Bidding for the naming rights to this post is now open

Tomorrow night, the City Council will vote on whether to accept 45 Green Street (Rockland Trust Plaza) as a gift from the WRA (Item 9.15A).

In February of 2020, the city sold the parcel, then called the General Pickett Parking Lot, to the WRA for $100.  

At the time, the WRA had received a $3.5 million MassWorks grant to renovate the parcel.  Specifically, the parcel was supposed to host a “container park” where retail businesses would operate out of renovated shipping containers.  You can see the original design here.

The total cost of the project ended up being roughly $2.9 million; it’s unclear from my reading of WRA meeting minutes exactly when and how the design of the plaza changed (that is, to remove the retail and lower the overall project cost).

I suppose in the grand scheme of things, none of this matters.  The city briefly gave some land to the WRA, the WRA redeveloped it, the city gets it back.  It’s the Worcester version of the circle of life.  No one bothered to pay attention to the original plans.  They were vaguely impressed by a small canal (Worcester’s version of Spinal Tap’s Stonehenge).  A brief concern about changing the name from that of a Civil War general to a bank was appeased by planting a few trees and installing a plaque.

What was the point of redeveloping the parking lot?  Obviously, it didn’t make sense for a weird little parking lot to be a major pedestrian path to the baseball stadium…but there are only so many baseball games a year.  In reading the original proposals, there was definitely the intention to make this an active space for non-game days with programming/events/food trucks.

If I were a city councilor, I’d want to know the following:

  • Why were the original plans for the site changed?  Under what circumstances do we request a report back from the WRA about a significant change in site design?
  • Which department(s) are going to be responsible for maintaining the landscape, the water feature, and the proposed statue of Tobias Boland?  For example, if the city Parks department was ultimately going to maintain all or part of this property, were they consulted as part of this project?
  • Part of the plans for this property were for permanent and temporary art displays and festivals.  Is that still part of the plan?  If so, who will be curating the art displays, approving permitting for events, and recruiting those who want to participate?
  • What other city properties are named by an outside entity (like the sports team) after a for-profit institution?

Naming of Public Areas

There is another item on tomorrow’s agenda asking to rename Plantation Street.  I don’t want to get too deeply into that right now, but that name and the renaming of “Pickett” to “Rockland Trust” (as well as creating a statue to Tobias Boland) points to an issue we have in Worcester: there is no rhyme, reason, or policy in naming or renaming public places.

There is a long list of prominent Worcester residents who have never had a monument built to them, a street or school named after them, or even a small plaque installed.  While there is a process for having an honorary street designation made, I haven’t seen that used (yet) and the ways that prominent places are named is opaque, at best.  

In the case of 45 Green Street, the WRA’s agreement with the baseball team was that the team would negotiate naming rights, and the team would get more than half of the naming rights.  Rockland Trust secured three years’ worth of naming at $80,000 a year.  The city general fund will see none of that money – the money goes to the baseball team (who never owned the land or spent anything on the redevelopment) and the WRA.

When the City Council votes tomorrow night to accept this land, we are accepting land that is prominently named after a for-profit corporation.  It’s unclear (to me, at least) what the plaza should be called after those three years, and who has the naming rights at that time.  Does Rockland Trust have the rights of first refusal for naming after three years?  This, too, would be worth asking a legal opinion about.  (I should note that when I say that things are unclear to me, they are unclear because the team did the negotiating and there was no approval by the WRA board.  Nothing that happened here is in the public domain, and I don’t even know if it could be in the public domain. It’s an agreement between two private companies about the naming of public land.  We are going to own land and are not privy to what conditions were made upon that land.)

But Rockland Trust Plaza is a relatively small parcel of land, and Plantation Street is one street.  Rather than handling naming piecemeal, as we do currently, it would be worth investigating how to name in a systematic way.  Somerville, for example, has a committee devoted to memorialization.  Before we erect a statue or rename a street, we should invest the time to really look at naming from a policy perspective.

Where does the Ballpark Commission fit in?

The city established a citizen commission for the ballpark late last year, to monitor the lease agreement, approve “city events,” and (one would hope) provide transparency that had previously been lacking.  The last time the commission met was in May, nearly five months ago.

According to the Community Benefits Agreement between the city and the team, the city is entitled to 8 revenue-generating events in the first five years,  We’ve had two years; I have no idea how many revenue-generating events the city has held, but I assume it’s closer to zero than sixteen.  We were also entitled to 10 community days a year and 15 community meetings.  It’s unclear how those days have been used.  And we only have three years left…

In addition, in order to pay off everything, there needed to have been 55 non-baseball events run by the team every year.As was recently reported in the Telegram, the ballpark was not actually constructed to meet the requirements to host the non-baseball events, including having doors that were not high enough.  The former city manager had heard about the “height thing” but somehow having a commission specifically for this ballpark didn’t cause that information to trickle down to the residents of Worcester.

I had petitioned the city a year and a half ago for the basic information most municipalities would want about a large project like Polar Park.  As of now, we still don’t have a central location for some of this information, or ANY information about community days, the city’s revenue-generating days, who is using the city-designated ballpark suite, etc.  

Considering how things have been going (or not) with the ballpark commission, I don’t anticipate that we will find out any time soon.

But something worth considering is just how many different entities there are involved in the ballpark: the City Council and City Manager’s office, certainly, but also the city Economic Development office, the WRA, the Ballpark Commission, the owners of the team, various sponsors…and, in all of this, I don’t get a sense that anyone is actually keeping track of the promises made to residents.

With the transfer of this property, we have an opportunity to make certain policies clear: to make naming transparent; to include city agencies in planning for properties for which they will be responsible; to communicate significant design changes.  We should not waste this opportunity.

When, and why, did South High become “The Colonels”?

There has been some controversy (rightly) about the mascot of South High School.

The article linked to above indicates that the mascot was created by Al Banx. Since so many “traditions” are relatively new, I wanted to see if I could pinpoint when the mascot was created and when it was more widely adopted by the school.

A friend had asked me, “Surely Robert Goddard was not a Colonel” – and, of course, Goddard was not a Colonel. I did an extensive search of Telegram and Gazette records, and the first time I find a South High School team referred to as the “Colonels” is in 1939.

In Worcester, we are blessed to have both an excellent local history section in the public library and an excellent librarian in Joy Hennig. I figured that the best way to find the origins of a mascot would be in the school’s yearbook, and Joy kindly pulled nearly three decades’ worth of yearbooks for me to review.

The first time the Colonel appears in a South High yearbook is in 1939, from an Al Banx cartoon that originally appeared in the Evening Gazette. The Colonel has double six-shooters, recently fired, in a cemetery called “South’s Seven Straight Baseball Cemetery.” He’s sitting over the grave for 1939, and, as far as I can tell, he’s a Southern Colonel because, well, it’s South High.

The 1940 yearbook has another Banx cartoon; it’s unclear if this is courtesy of the paper. It’s also unclear what exactly is going on. (Classical High is represented by some betoga’ed character; Commerce is represented by their team mascot, Mercury; and North High, showing that mascots can be changed in this city, is represented by an Eskimo.)

I wanted to show what the football team page looks like in 1940; the team does not refer to itself as the Colonels, but as the Red and White. Perhaps at this point, the baseball team alone is known as the Colonels; perhaps it is still more of an informal nickname.

As we move to 1941, the main sports page does not feature a colonel:

However, in 1942, the Colonel makes another cartoon appearance at the prom:

And the basketball team is referring to itself as the Colonels:

In 1943, the Colonel makes his first appearance in the Sports section header:

The football team, however, still does not appear to refer to itself as the Colonels; they are “Crimson and White.”

The 1944 football team seems to have finally adopted the Colonel:

In 1945 the Colonel first appears on the cover of the yearbook; what follows are a few yearbook covers from then to the late ’40s:

I’d love to know (from someone with a better sense of history than I have) if Al Banx was commissioned to create a mascot, or if this is something he did of his own volition.

The T&G column “How to decide what’s in a name” by Mike Richard (September 30, 2012), seems to imply the latter. (Link accessible with your library card)

Longtime Worcester Telegram cartoonist Al Banx created original panels for the newspaper for more than 40 years, with his work featured regularly on the sports pages. He had a particular fondness for Worcester’s high school and college athletic teams and was responsible for attaching several creative nicknames to area high schools.

Banx named the Millbury teams the Woolies since the town was a site for a number of mills, including spinning mills used to produce woolen clothing.

The Auburn Dandies was a mascot created by Banx of a snappy-dressed gentleman with top hat and tails. 

So – if you have more Al Banx background than I do, I’d love to hear from you!

Bait and switch

At the April 20th meeting of the Public Safety subcommittee, Councilor Toomey asked what the role of the city council was in evaluating an unmanned aircraft (drone) for the Worcester Police.  City Solicitor Traynor said:

“This process is a public vetting of the proposal to acquire surveillance technology out of the executive order; the manager makes the decision to acquire or not acquire some technology that the department is requesting.  In this case, the police department.  But it’s been set up such that before acquiring it and using it, the manager committed to submitting all the information to the council for the council to have a hearing like you are tonight, to elicit public comment on the proposal to acquire any particular technology.  There is no formal approval or veto power by the city council in this process.”

This statement struck me as bizarre; the city council approves earmarks and grants from the state all the time.  Why would this earmark be any different than the ones they approve throughout the year?

Right after City Solicitor Traynor spoke, City Councilor Toomey asked Senator Moore to talk about this, because it was his earmark that funded the de-escalation equipment.  He said that this was part of the FY22 state budget, that the amount was $100,000, and, oddly, mentioned a K9 component.  

Let’s go back half a year to November 16, 2021.  At that city council meeting, there was an item for a K9:

Item 9.36 B (Recommend adoption of a resolution to file, accept and expend a grant in the amount of One Hundred Thousand Dollars and No Cents ($100,000.00) from the Massachusetts Executive Office of Public Safety and Security to enhance the Worcester Police K9 Program.)

