Board Meeting Notes

 

Stoughton Teachers Association
PO Box 902
Stoughton, MA 02072

Have a safe and relaxing vacation! See you on August 31, 2015!

 

 

 

 

 

To:     S.T.A. Membership,
From: John Gunning, S.T.A. President

STA Calls for Moratorium on High-Stakes Testing

Resolution by the Stoughton Teachers Association

WHEREAS, our future well-being relies on a high-quality public education system that prepares all students for college, careers, citizenship and lifelong learning; and

WHEREAS, our school systems in Massachusetts and across the country have been spending increasing amounts of time, money and energy on high-stakes testing in which student performance on standardized tests is used to make major decisions affecting individual students, educators, schools and districts; and

WHEREAS, the overreliance on high-stakes and standardized testing in state and federal accountability systems is undermining educational quality and equity in U.S. public schools by hampering educators’ efforts to focus on the broad range of learning experiences that promote the innovation, creativity, problem-solving, collaboration, communication, critical thinking and deep subject matter knowledge that will allow students to thrive in a democracy and an increasingly global society; and

WHEREAS, it is widely recognized that standardized testing is an inadequate and often unreliable measure of both student learning and educator effectiveness; and

WHEREAS, the overemphasis on standardized testing has caused considerable collateral damage in too many schools, including narrowing the curriculum, teaching to the test, reducing a love of learning, pushing students out of school, driving excellent teachers out of the profession, and undermining school climate; and

WHEREAS, high-stakes standardized testing has negative effects on students from all backgrounds, and especially for low-income students, English language learners, children of color, and those with disabilities;

THEREFORE, let it be resolved that the Stoughton Teachers Association supports locally developed, authentic assessments and more time for educators to teach and students to learn;

THEREFORE, let it be resolved that the Stoughton Teachers Association calls on state and federal education policymakers to adopt a moratorium on the high-stakes use of standardized tests so that educators, parents and other members of our communities can work together to develop assessment systems that support positive teaching practices and better prepare students for lifelong learning.

Resolution adopted by the Executive Board of the Stoughton Teachers Association, representing the 350 members of the Stoughton Teachers Association.

June 1, 2015

ADDRESSING THE ISSUE OF IMPERFECT “ACCOUNTABILITY” RATINGS

Many students and teachers begin PARCC testing today. Marcia Gonzalez, a Stoughton parent and Brockton teacher, addressed the school committee Tuesday night (March 24th) to discuss leveling schools based on high stakes testing. Marcia was kind enough to give us a copy of her remarks to share here.

Good evening. My name is Marcia Gonzalez. I am a resident of Stoughton and the proud mother of three children who are now in their twenties and thirties and who all received a wonderful education in the Stoughton Public Schools starting with their first day in kindergarten at the Gibbons through graduation from Stoughton High. Thanks to all of you who worked so hard to educate our children.

In addition to being a mom, I am also a foreign language teacher at Brockton High School. Lately, I’ve been reading a lot in the local press about the levels of Stoughton’s schools. As an educator, I am deeply distressed about the unfounded conclusions and judgments that are being drawn based upon these ratings. While everyone seems to be buzzing about the levels, if you were to ask 100 people what it means to be level 1, you’d be lucky to find a handful who could explain.

According to the accountability ratings, schools are rated based upon the performance of the whole school and, also, with a focus on certain sub-groups including low income students, English language learners, students with disabilities and minority students.

This may sound reasonable but here’s how the accountability formula plays out in real life. Consider these scenarios:

One hundred and fifty students enroll in your schools midyear after a horrific earthquake in Haiti. As educators you welcome them with open arms. They come with nothing and no one gives you anything to help teach them – no extra funding, no books, no additional teachers or counselors, not even a desk or a chair. Your ratings are sure to go down but you don’t care. You’re an educator - you care about the child – not someone’s label.

or

An elementary school is rated level 3 with a focus on special education. This school has a substantially separate class with 5 students who are in the fifth grade. When the 5 students move up to the middle school, they are taken out of the elementary population and that school rises to a level 1. This is the result of a demographic change. The next year, it can reasonably be expected that the level of the middle school will drop.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve always found sports analogies to be helpful. Let’s assume that last year’s varsity basketball team had a starting lineup of all seniors who are over 6’ tall. Their season record was 19 and 1 and they won the league championship. It was a fantastic season. Now the lineup has graduated.

