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Archive for November, 2007

Whew! That was close!

I don’t teach on Fridays this semester, so I decided to stay home today to be here for the cable guy and take the dog to the vet. I slept late and looked forward to a low-key day and some paper-grading. Little did I know of the high drama that was about to unfold. My first call of the day was from East Side Councilman, public education advocate, and Nathan Bishop supporter, Cliff Wood. He told me that a rescheduling of the Board of Regents meeting regarding Nathan Bishop was creating a potentially disasterous situation. Kudos to Cliff for keeping his eye on the ball!

The entire story (minus the dozen phone calls and 50 emails) can be told with two (rather hurried) emails that ESPEC sent out. The first was sent just after 1:00pm.

Dear friends of East Side public education,

We are writing to ask for your help in saving Nathan Bishop from an imminent funding crisis. This is a matter of great urgency.

The Board of Regents was scheduled to meet next Wednesday, Dec. 5th, to vote on the plan and funding for the new Nathan Bishop. We understood that the plan would be approved at that time. However, we learned this morning that the Board has postponed their meeting until Dec. 19th. The reason for this is not clear at this time, but it creates a serious problem.

The City has said that, if the meeting does not take place until the 19th, it will not be able to complete the bonding process before Dec. 31st. If that happens, Nathan Bishop will become subject to a new State law requiring separate approval from the General Assembly, even after the Rhode Island Department of Education has approved the project. The consequence will be that Bishop’s opening will likely be delayed until at least 2010, and perhaps longer. It is also possible that the General Assembly will kill the project entirely.

WHAT CAN YOU DO?

Please Act Today! Email House Majority Leader Gordon Fox at rep-fox@rilin.state.ri.us or call his office at 222-2466. (This may be answered by Speaker Murphy’s staff…just ask for Gordon Fox). Urge Leader Fox to use his office, enlisting his East Side colleagues in the House and Senate if necessary, to discover what the problem is and what can be done to encourage the Regents to complete the process as scheduled. If you can not write or call today, please do so over the weekend.

Leader Fox represents the East Side, and Nathan Bishop sits in his district. He has a strong interest in making sure Bishop reopens and has expressed his support for Bishop’s reopening. If you are his constituent, let him know that, but he should hear from all of us who have an interest in reopening our only middle school.

Thank you for your help.

The second email was sent at 4:00pm after a call from Representative Fox:

Dear friends of Nathan Bishop School,

There is very good news to report. This afternoon, Majority Leader Fox, working in conjunction with Mayor Cicilline, had discussions with the Board of Regents. Rep. Fox told us that he received a commitment that the Regents’ meeting would be moved forward from the 19th, likely to the original date of Dec. 5th, but in no case later than Dec. 7th. If so, the meeting will take place in time for the City to complete its own work before the Dec. 31 deadline.

I heard from many of you [who] called or wrote to Leader Fox to alert him to the importance of this, and know that many others of you did so as well. Thank you for showing that we as a community are pulling together for our schools, and congratulations on your effective citizen-advocacy!

Many thanks to Majority Leader Fox and Mayor Cicilline for responding so quickly and effectively to this crisis. Thanks also to Councilman Cliff Wood for his continued support of Nathan Bishop.

Have a great weekend!

Apart from the happy ending for Nathan Bishop, I take the whole day as a big civics lesson, one which I’ll be using as an illustration in my classes. Citizens CAN make a difference when they work together, and government DOES respond to those demands. Not always, of course, but on the whole, today leaves me pretty hopeful.

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Choosing Schools, Monday, Nov. 26

The following comes from ESPEC steering Committee member Jill Davidson,

I am emailing you all to let you know about an upcoming gathering I’m having for families looking at 2008-9 and beyond school options, focused on K-8 and with particular emphasis on public and charter options. This connects with ESPEC’s mission to build interest in and commitment to greater East Side public schools, with the aim to create demand for Nathan Bishop.

I’ve sent the info below and the attached flier to a mailing list I have, around 100 people, and there’s been a strong response. What you can do:

1. If you know families that may be interested, please circulate this and/or post the flier. Please know that people who would like to attend do need to RSVP – I will work with 60 people or so (I may alter that, I need to assess the way we can use space in the Rochambeau library community room) and will turn away those that have not RSVP-ed if the room is full.

