Creating Connections - April 8, 2016

A weekly message from Interim Superintendent Dr. Marco C. Rodrigues

April 8, 2016 - Volume 1, Issue 15

Superintendent's Message

It was a privilege and an honor to have been invited to participate in the graduation ceremony of the Worcester People Empowering People (PEP), a Parent Leadership Development Program organized and run by the Worcester Community Connections, You Inc., and the Worcester Family Partnership.

The PEP Parent Leadership Program is an 8-week course designed to build on the unique strengths and life experiences of all participants and it emphasizes the connections between the individuals and the community. The goal is to prepare participants to go back into their neighborhood, community, and schools as effective leaders; empowered and ready to make a difference. The program follows the University of Connecticut curriculum.

Fifteen participants received a diploma during the ceremony held at the Worcester Academy on Wednesday, April 6th. Fourteen participants are parents of students in the Worcester Public Schools and they were nominated by their school principal. This marks the 5th graduation in Worcester.

Congratulations to the Graduates!

Alice Ball, Dayanes Carrion, Mary Zona: North High School Parents

Alfred Bannor, Rebecca Mailea, Adonna Mitchell, Hillary Phillips, Xolchit Polanco Roman: Roosevelt Elementary School Parents

Nicholas D’Andrea: Worcester East Middle School & North High Parent

Salvadore Dela Cruz: University Park Campus School Parent

Katrina Gibree: Jacob Hiatt & Sullivan Middle School Parent

Jill Goyette: Roosevelt & Worcester Technical High School Parent

Michael & Diana Lesiak: Grafton Street School Parents

Heather Zenkus: Community Member

Celebrations and Updates

Worcester HEARS Initiative Update

The Worcester Healthy Environments and Resiliency in Schools (HEARS) grant program received implementation funding from The Health Foundation of Central Massachusetts in January 2016. This grant will help schools evaluate their school culture, find areas where they can systematically become safer and more supportive of students, and enhance their school environments to better serve all of their students. The HEARS program has a strong focus on helping students who may have experienced traumatic events outside of school. Since January, the five schools that will participate in the grant; Roosevelt, Grafton St, Rice Square, City View, and Worcester East Middle have been hard at work! Principals, Coaches, School Adjustment Counselors, School Psychologists, and District Staff have enrolled in their first of four Masters Courses from Lesley University; The Impact of Trauma on Learning: An Overview. Twenty-two WPS staff are enrolled in the course. During the sessions, all participants have learned from each other, reflected on their school environments, and prepared for full HEARS implementation in the fall.

Additionally, The Worcester HEARS Community of Practice Working group will create a strong partnership with the Worcester Public Schools Child Study Department and local Behavioral Health experts from You Inc., Worcester Family Health Center, Edward M. Kennedy Community Health Center, Community Healthlink, and Clark University. This group will identify areas that the district can enhance their current behavioral health services with community expertise and supports. Clark University has been hosting the meetings, and it has been a great place to share our practices, learn from each other, and lay the groundwork to provide the best possible services to all Worcester students.

The 3rd Annual North High School Family Education Night and Dinner held

North Family Education Night

On Tuesday, April 5th, North High School hosted their 3rd parent dinner of the year. Thirty one tables manned by guidance counselors, community partners and students offered information on College and Career options, Advanced Placement courses and community resources. In attendance were over 300 families. The evening ended with a catered dinner supported by a mini-grant from WEDF. Families learned about resources available to them in the community such as Friendly House programs, summer jobs for youth, fuel assistance, mental health support, graduation requirements and the many Advanced Placement courses offered at North High School and more. Babysitting, transportation, interpreters and door prizes were available. Along with support from WEDF, Stop and Shop, Price Chopper, Buffalo Wild Wings and the 99 Restaurant also donated to help make this event a huge success.

UPCS Student Winner of the Frederick Douglass U.S. History Essay Contest

Sibgha Javaid, a senior at University Park Campus School (UPCS), was the second place winner of the third annual Frederick Douglass U.S. History Essay Contest for Massachusetts high school students sponsored by the Pioneer Institute. The contest encourages students to choose from dozens of Massachusetts entrepreneurs and inventions and develop a clearly organized, well researched essay drawing on primary and secondary sources that explained the historical impact and significance of the chosen subject matter.