I watched the video of the November 16 regular city council meeting.  This was brought up at around the 9 minute mark but there was no discussion.

This is the item specifically:

As you can read, there’s nothing about de-escalation, nothing about unmanned aircraft, it was about a dog and equipment and training for the dog.

Is this drone being funded by the $100,000 K-9 earmark?  It would seem so.  If there’s some separate earmark, it would need to be approved by the city council.

Despite what the city solicitor says, it is completely within the purview of the city council to accept, or not accept, funds from the state.  And if those funds aren’t being used for the purpose that was presented to the city council, it is the city manager’s job to explain why and to ask for approval.

To put it another way: if, back in November, the city council had been presented with $100,000 earmark from the state for a police dog, a drone, and some tasers, and that earmark was approved without any requests for a policy, then it might be fair for the city administration to balk at such a request six months later.

But if the city council was told that $100,000 was going to a dog, and now the administration wants half of it to be spent on a drone, we’re back at square one. It is extremely fair to ask why this wasn’t requested up front and for a policy to be in place. That policy can be reviewed – and then the city council can decide if that’s how the grant money should be spent.

To put it yet another way: the City Manager has never brought funding for a drone before the City Council for approval as required by the Charter. One can only wonder why the City Solicitor isn’t concerned about this aspect of the City Charter.

Running scared

This week’s city council agenda has a very curious item: item 10.14B, a memo from the city solicitor to the city council, letting them know just how little power they have.

The reason for this memo – and, indeed, compared to some of the items that languish in a never-never land, the comparative speed in issuing the memo – is that the Worcester Police Department wants a drone. At last week’s meeting, my elected official (a title only given to a select few!) Thu Nguyen had requested that the proposal not be approved until there was a policy in place for its use. Indeed, Councilor Nguyen noted that the drone was part of funding for de-escalation, given to the WPD from the state legislature.

For most of us, it’s unclear how drones would aid in de-escalating a situation, and it would, of course, make sense for the city to have a policy about surveillance equipment. The city is being sued right now by a gentleman who was falsely arrested and jailed (Leicester man sues Worcester police; T&G April 28, 2022; link can be accessed with your WPL card). “The city of Worcester and the Police Department are accused of not having any written policies on conducting proper identification procedures or how to interview a witness, victim or suspect, with the lawsuit alleging that there are nationally accepted standards that have not been applied to training in Worcester.”

Councilor Nguyen is not only correct in requesting a policy in the moral sense, but is performing their fiduciary responsibility by trying to make sure we’re not sued because we don’t have policies in place! While traditions are a great thing, the city of Worcester’s tradition of getting sued and losing, repeatedly, year in and year out, may be a tradition we can lose!

Getting back to the memo: it would require more patience than I have ever had to outline the bizarreness of the Plan E form of government, but what the city solicitor is saying is this:

You, City Councilors, have ONE employee: the City Manager. You can’t direct the work of anyone else, you can’t create policies, you’re not in charge. You can hold hearings. You can solicit feedback from the public. But the city manager is in charge of policy.

Having served on an advisory board for the city, I wonder how this is any different than what I did. We had hearings, we listened to the public, but our votes were essentially meaningless: the administration was in charge. Surely our elected officials can do more than a lowly advisory board, right?

Of course they can!

Councilor Nguyen was not directing the work of anyone in the city. They had specifically requested that the “City Manager not approve the proposal for an Unmanned Aircraft System and prohibit usage of the this technology until a comprehensive and civil liberties focused policy regulating the use of it is submitted to the City Manager, City Council and the general public.” The City Manager is, after all, the one employee they can direct.

So – what gives? Can’t the city solicitor read a basic order?

These folks in city hall are scared. The city manager is so scared he’s getting out of Dodge. The city solicitor is so scared he’s writing memos about stuff that isn’t happening. They are scared because we’ve finally got a few more elected officials who aren’t afraid to ask questions, who aren’t afraid to think of bigger things than potholes.

Keep ’em running, Thu!

A Tale of Three City Manager Searches

On tomorrow’s City Council agenda, the Mayor is proposing Eric Batista as “interim” city manager, a position that doesn’t exist in the city charter (item 10a), and also asking the city clerk for “a report concerning the procedures and timelines followed during the 1993, 2004 and 2013-2014 City Manager searches and appointments.”  (item 10b)

Mayor Petty served as a City Councilor in 2004 and was one of the prime movers in the non-process of appointing Mike O’Brien as permanent city manager; he did the same as Mayor when he made Ed Augustus city manager 10 years later.  He wasn’t terribly interested in the process either of those times, and one supposes if he were interested in the process this time, he’d have asked about it before appointing someone to a position.

But for those of you who are interested in what happened the past three times, here’s my accounting.  Links should be accessible with your Worcester Public Library card login.

2013-2014 City Manager “Search”

Mike O’Brien resigned from his position as city manager in late November 2013, effective January 6, 2014.  In very short order, we found a new city manager.  Not an acting city manager – a real, live city manager with a short (9 month) contract. In order for a city manager to be called “acting,” they need to be a city employee at the time of hire.  In November 2013, there were only two city employees who appear to have been asked: Kathleen Johnson, the assistant city manager (who said no) and Tim McGourthy, then chief development officer, who was leaving the city for the research bureau.  (Mayor proposes Augustus as an interim manager – Motion put on hold for a week; November 27, 2013 and No ‘acting’ for city manager favorite – Council set to name Augustus for 6 to 12 months; November 28, 2013)

In the absence of anyone in the city government willing or able to take the position, how then did we find someone with the executive experience to run a medium-sized city?  Spoiler alert: we didn’t!  Many of us were surprised when Rick Rushton announced that Ed Augustus was going to be city manager.  He was stuck in a government relations position at Holy Cross and hadn’t lived in Worcester for years.  But, hey, he’d donated to the campaigns of the two people who were putting him forward to the City Council, so that should count for something, right?  If you hadn’t lived in the city very long, you’d likely never have heard of him, despite his relatively successful political career.

When Augustus was appointed, he said his intention was to return to his job at Holy Cross after nine months.  He even signed a document stating “Mr. Augustus acknowledges the vote of the City Council of December 3, 2013, that let it be known that Mr. Augustus be disqualified for consideration for reappointment following the term of the contract” but it appeared those words and two dollars will get you a ride on the Red Line.  Indeed, by January, the press was already reporting that people wanted him to remain in the position indefinitely.  (Effort launched to keep manager in job – Local activist says appointing Augustus is a ‘no-brainer’; January 18, 2014 and Augustus leaves city perplexed; January 27, 2014)

It took three months for the Municipal Operations subcommittee to start having meetings about what citizens wanted in a new city manager.  This was on purpose, of course; many of those who supported Ed Augustus were also behind the Mike O’Brien coup, and they knew the longer someone was in the temporary position, it would only be a matter of time before the incumbent became permanent.  In the meantime, elected officials could berate residents for speaking about actually answering the question they were asked.

The press remained convinced that Augustus didn’t want the job (except, of course, he did); by March, rather than ask when we’d be hiring an executive search firm, at least two city councilors were desperately trying to extend his contract past October.  (Pair seek to retain Augustus – Rivera, Rosen call for extended pact; March 30, 2014)

From the time Mike O’Brien resigned, it took over six months to hire an executive search firm.  When a firm was hired, it was responsible for the most embarrassing, unprofessional job posting imaginable, and it took the attention of yours truly and Dianne Williamson for the job posting to be corrected and re-posted.  (While we waited for the resumes to roll in, citizens had a fun time once again talking about a strong mayor form of government!)

We had three finalists for city manager; one internal candidate and two candidates with city management experience. (Are city manager finalists up to snuff?; August 27, 2014 and Meet the managers – Councilors face deadline and limited choices, September 11, 2014)

Did any of the candidates have a chance?  When I looked at it at the time (12), it didn’t appear so.  There was no “enthusiasm for any of the candidates” (No manager choice, so back to square one – Council will discuss offer to Augustus Thursday; September 17, 2014).  Indeed, there was pressure from nearly every angle but this blog to appoint Ed Augustus as city manager (Leaders: Augustus is the one; September 14, 2014).

Ten months after being originally offered the job, Ed Augustus finally gave the city council his resume.  The mayor announced, via the agenda known as “The Jordan Levy Show”, that Ed Augustus would be offered the permanent job.

There was more purported public process here than there was when Mike O’Brien was appointed city manager, but not by much.  There were public hearings where city councilors yelled at residents; there was an incompetent executive search firm; there were attempts throughout the search process to permanently recruit Ed Augustus; bad faith abounded.

I said it best in 2014:

When we start down the path of saying that the public’s opinion doesn’t matter, that items do not need to appear on the agenda, that process is nothing important, we can excuse any number of bad decisions and questionable choices.

