Election 2009: Bianchi Would Convene Education Forum06:34PM / Thursday, October 29, 2009
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Mayoral candidate Dan Bianchi announced Thursday that as part of his vision for improving education in Pittsfield, he will host an education forum within the first 100 days of being elected.
Bianchi will invite members of the school administration and School Committee, faculty and parent representatives, along with Department of Education officials and Mass School Building Needs Commission to participate. The forum will serve as a venue to talk about the priorities for improving the Pittsfield Public Schools, including what is working and an in depth discussion about renovating school buildings coupled with a detailed discussion about how MCAS and other factors are affecting student performance.
Bianchi said student academic performance, including how students do on MCAS tests and whether the school is meeting AYP, is affected by two broad sets of influences: school factors and non-school factors. The first entails what happens in school, and thus what is within the control of the school district itself. The second entails conditions outside the schools, such as the demographic profile of the students and the community, and infrastructure needs at our schools.
"Throughout this campaign, I have been talking to residents about their concerns regarding school choice and how that impacts a classroom, a school and a neighborhood; the lack of supplies, technology and textbooks available to students; and the pressures that we are placing on faculty and students in third grade and above as they prepare for MCAS," Bianchi said.
"Residents of Pittsfield have real concerns and I want to bring all parties to the table to talk about these very important issues and how they are related to one another. We need to determine whether there is a direct correlation between the three Pittsfield elementary schools which were not put on the building needs agenda and their failure to meet AYP this year. An education forum, as I am suggesting, will give us an opportunity to increase awareness and develop a meaningful program and list of priorities that will benefit school age children from the very beginning of their education, where learning begins," Bianchi added.
"It is no secret that the MCAS has been the subject of much controversy in Mass. For the first time since testing began, more than half of Massachusetts schools are out of compliance with federal achievement standards, a finding that raises warning flags for local educators but also sparks questions about whether the national benchmarks are inappropriate. MCAS are on the minds of many school age children and their families and we need to work with parents to make them part of the process," he said.
"Teachers have stepped up and gone above and beyond in Pittsfield, which is why MCAS scores have gone up and school drop-out rates have gone down. My opponent's claim that he has had something to do with both of these important successes is unfair and misguided," added Bianchi.
"From the very beginning, I was in favor of renovating our two existing high schools, unlike my opponent who has used the office of mayor to move the one 'mega high school' project to the front burner despite the Mass State Building Commissions recommendation that state funding for such a 'giant' would not be available. This is another example of the mayor being out of touch with the residents."