5:51 p.m.: Jokes are made between panel members and school committee candidates about the plentiful amount of Italian’s running. On the other side of the room radio host Hank Stolz does a television interview regarding issues that are sure to be brought up at tonight’s debate. What is going to happen when there are 30, 40 students in one classroom? We’ll find out…
6:05: First question is on readiness schools project
6:07: Brian O’Connell seems to be in favor of readiness schools as it’s similar to another project he’s been pushing for this year. “It has some issues that need to be addressed” and also notes state funding is important for it to work properly.
6:09: Dianna Biancheria is questioned on what is going to happen when stimulus money is not available for the 2011 fiscal year “I feel at this time we need to apply for monies whether it be state or federal” and suggests we look at “other avenues we have not adopted”.
6:10: Jack Foley suggests we look at our current operations and make sure we’re being as efficient as possible. A couple areas he says we need to look at are medicare payouts and the administrative overhead.
6:12: Robert Bogigian seems to be going off topic slightly. He expresses his excitement for Superintendent Doctor Boone’s new ideas and is hopeful they will help the district.
6:14: Mary Mullaney agrees that hiring Doctor Boone seems to be a good thing but says, “she’s not a magician”. She makes the point that we need to be ready for things like school closing and more cuts.
6:19: Tracy Novick saw an interest from Worcester’s business community when the Superintendent hiring was happening, and thinks the energy shown needs to continue, and work closely with the school system to help both groups.
6:21: Mary Mullaney agrees and encourages the Chamber, who is hosting this event, to get involved as much as possible, like adopting a student. “If every business adopted a school… you would see great improvements”.
6:23: Monfredo uses the classic quote “it takes a city to raise a child” and agrees with the rest of the candidates that to see improvement in Worcester’s school system, we need to have a strong relationship with the city’s businesses.
6:25: Next question… what is it about the budget that makes it unpredictable? Also John Monfredo is asked to explain his proposal for Charter School freeze.
6:26: “The current Charter Schools are siphoning money from Worcester’s public schools.” He says commonalities need to be found between Worcester’s Charter schools and the city’s Public schools to find ways to cut costs.
6:30: Several times candidates have touched on the increased enrollment this year as being hurtful for the budget.
6:34: Mary Mullaney “I don’t want to seem critical of University Park.. but it has advantages coming to it that other schools do not”. She says because other schools have a larger, and sometimes a “harder population”, the model behind University Park should not be considered as the best bet for all our schools.
6:36: Jack Foley sees similarities with University Park model and the Readiness Schools Project, and says we should embrace these models with more of our Worcester schools.
6:39: Robert Bogigian says we can’t rely on schools like Clark and other colleges to help the elementary, middle, and high schools. “We need to find ways to help ourself”.
6:45: Robert Bogigian says he’s satisfied if we keep our graduate rate where it is, rather than aspire to increase the amount. He talks about how wonderful the vocational school is, and says it’s a “tremendous assent to this city” because it prepares its students for the workforce.
6:46: Mark Bilotta, CEO of Colleges of the Worcester Consortium, corrects Bogigian that the four year graduate rate is not 80%, but in the 60’s.
6:47: John Monfredo taps in saying 2008 had its largest four year graduation rate of 69%.
6:50: Tracy Novick says there are two different issues. Whether we’re holding students back so they can pass the MTEL and graduate, or if they’re getting lost along the way and dropping out, say sophomore year.
6:53: Robert Diaz says he doesn’t have specific numbers, and if he did people shouldn’t vote for him because he’d be someone who “sits inside a dark room”. Christopher Sinacola, Editor for the Telegram and Gazette Editorial Page argues it’s fine if he can’t answer the question, but if he’s running for a seat on the committee, he should know his facts.
6:56: He accuses Sinocola for “beating me up over Charter schools” and says “I can’t know everything”.
6:57: Mullaney defends Diaz and says it’s the committee’s job to act on issues with the school, just like it’s the job of Mr. Sinacola to edit the editorial page in the Telegram and Gazette.
7:01: Novick says both her husband and herself believe Worcester’s public schools can be proud of because 1.It’s the community school and reading through her daughter’s class list was like reading through a United Nations list (meaning diverse) and 2.The schools have teachers who are passionate and committed to teaching the best they can.
7:07: O’Connell says “the soft underbelly really is the money”. There just isn’t enough for all the things the district would like to do.
Many of them are saying one of the things to be most proud of in our Worcester schools is the diversity.
Two minute break… A lady in the audience says Novick comes across as knowledge while some of the others come across as… well less than intelligent.
7:14: Twelve million dollar tax levy… someone had to say it… thanks Roberta.
7:14: O’Connell says the discussion will be put on the table, and there is not a specific answer. It will be a give and take depending on the economy’s future and the state the school system is in in 2011 after the stimulus money is no longer.
7:16: Mullaney says we go to the state too often, and instead the City Council will need to have courage and raise local taxes. “You can’t have Cadillac services if you’re only willing to buy a Chevy”.
7:19: Bogigian is the only candidate who says we shouldn’t tap into the 12 million levy. “I will not ask the manager, and I will fight against it if it’s brought up.” Dianna Biancheria does not as strongly say she opposes tapping into the levy, however says we need to look at every other option before raising homeowners taxes.
7:20: Monfredo says he would support having a pre-school program in every school, and says it’s a preventative program, and the city doesn’t have enough preventives.
7:22: Diaz agrees and believes so strongly in it, suggests the idea of parents paying to send their kids to a pre-school program.
7:25: Novick is disappointed President Obama has not given more funds, or pushed further for early education, and agrees it’s very important.
7:26: O’Connell finishes the topic up by saying not only do we need the funding, but a curriculum to ensure the money is being spent in the most effective way possible.
7:30: Talk about the importance of parental involvement in the school. Bogigian says parents involvement is a “win win” and the encouragement and interest a parents shows by coming into the school and taking part helps their child achieve.
7:33: Foley says forcing a fourth year of math is not worth the effort, but is worth encouraging students to do. He’s not in favor of making it a requirement. He says early introduction math classes in seventh and eighth grade is more promising.
7:36: Biancheria would like to see more support given to middle school math teachers, like having retired math teacher coming back into the classrooms to mentor and tutor.
7:37: O’Connell and Novick jokes that although they would have voted otherwise when they were seventeen, but now running for school committee they are in favor of a fourth year of math.
7:39: Mullaney is the first candidate given the option to ask another a question. She says she has confidence in every candidate and doesn’t need to pick anyone’s brain.
7:45: The crowd mumbles “good questions” after Novick asks O’Connell about the fairness of the hiring process. He responds saying it’s very important for us to have a more transparent hiring process and make sure our students have the best teachers available.
Talk that the process of hiring Boone may not have been the most democratic happened just last week during another debate. The topic came close here, but no one touched it.
7:53: Biancheria “can’t express enough” how important involvement with the community through internships is for our students. She believes making partnerships building the critical foundations.
7:53: Novick says the first thing she would look at in January if she’s sworn in on the committee would be the budget so they wouldn’t be scrambling come March and April.
7:55: Time for the candidates salesperson characters to shine through. Closing statements.