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Committee receives plan to help 'under-performing' schools

Date: 11/9/2010

Nov. 10, 2010

By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

SPRINGFIELD -- The School Committee learned at its meeting last week that longer school days and more professional development for teachers are just two of the measures being put in place to address the Springfield School District's 10 Level Four schools.

Announced in March by the state's Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, Level Four schools are "underperforming" schools that have scored low on the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) over a four year period (in English language arts and math) without sufficient signs of improvement.

There are 35 schools across the state with this designation and 10 of them are in Springfield. They include: the Zanetti, Brightwood, Brookings, Gerena, Homer and White Street elementary schools; the Kiley, Kennedy and Chestnut middle schools; and The High School of Commerce.

Assistant Superintendent Daniel Warwick distributed hefty ring binders containing the initial stages of the plan to members of the school committee.

Included in the first part of the plan are steps agreed upon by the Springfield Educations Association (SEA) -- the city's teacher's union. Late last month the SEA agreed to a number of changes in the contract for the teachers at the Level Four schools that allow for the following provisions:

• Teachers at the district's 10 Level Four schools will receive an annual stipend of $3,600 to $4,000 for 45 additional minutes of teaching daily and 30 additional hours of professional development yearly.

• They are eligible for a five to 10 percent bonus on top of their annual salary based on their school's performance.

• Principals at Level Four schools have the authority to dismiss low performing teachers from their school without grievance or arbitration.

• Higher-tiered educators, such as lead teachers, department heads and instructional leadership specialists will have one-year appointments in Level Four schools compared to two-year appointments in other schools and their continuance in their role will be based on their annual performance.

• Instructional leadership specialists will be required to work 10 additional days in the summer.

• All teachers at Level Four schools are required to design and monitor student success or student intervention plans; and communicate regularly and in a prescribed way with parents and each other about student progress.

There will be also a new teacher evaluation system that will include teacher attendance, student achievement and student growth information to be developed next year and put in place next September.


In other action, School Superintendent Dr. Alan Ingram announced report cards for the city's elementary schools would be delayed. Instead of being distributed on Nov. 19, parents will get the cards on Dec. 1.

The change is only for the first marking period and was necessary to make sure all of the teachers received training in new procedures.


The School Committee will discuss how the open position of the school system budget director will be filled at its meeting on Dec. 3. The appointment of T.J. Plante, the city's present director of finance, was placed on the meeting's agenda and School Committee member Christopher Collins protested based on a vote previously taken by the School Committee that the body would not consider filling the position until December.

Mayor Domenic Sarno said the item was placed on the agenda to allow for "continuity" as the city goes into the budget creation process.

School Committee member Antonette Pepe said the committee should go through a Request for Proposal process to find candidates, but there was not further discussion as the item was tabled until the meeting in December.


The School Committee also formally recognized and thanked Frederick Rivera, a student at The High School of Science and Technology for what Sarno called "an act of courage."

In a letter from Rivera's principal, the School Committee heard how Rivera came to the aid of a fellow student who was attacked by seven other students. Rivera was able to make his way into the group, pick the other student off the ground and carry him to safety in an incident that happened in September.

Rivera's actions prevented serious injuries.

Rivera received a plaque from the School Committee and Sarno told him, "it takes a lot of courage when the odds are against you."

Daniella Brown, the student member of the School Committee, also a student at The High School of Science and Technology said, "I'm very proud of you from student to student I know how it can be."

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