2004 City Manager “Search”

On March 16, 2004, City Manager Thomas Hoover, who’d previously had very good reviews and a recent contract extension from the Council, resigned from office after receiving a letter signed by eight city councilors “suggesting” that he resign.  Among those who requested the resignation were Councilor-at-Large Joseph M. Petty.  For those looking from the outside in, it was unclear why the councilors requested Mr. Hoover resign; in fact, there were city councilors who didn’t sign on to the letter who were also mystified. (Council forces Hoover resignation – Manager leaving after eight oppose him; March 17, 2004)

An aside about the firing, because that’s what it was…there was an article where the councilors behind the coup indicated why they’d asked for the resignation.  The reasons consisted of (a) he was too nice to the mall owners, (b) he didn’t do anything for economic development, and (c) he never called me.  There was something more there, but I’m no insider so you’ll have to find someone who’s in the know. (Councilors reveal reasons behind call for resignation; March 18, 2004)

Within one day of the resignation, there was a contender for the job: Michael V. O’Brien, then commissioner of parks, recreation and cemetery.  (O’Brien is backed for interim post – Parks official may fill in as city manager; March 18, 2004)  Then-mayor Tim Murray tasked the Municipal Operations subcommittee (consisting of three people: two who’d nominated Mike O’Brien, plus Joe Petty) and two other councilors with forming an ad-hoc city manager search committee.  (Panel to aid search for city manager; March 23, 2004)  On March 24, O’Brien became acting city manager (for a nine month term).  (Interim city manager is sworn in; March 24, 2004; O’Brien ready for ‘challenge’ – Council inducts acting city manager)

After the appointment, it was clear that Mike O’Brien was saying the right things and in the good graces of the right people.  (Strong wind blows cobwebs off City Hall – O’Brien is hands-on manager; March 25, 2004)  The ad-hoc hiring committee was in no rush; it took them a month to have their first meeting, the second meeting was cancelled, and then, well, then it was budget season!  How can you have a meeting to discuss hiring someone to fill the most prominent position in city government when you already have another meeting the same week, right?

Make sure to pay attention to some of the 2004 arguments against a nationwide search, because they will surely make a comeback:

1 – It costs money!  “If the city cannot find $7,000 [to convert Pearl Street from a one-way street to two-way], where is it going to find the $25,000 to $30,000, or possibly even more, to hire a consultant to do a nationwide search for a city manager?”

2 – Property developers like a “real” city manager.  “Mr. Petty added that having an acting city manager for an extended period of time hurts the city. He said developers interested in coming to Worcester want to deal with a leader they know will be around for a while, rather than someone who is filling in on a temporary basis.”

3 – No one will apply to work in other city jobs.  “People are less interested in coming here if there is an acting city manager because there would be so much uncertainty about the future,” Mr. Petty said.

4 – If you have the perfect person already in the position, why bother looking.  Petty, again: “If he succeeds, as many of us believe he will, why go with a nationwide search?”

(Some councilors inclined to shorten O’Brien’s job title; May 23, 2004)

Whenever there is a change in city manager, there is talk of changing the form of government to a strong mayor; 2004 was certainly no exception.  There was a vibrant young leader in Tim Murray as well as a sense of how much the city’s potential might be constrained by the relatively conservative/slow pace of a city manager form of government.  I won’t delve into this too deeply now, but it’s worth remembering that this is not the first time people have talked of charter change.  (Familiar terrain – City Hall turnover fuels charter-change talks, May 24, 2004 and Push for strong-mayor dying, O’Brien may be set; May 26, 2004 and Grass-roots effort breathing life into strong-mayor model; June 2, 2004)

By late May/early June 2004, people at the supermarket were telling City Councilor Rick Rushton that they wanted Mike O’Brien to stay in the job; this seemed to be a better process for selecting a chief executive than either public meetings or a nationwide search. (A chamber of lost purpose – Open deliberations a thing of the past; June 2, 2004)

A month later later, the people at the Big Y checkout had spoken: Mike O’Brien was no longer “acting” – he was permanent.  The City Council who, then as now, like nothing better than kowtowing to someone they perceive as more powerful than then, gave the contract to the “ice man” for whom there were “no shades of gray.”  One city councilor said that the only other person who would have gotten the job was Jesus Christ.  (O’Brien isn’t just `acting’ anymore – Council’s 8-3 vote appoints manager; June 30, 2004 and Tentative contract reached with O’Brien; July 15, 2004)

Keep in mind that this was a process that Joe Petty partly ran, and that he spoke about extensively with the press.

1993 City Manager Search

Jeff Mulford resigned from his position in April 1993 effective January 31, 1994 – giving the city nine months for a search and hire process. (MULFORD’S DECISION GREETED WITH MIXED FEELINGS; April 23, 1993)  Mayor Jordan Levy appointed a three-member committee (including himself) for the search


As happened in the non-search for Mike O’Brien, there was a debate about whether the city could afford the services of an executive search firm, but there was much more of an emphasis on having a correct process.  “When the council conducted its last search for a city manager in 1984-85, it hired a consultant who helped draw up the qualifications for the job, recruit candidates and screen resumes.” (THE EARLY ACTION COULD REVEAL MUCH IN MANAGER SEARCH, May 9, 1993)

Within a month of the resignation, the city council had decided to hire a professional search consultant.  There was talk of having public hearings so residents could “comment on what qualities and qualifications they would like to see the next city manager have” and then hearings after semifinalist interviews and before hiring the new city manager.  The ad-hoc committee was criticized for having meetings in the middle of the day; these days, we’d be grateful they had any meetings. (SEARCH COMMITTEE WANTS TO HIRE CONSULTANT IN HUNT FOR MANAGER; May 22, 1993 and SEARCH PROCESS PANEL CRITICIZED FOR MEETINGS; May 31, 1993 and “VERY PUBLIC’ MANAGER-HIRING PROCESS URGED; May 29, 1993)

The process seemed to slow during the summer, but five firms responded to the RFP for the search and one firm was hired within a week of bids being received!

(SENSE OF URGENCY GONE FROM SEARCH FOR CITY MANAGER; July 4, 1993 and 5 SEARCH FIRMS IN RUNNING \ PROPOSALS FOR CITY MANAGER SEARCH TO – recommended if you want to see what a search firm should do; July 20, 1993 and CITY HIRES SEARCH FIRM \ $17,500 IS BID TO FIND MANAGER, July 27, 1993)

In what the Telegram editorial page called a “Worcester search,” Councilor Tim Cooney “suggested that the council interview all local candidates regardless of the consultant’s recommendations. His reasoning: Executive search firms often exclude local candidates from reaching interview stage.”  The Worcester argument, of course, is that no amount of executive experience is the equivalent of the ultimate experience: living in Worcester for one’s whole life! (A ‘WORCESTER SEARCH’? \ LET’S NOT PUT THE CITY THROUGH ANOTHER; July 25, 1993 and REQUIRING MANAGER TO HAVE EXPERIENCE MAY RESTRICT FIELD; August 1, 1993)

There was also that recurring bugbear of Worcester politics: that a lame-duck or not-permanent city manager meant qualified candidates for other city jobs wouldn’t apply.  (COUNCIL DEBATES THE IDEA OF INTERIM MANAGER; July 25, 1993 and MULFORD’S LAME-DUCK STATUS HINDERS HIRING; July 21, 1993)

Despite the Council’s opinion that citizens needed to be heard, few showed up at public hearings (123) though perhaps those that mattered already gave their opinion to the newspaper of record.  There was some refining of the qualifications for candidates; they opened the search up to those who had been assistant city managers.  By October 21, the executive search firm had 6 semi-finalists for the city to review.  The city council moved quickly in interviewing candidates and had two finalists a week later.  By Halloween, the City Council unanimously selected Tom Hoover as the new city manager. (FINALISTS NAMED FOR CITY MANAGER \ NO LOCAL CANDIDATES AMONG SIX; October 21, 1993 and TWO FAVORED FOR TOP CITY POST; October 29, 1993 and CITY COUNCIL FOUND A CITY MANAGER IT COULD WORK WITH; October 31, 1993)

When I read the newspaper accounts of the search and selection, there were frequent complaints about the slowness of the process.  I think the RFP for the search firm could have been made quicker, but compared to the processes (or non-processes) we’ve seen in the past twenty years, this process at least seemed like there were steps to follow, and a decision was made relatively quickly once candidates were presented.  I wonder if the difference is that Mulford gave the city council nearly a year to find his replacement.  In some ways, the lack of urgency may have felt like a lack of urgency for some, but was, perhaps, more marked by a lack of desperation.

Board of Health meeting tomorrow

Update: Since Gary was the one who made the motion..was there even a vote?

I expect that our friend Bill Shaner will write more/bettter/deeper about this, but I wanted to clarify some things about what’s been going on in the Board of Health this month, if only for myself.

At their meeting on Monday, February 7, the Board of Health voted 3-2 to rescind the city’s mask mandate, effective February 18.

On Friday, February 11, the city announced that Gary Rosen had not been sworn in as a member of the Board, and so the Board would meet again on Wednesday, February 16.  Mr. Rosen had been one of the members who had voted in favor of rescinding the mask mandate.  Without his being a member, the vote was 2-2 and did not pass.

Wait – can they do that?

You may notice that the City Council, the School Committee, and many other boards and commissions don’t have the same items on the agenda every time they meet.  That’s because once a body votes on an item, they need to consciously decide to take it up again.

You may notice that at some meetings, a member requests that a vote [the body just took] be reconsidered.  Do they want the vote to be overturned?  No!  But there is a rule of the Council that allows a reconsideration of a vote for a couple of days after the meeting.  In order to stave off this possibility, a councilor will immediately request the reconsideration. (Note: ‘reconsider’ is VERY Worcester word and concept; you won’t find the same in Robert’s Rules.)

Then according to the Council rules, that item cannot be brought up again for 90 days.

The Board of Health’s rules mostly follow Robert’s Rules.  Robert’s doesn’t have a 90-day delay, but it DOES require that a vote taken is permanent unless there’s a motion to recscind.

What is on the Board of Health agenda, though, isn’t a motion to rescind, but the same exact agenda item.  There are no do-overs (in this way) under Robert’s Rules, and so, no, this isn’t the way this should be approached.

The vote was taken by a quorum of the board, and it didn’t pass (2-2).  To vote on it again, someone needs to move to rescind the vote.  That motion to rescind would need to pass a majority of the (current) board, and then there would be a vote on the item.

To answer the question – no, they can’t just do it the way things are on the agenda.

Why were things allowed to get this far?

It’s unclear why Gary Rosen was allowed to vote in the February 7 meeting.

