In the winter of 2016, the Worcester Public Schools began a search for a new Superintendent of Schools. In response, WEC and the Worcester Regional Research Bureau (WRRB) hosted a forum and produced a paper, The Urgency of Excellence calling for a review of the status of the district and the development of a multi-year strategic plan.
In the late spring of 2017 the work to develop a strategic plan began in earnest as a partnership among WEC, the Worcester Regional Research Bureau, and the Worcester Public Schools. The effort is fully privately funded and the Rennie Center, Massachusetts’ premiere education research and policy group, has been engaged to assist with the project.
As a Gateway City, Worcester faces unique challenges but also enjoys a wealth of assets. Massachusetts Gateway cities are described as “midsize urban centers that anchor regional economies around the state,” facing “stubborn social and economic challenges” while retaining “many assets with unrealized potential.” These communities, which all had a legacy of economic success, have struggled as the state's economy shifted toward skills-centered knowledge sectors.
Worcester’s assets include its diverse populations, strong public schools, a business and civic community engaged in education, and almost a dozen institutions of higher learning. Each of these institutions is committed to creative and meaningful engagement with our schools, students, and teachers.
The last public school strategic plan for Worcester public schools was completed in 1992, before the advent of education reform. Today, the city is at a critical juncture and poised to embrace a new vision and understanding of elementary and secondary education.
In remarks given to note the completion of her first 100 days as Superintendent of Schools, Maureen Binienda stated four goals for the district:
- to provide a supportive, safe and orderly learning environment;
- offer excellent instruction for all students informed by new approaches, structures, and alignments
- engage with families, colleges, businesses, and other members of the community;
- and improve professional collaboration.
The city and its diverse communities are ready for these tasks. A Community Compact for Education was drafted by a group of business and civic leaders and formally presented at the superintendent’s 100 Days event. The Compact acknowledges new realities facing the schools as Worcester continues to navigate its transformation from a manufacturing city to a center of higher learning and health care. It also embraces the dramatic influx of new residents that requires the district to adapt to the needs of a dynamic population.
WEC is confident that the process of community conversations, reviewing quantitative and qualitative data, and visiting demographically similar districts with high performance growth will lead to the development of a sound plan, and also spotlight the importance of education in our city.