This year’s team is made up primarily of sophomores who are all less than 5’ 9” tall. Their season record is 9 and 11 and they didn’t make it to the quarterfinals. What does this tell us? It’s the same coaches, assistant coaches, drills, facilities, practice schedules and inspirational speeches.

So, what should the rating be? When we measure achievement, there’s a less than 50% win-loss record. When we measure growth, they went from a championship team to not making the quarterfinals. How do they compare to other teams across the state? This team would probably be downgraded from a level 1 to a level 3.

This analogy teaches us that we must always be mindful of the context and consider the myriad factors that impact student achievement and growth – most of which are beyond the control of educators.

The moral of the story is that no one should be labeled as a superstar or a failure based upon these very imperfect accountability ratings.

Educating a child is a complex endeavor that should never be superficially reduced to a single number.

It’s time to stop the rhetoric!

IS THIS HOW GOVERNMENT SHOULD OPERATE?

John Gunning, STA President, addressed the Stoughton School Committee, March 24, 2015

In mid-January, the Stoughton Teachers Association learned that Superintendent Rizzi and Deputy Superintendent Ford created a website advertising a new business venture: Level 1 Educational Consulting in which they are partners with three other Stoughton Public Schools’ administrators whom they supervise, evaluate and negotiate the terms of their employment contracts.
Several weeks ago, the Brockton Enterprise published an article about Superintendent Rizzi and Deputy Superintendent Ford’s business venture. It was through this article that the STA first learned that, according to Dr. Rizzi, Mr. Ford’s employment contract specifically gives him the right to do “consulting”.
We were befuddled when we heard this because the STA had a copy of Jonathan Ford’s current contract that runs through 2016 and nowhere was the word “consulting” mentioned. So, the STA decided to investigate by making a formal request for Mr. Ford’s current contract. When we received it, we were shocked.
With two years and three months remaining on his four year contract, Superintendent Rizzi gave Deputy Superintendent Ford a new six year contract - April 1, 2014 through March 31, 2020. There are only two signatories to this contract – Dr. Rizzi and Mr. Ford. It was effective beginning April 1, 2014 – one week before last year’s school committee election -- but it was not signed until April 21, 2014. Was this a shrewd and deceptive political move on the part of Dr. Rizzi and Mr. Ford? By making his employment contract retroactive to April 1st, the former school committee wouldn’t know about it AND by making his employment contract retroactive to April 1st ,the newly elected school committee might not be able to do anything about it. Does this sound on the level to anyone?
The terms of the new contract include the following: a minimum 2.5% raise for each of six years plus merit increases for “services rendered in a satisfactory or better manner”; full reimbursement for all graduate courses; an apparent reduction of responsibilities because “curriculum and instruction” have been removed from Mr. Ford’s job title and the word “consulting” has been inserted as a permissible activity.
The fact that this deal was negotiated behind closed doors and that the contract was never, to our knowledge, made public is a cause for concern. In spite of our best efforts, we have not been able to identify a single person, including any elected official, who knew that Deputy Superintendent Ford has a contract through 2020!
Is this how government should operate? Whatever happened to transparency and making sure that the work of government is done in the sunshine? Are the taxpayers’ interests being protected by their elected officials?
Is this how it works in other communities? The answer is “no”. Scituate recently renegotiated its Superintendent’s contract. According to the report in the Scituate Mariner, the contract expires on June 30th of this year. The Scituate School Committee is pleased with the Superintendent’s performance and gave him a new three year contract with a 3% raise in the first year. For the second and third year, the School Committee set a parameter of “up to 3%” for a raise. In Scituate, the raise for the second and the third year will be negotiated annually based upon performance. After they reach agreement, the raise must be voted in open session according to the school committee attorney, Michael Long, Esq. Scituate sets a ceiling of 3% subject to performance with annual reviews and a public vote on the raise. On the other hand, Stoughton sets a floor of 2.5% for each of six years and provides for merit raises above and beyond with no cap, and no one knows about it!
In closing, the STA is concerned that some school committee members have been defending the indefensible for so long that you are finding it difficult to change course and ask the tough, but necessary, questions. There is something very wrong going on here. You were elected to represent the citizens of Stoughton – not the superintendent and deputy superintendent. If you don’t demand transparency and stand up for what is right, you are part of the cover-up. By doing so, you will be doubling down on a bad bet.