Pioneer Institute received nearly 70 submissions from public, vocational-technical, charter, parochial, and private school students, as well as students schooled at home. Winners were selected by an independent panel of judges, including current and former high school history teachers. The first place prize is $5,000; second place is $2,000; third place is $1,000; and Honorable Mentions are $500 each.

Sibgha is UPCS’s Valedictorian, the recipient of the Worcester County Superintendent’s Association 2015-2016 Scholars Award, has taken 7 AP courses and a Clark University course in Comparative Politics, she volunteers at the St. Vincent’s Hospital Orthopedic Unit, and her goal is to become a medical doctor.

District Business

FY 17 Budget Update

Last evening, the School Committee conducted their annual Budget Priority Session, where each member was able to describe their priorities for funding in the upcoming FY17 budget. Over the course of the past several months, the Administration has solicited input from building principals, students, parent groups, and community members over the priorities for the FY17 budget for the Worcester Public Schools.   Using a zero-based budget approach, where each spending category is carefully reviewed each year, the budget is built from the "bottom up" using the criteria that leverages resources that focuses on student achievement, school safety, and compliance and mandated services.  The Administration has taken all of the input collected over the past few months and will present a balanced budget to the School Committee in mid-May. View the updated status of the WPS budget and likely actions that are needed to produce a balanced budget. The School Committee will conduct formal budget hearings and deliberations on June 3rd and 17th between 4:00pm and 6:00pm in the City Council Chambers at City Hall.  The public is invited and encouraged to attend these sessions.

MSBA – South High Community School Update

The Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) approved this week the selection of Heery International Inc. as the Owner’s Project Manager (OPM) for the South High Community School project, currently in the Feasibility Study stage. The City of Worcester may now execute the OPM’s contract pursuant to the provisions under MA General Laws. See letter.

Did you know...

Did you know that:

  • Working for Worcester has projects in the following schools during the 2015-2016 school year?:

Burncoat Preparatory, City View Discovery, Elm Park Community, Goddard School of Science and Technology, Jacob Hiatt, Tatnuck Magnet, Thorndyke Road Elementary, Union Hill Elementary, Vernon Hill, West Tatnuck, and Worcester Arts Magnet.

Upcoming Week's Events

Open House - Academy of Science, Technology and Health at WEMS

Worcester East Middle School and the Academy of Science, Technology and Health will hold an "Open House" on Tuesday, April 12th, 6:30-7:30 p.m. for current fifth grade students and their parents/guardians that attend Roosevelt School, Lake View School, Union Hill School, Jacob Hiatt School, Grafton Street School Belmont Community School, Vernon Hill School Chandler Magnet School, City View School, Rice Square School and Worcester Arts Magnet School. Students and parents/guardians will have an opportunity to meet teachers, learn about the grade 6 curriculum, tour the building and meet current students in grades 6-8 who will provide a student’s perspective of the Academy of Science, Technology and Health.

National Volunteer Appreciation Week – April 10th – 16th

National Volunteer Appreciation Week logo Next week we celebrate the National Volunteer Appreciation Week. The Worcester Public Schools is very fortunate to have many individuals who make significant contributions as school volunteers every day. They are parents, family members, senior citizens, college students, business partners and school council members. Our schools are better schools because of these wonderful individuals. Please join me in thanking our volunteers for their services in our schools.

National Library Week

National Library Week will take place April 10th - 16th by having Community Readers read to school children at each of the Library’s Branches.  There will also be other activities as well as a special exhibit at the Main Library location featuring photos of community leaders displayed with a copy of a favorite book. View more information about National Library Week in Worcester.

Working For Worcester’s 4th Annual Build Day

Working for Worcester’s Build Day is scheduled for Saturday, April 16th. More than 1,000 volunteers will work and construct 18 recreational spaces and structures, all to increase hope and opportunity for Worcester’s children and families. Please consider joining this event. More information can be found at Working for Worcester website.