Superintendent's Blog

Entries Tagged as 'Community'

Project 351

January 17th, 2012 · No Comments

During the Martin Luther King weekend Governor Patrick hosted Project 351, the second annual statewide volunteer effort involving  eight graders from across the Commonwealth.  Michael Barkan represented John Glenn Middle School at this event.  Michael’s day included a town hall meeting with Governor Patrick, Lt. Governor Murray and Mayor Menino.  Michael then joined The Cradles to Crayon group refurbishing and packaging supplies for homeless children.

In nominating Michael for this honor, his teachers said the following:

Michael Barkan is an affable and respectful young man.  At an age where many are prone to follow, Michael is a natural leader.  Whether it is working with others in group projects, participating in class conversations or merely in a casual setting, Michael meets peers and adults alike, with the same genuine and congenial smile.

Kudos to Michael for achieving this honor!  JGMS is very proud to have such a caring leader and great role model in its midst.

Tags: Community · Digital Learners

Happy Holidays!

December 23rd, 2011 · No Comments

My Favorite Munchkin Max

Hoping that all of our Bedford families have a wonderful holiday season!  In the coming week, take the time to relax and savor the company of those who are most important to you.   As we end 2011 in the schools, we have much to be thankful for.  Most significantly, we thank you for entrusting your children to our care and for supporting our schools in all that you do.

May 2012 bring you much happiness!

Tags: Community · Parent

Social Media and Schools

December 19th, 2011 · No Comments

An article in yesterday’s New York Times captures the dilemma schools face as we encourage the use of more social media in our schools.  Teachers, parents, and students use the new media as a primary form of communication so as a district we need to be sure that we enable our staff to use Facebook, Blogs, Google, Twitter, etc. in a manner consistent with the professional standards we set forth for both teachers and administrators.  From my perspective, using social media is just another venue for communicating  with the constituencies we serve.   Whether we use social media or the more traditional newsletters to share information, we are all expected to maintain appropriate boundaries consistent with the professional position we hold and the responsibility we assume in the schools.

The new media present both a challenge and an opportunity enabling us to  generate  online conversations.  Moving  into these new venues, we need to be thoughtful about both  the information we create and share and our capacity to manage a professional online environment that is not intermingled with our personal lives.

Yesterday’s New York  Times article offers some food for thought for all of us as we encourage the use of the new media supporting a culture that fosters collaboration while protecting both students and teachers.    If you are interested in reading the article, here’s the link:

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/18/business/media/rules-to-limit-how-teachers-and-students-interact-online.html?_r=1&ref=technology

Tags: Community · Digital Learners · Parent

Cutting Class: Underfunding the Foundation Budget’s Core Education Program

November 30th, 2011 · No Comments

For today’s blog post, I am featuring a “special guest” piece authored by Tom Scott, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents. Tom has written a very informative piece about the chronic underfunding of education in the Commonwealth.

The Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center has released their comprehensive study of the Chapter 70 foundation budget, titled Cutting Class: Underfunding the Foundation Budget’s Core Education Program.  The study investigated and authored by Luc Schuster, Policy Analyst at MassBudget is a comprehensive examination of the now nearly two decade old basis for funding public education in Massachusetts.  The final released study is now available at MassBudget.org:

This thoroughly researched and clearly written report points out the most glaring deficiencies between what is being spent compared to the allowances in the foundation budget and draws attention to its effect on low wealth school districts and on regular education statewide.  The study was funded by our colleagues in MASBO to secure a factual outside view of much that we were experiencing locally but now viewed from a statewide perspective.  The study is an excellent review of the original intentions of school reform legislation and how it has evolved in the reality of present day costs and demands.  We encourage educators to read this important work and to discuss it by participating in a  growing statewide conversation about the  shortcomings of the foundations upon which state and local standards of support for the education of students are now set.

Key Finding:

1.       Foundation understates core SPED costs by about $1.0 billion

2.    Foundation understates health insurance costs by $1.1 billion

3.    Districts have not implemented the low-income student program envisioned in the original foundation budget

4.    Most districts hire fewer regular education teachers than the foundation budget sets as an adequate baseline.  The study was able to disaggregate special education teacher costs from regular education teachers, unveiling the lack of spending on regular education teaching caused by the required demands for special education teaching.  Only the highest wealth communities have been able to spend at foundation for regular education teachers.

5.    Inflation adjustments have not been fully implemented, causing foundation to lag behind true cost growth

6.    Other items uncovered by the study and its analysis

a.     Page 10:  One third of all students attend schools spending essentially only at the foundation budget.  These students live in and attend schools mostly in low-income school districts.  Research from other sources indicates that the greatest achievement gap exists in low income school districts.  The study analyzes school districts by sorting them into quintiles of wealth, “the least wealthy 20 percent have average spending right at their average foundation budget, whereas the wealthiest 20 percent of districts spend 39 percent above foundation.  These findings indicate that communities with greater wealth make it a priority to raise additional local revenue to fund education at levels significantly above baseline foundation amounts.” Page10.

b.    Spending on items that are now forced to be considered as discretionary such as supplies, materials and technology is well below their foundation budget allowance, with most spending less than half that allowance.  Only the highest wealth quintile spends up to the foundation allowance on professional development.  By contrast the greatest achievement gap exists in the poorest districts where professional development is underfunded.  Other grant sources are noted as an alternative source of this funding.

c.     Teachers today have higher levels of education than existed in 1990 when 48.1% of teachers held master’s degrees.  In 2007-09 61.6% hold master’s degrees, also reflecting higher standards to achieve and maintain professional status.

