When I saw this morning’s headline in the Worcester Telegram regarding last night’s meeting of the Southbridge School Committee I had to wonder if Brian Lee and I had watched the same meeting. The banner on the T&G article read, “State official cites progress by Southbridge schools”.
My reading of the presentation by Dr. Nadine Bonda, the monitor from the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, was that the district has been marking time since last August at least.
That was when the previous Accelerated Improvement Plan (AIP) expired. Since then three plans were submitted, with the final submission only being accepted in March. However, that plan only runs through the end of this year when a new plan will be required.
The Telegram article states, “Explaining why it had taken so long to gain approval, acting Superintendent Patricia Gardner, who is filling in while Superintendent Basan Nembirkow is ill, said Mr. Nembirkow rewrote the plan. He did not think the plan had reflected "’the new day in Southbridge.’”
However, the state official indicated that the problem was that, while the goals were acceptable, the plan to achieve the goals was inadequate in the initial proposals.
Among the items cited in the Telegram piece are:
· At the elementary level, some of curriculum is aligned but work needs to continue.
· The high school curriculum is not aligned with Common Core, even though Massachusetts districts were expected to align to 2011 state standards by the beginning of 2013-14.
· The district will need to develop a recruiting plan for teachers and administrators that casts a wide net to attract the most qualified people.
Those hardly sound like a ringing endorsement of progress.
Also disconcerting was the response by Committee members to the presentation, While this School Committee has spared no effort in attempting to micro-manage the district, they demonstrated an appalling lack of understanding of the process related to developing and implementing the AIP. Yet this is one of their core responsibilities insofar as the one employee they are directly charged with overseeing is the Superintendent. And one of the Superintendent’s primary tasks in this Level IV district is submitting and implementing an approved AIP.
Here is the video of the presentation by Dr. Bonda at the meeting. You can draw your own conclusions.