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John Monfredo: Superintendent Boone’s Many Accomplishments

Saturday, June 23, 2012

 

Superintendent Dr. Melinda Boone

Dr. Boone stated, “I believe that all children can learn and all have a right to a high quality education. Children will meet whatever bar we set for them…if we set the bar of high expectations, they will rise to the occasion. Our role as adults is to ensure that we provide these high quality opportunities for students and that we support their attempts to be successful.”

Dr. Boone has demonstrated that philosophy during her three years in Worcester. Under her watch we have seen a reduction in the dropout rate, substantial growth in the number of students taking AP courses with no loss in the percentage of students with passing grades, level 4 schools have made significant improvements, the graduation rate has increased and areas of the curriculum including STEM opportunities have been improved.

This leads into Dr. Boone’s first goal: Student Academic Achievement – strategies resulting in high levels of student achievement. Dr. Boone listed a number of areas of accomplishments including the key roles stakeholders have had in the decision making under the leadership role of the Curriculum Liaison. There has been work on the scope and sequence of curriculum arts and the adoption of new graduation requirements as we move to align with the MASS Core.

Work on the state’s innovation model for our schools has been a success with Worcester leading the state in the number of innovation school models…a total of eight schools. To that end Governor Deval Patrick, in a visit to our City, acknowledged, “Worcester has long been a leader in education reform and I’m confident these schools will build on the good work that is already done across the district.” Work in its first year has successfully moved forward and this year the school committee has approved additional innovation model schools.

Other highlights in the area of academic achievement include the expansion of Doherty High’s Engineering Academy, the implementation of Worcester East Middle’s and Worcester Technical High School Innovation School Plan for STEM instruction, the successful opening of the new North High, and the implementation of a teacher evaluation system for level 4 schools. Virtual courses at the high school level have continued to expand and have proven to be most successful. Last year 381 students received the State’s John and Abigail Adams Scholarships in addition to hundreds of other students receiving private scholarships to higher education.

Dr. Boone has continued to give small class size on the elementary level a high priority and it has been one of the many factors in raising our MCAS scores. It is also important to note that Dr. Boone made a great appointment three years ago in selecting Dr. Jeff Mulqueen as the Chief Academic Officer for he has been instrumental, under her guidance, in moving our school system forward. We live in an age of accountability, (good or bad) with an eye on “high stake” testing. Every department and every school must have an accountability plan that is designed to be monitored regularly. This also includes professional development focus areas.

Our school system has a strong professional development program and many of the courses are based on that data. Dr. Boone is quick to point out that the best opportunity for improving student achievement is quality teachers and providing quality professional development is crucial in ensuring that excellence of teaching continues.

Partnerships with area colleges continue to flourish with the major benefactors being our students. Next year, I would like to see us expand our dual enrollment program with our college partners, consider ways of identifying and serving our gifted students and consider exploring the possibility of an International Baccalaureate program.

I would also like to see our system continue to improve in the teaching of writing. As Dr. Douglas Reeves has stated, writing is a “power strategy” for student achievement. A more consistent approach across the school system in the teaching of writing needs to take place. As a district we must also work on making sure our students are reading on grade level by the end of grade three. It all starts with strong early learning programs and if we are to narrow the achievement gap we must have a plan in place.

I strongly recommend, come next year, that this be given the highest academic priority.

As a system we take very seriously the importance of having schools that are safe and orderly. There is a protocol in place that addresses disruption in our schools and we have an effective alternative education program for those students who are unable to be educated in the main stream. In addition we have a strong policy that supports safety in our schools. We have a well developed anti-bullying program and administration has put forth a strong comprehensive plan, a whole school approach with training for all staff members continuing annually. Parents have been given a copy of the policy and the schools have had meetings on bullying.

The district has continued to add security measures at many of our schools including cameras and has worked closely with the Worcester Police Department gang unit to develop other preventative measures.

In the near future, I would like to recommend that we consider security cameras similar to what we have done at the Alternative site on Waverly Street at other schools in our district. 

As part of the welcoming and secure schools, Dr. Boone has shown that she knows the importance of reaching out to parents. On several occasions she has stated, “Our goal is to make sure that we become the school of choice.” She has continued to work closely with the CCPAC and with the Worcester Education Collaborative to establish “The Worcester Family Academy.” The Family Academy offered a series of parent seminars and workshops hosted by organizations in our city. She has worked with the schools to maintain an inviting and welcoming atmosphere, along with working closely with parents to gain their trust and to show that the Worcester Public Schools are truly partners with them. Our website continues to improve and parents are able to access much needed information.

Dr. Boone knows the importance of reaching out to include the community as stakeholders in our quest to provide the best education possible for our students. Monthly she meets with the United Way Board, Pioneering Healthier Communities, UMMHC Community Benefits, Central Mass Workforce Investment Board, Worcester Juvenile Delinquent Alternative Initiative, and the Worcester Educational Collaborative Business Roundtable. 

Another group that merits Dr. Boone’s attention next year is our state legislators. There needs to be to a scheduled meeting time every other month to engage in dialogue in with our state delegation and to advise them on the needs for our system and to perhaps help generate legislation to be brought back to Boston. 

Dr. Boone has also done a good job in communicating with the school committee and has been willing to meet with individuals when a question or a need arises. She has kept us updated on emergency issues or when a crisis has occurred in the school system.

As I suggested two years ago, Dr. Boone has continued with her State of the School annual message and in October that message set the tone for the school year. City and school officials were invited as were city agencies and the public. The address was supported by the public and Dr. Boone articulated the past year’s successes and challenges. She was not shy about requesting that the city fund the Worcester Public Schools beyond the required minimum to support expanded course offerings, technology, and other areas of the curriculum.

Dealing with a zero base budget, Dr. Boone, along with her Chief Financial Officer Brian Allen, have been forward thinking in dealing with the priorities of our system and have kept our school solvent.

The monitoring of the cleanliness of schools has continued and we now find that our schools are in much better shape. This year a greater focus on expectations for building cleanliness, general maintenance, and quality controls has been initiated with success.

A good deal of credit goes to Dr. Boone for pushing the envelope in an attempt to secure additional funding from the city. Now that we have the communication door open, let us continue with the conversation for our city cannot continue to be in the bottom one percent in giving above the foundation budget. We need to make sure that education is a priority in this community.

Dr. Boone and her staff continue to move our school system forward and our school district continues to have the reputation as one of the best urban systems in Massachusetts. However, the schools cannot do the job alone. We need additional support from our elected officials and our community partners. It has to be a team approach with everyone in collaboration. We need to share ideas, think out of the box, and continue to focus on the needs of our children and their families. I commend Dr. Boone for her perseverance and diligence as she continues to do an exceptional job as the educational leader in Worcester.

Quoting Helen Keller, “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”  

 

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