Friday, June 24, 2016

DESE Issues Southbridge Turnaround Plan

Southbridge Public Schools Level 5 District Turnaround Plan 
(Click on above link to view plan document)

By Brian Lee 

Education Commissioner Mitchell D. Chester is at Charlton Street Elementary School this morning for a press conference to unveil a turnaround plan that will guide changes in the chronically underperforming district of about 2,200 students.

The comprehensive 70-page plan includes priorities and strategies to accelerate student achievement and benchmarks connected to student outcomes.

The plan said that the district's state-appointed receiver has the right to lay off teachers and staff, and reorganize, consolidate, or abolish departments, positions or school functions, and create new ones, but does not specify how that would materialize. 

Among notable changes coming, receiver Jessica L. Huizenga will develop a compensation system that will pay employees based on effectiveness, professional growth, and student academic growth, according to the much-anticipated plan. Before doing so, Mrs. Huizenga will consult with the teachers’ union, the plan says.

During 2016-17, it said, the receiver will conduct a review of educators on directed growth plans, and of educators and staff on improvement plans, and of those employees identified as having poor performance. Teachers, administrators, and other staff whose performance is unsatisfactory, after receiving feedback and an opportunity to improve, will be dismissed, the plan said. Teachers, administrators and other staff whose performance is determined to need improvement will be placed on a plan.

The district, whose student population is 45 percent Hispanic and 72 percent in high-needs categories, was taken over by the state in January, joining Holyoke and Lawrence as districts under state control through the Achievement Gap Act of 2010.

The plan also asserts that Mrs. Huizenga may limit, suspend, or change provisions in union and employment contracts.

Also, teachers in and outside of Southbridge may be eligible to serve in extended learning programs that Mrs. Huizenga implements. They will be paid stipends.

The district aims to increase support for students who are learning English, improve teaching and learning, increase access to and use of technology, and address behavior concerns by increasing social and emotional supports for students and families.

The plan says an alternative middle- and high-school program to address social and emotional needs of at-risk students will be proposed.

It also suggests that there will be vacation, extended day and yearlong academic opportunities, as well as summer school.

The plan addresses the notion that students learn in different ways, and says the district will investigate new academic options.

They include a dual-language program for elementary students or alternative English learners' programs, establishment of individual learning plans for middle- and high-school students, and provide workforce-development programs for high-school students.

It says the district will work to re-engage at-risk students, including students with disabilities and English learners, who may be overage or lacking in academic credits, by establishing credit-recovery options for those who left the district or are on the verge of leaving.

The state says Southbridge has been underserved in education for more than a decade, while a consultant last year reported that the district suffered from “high levels of disrespect” between students and teachers, in part because of excessive turnover in district leadership in Grades 6-12.

Since 2010, the district has had seven superintendents and seven high-school principals, while 43 people moved in and out of the nine top school and district leadership jobs.

The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education first identified Southbridge as an underperforming district in 2004.

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education said the Southbridge School Committee, over time, adopted incoherent and unproductive approaches to its roles and responsibilities, making it unlikely that the district would achieve the significant improvement without dramatic changes.

In a move that heightened the scrutiny, Town Councilor Esteban Carrasco, Jr. spearheaded a letter of no confidence in last year’s School Committee, in part because it prolonged a search for a superintendent. Mr. Carrasco is also speaking at the press event.

Joan Sullivan, president of the Southbridge Education Association, is attending the press conference and said in an e-mail Thursday night that she is “anxious to get the details of our new rulebook for the next three years.”

1 comment:

  1. I thought all our teachers were highly qualified?! Haven't they all been certified that way by the state?


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