2. If you would like to attend the meeting as an informal parent representative of a school your kids have recently or now attend, that would be great. I need some parents who are current at schools, and I need parents who are “veterans” of the system.

3. Please know that I facilitate these meetings to bring out multiple perspectives. I support our public schools but don’t think they’re perfect, of course, and don’t think that every school can meet the needs of every kid. So as a parent involved in schools, be prepared to say what’s challenging about that school for your kids as well as what’s working well.

Really hope that some of you can join me! The meeting will be Monday 11/26, 7pm, Providence Public Library Rochambeau branch Community Room. I will be having 2-3 additional such meetings through the winter/early spring so if you can’t make this one, hope you can do so in the future. Pass the word on to families that you think may benefit, and if you can make it, please let me know. And if you want a copy of this email to pass on w/o this intro, let me know and I’ll send you one. Full info below!

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The ESPEC Steering Committee will host an open an meeting in the Community Room of the Rochambeau Branch of the Public Library from 7-9pm on Thursday, Nov. 15.

This will be a fairly informal meeting, with no panelists or long presentations. The goal is to have a discussion of ways in which we can continue to work together to promote and improve public education on the East Side and in Providence generally. What issues should we be focusing on: state funding for education, contractual issues, the City’s facilities plan, curricular issues, building stronger parent/citizen engagement? Should we work with other groups, work to create a city-wide public education coalition? What are YOUR ideas? How would you like to contribute?

Below you will find the ESPEC steering Committee’s recent attempt to formulate a plan of action, which might serve as a starting point.

We hope to see you there.

I.Mission Statement

A. The primary mission of ESPEC is to advocate for and support excellent public education for the greater east side of Providence.

B.The secondary mission is to work for excellent public education throughout Providence.

II.Goals for first 6 months of 2008

A.Push the City and State to fully fund and construct Nathan Bishop in a timely manner

B.Encourage the work of the Superintendent’s Nathan Bishop Task Force, ensuring that it adheres to the recommendations of the previous Task Force (size limit, site based management, etc.)

D.Strengthen the organization — have a core of 25 active neighborhood members.

E.Build relationships with families in the neighborhood to create interest in the opening of a new middle school and interest in the public schools generally.

F. Create a strategic master plan for ESPEC

G.Formalize ESPEC’s committee structure

H.Advocate on City issues, such as the teachers’ contract

III.Goals for 2008

A. Increased community outreach and awareness of our public schools.

B. Hold regular public educational meetings.

C. Expand the group and utilize/tap into vast resources of the greater East Side, with goal of 45 committed individuals

D. Reach out to elected officials

E. Develop key alliances/coalitions with related organizations

IV. Goals for 2008-09

A. Ensure the re-opening of Nathan Bishop Middle School in an excellent building with a sound academic program and a highly professional staff in the fall of 2009.

B. Buiild a network of East Side families, especially west of Hope Street, who are committed to improving public education at the elementary and middle schools in the neighborhood, and maybe building bridges to Hope High School.

C. Have a core membership of 50-60 active neighborhood members.

D. Build organization that can survive transition to new leadership

E. To increase financial support by routinely applying for grants and looking for funding mechanisms.

F. Help similar groups in other parts of City to form and grow.

G. Make parents/residents a significant voice in policy-making by PPSD and the city on issues related to education.

H. Address/resolve some of the key structural issues (e.g. union situation) that works best for Providence school children

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The City Council’s Special Committee on Education, chaired by Councilman Cliff Wood, will meet Monday, Nov. 5th at 6pm in the City Council Chamber, third floor of City Hall.  The focus of the meeting will be the practice of “bumping” teachers, which was the primary topic of interest at our panel on Oct. 17th.

Presentations will include:
1.    The Providence Law Department regarding definition and impact of current law.
2.    Attorney Sam Zurier, who has researched relative practices in the State of Massachusetts.
3.    Tomas Hanna, PPSD Deputy Superintendent for Operations re the effect of the policy for HR in the school department.

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