Thursday, March 29, 2018

On the afternoon of Friday, March 9th, I had the opportunity to attend the Worcester Regional Science & Engineering Fair at WPI.  This year, twelve of our high schools students participated in this annual event.  I am always impressed with the amount of work and effort that these, and all of the students, put into their projects.  Having the opportunity to speak with the students about their projects is always a highlight for me in the month of March.   Of the twelve students competing that Friday afternoon, eight placed, plus two WRHS students (Evan Mizerak and Chris Dwyer) qualified to attend the International Fair in Pittsburgh in May.  Eight WRHS students, listed below, will be at MIT competing at the State Fair on May 4th & 5th.

Honorable Mention:

Rihanna Massoni-Nesman - The Effect of Tangerine Citric Acid on P. barbarous

Third Place:

Timmarie Gallagher - Effect of Melatonin on Tachycardic Heart Rates of Daphnia manga
Elise Mizerak - What's in Your Water?
Emily LaBelle - Gray Water Recycler 

Second Place:

Natalie Matis - The Effect of Growth Hormone on Daphnia magna Reproduction 
Julia Danko - Ceasing Coral Bleaching 

First Place:

Christopher Dwyer - How to "Fuel" your Fuel
Evan Mizerak- Isolation of Epigenetic Insights in Heritable Fertility Trends

Once again, I was absolutely astounded by the presentations made by the Wachusett students and congratulations to them all.

Monday, February 12, 2018

FY19 Budget Narrative

We have had an eventful 2017-2018 school year thus far.  Over the past several months, the District has continued to make progress toward the goals of the the Wachusett Regional School District (WRSD) Strategic Plan.  Our school district remains one of the strongest in Central Massachusetts and we continue to create educational programming for our students that will prepare them for their future endeavors.

The WRSD Strategic Plan provides the Wachusett community with a sense of purpose as we define priorities and set budgets.  Each school has developed a School Improvement Plan that ties directly back to the Strategic Plan and will help define budget priorities at both the building and the District levels.  Goals that have been set by administrators and teachers will have common themes connected to the five learning domains, enabling our five-town district to pursue common educational outcomes.  We have focused on many areas including technology, improved instructional support, social emotional learning, and more.

In early November, District and Member Town officials held the annual Budget Roundtable meeting, which is an opportunity to discuss budget issues associated with the upcoming fiscal year.  As in year’s past, the meeting was well attended by town representatives as well as officials from the state.  An important area of focus during the discussion was the recent report completed by the State Auditor’s Office concerning the funding issues facing regional school districts throughout Massachusetts.  Our district was one of those highlighted in that report.  Working together as a unified community, our five towns and the District have made a commitment to advocate for 100% reimbursement for regional transportation by lobbying our representatives to support our request.  Grassroots organizations and our teachers union have been vocal in their support of more state funding for all regional school districts.   Insufficient funding at the state level remains a significant cause of the budget woes we have faced and continues to be an area of concern for both local and state officials.  As state funding continues to decline, we are even more dependent upon our local tax base to support our educational endeavors.  The District will continue to work with all stakeholders to advocate for the recommendations made not only by the State Auditor but also the Chapter 70 Foundation Budget Review Commission. We ask all members of the Wachusett community to join in these efforts to ease the financial burden placed on both schools and towns. 

Last year, the five towns that comprise the District funded a budget that allowed us to increase support for our students.  We look forward to continuing the progress made this past year as we create a budget that further supports our Strategic Plan. 

The current budget request for FY19 is aligned with the WRSD Strategic Plan as we focus on areas such as early literacy, science, professional development, and student health and wellness.  Budget increases are primarily due to contractual obligations, new positions, increases in out-of-District tuitions, increased funding for technology and instructional support, and increased utility costs. 

For FY19, we are requesting a budget of  $94,209,452 which is an increase of $3,831,072 or 4.24% from FY18.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

WRHS Students Honored

On Tuesday, January 9th, I had the privilege of attending the Worcester County Superintendents’ Association Annual Scholars Luncheon, held at Assumption College in Worcester.  WRHS Principal Beando and I accompanied high school seniors Evan Mizerak of Holden and Dylan Moore of Holden as they were recognized and congratulated for their hard work and accomplishments, along with 70 other student scholars from around Central Massachusetts.  

Having attended the Scholars Luncheon now five times, I am always so impressed by all of the achievements each and every student has accomplished during their time in high school.  These students are truly impressive and will be the future leaders of tomorrow. I wish Evan and Dylan a great final semester as Wachusett students and the best of luck as they both attend Brown University next year.