The study is an excellent base for discussion of the short comings of the present allowances within the foundation budget.  It clearly points out that of the $ 9.1 billion in required minimum spending in the FY 2010 foundation budget school districts are forced by current circumstances to spend $ 2.1 billion (23% of all required spending) above what is allowed in the foundation budget for unanticipated on two items alone, special education costs and health insurance.  Money for impactful important spending to fund teaching and learning is being consumed by the faulty assumptions in the historic foundation budget that needs to be corrected.

This latest study, coupled with previous MASS studies, and the MBEA/Boston Foundation Report, A Bargain Not Kept: School Funding Realty, authored by Ed Moscovitch, released in December 2010, makes clear that corrections are long overdue.  Representative Jason Lewis and others have filed H 153 to fund a foundation study.  MASS support that study, but immediate action is needed for schools to draft their budget plan for FY 2013.

Tags: Budget Information · Community

Davis School Garden Celebrated

November 24th, 2011 · 1 Comment

Special thanks to Meghan Mathews, our community partner, and Mrs. Davies for their work on a community garden. Today’s Boston Globe includes a story featuring their work.  The project teaches children many valuable skills and the importance of sharing one’s abundance with others.  Very appropriate to the day.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Here’s the link:
http://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/regionals/north/2011/11/24/school-garden-offers-learning-from-ground/M7jLkZfRYM2GSwEyQhGxRK/story.html

Tags: Community · Parent

Happy Thanksgiving!

November 23rd, 2011 · No Comments

Happy Thanksgiving to all of our Bedford families.  If you want to enjoy a special treat celebrating the season, visit the video of our 3rd Grade Colonial Concert.  What a great performance with our 3rd graders decked out in costume for a great concert and demonstration of newly acquired dance moves.

Here’s the link:  http://rackerman.wordpress.bedford.k12.ma.us/2011/11/23/colonial-concert/

Special thanks to the children, Mrs. Lang and all of our 3rd grade staff.

Tags: Community

Response to “My Teacher is an APP”

November 21st, 2011 · No Comments

A recent article in The Wall Street Journal:  My Teacher is an App has stirred debate throughout the educational community.  The article cites examples of school districts that have incorporated more online learning opportunities as a cost effective measure in a tight fiscal climate.  As one who believes we need to create a learning environment that establishes meaningful connections and collaborations across the world,  I would suggest that the focus on more online learning should be different. As we incorporate more online learning opportunities, we need focus on the quality of the learning environments both online and face to face.

From my perspective, the use of more online learning opportunities does not diminish the need for classroom teachers, rather it changes the roles of teachers and students. To suggest otherwise, devalues the significant influence teachers have on the growth and development of the students we serve.

Tags: Community · Digital Learners · Teaching and Learning

Collaboration and Problem Solving in Action

November 3rd, 2011 · No Comments

With the loss of “the grid” earlier this week we certainly had the opportunity to problem solve as we developed plans to return to  school on Tuesday. Families without power found ways to stay in communication using iPhones and other devices to gather information on local conditions. Bedford Charter worked with us to identify roads that were blocked and to develop alternate plans for bus stops. Parents were helpful in letting me know the particulars of neighborhoods that had trees blocking access. Our administrators, teachers and support staff were problem-solving behind the scenes so that we could open our high school and have a productive day with 600 middle schoolers added to the mix.

For me, the power outage translated into a learning opportunity as I quickly adapted to running the district with an iPhone and iPad serving as command central. And I learned to never say again on a Friday that I was not concerned about a Saturday storm since it would not involve having to make a “snow day” decision.

Special thanks to the Bedford community for, once again, coming together and making this all work for children. My hope is that all of you are now back on the grid in your homes!

Tags: Community · Parent

Special Education: A Changing Population

October 11th, 2011 · No Comments

The October 9 edition of The Boston Globe Magazine included an article delineating some of the factors that have contributed to a rise in our Special Education population.  In the last decade, schools have seen an increase in both the number of children who require an IEP (Individual Education Plan) and the intensity of the supports these children need to be successful in our schools.

In Bedford, we have added more specialized Special Education Programs in all of our schools to  support these children.  Bringing programs for children with significant Special Needs  in-house has been one strategy to better serve the children in a more cost effective manner.  As this article suggests,  as the intensity of the needs increases,  so do the costs.  Bedford has also launched RtI  (Response to Intervention) a K-12 instructional initiative designed to provide ‘just in time’ intervention designed to eliminate the need for some  referrals to Special Education.

I recommend the article to you as a good background piece on the changing population in our schools.

http://www.bostonglobe.com/magazine/2011/10/08/the-test-ahead/89zgadwU7F5ckhFxu7JOdN/story.html

Tags: Budget Information · Community · Parent

Superintendent’s Goals 2011-2012

September 29th, 2011 · No Comments

The Superintendent’s Goals for 2011-2012 have been  approved by the Bedford School Committee.

To review the goals document, click here:  http://www.bedford.k12.ma.us/images/stories/pdfs/super/Goals2011-2012.pdf

Tags: Community · Parent · Teaching and Learning