TRUTH, TRANSPARENCY, and INTEGRITY

Melanie Ingrao is a Social Studies teacher at Stoughton High School. At the March 24th school committee meeting, she challenged the school committee members to step outside the fray and talk to educational leaders in other communities for a reality check.

She urged them to contact their school committee counterparts in neighboring districts and ask:

• What would your reaction be if you found out that your superintendent and deputy superintendent went into business with three 12 month full-time administrators in your district and advertised that they would go as a team to assist other districts with curriculum, instruction, budgets, team building, hiring practices, trainings, etc.?

• What would your reaction be if you found out almost a year after the fact that your superintendent gave the deputy superintendent a 6 year contract and didn’t tell anyone?

She urged them to contact superintendents in neighboring districts and ask:

• As Superintendent, would you ever launch a private business venture with 4 of your fulltime 12 month employees like the one that is advertised by Dr. Rizzi?

• As Superintendent, would you give a deputy superintendent a 6 year employment contract and not tell anyone, including members of the school committee? If you did, how would your school committee react?

Mel concluded her speech by saying “As school committee members, you were elected to represent the interests of the citizens. Don’t take “the STA side”. Don’t take the “administration’s side.” Take the side of truth, transparency and integrity. When you do this, you will be taking a principled stand on these issues.”

An Open Letter to the Stoughton School Committee

January 27, 2015

Dear Dr. Ural, Ms. Pina-Enokian, Dr. Brown, Ms. Husseini and Mr. Soares:

We are writing on behalf of the Stoughton Teachers Association to urge the School Committee to complete a thorough investigation of the details of Superintendent Rizzi and Deputy Superintendent Ford’s business venture, Level 1 Educational Consultants.

Level 1 Educational Consultants:  Superintendent, Deputy Superintendent, Pre-K-12 STEM Coordinator, Pre-K-12 Humanities Coordinator, OMS Assistant Principal

Questions:

Is it a conflict of interest for the Superintendent to enter into a business relationship with employees whom she supervises?

Is it a conflict of interest for the Deputy Superintendent to enter into a business relationship with employees whom he supervises?

Who evaluates the Deputy Superintendent?

Who negotiates the Deputy Superintendent’s Contract of Employment?

Who evaluates the Pre-K to 12 STEM Coordinator?

Who evaluates the Pre-K to 12 Humanities Coordinator?

Would the work of Level 1 Educational Consulting be conducted on Stoughton Public Schools time or using Stoughton Public Schools resources?

What are the consulting fees?

When were the photographs taken that are included on the website page, Level 1 Educational Consultants?  (date and time)

Who took the photographs?

Will Stoughton teacher-developed curriculum (e.g. Toolkits) be sold to other districts?

Will student data, teacher evaluations and impact ratings from the Stoughton Public Schools be used for consultation purposes in other districts?

What is the specific language of the Superintendent’s employment contract that authorizes her to engage in an educational consulting company while simultaneously being employed full-time as the Superintendent of the Stoughton Public Schools?

What is the specific language of the Deputy Superintendent’s employment contract that authorizes him to engage in an educational consulting company while simultaneously being employed full-time as the Deputy Superintendent of the Stoughton Public Schools?

Has an advisory opinion been sought from the State Ethics Commission?

Please provide a justification for reducing the current STEM and Humanities Curriculum Coordinators’ workload in half other than increasing the time that they are available to participate in the new business venture, Level 1 Educational Consultants.

