Editorial: A vision for Worcester Public Schools

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The members of the new School Committee were sworn in on Jan. 4 and have their first meeting scheduled for Jan. 21.

The selection of a permanent replacement for former Superintendent Melinda J. Boone, whose tenure ended Nov. 30, is the most pressing task facing the committee.

WEC:WRRB_JEPGThe board must first settle the question of whether to conduct a national search or focus internally as two people, former chief academic officer and interim Superintendent Marco C. Rodrigues and current South High Community School Principal Maureen F. Binienda, have emerged as leading candidates.

The Worcester Education Collaborative and the Worcester Regional Research Bureau have added their voices to the conversation with a joint report: “The Urgency of Excellence: Considerations for the School Committee and New Superintendent of Schools in Worcester.”

The paper coincides with an event this morning [Wednesday, Jan. 13] at Mass. College of Pharmacy and Health Science.

The report offers a very detailed analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of Worcester Public Schools. It also offers a series of thoughtful recommendations for the long-term improvement of the district.

The report’s most detailed recommendation calls for the development of a strategic plan for WPS.

“In support of a new Superintendent of Schools, the School Committee should commit to a timely, comprehensive evaluation of the schools including operations and finance as well as teaching and learning,” the report states.

“We have identified three options for undertaking such an evaluation, which in isolation or in combination could enhance outcomes for the public schools: 1) a city-wide appointed task force; 2) engagement of an education organization focused on academic improvement and school turnaround; or 3) engagement of a management consulting firm focused on structural reorganization and effectiveness.”

We believe the second option best fits the goals and operational structure of WPS, and we concur with the report, which states, “Engaging organizations with deep educational expertise would ensure that a WPS review is holistic, viewed through the lens of educational best practice, and benefits from the experience of other urban districts.”

We also support the report’s recommendation of the creation of a Worcester Public Schools Governance Institute, the goal of which is to annually convene major stakeholders  —  the School Committee, City Council, WPS, administration and private and nonprofit education communities — to ensure their interests remain aligned.

The new year is less than two weeks old. Before it ends the School Committee will make decisions that will shape the future of the city by charting the direction of its public schools and choosing their next leader.

The Worcester Education Collaborative and Worcester Regional Research Bureau have done the city schools, and the city at large, a service by offering their policy expertise.

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