At the board’s January meeting, he recused himself from voting because he hadn’t yet been sworn in.  Technically, he wasn’t recusing himself, because, according to the M.G.L., he couldn’t perform any official duties.

Why Mr. Rosen didn’t “recuse” himself for the February 7 meeting is known only to him.

He found the time to appear on a talk show the following morning to discuss his vote, and certainly finds time for his own program.

He certainly knew, from his extensive experience in city government and from serving on various boards, what the requirements were.

The larger questions

When representatives of the Worcester Police Department initially declined to appear at the Board of Health – and took a full two months to have discussions with the Board of Health – there was no immediate response from the city administration to ensure that the WPD complied with the BoH’s request.

In this case, we have the city administration spinning into action to make sure that there is another vote (because the first vote didn’t go the way the city admin liked).  In the case of the mask mandate, the two POC members voted against rescinding the order.  The city administration is bending over backwards to make sure that their vote becomes a do-over.  You can rest assured that if the situation were reversed, there would be no immediate action by the city administration – we’ve seen that with their lack of action when it came to holding the WPD to account.

Mr. Rosen was appointed to replace David Fort.  The city manager appoints Board of Health members, and the City Council cannot vote to approve/deny these members.  This is how we had a man of color replaced with a singularly unqualified person who couldn’t take time out of his busy schedule to get himself sworn in. 

Let’s say the Board of Health votes contrary to their own rules (which mostly follow Robert’s); what would the course of action be?  I honestly don’t know.  There is no oversight by the City Council (who doesn’t appoint/confirm appointees), and the City Manager’s office is essentially running their agenda and the course of their current action.

The largest question of all, of course, is on what basis the Board of Health would rescind a mask mandate.  Cases continue to be high; our vaccination rate has not notably increased.  Indeed, we are at a better point now than we were a week ago to say: nothing has changed, and it may be once again getting worse.  Is now the best time to put the most vulnerable among us at risk?  It’s not, but that seems to matter little to the majority of the Board of Health.

(We could get into a larger discussion about indoor air quality, R values, how to encourage people to be vaccinated, etc.; but it seems as if all that has been left for the Board of Health are masks.)

What to do

I often find myself frustrated by government bodies, but I do recommend that those who want to listen and perhaps contribute can join the meeting Wednesday, February 16 at 6:30pm – Webex link.

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.

Contested District Council Candidate Forum Notes – 10/14

Candy Mero-Carlson declined because of another commitment; Cipro and Stratman were invited but are not here

So – Hampton-Dance, Rose, and Haxhiaj are in attendance

We are welcomed by Maritza Cruz; forum sponsored by YWCA, NAACP, MAWOCC, LEON, LWV, others.

Link to video

Moderators are Attorney Rubby Wuabu and Sophie Marani

Candidate introductions:

Councilor Rose: originally ran to make the city a better place for his daughters to raise their children.  However, in running for third term, bring people to get together.  Councilor‘s job is not to be an expert but to bring people together.  Social justice, taking care of vulnerable populations.  District race is very contested and important.  Our democratic values are on the line and cannot emphasize enough how important it is to maintain.

Haxhiaj: her story is the story of many other families who fled their home countries not from choice but because of political violence.  24 years later, making her second bid for CC.  In past few months, have knocked on thousands of doors.  Has shared with them about life experience and experience as community activist, youth worker, shaped – has advocated for equity as board member of YWCA.  We all deserve to have our voices included in planning.  Future greener, healthier for everyone.  Affordable housing for all people.  Elect people who are forward thinking (oh my word this was great – just watch the video)

Hampton-Dance: decided to run because she represents the everyday person.  Not a politician, not polished.  Knows what needs to get done.  Wants to be microphone, amplify people‘s voices and concerns.  No matter how many time people call and write letters.  She feels all the people at the table are running on equity.  She believes she can accomplish some things because she is unafraid and refuses to be quiet.  [She was quite impressive – I was not sure what to expect as a non-D2-voter!]

Q1: how to improve access for woman- and POC (not a quote)-owned businesses in city contracts?

Etel: worked with CLC on this.  We should be taking the lead in how we think about equity.  Pandemic has raised questions.  Would like an equity audit of purchasing, contracts.  It doesn‘t end at putting a line on the city website.  Have right people do the outreach.  Listen to people about what is missing from the contract.  We cannot talk about equity without listening to the people who are impacted by inequity.  Wants to make sure process is transparent.

Sean: Apologizes for opponent not being here.  He is a small business owner.  Often times to contract with people to offer resources.  Also pres of a nonprofit.  What happens is that you are going up against people who have huge teams, dedicated grantwriters.  Look at bidding process closely, even playing field.  Aggressive TIF policies – can use as an opportunity to look at the bid process.

Johanna:  making people aware that there are monies available.  How to get word out: community colleges, resource centers, workshops on how to start a business.  It‘s one thing to talk about bidding, but as a normal person – how do I start a business or a nonprofit?  Where is the front door?

Q2 from NAACP: ARPA funds gives us unique opportunity.  How to determine priority areas?

Etel: the starting point for how we ensure all communities are taken care of.  ARPA is to uplift those who have been negatively impacted by the pandemic.  What has been done in community listening sessions is not good.  Affordable Housing Coalition – 20% of ARPA should be dedicated.  Prescription should come from the community.  CC should listen more to constituents.  Not to be seen as a “good listener” but because it‘s the right thing to do.  Need to spend money in housing, take care of food insecurity, starts and ends with an equity lens.

Johanna: (whispers: “I have to agree with Etel”)  Fight is still on for 20%…we need buildings built for affordable housing, for those stuck in family shelters.  If single person and homeless, you might not get a bed.  Lofts for $2500 a month – I can‘t afford that – so where do I live?  Rent increases – those working 40 hours a week cannot afford.  No more protection from evictions.  How to pay back rent?  More mental health and drug addiction treatment.  We can build a ballpark – [then] we can build apartments.

Q3 from LWV: District councilors often hear specific infrastructure complaints.  What specific experience do you have to efficiently respond?

Johanna: have assisted people in a variety of issues and is not even on the city council yet.  All it took for her to listen.  Then put action behind it.  Provide transparency.  We can say “I‘m going to take care of it” all day long but nothing gets down.  I plan on being accessible 24/7.  It‘s going to be overwhelming, but I work best under pressure. 

Etel: Has been a long-time organizer and has learned about the issues in the city.  Has worked with mothers to have utilities fix gas leaks.  She will work with people who disagree with her.  What she has heard when knocking on doors – different way of thinking about safety, public health, and intersecting issues (housing is safety, housing is health).  Proven record of doing this already.

We have time for questions from the audience.

BLOG FAVORITE Fred Taylor: civilian review board.  We‘ve heard about what the state will do.  Do you support civilian review?  Why/why not?

Johanna: YES.  Has been very vocal about this.  Needs subpoena power.  Police cannot police themselves. Done on a biased level, rinse and repeat process.  No reprimand for bad behavior or misconduct.  Weed out bad apples.  WPD should be respected, trusted – not feared.  If you fear the police, you will not call the police.

Etel: YES.  In the city, we have gone a long time without listening to voices of black and brown people.  Executive order needed.  Police should not be excluded from accountability.  Police officer‘s job description should not be called because of social issues like homelessness.  Definitely civilian review board with subpoena power – but also in best interests of communities most impacted by police brutality. 

Follow up: who should serve?

Johanna: orgs at the forefront (names a bunch). 

Etel: has heard criticism that we can‘t have volunteers with expertise.  Many boards and commissions are already staffed by volunteers.  Need to appoint people who have lived experience.  Accountability to those most impacted.

Rose (who had to step out): would like to see process started done first – then work from there.  Would like to see that through in advance of starting something new.  Each district has own identity – want to see each part of city represented.  Mental health, trauma backgrounds helpful as well.

Q from Shelly Rodman of LWV: read about CC discussion of composition of SC from the previous CC meeting.  Three options were presented.  What do you think?  One month comment period for residents to say something – seems like tight timeframe.

Johanna: OK with three options – each seems reasonable. 4 week time period – but this has been ongoing discussion.  Conversations should have been done at this point.  Because this has not been done fall on the Council.  Done deal – needs to move forward.

Sean: in his two terms, that was probably the saddest CC meeting.  It should have been an 11-0 vote.  When he talks about values on the line, this is exactly what I mean.  Councilors on the record talking about charter review, stats about black/brown people not being represented.  We‘ve been challenged for 400 years in this country.  This levels the playing field.  He is disappointed with some of the commentary.  He likes all options – just wants to get it done.  He is very pragmatic. 

Etel: shocking that it was not a unanimous vote.  Plaintiffs have entered into consent decree – interested in their perspective.  Why is it that every time we try to bring equity forward, why is it that certain members of the Council continue to block progress?  Hurting communities.

Q from me about an issue facing each candidate‘s specific district they‘d like to tackle.

Johanna: certain areas that are very well kept, a lot of the district is not – from trash on the streets to panhandlers on every corner, to rundown properties.  No time, money, attention invested in those neighborhoods.  Neighborhood should reflect people who live as a whole.  Clean atmosphere – take more pride.  Need to hire more DPW, Parks employees to create that atmosphere.  Send out mailers for neighborhood cleanup.  We say we take pride in the city, but there are certain areas of D2 where that doesn‘t show.

Sean: food insecurity.  Seeing people suffering after the pandemic.  Perception that everyone in D1 is well-off, but that is not the case.  There‘s a lot of diversity in the district.  Community fridges are great, Carl Gomes, etc. are being helpful.  QCC has a food pantry.  Kids who are choosing books over meals.  Goals is to change perception of D1 – money is not growing on trees.  Balanced resources around the district.  Tacoma getting rectangular field and spray park, 149 W Boylston Drive – worked with John Mahoney to get that cleared (more parks mentioned).  One of the most beautiful sites on the lake. 

