What do you believe the district is doing well? How can School Committee expand on that success?
The district is very diverse in the children and families that we have in the city. The cultures that our children and families can learn from each is amazing. The school committee should be expanding on that, ensuring that we are learning from the children and families. So that everyone can learn from and understand each culture. We could have a community that is so welcoming and embracing of each other if we were to listen and learn from each other, other than judging and shutting down their creativity.
As a School Committee member I am proud to say I have spearheaded discussions on Vocational Education , STEM , (Science, technology, engineering and math ) including STEAM which advocates for the Arts. Our District has increased opportunities for students to be prepared for our competitive workforce while exploring options with hands on experience. In our district each of our comprehensive high schools has expanded positive and informative Career and Technical Educational programs. As we broke ground for our new South High school as a School Committee member my first question was :How are we expanding CTE? We are expanding the existing CTE - vocational programs and we are adding new competitive programs. As the former WPS District school to career partnership coordinator I know the impact of successful educational programs that prepare our students for their futures as productive and engaged citizens . I have advocated for the many levels of cooperation and engagement that is necessary in our community to continue our districts success and expansion . I also spearheaded extended hours at Worcester Technical High School which provides adult retraining and comprehensive enrolled student participation .I continue to work on -One particular option which is to ensure that unions continue to develop articulation agreements with all of our CTE program opportunities in all of our school sites.
We are very fortunate to have a strong school system in Worcester with many exceptional teachers and staff supporting out students, even in the face of very challenging circumstances and limited resources. One area that has seen good success over the years has been the development of small learning communities and academies. These are cohorts of students that stay together during their secondary school years and they tend to have an academic focus such as the Engineering and Technology Academy at Doherty or the Goddard Scholars Academy at Sullivan and South. These academies create a more intimate, collaborative learning environment for students and teachers within the larger comprehensive high school. The newest academy, Hanover Insurance Academy of the Arts opened a few years back at Burncoat Middle and High Schools. One of these academies is planned for the new Doherty High School with a focus on biotechnology.
Worcester Public Schools should build upon this success and explore the creation of additional academies and small learning communities. These academies, and the multi-year connection to students, provide the teachers an opportunity to develop a positive relationship with their students, often acting as guidance counselors for a student’s academic career. The collaborative nature of this work also affords the teachers the chance to work together across the curriculum in support of their students. As we have done with Hanover Insurance at Burncoat and Clark University with University Park Campus School, the Worcester Public Schools should explore additional partnerships that will help us create these exceptional learning opportunities for all students.
The challenges of educating the students of today in Worcester and across the nation have continued to increase as our municipalities have grown. The introduction of technology, including the Internet and social media to an extent, has changed how we deliver education to students. In light of these 20th and 21st changes, I believe that we are doing most things very well but, of course, we need to improve in all areas, most notably and most urgently in the following areas:
Very simply but succinctly put, the two key factors in successfully educating all of our students are EFFECTIVE TEACHING and STUDENT PREPAREDNESS. Effective teaching involves the personal relationship that a teacher must establish with each student, making a personal but professional partnership and assuring all students of their self-worth, their academic ability, and the value of learning. In a perfect world, all students would come to school well-cared-for, healthy, and ready to learn. Sadly, not all do. Our teachers, social/emotional services director and programs, and our administrators together can design a plan to fully understand and meet the needs of our unsuccessful and disengaged children. Also, many students identify with and sometimes enjoy a certain level of comfort with adults who resemble them culturally and physically. We need to develop a more diverse faculty and staff. Our newly developed WPS Strategic Plan calls for changes and my plan as a WSC member is to assist the administration in:
Identifying and addressing the learning, emotional, social and physical needs of each student on an on-going basis
Increasing meaningful and productive parent and family and staff participation and communication
Increasing the diversity of our professional staff
Improving our transportation services on all levels
Under the strong leadership of Superintendent Binienda we have moved forward as a district and been successful. The district works in collaboration with all stakeholders, community groups, parents and educators to strengthen and improve our district. The overall goal is to improve outcomes so that ALL students feel safe, supported and valued.
The district continues to work on a “Welcoming School” environment and has implemented ways of assisting students in need. We have Andy’s Attic Clothing, pantry closets at many of the secondary schools, behavioral health services at the School Based Health Centers, and washer dryer programs in partnership with UMASS Medical Schools. In addition, there is the HEARS initiative to support trauma responsive practices and school climate.
The district has continued to move forward with technology by purchasing chromebooks, ipads, and added additional training for staff and students. There has been an expansion of ELL instructors and an English Language Learners Parent Advisory Council in place. High school students have additional course selection offerings and advanced placement courses. The AP courses have an open-enrollment policy and have resulted in an increase in student participation. Added is the advanced AP Capstone program. We have expanded our AVID program to support our students in the middle and provide tutoring to the students. Physical education classes teach CPR training and encourage students to train others within the community. Other outstanding programs are our Dual Language programs, Seal of Biliteracy, 100 Males to College, Early College, and our Fine Arts programs.
As we move forward School Committee members need to communicate with Administration and work together to provide the best education for our students. We have many fine educational opportunities for our students and we must continue to look for more ways to add to these outstanding programs that we offer.