices.
Kamara: prevention to use community policing.  Include social workers.  Look at how to help kids.  Look at kids who are coming with different medical histories – social workers need to know that.  [HIPAA?]  Make sure kids are not given inappropriate/inaccurate diagnoses.
Novick: having police officers in schools actively harmful to students.  No impact on shootings, elevated arrests and discipline, esp for black students.  Put real money into restorative justice, make it a priority of new administration.  Hoping to graduate students who are fully-formed adults.  Sometimes we look at schools as if crowd control.
Johnson: in 1989, cousin‘s life was taken in South High.  At that time, no police officers in schools.  The schools after that remained safe.  Need to continue community togetherness to resolve issues.  Police officers in schools are not beneficial to students.  Students say no reason for police to be in schools 6.5 hours a day.
Soucy: has been asked to speak MOST OF HER LIFE.  [The person in back of me would BEG TO DIFFER THANK YOU VERY MUCH.]  Kids are looking for someone to relate to them.  Kids like seeing someone who has experienced what they have, the anger is a cover-up for a lot of pain.  COMMUNITY SCHOOLS ARE THE ANSWER.  A lot of people in community have been working with the kids.  The kids need access to those people.
Clancey: the money that was saved equivalent to two social workers.  Novick proposed improvements for 14 social workers.  Agrees with Novick on restorative justice, mentions community policing.  With WPD relationship, have avoided some serious incidents.  Wants to see task force report next month.

Questions from the audience.  No Comments, JUST QUESTIONS based on platforms.


Q from Judy Perry, with grands and great-grands in WPS.  At Centro debate, the SC revisited the 3Rs curriculum and took some components out.  Can you talk about what was taken out and why?
McCullough: work with curriculum dept and consultant moved some lessons to other grades and removed other lessons.  Can get her in contact with curriculum website.  LOOK AT THE DAMN WEBSITE PEOPLE.  Oh my word, Molly, I feel for you.
Novick: the role of the school committee in adopting curriculum is high-level.  We should not be evaluating individual lesson plans – that‘s the job of health educators who do this every day.  This is true of ALL curricula that is reviewed.  We literally hire experts in the field.
Clancey: we worked with our health staff to evaluate numerous different curricula and relied on what they had to say and that is how we voted.

Q from Rodriguez-Fay: first school community liaison.  Fought for bilingual education.  Concerned about racial disparity, Latinos are majority, but no one is representing us.  [We are at the ‘is this a question‘ point.]  Massachusetts is the worst state for Latinos.  How to address racial disparity?
Mailman: this is the question of the night.  Chairs board of QCC.  Latino president and struggling with the same issues.  It matters that he is there, and others at table matter too.  Look at our city council – not just our schools, but our schools are where it starts.  I know I’m an old white lady, but on the team and let‘s get going.
Clancey: have to have serious diversity officer/ pipeline and recruiting.  Have not increased staff in front of students that look like them.  ELL – we don‘t have enough certified dual-language teachers.  Need to work with state to find alternatives to licensure.  We did not have enough teachers to teach at new dual-language school.
Novick: Echoes comments about licensure issues.  We have site council before us (SC) tomorrow– these are supposed to be representative and will ask that tomorrow.  Transitional language students should be routed to dual-language.  Need to value that students speak another language rather than obstacle to be overcome.
Johnson: we were having this conversation ten years ago.  No one ever hears/listens to your voice.  That is why he is running.  Will advocate and push for things that are long overdue.
McCullough: need to hire more employees of color, mentorship through first three years of teaching.  Education should be looked at as desirable career path for students.  Many in community do not know who SC is, what it does.  Will work hard to provide addl translation services.  Need ability to have meetings/forums in multiple languages so that families can be involved.
Kamara: great things happening in our city.  WSU has a lot of program for bilingual teachers, 100 Men to College, LEI doing a fantastic job.  What is the barrier if this is happening in the city and not getting to WPS?  How are we passing up qualified candidates?  Need to look at folks who are hiring – can they evaluate bilingual candidates.
Soucy: we keep talking about hiring/retention – but WE ARE LIVING IN A PANDEMIC.  PEOPLE ARE LEAVING THEIR JOBS.  We need to look at unique ways to get teachers and students supports.  We are in the middle of a very difficult time, need to come together as a community.  COMMUNITY SCHOOLS.  LINCOLN STREET SCHOOL – two projects and a methadone clinic.
(The lady behind me notes that she did not answer the question.  This may, in fact, mirror my view.)


Q to Shanel from Pickens– how to advocate for LGBTQ if you don‘t condone or respect homosexuality?
Soucy: SHE HAS ENDURED DISCRIMINATION, RIDICULE, ATTACKS TOWARDS UNDERAGE SON – all because of 3Rs curriculum.  Was uninvited for a forum for minority candidates.  PEOPLE HAVE FUELED A MOB AGAINST HER !!!!!  [In the absence of Dianna B, Shanel has decided to be the ALL CAPS candidate at this forum.]
She is asked to answer the question
Soucy: she has been the one who has been attacked !!!!  She says there was no question.
She is disabused of this by the moderators and will respond to the question.
SHE HAS SPENT HER LIFE MENTORING ALL who are in her barber chair.  SHE WORKED WITH THEM FOR MANY YEARS – this will not affect how she treats any child.
There is applause.  My side of the room is amazed – LORD HAVE MERCY is an exact quote.


Closing statement of interest:
Soucy‘s voice “would be unparalleled”
Novick: we have a superintendent search coming up and we need your votes there as well.
There were laughs as Mailman got stuck on the word “broads”; mentions needing to maintain buildings.
Clancey: anger comes from 2020 social media post and has nothing to do with the actual sex ed curriculum.

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