Etel: did a walk audit with neighbors on Mill St 4-5 months ago.  #1 thing is pedestrian safety, children and elderly narrowly escaping being hit by cars.  Pleasant, June, Mill are all very busy.  Traffic calming measures, elderly/seniors/bikers/children need safe streets.  Meeting at West Tatnuck because child had been hit – crossing guard also hit.  We talk about public safety, public health – both issue.  People need a walkable city.  Green/walkable/transportation all related.  Free WRTA is part of this.  We also have a lot of vacant properties.  Park Ave, Big D on Mill Street.  That‘s an issue on their minds.  Incentives to make sure that we are building for neighbors, not for outside people.  All of our residents need to be included in decision-making processes. 

Q: at the NAACP candidate forum, every candidate says that they listen.  It is easy to listen to people who talk in ways that are familiar to you.  Has talked with those who consider themselves progressive but object when someone demonstrates anger or frustration, because it makes it hard to hear the logic.  Can you respond to that concern, what would you do?

Johanna: this just happened last week.  She was knocking on a police officer‘s door.  He was outside and it was a spectacle.  Maybe I can brighten his day…he said he wasn‘t voting for anyone who was not pro-police.  I‘m not, but I‘m not against them either.  I don‘t want people abusing authority.  She wanted to hear why he thought that about her.  He was already angry.  Went on a tangent with Main South.  I spent 25 minutes talking with him and his wife.  I come from a household with a DEA agent; I can understand where he‘s coming from.  We have an understanding.  We didn‘t walk away in anger.

Sean: 26 years in field of mental health and education – people can yell at him. We‘re such a big city.  On Saxon Road, issue with runoff coming into basements – but different from GBV or upper Burncoat or Lincoln Village.  8 neighborhood meetings in our district.  It‘s easy to make issues small – try to understand where people are from.  He grew up in single-parent household, moving quite a bit.  Gives him a good perspective on what needs are.  In the end is committed to finding common ground.  Also times when we have to tell people bad news.

Etel: started career as community mediator in small claims court, then taught about conflict resolution.  We cannot walk away from conversations because we feel angry.  At the end of the day, what‘s beneath anger and frustration is pain.  Pain of not being heard.  Doesn‘t want to police people‘s emotions.  We cannot get stuck in our separate corners and not have conversations.  Our lives are rooted in nuance and complexity.  Conflict is opportunity to look at how we relate to each other.  We need to come from place of compassion – build, not destroy.

Final statements:

Etel, from the heart: This has been a very difficult year for a lot of people.  Her office is located in a shelter.  There is not a day that goes by that she doesn‘t think about the kids on the steps of her building.  Purpose: wants to serve beyond normal definition of serving.  Pathway for those who will come beyond her.  Need doors opened, so that people can express hopes and dreams.  Has been hurt by a lot of negativity hurled her way, but as leaders lead with integrity, patience, ability to talk to all.  If elected, easy to make promises.  Commitment to listen, act, organize, to make sure we are building city for all people and not just a few.

Sean: the COVID disparity study from UMass is way for ARPA funds – do not need to reinvent, can do some strategic planning.  Walkability is important, 2 miles to get to school (without bus) and need studies to get to school.  At one point he was personally filling in a lot of potholes.  $110 million in streets scheduled to be repaired.  Need to figure out how to chip away at that – use unused tax levy.  He is very thoughtful – offered office hours during pandemic.  A great city councilor is an expert in partnering with others and bringing them together.  We have opportunity to not just be reactive/band-aid but have assessments can inform our practice and we can be proactive.  We need someone who is not a one-sided thinker, not just about one department in the city.  Lack of educated approach will stall the progress we have made.

Johanna: her 9-5 works for a nonprofit that contracts with EOHHS and Elder Affairs, directing people to get what they need.  A lot of what‘s missing is pointing people in the right direction.  If you are a councilor in the city, you should know where the resources are at.  She can relate to people in a real way and understand.  She can understand waiting in line at food pantries, going to CMHA.  Someone needs diapers for their baby – she can help them find the right resources.  I am not the voice – but I will amplify.  I may not be that polished diamond – but I am getting there.  I will not leave you out in the cold.

Worcester School Committee Forum notes – 10/13

video link

Telegram coverage

The Opt-Out people insisted on sitting rightnexttome because it was on Shanel‘s side so I moved to the other side of the room.  These people are really too much.

They also have a sign with many, many words.  Two signs, even more words.  They have been told to put them away. 

It appears that all the candidates are here.

Paul Matthews of the Research Bureau opens the forum…thanks the moderators (Kim Salmon and Liz Hamilton), thanks the two audiences (for a minute I thought he meant “the Opt Out people” and the rest of us – but of course he means those at home and those in person).  ELECTIONS MATTER. 

WEC, Chamber of Commerce, Mechanics Hall, Telegram & Gazette are also the hosts of this forum.

(While I listen to the intro from Kathleen Gagne, I just wanted to share that I thought Washburn Hall the most magical room in the world when I was a girl, and I was not wrong.)

More Opt-Outers.  I fear they are breeding.

This is a forum where someone will be asked a question, three other candidates respond, then original candidates will get a little rebuttal.  (This is typical WRRB forum format.)

Opening Statements:

Novick: running for fifth term.  Mother of three, two WPS grads, one soph at Burncoat in dual lang.  Former teacher, member of MTA at the time, works for MASC – focused on school policy and finance.  Advocate for a number of years.  Exciting times – will be appointing new superintendent.  Influx of federal funds.  Fought hard for Student Opportunity Act – big year for WPS.  Looking forward to continuing to serve on SC.

Biancheria: She is 6th on the ballot.  Public Schools most valuable resource.  Advocates for accountability and transparency.  Advocates FROM DAY ONE when she began her adventure as a SC member – for career pathways.  Working towards academic excellence.  Safety in our schools. 

[There is a super-obnoxious guy who has decided to set up a camera RIGHT IN FRONT OF THE AUDIENCE.  He is being moved.]

McCullough: success of schools today = success of city tomorrow.  Research & institute policies to prepare students for higher ed and workforce.  SHE ADVOCATED FOR A GOOD HEALTH CURRICULUM.  TAKE IT HEAD-ON, MOLLY.  Also updated dress code.  Listening to and collaborating with students, families, educators, community members, key.

Clancey: born and raised – stayed here to raise her two daughters, WPS students.  Volunteer with many orgs, for last 15 years worked with at-risk youth supporting them in their educational goals.  Just like every parents, wants best education.  Parents need to have a say in issues impacting kids. 

Kamara: early voting starts October 23.  We must create a strong ladder of support – so children can have opportunity parents didn‘t have.  Born in W Africa/Liberia, came here 2004.  Started at Canterbury, Sullivan Middle, South High.  Wants to advocate for those who have academic challenges – need more support for ESL students.  She participated in programs that allowed her to have a full scholarship for college, then get master‘s degree. 

Johnson: born and raised in Worcester.  Product of WPS, in 1989 he lost his cousin in the hallways at South High.  He learned the values of closeness, community.  He and wife have two kids, WPS students.  Social worker at DCF over 20 years.  Youth coach and mentor for Worcester Cowboys football, Jesse Burkett LL, other places.  SEIU local 509 shop steward.  Platform is safe and healthy schools, social / emotional supports, high quality education

Mailman: mother and grandmother, son graduated Burncoat in 2005.  Her family business for 140 years – our public education is the lifeblood, we need excellent schools for all students across all neighborhoods.  System should be more inclusive to all.  Involvement with Worcester Tech.  Talks about Innovation Pathways, which takes kids from comprehensive high schools to Tech after school for voke ed.  Strategic plan needs updating.  Have served/chaired numerous boards.  Must expand early education opportunities.  Grade-level reading. 

Soucy: very excited to be here.  Grew up all around the city, 5 diff elementaries, 2 middle, graduated North.  Grew up in poverty, trauma in early life, got pregnant in 9th grade.  Had son just before 20th grade.  Homeless at 15.  Lived in teen mom shelters, continued to strive toward education.  Took many buses to graduate.  Went to Becker for two years, then barber school.  Worked in urban barber shops, eventually opened her own.  Education is important, but have someone at table who understands poverty is long, hard road.  Someone who lived it and overcame it.

[We are told that candidates can take their masks off to speak.  This is, of course, inconsistent with the city mask mandate.]

Q1: metrics to eval candidates for superintendent, top goals

Biancheria: What is your experience?  What are your experiences?  WHAT DO YOU KNOW ABOUT OUR UNIQUE CITY?  If you are not from this area, then you should be learning about it.  If you‘re from here, YOU SHOULD HAVE BEEN INVOLVED.  How would you work with principals in this district?  Principals are ALL VERY IMPORTANT AND ALL MATTER.  VISIT ALL THE SCHOOLS.  BIG SHOES TO FILL.  NEW SCHOOLS.

Johnson: ability to lead in Worcester.  Accountability, collab with parents/students/community.  Vision for city schools.  Next superintendent needs to be diverse, work with different cultures. 

Novick: she does superintendent searches for a living.  While Worcester is large for Commonwealth, not large by national school district standards.  Administrative experience that corresponds to the size of the district.  Strategic thinker who can break down silos, identify with student body.  A person of ethics and strong integrity.

McCullough: innovative, take us to the next level.  Strong communication skills, problem solver, someone who shares values of the community.  Role of super is not an easy one.  Need to be able to use the criticism that is reflective.

Soucy: super needs to be FROM WORCESTER.   It‘s a UNIQUE PLACE.  Strong advocate for parent involvement.  Knowledge and preferably experience with community schools.  High measurable outcomes on educational outcomes and grad rates.  Strong leadership, managerial and conflict resolution skills.  (There was more, there was a lot.)

