Sunday Notes January 17th 2016

Refunding Money proves Challenging for City

Before the City joined the Community Eligibility Provision a federal program that allows ALL Lowell students to receive free breakfast and lunch, parents could deposit money into an account for their students that paid for their meals. CEP made these accounts unnecessary so parents are looking for a refund. Sounds simple doesn’t it?

However the truth is, Government isn’t set up (with the exception of the IRS ) to do refunds. There is no checking account set up so that the school dept. or the City could hand write out refund checks. Even if the City gave the School all the money at once, there is no account set up to write a refund check. The City since September has been trying to find an easy way to get parents back their money. Turns out, there isn’t any easy way.

What will have to happen is the School Dept. will have to send home forms for parents to fill out and return in a prepaid postage envelope. Then the purchasing dept. will have to set up every person requiring a refund as a new vendor and cut them a check that way.

It isn’t easy, some won’t bother and many will be upset at having to fill out forms and return them to get $10-$30 dollars back.

The joys of Government bureaucracy.

Attract more candidates or feathering their own nest?

On the week’s agenda Mayor Kennedy has this motion – M. Kennedy – Req. City Council consider salary adjustments for members of the City Council and School Committee.

Today’s Sun Political Column has Kennedy trying to spin this has a way to increase the interest of people to run for office. Give them more $$ and more professionals will consider running. Which is better than than looking like after two weeks into his Mayoral term, he wants more money for the time it takes. (and he ain’t no Rodney Elliott).

The problem with that is no one up until today’s Sun has heard him say that and last time that was used to justify raising the stipend it hadn’t increased participation. If it had we would not be discussing a Charter Change to the number of candidates needed for a preliminary.

Kennedy’s timing is poor just as poor has his inauguration speech was. However he should be commended for having the SUN working has his PR agency putting a spin on this raise issue and mostly ignoring his deliberate slap at former Mayor Elliott, Councilor Mercier and Councilor Belanger.

If Bernie Lynch or Patrick Murphy learned the art of sucking up or golfing with the Editor more often, one or both might still be serving the City.

Educational Issues – So many and varied that you would never think of!

I’m learning more and more about the challenges faced by the School District, School Committee , Principals, Teachers and Parents due to my involvement with the Citywide Parent Council.

I’ve received emails that ask about the Social Media Policies (see earlier post) the Medication Access Policies and this week Peer Grading.

Peer Grading is when the students Grade one another’s Homework, Tests and Quizzes and now apparently includes students writing comments on another students work product and / or to read out loud the “grade” the student received on the test so that the teacher can record it.

When I was a student in the 1970’s I remember correcting each others papers but never reading the grade out loud or writing comments. When I subbed in the middle 1980’s students still corrected each others work but again I don’t remember them reading the grade out loud.

The question that was presented to me this week was , does the School District have a policy regarding Peer Grading especially in elementary and middle school and does every school follow the same practice and procedures when it comes to Peer Grading?

Apparently the answer is No and has a result issues are arising.

According to a parent who contacted me – This has lead to a form of bullying (even if unintentional) when the students hear unkind comments from their peers and then feel humiliated especially when the grades are then read out loud. For example boys snickering when a girls grade is read out loud or vice versa.

Some students complain that when a peer student gets a fellow “friends paper” they grade better and if they do not like you they grade worse and the student is stuck with that grade because the Teacher does not re-correct.

I cannot find a policy on the School Dept’s website and have emailed the Asst. Supt. in charge of Curriculum, Instruction & Assessment to see if a policy exist and should it?

Many parents don’t think Peer Grading is fair to all students. Lowell has so many students on IEP’S with learning disabilities, emotional issues and other challenges that it seems unfair to expect these students to be comfortable with everyone hearing their grade or worse, getting a paper back with a note calling them a dummy or saying they need to learn to read.

I’m looking forward to getting a response from the Ass. Supt and will share it on the Citywide Parent Council Facebook page and here on the blog.

6 thoughts on “Sunday Notes January 17th 2016

  1. “IF” Mayor Kennedy is truly proposing the increase in salary for the members of the Lowell City Council to attract more candidates, then perhaps he should follow the lead of the POTUS. When an increase is proposed by the the Executive Branch it goes into effect the next election cycle, so as to not have the inference as a self-indulgent, self fulfilling greedy politician – as this one does!

  2. Gerry Another great read! Kennedy is full of shit! More candidates my ass – in the 60/70’s we had more QUALITY candidates running for office than ever & it was NOT a paid position! This guy has always been about him and what he can get – as Edward J. McCormack, Jr. so eloquently stated so many years ago (about his namesake) “if his name was Edward Moore and NOT Edward Moore Kennedy his campaign would be a joke!” Well, in this case Lowell’s New Mayor should be EDWARD “MORE” KENNEDY & his self-serving motion is a Joke!

    Jerry Flynn

    Sent from my iPhone


  3. I think peer grading is ok if done appropriately. One of my children peer grades in her class, but it is only on multiple choice or yes/no type tests. They then get it back and they get to double check the work of their peer. Unfortunately, I have also had reports back to me in other classes that peers correct some open response tests and some children do not do it appropriately and no double check is done. A procedure from the Superintendent would be appropriate. It is also troubling to never receive tests back.
    As far as a salary increase goes, I think that the benefits that go with being elected in Lowell should be part of the whole discussion.

  4. While I have no kids in the Lowell school system any more, I am absolutely opposed to peer grading. There is always going to be at least one child out there that “shares” that poor grade with everyone around them. Absolutely not fair to a child who is struggling.
    As for Kennedy, he has absolutely no business suggesting raises for a part-time position while full time employees get nothing.

  5. Since the title “Curmudgeon” is taken, I will go as “Contrarian”.  I believe the City Council and School Committee should get pay raises.  Not a lot.  Not like that village down county, Cambridge.

    That said, I be we should—the City Council should—take action to provide a salary for the GLTHS School Committee Members.  I would suggest $8,500 pa.

    Regards  —  Cliff

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