Prioritizing

On Tuesday, December 16, 2014 I will attend my fourth regular state Board of Education meeting. Meetings are public, of course, and are recorded, but are not broadcast live, which is different from many School Committee meetings across the Commonwealth.

Following that first regular Board meeting in September, I realized it would be valuable for me to prioritize my time and energy as I become more familiar with this role. I decided to put my energy in three areas:

  1. The Dever School turn-around
  2. Proposed Updates to Regulations on Time-out and Restraint and
  3. FY16 Budget/Chapter 70
1. The Dever School Turn-around.
Paul A. Dever Elementary School,
(photo: Boston Public Schools)
The Dever School is a K-5 elementary school in Boston,
designated as a Level 5 "chronically underperforming school" (Spring, 2014). This being a new development for the Dever School, the Department of ESE, and a turn-around partner (Blueprint Schools Network), and also co-terminous with my Board appointment, I thought it useful to follow the school's progress until it exits Level 5 status...which raises the question: How does that happen? I visited the school with the Commissioner and other ESE staff on Friday, October 31. I learned that all but one (1) staff member are new. Yes - ALL but ONE. I have some questions about what input the Board has had regarding policies being implemented in this turnaround. It is clear that the Board voted the Lawrence Schools into State [Department] Receivership in November 2013, but Level 5 Schools? I think the Board should have much more of a role in that process and determination. More about that in a future post.

2. Proposed Updates to Regulations on Time-out and Restraint.
In September, the Board was introduced to the Proposed Updates to Regulations on Time-out and Restraint. The regulations (603 CMR 46.00 and 603 CMR18.00) haven't been updated since they were approved by the then Board in 2001. The regs impact public education programs, including those that operate under Chapter 766-approved public and private day and residential programs. The Board will vote on them at the next meeting, December 16, 2014. Since the Board's vote in September to open Public Comment on the proposed amendments, I have met and spoken with numerous stakeholders, including staff at the New England Center for Children, the Nashoba Learning Group, and Melmark New England, as well as with individual and groups of parents to discuss the impact the proposed regulations (specifically, those concerning restraint) could have on their programs, staff, and children.

3. FY16 Budget/Chapter 70.

First meeting of FBRC
(photo: mas)
I was pleased to have been appointed to the Board's Budget Sub-committee this September. Two meetings were held (10/17 & 11/10) to review the Commissioner's FY16 budget priorities. On December 1, 2014, the Board voted to approve the priorities and submitted a FY16 Budget request of just over $5 billion to the Executive Office of Education. Chapter 70 of the M.G.L. makes up 87.83% of ESE's $5 billion budget (General Administration is 0.33% of the budget; as of September the Department had 499 FTEs). For a number of years now, advocates and stakeholders, including the Massachusetts PTA, Massachusetts Association of School Committees, and Massachusetts Teachers Association, have submitted public testimony in support of an adequacy study of Chapter 70 aid to Massachusetts cities and Towns.  The General Court authorized the Foundation Budget Review Commission (FBRC) as part of its FY15 Budget. An initial meeting was held at the State House on October 9, 2014. Since then, the Commission has been hearing from the Public in regional Public Hearings across the Commonwealth. Dates and locations for Public Hearings are posted in the right-hand sidebar of this site and below:

Foundation Budget Review Commission Public Hearings:
Monday, November 17 | North Shore, Danvers, 4:30 PM
Monday, December 15 | South Coast, Somerset, 4:30 PM
Saturday, January 10 | Western MA, Location TBD, 11:00 AM
Saturday, January 24 | Central MA, Location TBD, 11:00 AM
Saturday, February 7 | Cape, Location TBD, 11:00 AM
Monday, March 9 | Boston, Location TBD, 4:30 PM