Mailman: served at national searches at nonprofits.  Every time there has been a national search.  The process makes us better, regardless of who gets the job.  Listen to new ways of doing things.  There are people who are doing things better than us.  Strategic thinker, team builder.  Pay attention to student success metrics, academically.

Clancey: significant managerial experience in urban district.  Strong leader who is not afraid to delegate.  Wants staff to be able to share their ideas and implement solutions. 

Kamara: agile leader.  Change how many people in community see school district.  Worcester has had decrease in students from PreK.  Busing – sexual health curriculum – improve diversity / communication.  Community partners, parents, so Worcester can be equitable. 

Q2: discipline.  Overall number of suspensions, drawn attention of community.  How do you feel about current?  How to address disproportion of students of color being suspended?

Johnson: unacceptable.  His children, and all children, should have the chance to grow, not suspended at higher rates than white students.  Wraparound services.  More outreach/communication with parents at home.  To be able to talk to principals, they have different perspective on kids.

McCullough: we have begun to see some improvement, but more work needs to be done.  Adjustment counselors, restorative justice.  Safe/supportive schools – DESE‘s roadmap will help eliminate issues.

Kamara: need to look at how we are suspending kids in PreK-3rd grade.  For those above 3rd – use strategies like restorative justice, work with teachers so that they have the training / ability to support students.  Increase staffing, adjustment counselors.

Biancheria: increase programs that help students cope with anger, drug centers, give them a reason to come to school and learn.  MGL ALLOWS US TO SUSPEND LITTLE KIDS.  Unequal part of this – out of time.

Johnson, rebuttal: increase access to programs for youth.  Year-round jobs, community-based programs. 

Q3: busing.  School Committee will work to in-house busing model.  National bus driver shortage – how will this be a better model, more reliable service than third party?

Clancey: I don‘t know how we can get worse.  Has not just been in the last two years.  Now that we have funding available, take advantage.  Staff in transpo dept is wonderful, and they think we can do it.  Once we can train bus drivers, we will do a good job.

Mailman: In favor of in-house move.  Never thought she would say that, but there has been tremendous energy/work to do this – workforce development.  Maybe custodians also drive buses.

Johnson: has been dealing with this with his daughter.  Concern is with Teamsters who drive for Durham, will want to have a conversation to get them on the Worcester system.  Retain, train more drivers.

Novick: if the parents seem definitive about this, it‘s because we see it.  Her daughter was late for math class for three weeks.  She had kids who use WPS buses – those phones get answered.  If we can‘t get kids to school, we can‘t learn.

Clancey: Waiting for kid to come from school – not knowing where they are – all in agreement.

Q4: sex ed on opt-out, public debate was contentious.  What is your position?  Do you believe anything else should be done?

Soucy: IS NOT AGAINST SEX ED.  Against 3Rs and anything like it.  Continued agenda to confuse parents who would like to opt-out.  Online form deadline was Sept 10 and then taken down.  It was hard for parents to opt out.  Parents are still the most important.  [Opt Out section claps]

Biancheria: VOTED NO – Admin should have developed but they fell short.  You can opt out, take survey with students, standing committee worked hard.  After 1 year, can have additional discussion.  We have opportunities if we need to tweak or change.

Clancey: as a youth worker, have sat down with 15-year-olds in sex industry.  Listen to any of their stories and tell me – 100% supportive if this prevents one student from their situation.

McCullough: not pornographic, go to WPS, read the actual curriculum before you make your decision [Opt Out people actively trying to argue with her]

Soucy: we need to give kids – watching porn, masturbation, exploitation – people hooked on sex, when do we stop?  What‘s the limit?

[much clapping.  These people need to just shut up at some point]

Q5: diversity in how students are taught, in workforce

Kamara: mechanisms that will allow Caucasian educators to work with diverse population

Novick: 16% nonwhite educators.  Number of models – we never look closely at what we are doing.  Boston/Cambridge work on retention.  Recruitment only gets you so far.

[The Opt Out people have their signs up.  I have complained]

Soucy: she was a barber for years, privilege of working with people in diverse demo.  Students at Lincoln Street (WHO ARE NEAR A METHADONE CLINIC) have a different experience from Flagg.  Community schools.

Johnson: more Black/Latino/Asian teachers.  When kids identify with someone they can relate to, builds core relationships.

Kamara: how to certify educators.  MTEL prevents some from becoming teachers in WPS.

Q6 for all: how should strategic plan be updated?  How to capitalize on community resources?

Novick: Strategic plan adopted when she was off SC – from parent‘s eye, she filed complaint because public was not allowed to attend some sessions.  We are now doing revision in governance (public meetings).  You would not get a sense of level of poverty or ELL if you read the current strategic plan.  Overdue for revision, need better one than what we have.

Soucy: talks about community school strategy.  It is, as always, unclear if she knows what a community school is.  School/staff/family strategic partnership.

Johnson: improving absenteeism of students.  ELL classes, Special Ed classes, increasing, and no teachers to meet their needs.

Clancey: pandemic made us achieve some goals, like technology.  Vision is to get this updated in 5 areas of focus, work with SC members to get community groups in those areas.

McCullough: more community involvement, accessible involvement.  Families, students should have a voice.  What she said was very mild, but the guy behind me insists that it‘s wrong.

Mailman: missed opportunity not having ongoing community engagement.  Hit tech goal because we had a pandemic.  New superintendent will have big impact on how we go.

Kamara: alternative school graduation rates, on time.  Use the support of students, have voice in the plan. 

Biancheria: FOUR PIECES: expand our safety dept, holistic approach for our students, involve stakeholders, align budget with strategic plan.  MISSING OPPORTUNITIES FOR COLLEGE AND CAREER PATHS.  Staff trained, trauma services are available.

Q7: resource officers…what should be in school safety plan?

Mailman: agrees with CM and chief of police that we need to change way we do business.  Listen to communities who have been negatively impacted by police in schools.  Should actively involve those communities in new plan.  Mystifying why we don‘t have a new plan yet.  Other ways to engage police in schools that is favorably received by everyone.

McCullough: SROs have done a good job in schools, but time to change what that looks like.  Looks forward to plan by CM and chief of police.  Use SROs in ways that enhance the community.

Kamara: supports plan to look at other means for safety.  Some students come from civil war, need social-emotional support.  Never had SROs – had security guard, Carlos, at South.  Supports community policing.

Clancey: school safety office was one of her issues.  Arrest rates have gone down since we have had SROs.  Need to continue close relationship with WPD.

Q8: early education.  Many parents chose not to send kids to PreK or K during pandemic.  What should schools do to catch these students up?  How to expand preschool, other early childhood ed programs?

Biancheria: we have opportunity – presently very limited resources and haven‘t expanded the program.  We have to make sure we have the PreK programs, welcoming, new families in the city.  Yes, pandemic set us back, but opportunity once things calm down to have welcoming schools.

Johnson: offer more preschool opportunities.  Half-day doesn‘t fit working parent.  More preschool opportunities, early education – socially, emotionally beneficial in the long term.

Mailman: partner with existing child care agencies in city.  What do we do in WPS and what do we do with partners in the community?  We can do better job with community partners, early ed is a good place to start.

Soucy: one child had an IEP – direct correlation between poverty, poor reading, and crime.  Full-day preK, using tech to increase involvement. 

Biancheria: should look at in context of Student Opportunity Act.  SHE SEES MONFREDO IN THE AUDIENCE AND ACKNOWLEDGES HIM.

Q9: technology access.  WPS distributed chromebooks and hotspots…emergency response.  What to do beyond pandemic?  How to ensure funding is sustainable?

Novick: important to acknowledge that the district failed in March 2020.  We did jump in eventually.  One of ongoing gaps has been internet connection, glad serving on municipal broadband committee.  It‘s a utility and should be treated as such.  We need to budget in Chromebook replacements.

Clancey: when we shut down, we weren‘t ready for it.  Need to maintain technology – hopes to have money to do it in the future. 

Biancheria: our budget is $3.2 million, she‘s going on to talk about Chromebook budget, etc.  This is meaningless to me.  She is reading a list – we are switching from Microsoft to Google Suite. 

Kamara: agrees with Novick, need municipal broadband, part of her 5-point plan.  ARPA funds could be used to train teacher to use the various platforms they needed to help kids.  Also to help parents.

Novick: city but small enough to solve problems other municipalities can‘t – Research Bureau encouraged a lot of people to think in that direction.

Q10: classroom size, employee shortage, how to incentivize employment at WPS, how to recruit/retain?

McCullough: starting to see shortages in educators, diverse pop of educator in system.  Support from committee perspective, need to have advanced mentoring.  Crucial to retain educators who may be on the fence.  Ensure we are working to support them. 

Soucy: agrees with Molly.  Prior to pandemic, 70% of students in poverty.  She knows how important it is to support – COMMUNITY SCHOOLS is the only answer to all of our issues.  (Seriously, I am not making this up, she read the same thing she already said two times about community schools.)

Novick: maybe you need to pay people more.  MTEL has been a significant barrier, glad that Kamara mentioned that.

Mailman: look at what others are doing and adopt best practices

McCullough: good professional development!

FINAL QUESTION #11: Academics, for all, students learning has been declining, social/emotional needs significantly impacted, what policies to ensure students are supported academically, socially, emotionally?

McCullough: why was MCAS held last year?  Grossly unfair.  Addl adjustment counselors, wraparound, providing addl afterschool programs.  Roadmap to recovery – foster sense of belonging.  (There was more, it was good)

Clancey: saw social/emotional toll it took on her own child, advocated for admin to bring in outside counseling services.  They need to listen to us and our concerns and what will be best for our students.  We made reallocation for support services.  Will continue to advocate for that.

Johnson: saw impact it had on kids, their friends, and other families.  We need to listen to the kids and slow down a bit.  Very important that teachers get to know, establish relationships again.  First – stop, slow down, build connection again.  Adjustment counselors, social workers, increase wraparound services.