Friday, December 1, 2017

It is that time of year again to start thinking about the inevitable delay or cancellation of school this winter.  With this in mind, I want to remind everyone that school delays and cancellations are a part of what we must deal with by living in this section of the country.  The decision to cancel or delay school is one that I take seriously as dangerous driving conditions are a constant issue for schools who transport students, especially in a school district spread over 150 square miles.  We often have rain, freezing rain, sleet and snow occurring simultaneously across the varying elevations within the five communities.  After consulting with local DPW's, a decision to cancel school usually takes place by 5:15 am in order to give the bus company time to reach out to their drivers and a SchoolMessenger call will be made soon thereafter.  A two-hour delay occurs during the same time frame.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

State Auditor's Report on Regional School Funding

On Friday, October 27, 2017, State Auditor Suzanne Bump and members of her team visited our district to present the recently released report Supporting Student and Community Success:  Updating the Structure and Finance of Massachusetts Regional School Districts. I very much appreciate State Auditor Bump taking the time to speak with us about the findings in the report.  It was an interesting and informative morning, and I am hopeful that at least some of the recommendations made in the report will be implemented, to the fiscal benefit of Wachusett and other regional school districts in the Commonwealth.  Although there are several recommendations, the finding which could immediately benefit the WRSD in the short-term is the recommendation of 100% reimbursement for regional transportation.  An increase from the current 73% reimbursement to 100% would mean another $1 million in state support.  

To continue sharing the findings of Supporting Student and Community Success:  Updating the Structure and Finance of Massachusetts Regional School Districts, Ben Tafoya, Director of Division of Local Mandates, one of the authors of the report, has agreed to once again travel to Holden and will present the findings of the report to a joint meeting of Wachusett and Quabbin regional school districts stakeholders (attachment ). This meeting, which is open to the public and all are invited and encouraged to attend, will be held Tuesday evening, November 28, 2017, 6:30 PM in the auditorium of Wachusett Regional High School.  I encourage your attendance at this meeting to hear more about the report and ways that we can help the students in our district.

A one page summary of the report is also available.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Next Generation MCAS

Last week, DESE released MCAS scores for all school districts across Massachusetts.  This was the first year of the next-generation MCAS in grades 3-8 and 2017 will be used as a baseline year.  With that being said, all school districts and schools that administered the next-generation MCAS and which had an accountability rating of Level 1, 2, or 3 in 2016, will not be assigned an accountability level.  The high school, as all high schools did last spring, administered the original MCAS and remains a Level 2 school.  The WRSD and all other schools, with the exception of the high school, do not have a level assigned for this year.

Another change for 2017 includes the score levels for the next-generation MCAS.  The new MCAS scores fall into four categories: Exceeding Expectations, Meeting Expectations, Partially Meeting Expectations, and Not Meeting Expectations.  According to information provided by DESE, the new standards for Meeting Expectations are more rigorous than the standards for reaching the Proficient level on the original MCAS.  As spring 2017 is a baseline year for the new test in grades 3-8, DESE says that the spring 2017 scores should not be compared to previous years' scores.

The District will be sending student scores out to families in the mail in early November.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Welcome letter to WRSD staff

Every year, I send a welcome back newsletter to the over 1,100 employees who work in our schools.  The following is the letter that I sent earlier this week welcoming staff back and sharing some of the items we are working toward this year:

August 28, 2017 As I enter my 27th year in education, I remain as excited and hopeful about the coming year as I did when I was preparing my classroom for the first time back in 1991. I would like to take this opportunity to welcome back returning staff and new hires, including over 58 new staff members. We are fortunate to have a strong group of educators joining our Wachusett family, including the new building principal at Central Tree Middle School, David Cornacchioli, who joins us from Oxford, Massachusett. For the past two months, David has been working in the District to become acquainted with his new learning community. I would also like to welcome two former assistant principals to their new interim positions. Shannon Bischoff has been named the Interim Principal at Dawson Elementary School in Holden, while Tammy Boyle has taken on the Interim Principal position at Thomas Prince School in Princeton. At this time last year, the district was in the midst of defining a Strategic Plan to guide us through the next several years. One of the items in the plan is the continued enhancement of technology use in schools by students and staff. With the recent passing of the school budget, I am pleased to announce that Chromebooks have been purchased for all incoming freshman at Wachusett Regional High School. I was fortunate to assist with the handing out of the devices last week, at which time over 400 Chromebooks were passed out over two days. Students and parents expressed gratitude and support. Special thanks to our IT department, Supervisor Barry Sclar, and the other members of the team at the high school that assisted with this initiative. Middle and elementary schools participating in MCAS 2.0 also received Chromebook carts this summer. We look forward to the new learning opportunities this initiative will provide for our students and faculty. Over the past two months, all of the school buildings in our District have been cleaned and prepped for students and staff. We have a dedicated and hardworking custodial team, and I am very pleased with the work they have completed to make our buildings and grounds look great. When visiting other school districts, I am reminded of how well the educational facilities of Wachusett are maintained. Finally, I would like to share some thoughts with you regarding the recent incidents in Charlottesville, Virginia. Executive Director of the Massachusetts Association for School Superintendents Tom Scott reminds all district leaders that our schools are founded on the principle that diversity, in all forms, is always welcome. As educators, we are committed to providing opportunities for equity and inclusion that celebrate and embrace our differences. This will enable our future leaders to value all members of society to uphold our democratic ideals. Our district’s vision statement asserts: The Wachusett Regional School District will foster a vibrant educational community in which all students will realize their highest potential and become responsible and productive citizens. We are, and will forever be, committed to supporting all of our students, staff and families. I applaud your efforts to help our students thrive and prosper. Your dedication to Wachusett is appreciated by all. I wish you a successful start to the school year, and look forward to seeing you as I visit your schools in the coming weeks.