Sunday Notes November 15th 2015

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“Terror is not a new weapon. Throughout history it has been used by those who could not prevail, either by persuasion or example. But inevitably they fail, either because men are not afraid to die for a life worth living, or because the terrorists themselves came to realize that free men cannot be frightened by threats, and that aggression would meet its own response. And it is in the light of that history that every nation today should know, be he friend or foe, that the United States has both the will and the weapons to join free men in standing up to their responsibilities.” ― John F. Kennedy

Mayoral Battle not new!

The ulcer’s forming in the pit of Bill Samaras’s gut over who to vote for as Mayor is nothing new to Lowell Politics. Paul Tsongas vs Phil Shea (One of Elliott’s mentors) was over a 100 ballots and resulted in the election of Ellen Sampson. In 1974 the fight was between Armand LeMay and Leo Farley, LeMay won that one.

The Mayoral post has Councilor Elliott used to remind people, was meant to rotate among the Councilors.

Interesting that then Councilor Elliott accused City Manager Lynch of costing him the Mayor’s post in favor or Patrick Murphy. Now everyone in the political bubble knows Manager Murphy is lobbying hard for his”little brother” to continue as Mayor and has the added leverage of employing Bill Samaras’s son to help sway the Councilors vote. If you recall Chris Samaras received a promotion without the job ever being posted. ALL IN THe FAMILY at City Hall.

If Ed Kennedy gets shafted he can Thank Manager Murphy and company for that.

At a time that so many Unions have contracts up for negotiations you can bet that ALL Union Presidents will note that Manager Murphy has a $10,000 bump in Salary in this year’s budget without ANY public evaluation or vote in a City Council meeting.

The Council is so divided over the Mayor’s race that not only are there NO Council Motions on this week’s Council Agenda but the Manager smartly is looking to give everyone a break and there is a motion in this week’s packet to cancel the Tuesday Dec. 1st meeting citing the Thanksgiving Holiday the Thursday before and the fact that City Hall is CLOSED BLACK FRIDAY (day after Thanksgiving). Or The Manager isn’t interested in wrapping-up a Council meeting on the 24th, then having to get an agenda ready on the 25th and have it posted that day to meet the public records law.

School DAZE

The 2 main issues surrounding the Contract between the UTL and the School Committee have to do with time and money.

If you ignore BOTH UTL President Paul Georges and Mayor Rodney Elliott’s letters in the Sun and instead look at facts available on-line by the State and the teacher’s contract, what you see is Lowell pat’s itself for “meeting net school spending” when the majority of communities EXCEED it.

You also see that when it comes to “instructional” time there is no state mandate and I could find no published numbers that quote a state average for “instructional” time. Don’t believe the rhetoric on either side

Here’s some interesting numbers!

MEETING NET SCHOOL SPENDING NO LONGER ENOUGH

20142015 NetSchool Spending

20142015 NetSchool Spending

The City Administration and the Current Mayor like to boast that Lowell met it’s Net School Spending amount in the 2014/2015 Fiscal year.

They did and in fact had the Manager NOT taken back $300,000 without the public’s knowledge the City would have exceeded its Net School Spending requirement by that $300,000 amount. As it stands they MET it!

I’ve attached a link that the State supplied me (first link) along with the Excel that I downloaded (2nd link) regarding Net School Spending.

According to the State Dept of Education: The “summary” workbook is a statewide listing comparing actual and budgeted spending to the requirement. Looking at these list I find the following:

Of the 325 School districts in MASS, in 2013 /2014 fiscal year all but 9 (including Lowell) met their net school spending and in fact 316 Communities EXCEEDED their Net school spending requirements.

In 2014 /2015 Lowell MET the requirement but 14 communities did NOT and the other 315 EXCEEDED NET SCHOOL Spending.

City Contributes less than 13% of Total School Dollars

( Page | II-76 of current Lowell Budget book)

In Fiscal year 2015/2016 Lowell is projected taking in $121,094,120 in Property Tax and $26,918,565 in Local Receipts. Totaling $148,012,685 of Taxpayer’s Money .

Of that $18,856,851 is earmarked for the Lowell School System (Page | IV-79 of current Lowell Budget book) That works out to be approx. 12.74% of the Entire Local generated revenues that are committed to the City School System. The State and Federal Government along with grants pay for the rest.