Biancheria: thanks everyone for covering issues.  THE SOCIAL MEDIA IS TELLING THINGS TO OUR KIDS.  Training for our students, but teachers had difficulty adjusting as well and should also be supported.  Mental/social factors: need solutions, not just symptoms.  NUTRITION – THEY HAD NUTRITION OFFERED TO THEM THROUGH WPS

Mailman: dear friend just retired and wanted a platform of field trips and recess.  Recess and interaction with their friends.  There are people in the workplace who don‘t know how to interact with each other.  [Is she talking about Opt Out Corner?  One can only hope.]

Novick: changes to WPS budget are the biggest changes any SC has made in two decades.  We took responsibility for kids‘ needs – that is our job.  Mental health supports for students and staff.  MCAS fell in line with the state.  That was not forecasted.  Our students did well – credit to teachers and staff.

Kamara: elimination of SAT/ACT at universities – can we find a way to adjust the MCAS?  Portfolios of what the students can do – more creativity.

Soucy: As mother of two teenage sons, one who just barely graduated: kids are struggling mentally.  WHAT‘S GOING ON ON SOCIAL MEDIA IS TOUGH.  Parents have a unique time right now.  Get them back into the school with their kids – COMMUNITY SCHOOLS BABY.  Use outside supports.  Need schools open at later hours.

Closing statements – I will only type items of interest –

The guy in back of me is cheering on Jermaine Johnson.  Do we need to say more?

Novick: we need people who make decisions based on research, not on emotion.  BURN

Mailman: people have wide range of views, it‘s our job to bring it together into one system

Biancheria ends with rapping on the table and demanding your vote.  I would expect nothing less.

Worcester School Committee Forum notes – 10/6

Dr Déborah Gonzalez introduces the sponsors:


Youth Civics Union

Community Connections




El Buen Samaritano

Worcester Interfaith

Expresso Latin Radio



Juan Gómez welcomes us

Someone from city econ dev speaks to census results.  (I am sorry, I missed his name.)  206,000 in population.  Despite negative messages from Washingon – 50,736 Latin (?); by 2045 the country will become white minority.  When you add the numbers in the city of Worcester, we are all quite a “minority” city.  We all belong to the same country. 

Segment 1: Youth Questions (Moderator: Andrea Delgado, Youth Civics Union)

YCU focuses on educational issues of youth, esp those of color

I think we are doing candidate introductions now (6:13pm)

Biancheria: 22,000 students – numbers of Latino students change daily.  Dual language programs, evaluations to look at whole students.  860,000 dollars for translations.  Seal of biliteracy.  IAs that work with students every day in our schools.

Clancey is not in attendance.

Johnson: lifelong Worcester resident, graduated from South in 1992, social worker for DCF.  He has worked with Latino community, WPS IEP, ensuring kids are safe and healthy at home and have everything they need.  He was involved in a fatherhood program (sorry, I missed this a bit as someone was in front of me).  Work with fathers to give back to the community. 

Kamara: born and raised in Liberia, moved here when she was 11.  Started public school – they wanted her to be in ESL class because her accent was very strong.  Her father felt that ESL tracked kids as “not smart” (not her exact words, but she is talking about the inequities).  Worked through LEI, sexual education.  Has been to Dominican Republic.  Massachusetts is one of the worst places for Latinx people. 

Coghlin Mailman: business owner in Worcester, chairs board of QCC, and has served on a lot of boards.  One issue on her mind – data and transparency.  Was involved in strategic plan as part of business community.  We have to strive for excellence for all students (shouts of agreement from the populace), in district this big, hard to get to the data.  Would like our leadership to make sure we are putting info out – that is what she will do.  Latino community wants this and it has been difficult to get.

McCullough: additional translation services for meetings held over zoom.  Not used for each meeting.  While agenda and backups can be read in Spanish and other languages, meetings themselves should be translated.  More participation, equitable access.  Work of impact of COVID-19 on communities of color.

O‘Connell Novick: mother of 2 WPS graduates, mother of a current Burncoat High sophomore.  Served twice on Latino Education Commission, particular experience of students and families across the city.  That has focused her attention – we are a plurality Latino district.  Experience as a parent shaped by that, youngest daughter in dual language program.  At least half of her homework she can‘t help her with (bc in a language she does not speak) – gave her understanding of what other parents experience.

Soucy: 70% of WPS students are currently living in low income households.  At 14, was raising her child, 15 was homeless and dependent on gov‘t assistance.  In spite of trauma and hardship, fought for better future for herself and children.  Graduated North, lic electrician, lic barber.  Built many relationships at barbershop.  Wants to be unique voice to add to SC.  Today her son is 25.  He is also an electrician.  Two other sons, 17 and 16.  Her role as Hope for Worcester – gives provisions, food, family portraits.  Leads follow-up team, prays with families, refers to partner churches, mentoring them, referring to services.

Segment 1: Youth of color make up 71% WPS students.  Questions influenced by this reality.  Three students will be asking the questions in this segment.

Q1: what is your vision for education in this community?

Biancheria: to make sure we are accountable, have transparency, every opportunity for students in school.  Career path programs through Perkins Funding – Ch 74.  We have almost 30 courses.  Safety in our schools. Looks forward to what the CM presents for SROs.  “We don‘t pay” under schools for SROs.  It‘s paid for from the city side.  She sees success for every student.

(there are translations after every candidate speaks, which is GREAT for someone who likes breaks for her hands!)

Johnson: safe and healthy schools.  He has two kids in WPS: 4th and 7th grader.  Struggled during COVID.  How lacking WPS was in certain areas.  Drinking water in schools is unsafe.  Schools were not up to par for ventilation.  Social-emotional supports.  Without that, academics will struggle.  As kids get older, invest in internships. 

Kamara: gives us another telling of her life story.  Kids should have same opportunities as their white counterparts.  Communication with parents/kids needs to be better.  Listen to kids bc they have valuable insights.  Community resources like LEI can be used to reach out to parents.  Technology accessibility in our schools.  We can do more to provide these programs to prepare kids so that they do not struggle when they go to college.  Graduation rates need to be improved – that they are able to carry on knowledge to college – succeed and graduate. 

Coghlin Mailman: our city is exactly the right size to come together and get it right.  Comes from children.  They will have all of our jobs.  This generation of people can be mentors to get us to that next level.  She has done much work with vocational school for many years.  One thing is about a welcoming school.  Tech – people are welcome there.  Takes a village – wants Worcester on a magazine that says we got it right.  COVID learning loss – any time people go through difficult times, gain some strengths as well.  Even with career tech, vocational programs – where are we going?  Thank God, Shanel, we will always need electricians.  We have new trades now.  All of us working together can make it happen. 

(While I wait for Dr Gonzalez‘s translation to finish, I‘d just like to note how everyone on this stage is either a woman or a person of color or both.  This is in stark contrast to what you‘ll see at the at-large forum, happening right now!)

McCullough: when your name is alphabetically towards the end, many of the things you wanted to say have been mentioned.  More access/connectivity with our families.  Options for families to get info in their own language, so that parents can actively participate in their child‘s education.  Would like to see so much more involvement rather than families feeling like barriers are being put up.  Mentorship, internships.  Parent liaisons in school buildings.  Appreciates students answering questions tonight.  The success of students in schools today determines the success of the city tomorrow.

O‘Connell Novick, who offers to pause frequently if better for translations: State Constitution is the first in the country that guarantees public education.  It was put there as the defence to why needed to continue to have a Commonwealth of Massachusetts.  We are supposed to make sure our students are voters, advocates, city councilors, fulfil all the parts we need to fill the body politic.  It is no less true now.  If we started from there, and made everything ancillary to that.  At WPS – you should be leaving to take your part in the civic life of Worcester, Massachusetts, USA.  Measure is what our students are able to do –

[Tracy, of course, said it much better than I can; but I do frequently tell my children, “John Adams said you have the right to a Chromebook.”]

Soucy: As an electrician in Boston, saw gentrification – saw people heading out this way.  Keeping in mind the number she gave earlier (70% in low income households).  Gap in WPS anticipates growing.  Reality is that we have a lot of monies – 110% imperative to focus on supports that our kids need.  Has been asked to speak at two schools to be a mentor.  For her, vision is community school strategy.  Success in NY.  Would like to see that happening here.  Combine quality ed with extended learning opportunities.  Gap between parents and the school.  If something going to change for kids, families need to be first and foremost in our lives.  Staff needs support – through community school strategy.

(I will type again during translation to note people in the creepy Opt Out t-shirts who make up half of the front row.  Unclear whether this is a Soucy cheering section or something else.)

Q2, to Johnson: what do you see as major issue facing the school district?

Johnson: many major issues.  1 – busing crisis.  My daughter is late to school every day – late back home every day.  2 – lack of diversity within school system.  The more representation, beneficial to Worcester.  He works on that as a social worker.  3 – MCAS.  Too much pressure to achieve on standardized test.  After you don‘t achieve in 4th grade – damaging for future grades. 

Q3, to Tracy Novick: what work have you done with youth of color?  (I think there was more but I didn‘t hear it)

Novick: one of the things that has been important to her in professional life and her time of service on SC – in MA, every SC is required to have student representation.  AND every SC is supposed to be meeting every other month with a student advisory council elected by their peers.  That part we haven‘t done well.  Has an item on the subcom that makes our own rules – specifically asked to change rules to make it part of our rules to have student representation, but also have bimonthly meeting with student advisory council.  Hopes to get it through by end of term.  We need to do both halves of what we are legally required to do.  We have had pieces of it, but can be more effective if we meet our legal obligations.

Q4, to Coghlin Mailman: how to use Worcester‘s portion of federal funding to improve educational system?