Unit B Request to Reopen Contract

Background:  Unit B is a bargaining unit of 10 administrators.  The current Unit B contract was settled for three years in June, 2013 and is in effect from July 1, 2013 through June 30, 2016.  Several months ago, the Unit B Negotiating Team wrote a letter to the School Committee requesting that their contract be reopened for an additional wage increase.  The three members of the Unit B negotiating team are partners in Level 1 Educational Consulting.  The School Committee has agreed to reopen the contract to discuss additional wages.

Questions:

Please provide the justification for reopening a settled contract midterm to discuss paying additional wages.

Was the Superintendent present during executive session when the request to reopen the Unit B contract was discussed?

Did she support the reopener?

Did she disclose at that time or has she ever disclosed to the School Committee that she is in a business partnership with the three individuals who are making the request to reopen the contract?  If yes, when was disclosure made?

Was the Deputy Superintendent present during executive session when the request to reopen the Unit B contract was discussed?

Did he support it?

Did he disclose at that time or has he ever disclosed to the School Committee that he is in a business partnership with the three individuals who are making the request to reopen the contract?  If yes, when was disclosure made?

In closing, this is not an exhaustive list of questions.  We anticipate that there are many more questions to be asked and that the answers to some questions may cause other questions to arise.  

Very truly yours,

John Gunning, STA President, OMS
Andrea Pires, STA Vice-president, South
Mel Ingrao, STA Negotiating/Grievance Chair, SHS
Mollie O’Connell, STA Negotiating Team, SHS
Lynne Bonarrigo, STA Negotiating Team, OMS
Ken Kalen, STA Negotiating Team, Gibbons
Mary Quinn, STA Negotiating Team, Gibbons


The following is an article from The Enterprise, January 23, 2015

Stoughton teachers criticize superintendent’s advertised business

The teachers union is questioning how the superintendent has time to run a consulting business on the side

By Cody Shepard , The Enterprise, Posted Jan. 23, 2015 @ 5:30 am

STOUGHTON – Superintendent Marguerite Rizzi’s website advertises a consultant service for districts trying to attain the highest performing level.  Teachers have taken notice and are raising concerns about the feasibility of the superintendent running a business on the side.

John Gunning, the president of the Stoughton Teachers Association, said teachers are very concerned and upset.  “These folks are full-time, all year-long personnel paid by the town of Stoughton,” Gunning said. “Will this be done on school time?” Gunning said there are ethical concerns with Rizzi’s business partners being people she supervises.

The website for Level 1 Educational Consultants lists her partners as Deputy Superintendent Jonathan Ford, K-12 STEM Curriculum Coordinator Janet Sullivan, K-12 Humanities Curriculum Director Mark Galligan and O’Donnell Middle School Assistant Principal David Guglia.

Rizzi, whose annual salary is $177,031, did not return emails or phone calls to The Enterprise on Thursday. She will receive a $7,966 raise next year.  The news of Rizzi’s business has prompted School Committee Chairman Erdem Ural to look into scheduling a special meeting next week.  “I was so surprised; I didn’t know,” Ural said.  He said the committee found out about the business Wednesday night. Ural would not comment on what concerns he has about her running a business because she “has the right to due process.”  Ural said the purpose of the meeting would be so “the members understand what’s going on and what to do next.”

Gunning said the superintendent’s website touts the Level 1 state accountability and assistance level achieved by four Stoughton schools, but teachers don’t think they’re getting credit for the work.  “Very few people are recognizing the teachers for the work they do,” Gunning said.

Cody Shepard may be reached at cshepard@enterprisenews.com


PRESS RELEASE: January 22, 2015

STOUGHTON SUPERINTENDENT RIZZI CREATES CONSULTING BUSINESS ON THE SIDE RAISING CONCERNS.

Superintendent Marguerite Rizzi has created  a website advertising a new business venture: Level 1 Educational Consulting:

http://www.drmaggierizzi.com/

Stoughton teachers have grave concerns about the website. For example:

STA President John Gunning remarked: “Teachers are distressed to learn of this website. We cannot understand how any Stoughton administrator would have the time to pursue such a business venture that, by its nature, would require work during school hours when our schools need our undivided attention. As teachers, we remain focused on our students.