While the Greater Lowell Technical receives $600,000(Page | IV-80) of “local” money.

The State list clearly shows that most communities EXCEED NET SCHOOL SPENDING. We has parents can no longer accept the city being satisfied with just meeting net School Spending.

Teaching Time

First the Mass Dept of Education informed me that – There are requirements for number of school hours but not for instructional minutes then pointed me to the State Law,

27.04: Structured Learning Time Requirements

(1) No later than the 1997 – 1998 school year, schools shall ensure that every elementary school student is scheduled to receive a minimum of 900 hours per school year of structured learning time, as defined in 603 CMR 27.02. Time which a student spends at school breakfast and lunch, passing between classes, in homeroom, at recess, in non-directed study periods, receiving school services, and participating in optional school programs shall not count toward meeting the minimum structured learning time requirement for that student.

(2) No later than the 1997 – 1998 school year, all schools shall ensure that every secondary school student is scheduled to receive a minimum of 990 hours per school year of structured learning time, as defined in 603 CMR 27.02. Time which a student spends at school breakfast and lunch, passing between classes, in homeroom, at recess, in non-directed study periods, receiving school services, and participating in optional school programs shall not count toward meeting the minimum structured learning time requirement for that student.

According to the current contract in place and agreed to by some still on the School Committee Lowell meets this.

If you look at the contract wording, Lowell Seems to follow what they and the Union agreed to and have “carried over” since the late 1990’s!! This is from the current UTL Contract

UTL Current Contract

Effective with the 1998-1999 school year, elementary teacher time shall be six (6) hours and twenty-five (25) minutes per day. Five minutes shall be beyond the student day and shall be assigned time.

Middle and high school teacher time shall be six (6) hours and fifty-five (55) minutes per day. Five minutes shall be beyond the student day and shall be assigned time.

Effective with the 1998-1999 school year, the fifteen (15) unassigned minutes beyond the student dismissal time will be converted to teaching time and the workday of teachers will be extended ten (10) minutes consisting of five (5) minutes of teaching time and five (5) minutes of assigned time after student dismissal time. Any further increases in teaching time beyond the twenty (20) minutes will be subject to negotiation.

More Challenging Issues other than Contract facing School Dept. and Parents!

Lowell is facing some MAJOR CHALLENGES in the school system for the next fiscal year and beyond.

They have a $1.2 Million Dollar Structural Deficit before any raises are granted.

In addition to the High School Project, Lowell WILL HAVE TO RENT OR BUY MODULAR CLASSROOMS FOR SOME OF THE MIDDLE SCHOOLS IN THE UPCOMING YEAR OR TWO.

The Supt. and his staff are looking at busing cost and the possibility of switching to “neighborhood” schools and changing the zones to lessen the cost but that also presents challenges.

Parents have other concerns, Do students get enough recess / lunch time? Teacher’s are guaranteed 25 minutes.

How is the food quality and service?

PARCC Testing? Common Core ? MCAS?

With these issues alone, why is a newly elected member talking about the need for more Vocational Education in Lowell Schools? We have a VOCATIONAL / TECHNICAL School either talk to those Committee people or run for one of those seats. Parents of Lowell students see larger way more important issues.

Re-launching City Wide Parent Council

Lowell students and parents need a strong group to advocate for them and getting answers to many of their questions and concerns. I am working with other concerned parents and community members to relaunch the City Wide Parent Council with support from the Superintendent and many current or soon to be School Committee members.

EVERY PARENT/GUARDIAN and interested community member is considered a member and everyone is invited to be part of this group. WE are looking to hold a meeting to explain/organize and kick off this group on Monday November 30th (location will be confirmed soon and will post here and on Facebook).

PLEASE..PLEASE IF YOU HAVE INTEREST AND WANT TO BE INCLUDED IN OUR EFFORTS EMAIL ME AT GNUTTER@COMCAST.NET, WE WILL BUILD A DATABASE AND EMAIL YOU A COPY OF THE EXISTING BYLAWS AND RESPONSIBILITY OF MEMBERS.

We has a group can and will review these bylaws and update them but more importantly WE NEED YOU!! You have concerns, we want to help address them and advocate for you and what what you see has the issues and address any and all concerns. If you don’t advocate for your student who will??

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One thought on “Sunday Notes November 15th 2015

  1. Pingback: Truthiness in Local Education | An Educator's Journey

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