PVPA is a regional public charter school serving 400 students grades 7-12, from over 60 towns throughout Western Massachusetts. We seek to connect the creative process with critical thinking to inspire a love of learning. As a charter school, the work we do informs educational policy at local, state and national levels.
Makeda Diggs, Paul Weinberg, Kim Hicks, Gary Smith, Jeanne Powers, Will Decherd, Deborah Jacobson, Rachel Dionne, Ralph Tropeano, Jon Kane, Larry Belanger, Donovan Arthen, Aisha Diallo, Laura Suttenfield, Sheila Mulholland, Asha Strazzero-Wild
Also in attendance: Robert Brainin, Mary Cantler, Scott Goldman, Bisko Kaba, Sasha Starr, Carl Bridge, Melina Palumbo, Aelan Tierney, Chris Safarty
SUMMARY OF VOTES TAKEN:
Approval of minutes--unanimous
Approval of revision of the by-laws—unanimous
Approval of the motion that the Board support the proposed WOFA trip to Guinea, with the following provisions:
8 in favor
PVPA Mission Statement
Read by Larry Belanger
Public Comment (10 minutes allowed)
Approval of Minutes from April meeting
Joint Friends/Board Meeting
The meeting has been scheduled to follow the June 11 Board meeting
Returning to the issue raised at the last Board meeting: what is being done for high-achieving math students? PVPA strives to challenge all students. AP is not necessarily the standard bearer of rigor; also, many colleges are no longer giving college credit for AP courses.
PVPA has no AP designated courses because the College Board forbids the use of “AP” unless the school submits curriculum to the College Board. Students can take AP exams, even if they are not enrolled in “AP”courses. Are we being explicit enough with students about the fact that they can take these tests?
Traditionally, in history and science the AP curriculum is focused on memorization, and not necessarily in line with PVPA’s curricular goals and mission.
To sum up: in our existing calculus and probability/statistics courses, small adjustments could prepare students for AP tests; ditto Language Arts courses.
Worcester “GoLocal” rankings: PVPA stacks up well, in terms of ranking and SAT scores—indicates that PVPA students could do well in AP reading/writing tests.
This is not so much the case with mathematics—hence our efforts to re-invigorate our math program.
W Decherd notes that at his last school, taking the AP route was painful for teachers, who were forced to give up their curriculum for the prescribed AP syllabus. None of the teachers liked the process.
Q: is this even a Board decision, given that it’s regarding curriculum?
A: AP is addressed in the SAP, so it’s a conversation that needs to take place. The real issue seems to be “rigor,” rather than AP per se. Some teachers may attend “AP Institutes” this summer, to familiarize themselves with the content of the calculus and stats courses. PVPA classes could be adjusted accordingly, without having to buy into AP.
M. Diggs notes that if your school offers AP classes and you don’t take them, this counts against the student in college admissions. Thus, PVPA students could be hurt by making just a few AP courses available.
R. Tropeano notes that students should be better informed that the opportunity to take AP tests is available.
S. Mulholland notes that PVPA students can get one course per semester paid for by the school. Taking c.c. courses is an economical way to get college credit (it should be understood that students need a car to take advantage of this opportunity).
Q: how much do AP tests cost?
A: $60 to $70 dollars—which could be a burden for many students.
Governance - Governance Committee
Revision of By-laws
The proposed revisions clean up some things (e.g., in a section about the Board, language about “responsibilities” and “powers” was not clear.) Additions were made to reflect changes in Open Meeting law, Conflict of Interest, dispute resolution, since in their present form, the by-laws do not keep us in compliance with state regulations. Language allowing Board members to be indemnified was added. The Board functions remain the same.
The Revision of the by-laws was unanimously approved.
Proposed as President: Kim Hicks
Proposed as Treasurer: Deborah Jacobson
Head of School Evaluation
Questions for the Board, students, parents and staff have been located. The evaluation will be administered electronically early next week. The Board President will summarize the data in a written evaluation.
Q: will the survey be anonymous?
A: Yes; the information will be submitted to Survey Monkey, which should preclude attaching any survey to any individual.
Development - Mary Cantler and Sheila Mulholland
Thanks to the Board members who attended the Art & Soul gala. Approximately 130 attended; gross money raised: $19,036; net profit, $14,098. Not bad, for a first-time offering without much publicity! All volunteers are thanked.
Annual Fund: goal of $45,000 has almost been reached. Efforts to reach that goal are on-going.
Finance - Finance Committee
Space - Deb Jacobson
We’re waiting for bond council (an attorney who specialized in municipal bond issues) re: financing. Because we’re borrowing more than we’re going to be using for the project, the proceeds must be used appropriately (hence the need for expert advice).
Some project managers have expressed interest, and RFQs are being readied.
Which Board, the Trustees or the Friends, will be responsible for raising needed funds? This should be discussed at the June meeting
Head of School - Scott Goldman
Mission Task Force Update
Head of School Report
See written report
The proposal seems to have tremendous educational value. However, the trip’s expense requires a great deal of fundraising. This must be done mindfully, given our multiple fund-raising efforts.