Coghlin Mailman: great news is that we have CFO, Brian Allen, leader across the region.  Federal dollars need to be thought of as an investment. They need to be spent in a short amount of time.  When we put numbers on things, it becomes challenge for districts to prioritize.  Worcester is supposed to get Student Opportunity Act money – that is our ongoing money about structural things.  Community schools (appreciates Shanel‘s talking about it, mentions blog favorite Frank Kartheiser talking about this 30 years ago).  Hopes students will be able to participate every other month.

Segment 2: Parent Questions

Q5: what will you be doing to improve school discipline, neg suspension rates in WPS? (to NOVICK but it appears all candidates will respond)

Novick: she has attempted to get policy that would bar suspension under grade 3.  Urges you to vote for people who would do that.  Need to look at ways to discipline students – currently alienates students, hurts the district.  It hurts the students‘ classmates.

[I find it AMAZING that we do not currently have 4 people who agree that little kids shouldn‘t be suspended from school.]

Soucy: weight of WPS with 70% students in low income households.  Statistics that says behaviors increase – when she grew up in single-parent household with financial strain, definitely creates a weight outside of school.  Kids come with a lot on their plate.  We need increase in counselors, community supports.  Difficult to teach and manage behaviors.

McCullough: need to work on ways to decrease discipline in schools.  Wraparound coordinators, adjustment counselors.  Collaborative problem-solving training.  Trauma-informed care and resilience building. How can we keep them within the school? 

Coghlin Mailman: data – for past year and a half, suspension rates are going to come down.  How are we going to track this data, how to support teachers, make sure kids are taught every day.  Measure across each principal.  More energy spent on measuring can make us see problems in individual buildings.

Kamara: from firsthand experience, school adjustment counselors need to be used.  From firsthand experience, kids have to fill out certain paperwork.  Those papers should be given to school adjustment counselors, they can begin working with kids who need extra support.  Classroom – kids had behavioral issues that needed addl support, kids were suspended or had to do in-house, from her experience in WPS.  We need to use the counselors we have more efficiently.  We need bias training for educators in WPS.  Kids of color get punished for the same behaviors white kids do not.  Restorative justice.  

Johnson: Social-emotional supports, wraparound services, trauma-informed practices, part of platform he is running on.  On the front line every day, sees the trauma and what the kids are going to.  He has sat with principals when there is discrimination going on, involve the parent for a meeting. 

Biancheria: we need to continue with justice practices that keep people from inappropriate behaviors.  K-3 has emergency removal.  Superintendent and safety advisor are there with parents.  Counselors in drug programs, safety for elementary and secondary.  Nurses need to start to participate in some behavior, they can see meds and look at behavior.  We have started this and need to expand on it.  Alternative education – at some age, question about why do I go to school – we need to have additional opportunities.  Perkins funding allows schools to have alternative programs for kids.  Our students carry a very heavy load. 

[There is always a deluge from Biancheria, and I am sorry if I didn‘t write all of the highlights.  I think what she was getting at is that MA Law allows for K-3 to be suspended, and there is a hearing process (?) for that, and the appeal goes up to the superintendent and the safety advisor (?).  But what I got is that she‘s comfortable with little kids being suspended]

Q6 – also from a parent, wearing a creepy Opt-Out shirt: part of group called Empowering Parents.  Wants to clarify that Shanel and we are different entity!  Do you know that 600 students already opt out of this EXPLICIT CURRICULUM PEOPLE !!!!!!  ALL CAPS BABY!!!!  Do you support this pornographic sex ed in this system?  If you don‘t, what will you do to remove it?  AND SHOULD KINDERGARTENERS KNOW ABOUT SEX?!?!?!?

(Maybe that wasn‘t exactly the question, but you can watch it on a replay and see how I toned it down.  THEY ARE NOT THE PAWNS OF SHANEL, OK!)

Directed to all

Soucy: she appreciates that.  She supports the Opt Out parents.  She supports parents‘ right to choose and be involved in all aspects of their child‘s education.  WRT question: she had a child at 14.  She lived in shelters with teen moms for three years.  In all of the group therapy they had, lack of sex ed was never mentioned as a way that they could have avoided their circumstances.  Living in poverty, many repeating same cycle.  Safer sex no match for generational issues.  Statically, sex ed is weak at best in preventing pregnancy and STDs – NO 3 Rs – inappropriate, pornographic.  Children need guidance.  Single-parent homes creates a huge weight in the house, children have huge amount of alone time.  CDC lists poor mental health on having impact on sexual health.  There are people making money off people‘s struggles.

Novick: that may be the most biased mischaracterization she has heard.  Not pornographic, not age-inappropriate.  Age-appropriate, health-informed, – as a parent you teach children about appropriate touch at a young age.  We intervene by giving children education at a young age.  If we leave that out of the curriculum, not doing our job.  We cannot bar from the public schools.  Concerned about fear-mongering, basis in which this comes from.  Actively harmful to children.  Her interest is for WPS children to get education that they need.  What she taught as an English teacher would not safe a kid‘s life, what the health teacher teaches WILL.  LGBTQIA students esp need this. 

[There was more, Tracy is awesome, but you all know this already]

McCullough: Tracy has covered many of the topics – fully supportive, was chair of subcommittee and approved of the curriculum.  WPS had sex ed when she was a student in 1994 in middle school.  The 3Rs consistent with what she learned at that time.  Concerned about misinformation.  Supports family‘s ability to opt out.  Her two stepsons, nieces, nephews – she feels comfortable with them having these lessons, but understands that not everyone is comfortable.  No pornography in kindergarten.  You have the right to have people not touch your body.  There‘s a sheet going around – for lessons not in WPS.  There was a consultant who came around and shaped lessons.  It‘s clearly on the website.

Coghlin Mailman: will be brief, because these guys are the experts.  Remembers speaking to a family who had a lot of questions, attended some school forums.  Tremendous misinformation.  Would echo Tracy‘s comments about high-risk kids like LGBTQIA, human dignity and human right to be accepted by larger community. Because the emotion is in your souls, and I understand that, those on SC will follow through, to make sure we alleviate your concerns.

Kamara: how many of you here had sexual intercourse when you were 10-15?  There cannot just be one hand.  How about not you, but someone you knew?  With social media so widespread, how many of you know that your kids, friends, on OnlyFans?  If the argument is on the images that we are seeing, and if argument is on sexual health education not reducing pregnancy, STI, STD, as a public health educator, we should be questioning PhDs from Harvard and all around the world.  Sexual health education works, and what I am concerned about is that I support opt out.  She supports curriculum, wants to see reports of decreases in pregnancy, STI/STD, based on curriculum.  In next few years, we need to evaluate it and see decreases in our city so that we can show to the state.

[Man, if only my parents could have opted me out of gym class!  Or pre-calc.]

[True confession: I did have them opt me out of sex ed so that I could take music.  AND LOOK WHERE THAT LED ME…to a life of fame and fortune in local political blogging!]

Johnson: everyone has spoken.  He believes Worcester needed, and should have had, sex ed.  Supports opt out.  Sat down with wife for 4th grader and 7th grader, made the option to opt in.  Supports for all parents moving forward.

Now there is some conversation between Biancheria and a member of the audience about whether we are talking about this particular curriculum or sex ed in general.

Biancheria: voted no because she wanted the admin to write their own curriculum.  We had three years, there was COVID, other priorities.  She supports sex ed, just wanted something that was Worcester-sex-specific [OK, she didn‘t say that, but can you IMAGINE this admin‘s program on sex ed; I always get punchy during her parts of any candidate forum…].  She had a number of concerns, worked with unwed mothers.  [Does NO ONE work with unwed fathers?]  LGBTQ needs support.  Need tweaking of program, see how it works, then take it up as a SC?  Additional forums, actually speak to parents whose kids went to class, and parents that opted out.  [One wonders why you would need to involve the parents who opted out to talk about how well a curriculum worked.]  Sex ed is a small piece of curriculum, what is talked about in the classroom.  We need to be concerned if we have different types of ailments that our kids are getting because of sexual contact AND WE NEED TO COME UP WITH SOME SOLUTIONS HERE.  That doesn‘t mean we as SC members, we as a community.

[Speaking as the kind of person who forwards the DVR through kissing scenes on my soap opera – I have rarely been so uncomfortable in a candidate forum.  And that includes any forum that involved Mike Germain.]

We are out of time.  There are many audience questions, candidates can respond via email.

(Yes, there are final remarks, but if you‘ve read me for any length of time, you know that I can‘t deal with final remarks)

Kamara: WE CAN SHAKE IT UP – two open seats – the other four are up for grabs, too!  A lot of people in this city want new leadership. 

Coghlin Mailman: (Jokes about having to follow Kamara alphabetically in every forum; Kamara was very enthusiastic) this is the energy that we will all bring in many different ways to this job.  Governance, policy, budget.  Has experience in all those areas.  Not afraid to listen and change her mind.  Need respect for each other as we go through these very difficult topics.  Thanks everyone for listening tonight.

McCullough: so many important topics that we couldn‘t get to tonight – hope to get to them and asks people to reach out to her.  Many wonderful candidates running, working together we can do great things.

Novick: thanks Gonzalez for translating.  [OH MY WORD AMAZING.]  so many things in district that we did not touch on: new superintendent by end of school year; if you participated tonight, over month of December talk about what you need in community forums; federal funding and additional state funding in future years.  In both cases, those are on a feedback loop – be active in those conversations as well. 

Soucy: genuine love for people, spent life working hard at everything she‘s done.  Running in hopes of bringing authentic advocacy/representation to SC.  Knows firsthand what families/students are going through, voice would be unparalleled.  Life experience, work in residential programs for youth, Hope for Worcester, etc., – live with, serve, mentor, people from more diverse backgrounds than she can count.  Hopes unique life experience will get your vote.  We can push forward together to improve our children‘s education.