Education news roundup

In Fall River and New Bedford alone, it’s been hard to keep up with everything that’s transpired on the education front over the past few months. Here’s our best effort at rounding up the stories you might have missed, plus some state-level moves that might have implications for our SouthCoast Cities.

Fall River

  • UCLA’s Civil Rights Project teamed with the ACLU to single out Fall River for a Civil Rights Act complaint related to the school district’s suspension practices. Why? Suspension rates are disproportionately high among non-White students and those with disabilities. For example, the suspension rate for White students was 13.4 percent in 2009-10, compared to 23.1 percent for Latino students and 25.9 percent of Black students. Read the full complaint at UCLA’s Civil Rights Project website.
  • On a more positive note, Fall River Public Schools is just one of two MA districts (the other is Lawrence) to participate in a federal initiative to lengthen the school day. Four schools will participate, and the district will receive technical assistance to support this effort. Read the Boston Globe’s coverage here.
  • Henry Lord Middle School, a Level 4 (underperforming) school that was likely to be designated Level 5 and taken over by the state, will be closed at the end of the school year. Read the Herald News story here.

New Bedford

  • Innovation schools are the hottest topic, with two new schools proposed by teams of educators facing lots of pushback from district teachers and the teachers’ union. Much of the debate relates to the idea that these two schools will share space with existing schools. It’s a bit hard to get up to speed if you haven’t been following, but here is a recent Standard Times article that covers the debate at a recent School Committee meeting. Meanwhile, click the links to read the prospectus of the proposed Esperanza School (which would feature bilingual classrooms) and the Renaissance Community School for the Arts (which uses a community school model and an arts-based curriculum).
  • Receiving a bit less coverage but particularly important is the city’s search for a new superintendent. A survey has been created for community stakeholders to weigh in, and 35 applications have been received. According to this article, the names of three finalists will be presented to the School Committee in early February.  The full job description for the position is here.

Statewide

  • MA’s new Secretary of Education is Matt Malone, who previously served as Brockton’s superintendent.
  • Education grants for Gateway Cities were recently announced. New Bedford got $40,000 to develop an engineering academy within the high school, while Fall River received almost $245,000 for efforts to improve outcomes for English language learners and another $45,000 to plan for a career academy within the high school.
  • Governor Patrick’s proposed 2014 budget calls for $11M in education spending specifically for Gateway Cities.

From the local headlines

  • It’s been hard to miss what’s been going on with New Bedford Public Schools, but here it is in a nutshell: NBPS submitted a turnaround plan, the state is “unimpressed”, talk of a state takeover is in the air, Mayor Mitchell responds (here is his statement). (What does a takeover look like? Here’s what happened in Lawrence last November.)
  • Urban mayors meet to discuss opportunities to work together across southeastern MA.
  • Fall River’s ‘Building Blocks’ program, aimed at cracking down on abandoned and neglected properties, acts as stumbling block for new owners taking on a major rehab because of outdated, imprecise information on current ownership.
  • Governor Patrick visits BCC to tout proposal to do things like centralize functions of the state’s community colleges and provide performance-based funding. Read more about that plan here.
  • Area elected officials–along with some students from Durfee High School–head to Boston to “save Meditech” and ensure that the company’s proposed development (and new jobs) stay in the region.

From the local headlines

  • Fall River hears needs for Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) spending, but anticipates losing $800,000 in funding from HUD
  • Mayor Jon Mitchell gives inaugural address that emphasizes jobs and education; full text can be found here
  • The Herald News pulls out the most “memorable quotes” of incumbent Mayor Will Flanagan’s inaugural address
  • And in Taunton, Lt. Governor Tim Murray makes a guest appearance at the swearing in of Mayor Thomas Hoye, Jr.
  • Recognizing the impact of social and emotional issues on academic performance, Fall River School Committee considers two new programs aimed at promoting positive behavior at the elementary level and supporting teachers with classroom management in the middle schools
  • Arrests made in connection with New Bedford’s fourth homicide of 2011
  • Speaking of reusing old schools (see previous post), Taunton School Committee debates the future of one of its own, with possibilities including administrative offices, classroom space for BCC, or an alternative high school

From the local headlines:

From the local headlines:

Source: Jack Foley, Herald News (at http://www.heraldnews.com/topstories/x2086542615/Fall-River-Housing-Authority-approves-plan-to-revamp-Watuppa-Heights)