Safety issues should be addressed as well.
The Board must approve any out-of-country travel.
Bisko Kaba, Melina Palumbo, Sasha Starr, Carl Bridge, Aelan Tierney, Aisha Diallo
Spoke in favor of the proposal, its educational potential, its transformative potential—not just for those students who make the trip, but for the school community at large. The trip would be a valuable part of PVPA’s interest in promoting global awareness (as is PVPA’s new Global Community Committee).
Cost and safety are primary concerns. Guinea is an emerging democracy, and can be turbulent, but the atmosphere is not anti-American. The presence of Peace Corps volunteers indicates that the US considers the country safe.
Letters from WOFA students were read, affirming how much the students value WOFA and how committed they are to making this trip.
Q: How much money was raised for last year’s proposed French trip?
A: close to $9000; after refunds, close to $5000 remains. The goal was approximately $30,000
Q: when was the last time PVPA students traveled internationally?
A: A trip to Senegal, but this was not school-sponsored. Comparatively speaking, the current proposal is much better planned. The Senegal trip was planned by people who lacked the experience represented in this trip—but still, the trip had great value.
Q: What’s the expected family donation?
A: By the end of this year, a $200 deposit to be held by the Friends of PVPA. $500-$800 minimum amount will be put towards pre-trip costs. Conservatively, the trip would require $3000 per student, which would be fundraised.
Q: What’s the cost to the school?
A: the faculty will pay their own airfare. Fundraising is structured to cover Bisko and Melina’s flight and in-country costs. Carl and Sasha will pay for their own flight, but fundraising will cover in country costs. Sasha and Carl would have been running a Paidea if they weren’t going on this trip, so paying them a salary isn’t an added cost. The only added cost would be paying Bisko for a Paidea course (although he has in the past, to prepare WOFA shows).
Q: Will the Friends be asked to help?
A: The hope is that money could be donated to the Friends. No other help would be solicited.
Q: How many students are in WOFA? What will happen if some students decide not to attend? Will there be a waiting list?
A: 12-14 students will attend. The students are self-selected.
Q: has affiliation with a professional travel organization been considered?
A: We have spoken with Arts for Africa, a local non-profit, but their participation is cost-prohibitive. Travel insurance is about $140 per student. This provides for the possibility of emergency evacuation.
Q: What is the State Department’s position on travel to Guinea?
A: There is currently a travel warning in effect for Guinea, because of recent political uprising. Safety is a consideration—the government’s website is regularly updated, and will be monitored.
Q: Is travel being discouraged? Might insurance be nullified, in this case?
A: the group will be registered at the American embassy.
Q: What potential liabilities exist for the school, especially given the travel warning?
A: It’s not clear; our insurance carrier has not yet provided a definitive answer.
It is suggested that the Board await this answer prior to voting.
Our insurance policy covers us if PVPA is sued for an event that happens anywhere. Also: state employees can’t be sued, with the exception of sexual molestation. Liability is not the issue for matters that are not intentional.
Q: How involved is the school’s administration in creating criteria for a trip such as this?
A: Because the approval needs to come to the Board, the school’s administration has not yet been actively involved. The primary concern is that all students who want to go, be able to go. The group has met with the head of school, and discussed safety and logistical issues.
In sum: safety, equity, and liability are the primary issues. Fundraising, as well, given that we’re working on fundraising for the new addition.
Q: Can students who have graduated still go on this trip?
A: Although the trip’s organizers are willing, this raises liability issues: graduated students will not be covered by the school’s insurance.
It should be noted that the trip’s timing is awkward, regarding fundraising—there should be a date by which if the fundraising seems likely to fall short, the trip be cancelled. A timeline is essential around different components of the trip.
Q: What levels of safety must be in place in order for the trip to go forward? Some Board members wanted assurance that all necessary safety precautions will be taken in advance of the students’ arrival.
Q How will this trip affect the Annual Fund’s potential, given that its cost is close to the Annual Fund’s total amount?
A: Other schools do overseas trips, and still fundraise—that is, the experience of multiple fundraising goals is not unique.
It will be made clear to all donors that any funds raised will be used to support WOFA, even if the trip is cancelled.
Q: Is the plan to request that families meet the preliminary costs (approx $800)—and that if a family was able to cover airfare, would they be asked to do so?
A: Yes. Families have already committed to $12,000.
Motion to give preliminary approval that the Board support the trip, with the following provisions:
8 in favor
Students - Jack Demeo, Larry Belanger, Aisha Diallo, Makeda Diggs, Laura Suttenfield
9th grade is raising money for its whale watch trip
Open Session - for topics not reasonably anticipated by the Chair 48 hours in advance of the meeting
Public Comment (10 minutes allowed)
Thanks, from the WOFA trip committee
Chris Safarty notes that the process of preparing for African travel is lengthy and detailed. The cost for the many small incidentals add up.
Motion to adjourn at 8:07
Respectfully submitted, Kim Hicks, Clerk