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Worcester Coalition for Education Equity!

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contacts:    Isabel Gonzalez-Webster (c) 781.913.4904  isabel@worcester-interfaith.org. Rev. Jose Encarnacion (c) 774.242.2691 revjoseicc@gmail.com

WORCESTER PUBLIC SCHOOLS POLICY STATEMENT 

– Submitted by the Worcester Coalition for Education Equity- a Coalition of community members and representatives of organizations convened by Worcester Interfaith. 

March 28, 2019

It is our professional, ethical, and moral obligation to establish and maintain a public education system in Worcester that reflects, values and honors the success of all students. Unfortunately, as a community, we have failed to meet that obligation.

Worcester’s demographics and performance indicators tell a compelling story of a school district that leaves a majority of its students – students of color – in the dust of their counterparts: failing to meet their Legal Equal Educational Opportunities. 

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) reports that in 2017-2018, Worcester’s students were predominantly Latino (42.9%). English learners (ELs) comprised a third (32.8%) of our student population. Our ELs have the highest dropout rate at 5%, followed by Latino students, of whom 3.4% dropped out of school. Latino students have the highest chronic absenteeism (19.9%) and disciplinary exclusion (11.5%) rates. These data, among others, highlight the inevitable conclusion that our public schools are failing our students of color particularly our Latino students.

What can we do?

Create LOCAL ACCOUNTABILITY around Student Performance: LISTEN to our constituents.A new 47-page report by the think tank Mass INC argues that more needs to be done to promote “local accountability.” The report emphasizes that the idea of local accountability is particularly important for Gateway Cities.  The report outlines a vision in which local districts along with students, parents, teachers, administrators and community stakeholders can develop their own standards for measuring schools to supplement the standards set by state and federal government.  In fact at an address to the Mass INC on this report the Commissioner of DESE Jeff Riley states the following: “the state is interested in enlisting communities to improve their schools. State officials are launching a campaign to recruit diverse teachers, so teachers become more racially representative of the students. But while there are some things government can do, the real power is locally.”  This seems to be the opposite of what is actually happening here locally to us.  In its recent review of Superintendent, our School Committee noted that Worcester “struggle[s] to connect and communicate with parents, who… are not frequently enough participating in site councils, advisory groups, and other school-related organizations.”[1]   

Hire a Chief Diversity Officer as part of the senior leadership team with responsibility for working with school personnel and district leadership to create environments that support diversity and inclusion among staff and students. Responsibilities would include developing and incorporating inclusion initiatives, such as organization-wide diversity training and a strategy for recruiting a diverse pool of educators and administrative staff.

Reporting directly to the superintendent, the CDO will also be advised by a committee representative of the community including, but not limited to parents of students enrolled in EL programs, and representatives of the city’s ethnic and cultural organizations.

RECRUIT and HIRE highly qualified staff and leaders that reflect our student community. Of our 3,412 full time staff, only 9.6% were Latino, while an overwhelming 84.3% of full-time staff is white.  What is also extremely concerning is the deliberate dismantling of the diverse leadership of communities of color in many administrative positions.  All of this has a severe impact on the achievement and life outcomes of our students of color.  This matter requires priority and urgency particularly at a time where we have the Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Jeff Riley affirming and asserting the impact of the latest research regarding this fact and prioritizing it as a main goal within DESE.  He states at a Ways and Means Committee hearing at Bristol Community College, “both profound and important research” “We have to be intentional about this, and this will be a big goal of the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education,”

DELIVER high quality education and ALLOCATE funds to support our English learners. For example, utilizing school dollars to hire police to patrol our school buildings will not improve the quality of available services or outcomes for our ELs.

PROHIBIT disproportionate disciplinary removals of students of color, and STOP criminalizing our students, our families, our schools and our communities. Worcester knows but has not addressed racially disproportionate school discipline that disparately excludes students of color from their neighborhood schools. Our school safety liaison, (who has no known educational credentials), admitted that minority students are excluded more frequently than others, stating “[w]e clearly know that.”[2]Unfortunately, neither the Superintendent nor the school safety liaison has endeavored to curtail this disproportionate criminalization of students of color.  It is also concerning that both have found themselves unapologetically comfortable enough to publicly demonize and criminalize neighborhoods. 

Hold Accountable people who have perpetuated our failures.This includes both the Superintendent and school safety liaison. When our schools fail large segments of our student population, our educational leadership – in this case, our Superintendent and school safety officer – mustanswer to that failure. The Superintendent has not addressed and has no plans to fix our city’s educational shortcomings for our Latino and EL students, setting the stage for continued underperformance of our children. The school safety liaison continues to discipline minority and low-income students at higher rates than their counterparts, this practice is harmful and unacceptable. 

Effective school leaders seek, consider and use data to inform goals for and support the success of ALL students. The Superintendent has not done this; in fact, the data shows that she refuses to honor and work with a community that looks like ours. Our Latino students count, and the school committee’s recent high ratings of her performance inexplicably disregarded significant shortcomings within that student population. We expect in solidarity with the student body it’s families and the community at large that the School Committee pay attention to ALL students. If this school committee truly cares for its students of color particularly Latino students and other EL students, it CAN NOT, MUST NOT & WILL NOT renew the Superintendent ‘s contract.

Isabel Gonzalez Webster – Director Worcester Interfaith

Rev. Jose Encarnacion – Board Chair Worcester Interfaith – Christian Community Church

Rev. Jose Perez – Vice-Chair Worcester Interfaith – Iglesia Roca de Salvacion

The Honorable Luis Perez – Retired Juvenile Court Judge

Rev. Aaron Payson – WI Board Member – Unitarian Universalist Church of Worcester

Rev. Esau Vance – WI Board Member – Mt. Olive Pentecostal Church

Rabbi Aviva Fellman – WI Board Member – Congregation Beth Israel

Rev. Sarah Stewart – WI Board Member – First Unitarian Church of Worcester

Imam Asif Hirani – WI Board Member – Worcester Islamic Center

Rev. Nathan Pipho – WI Board Member – Trinity Lutheran Church

Rev. Clyde Talley – WI Board Member – Belmont A.M.E Zion Church

Rev. Nancy Elder-Wilfrid – United Congregational Church of Worcester

Rev. Brent Newberry – WI Board Member – First Baptist Church of Worcester

Rev. Sally E. Norris – WI Board Member – Worcester Area Missions Society

Rev. Mark Nilson – WI Board Member – Salem Covenant Church

Marianna Islam – Parent & Community Member

Nelly Median – Outreach Specialist & Parent

Dr. Joyce McNickles – Consultant & Educator

Showing up for Racial Justice

Greater Worcester Our Revolution

Neighbor to Neighbor

Ansaar of Worcester

Mothers Out Front – Worcester


[1]O’Connell, Scott. “Worcester superintendent gets high marks from School Committee in annual review.” Telegram.com, 21 Dec. 2018. Web. 23 Apr. 2019.

[2]O’Connell, Scott. “Racial disparities persist in student discipline in Worcester.” Telegram.com, 04 Dec. 2017. Web. 23 Apr. 2019.