Tuesday, May 24, 2016

May Board of Education: Springfield Empowerment Zone Partnership

the backup is here
per the backup: SEZP is:
a groundbreaking voluntary partnership of Springfield Public Schools (SPS), the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), the Springfield Education Association (SEA), and Empower Schools aimed at rapidly improving outcomes for Springfield's middle school students
Chester: this Board knows the work of receiverships in schools and districts, work done with Level 4 schools as well
"really neat to have in front of us today" those working in Springfield
The Board of SEZP is as follows:

SEZP Board - SEZP has a 7-member board that governs the nonprofit. Four members are appointed by the Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education to serve 5-year terms; the other three members represent the Springfield community in their official capacities. The current board members are: Chris Gabrieli, Chairman; James Morton; Beverly Holmes; John Davis; Domenic J. Sarno (in his role as Mayor of Springfield); Daniel J. Warwick (in his role as Superintendent of SPS); Chris Collins (in his role as Vice Chairman of the Springfield School Committee)

Chester: Gabrieli "was a key" contact with me, "aren't there measures short of receivership"
And the union, "very vital to us" in this partnership
MOU between and among DESE
School district "has appointed a board to receivership of middle schools
"this is a very promising approach to thinking about middle schools"

and I'm not going to be able to keep track of who is saying what here, as their backs are to me in a gym and they have no place cards
Gabrieli: excited to share this, level of collaboration is very high
"ultimately what matters is the results of the students"
DESE's willingness to think out of the box
"not directly obvious from the regulations but clearly well within them"
9 middle schools in Springfield serving 4000 students had Level 4 status
81% it says economically disadvantaged...I don't think that can be right
the state has four members; the city has three
Legal agreement between Zone, Springfield, and DESE approved in a 6-1 vote of the School Committee
new teachers' contract, modeled on Lawrence's contract: all working conditions are at the school level; ELT is "affordable" and no lanes; steps based on "merit"
Superintendent speaks of great flexibility in contract
"this kind of autonomy I would have loved as a principal"
"This teachers' contract is really a model for the state"
Gabrieli interested in expanding zones elsewhere in MA
SEZP believes "schools are a fundamental unit of change"
"school performance distributes on a bell curve and we have an obligation to move that curve to the right"
"pretty similar to the strategy we've taken in Lawrence"
"SEZP educators have broad autonomy"
Principals "create plans with solutions that fit a school's specific needs"
current performance analyzed>>principal and leadership team vote on operation plan>>SEZP approves plan
Principal says "how I was ever a principal before this, I don't know"
"what we truly do with that hour" (of ELT)
"intervention and attacking the trends and the needs of our schools"
reading class in addition to regular ELA
nine schools are all completely different: gifted program, social justice program
program "that best supports the students and the staff as well"
middle schools (in response to Q from Sagan) are assigned by address
visited Lawrence on numerous occasions; borrowed best practices across the state
reading program is geared towards our proficient students "and that's why we received the scores we did on our PARCC"
one hour of reading intervention each day, one hour of math intervention each day
Gabrieli "some framework to doing this all aggressively"
"schools are at the top of the triangle"
"active coach" of consultants that "were brought on"
Achievement Network: consultant that "makes sure we're true to our operational plan" in a one hour meeting with the principal, hiring, observations of teachers
"acceleration academy strategy" as in Lawrence "we've chosen to do only math" so far
now speaking of Teach Western Mass recruitment
quality of life, advertising to attract teachers at this point, at some point to move towards retaining teachers on the spot
SEZP holding schools accountable "configuration changes can include partnership with independent organizations like UP Education Network" opening UP Academy Kennedy this fall
Gabrieli: "the two leaders speak to the kind of leadership you can attract"
Founders Fellow program moving particular people into Springfield
"sustainable collaborative governance" says Gabrieli
Gabrieli: "there are early signs of progress" though not much academic evidence
could hire earlier than last year

Morton: "this partnership takes courage"
"everyone has to give something up"
"almost as if the entire city of Springfield has wrapped itself around the Zone"

Doherty: is there a long range vision of expanding up to high school or down to elementary?
"looking at some of these as best practices" which are being shared out to other schools
Sagan: same contract in place at others?
Warwick: This contract applies only to zone; "a lot that we do have in place at other levels" and progress is strong at other levels"
Gabrieli: would rather have parents, teachers, principals come to the conclusion that this might be needed
Warwick: there are other middle schools (than these) outside the zone
Moriarty: (from Holyoke) MOU with receiver, now described as an alternative school
"partnerships are hard"; mid-level admin, others resented receiver brought in
reciever was seen as an imposition; is there a good process, "a good ventilation system, if you will," if either partner is not happy
Gabrieli: each school is very clear who the decision makers are
biweekly check-in meetings (I don't know who is talking right now) collaborate as partners
what's going on across the zone
Warwick: behind it 100%, won't tolerate anyone not being behind it 100%
Peyser: interesting to see this kind of change in our public education system
do you see this as school turnaround or a long-term governance strategy?
Gabrieli: an early question
"spirit in which we all entered this was going into novel territory"
"it's not the state doing some alone, it's not the district doing something alone, it's partners"
"is it necessary"
"goal is not to have an automatic end"
Warwick: a lot more learning to be done in this
"I just love this contract; I wish it were in place when I was a principal"
improve this work, build on it
Morton: have there been an exodus of parents from the schools?
Warwick: has been a lot of positive press, haven't had any requests
extended time, extended PD for staff
Gabrieli: parents know relatively less of this than we do, see schools that are changing
"very committed to data collection"
"net health of the school"
Sagan: talent pool, talent drain: not necessarily able to attract staff
"Holyoke trading best people and not attracting new talent" which was debunked by the Commissioner previously
Principal: no competition, the job fairs have been huge
collaboration helps everyone, "we're all in this together"
want to recruit the best talent
Chester: don't see the talent question as limited to western Mass, particularly for turnaround principals
teaching pool: one thing to think about opening an elementary slot, another to think about opening a high school chemistry slot
some inventive things happening
discussions with UMass Amherst; not affordable housing for their faculty in the area, talking about housing in Holyoke
in Springfield, too many schools were stuck
"very aggressive" choices made by state
"some level of disruption to the status quo"
avoiding state receivership, keeps schools in the hands of the school committee (it does?) but protects the schools from business as usual

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