The Everett Public Schools (EPS) Monday night resumed an ongoing series of presentations detailing how a coordinated strategic plan has boosted standardized test scores and student achievement throughout the district.
As part of a four-part initiative called “Measures, Milestones, and Meanings,” Assistant Superintendent of Schools Charles Obremski led the second of four discussions at Monday’s School Committee meeting, focusing on “Family and Community Engagement.” This followed a March presentation by Curriculum Analyst Patricia Massa on “Teaching and Learning.” The other two topics — “Educator Evaluation” and “Professional Development Collaboration” — will be addressed at School Committee meetings before the end of the 2015-16 school year.
“Measures, Milestones, and Meanings” was prompted by the December announcement by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) that every school in Everett has achieved Level 1 or Level 2 status in the state’s five-tier academic rating system. This is a rare distinction among urban school systems and a great source of pride for the community.
All Massachusetts districts and schools are classified into one of five accountability and assistance levels, with the highest performing in Level 1 and the lowest in Level 5.
In December, DESE announced that Everett High moved from Level 3 to Level 2, while both the Keverian and the Webster schools moved from Level 2 to Level 1. The Madeline English, Parlin, Lafayette, and Whittier are all Level 2 schools, making Everett one of three urban school districts in the Commonwealth where all schools are rated Level 1 or 2 (Cambridge and Revere are the others).
Significantly, Everett has the second lowest per pupil annual expenditure, $13,317, among all of the urban school districts with which it is categorized by the state.
“This series has been incredibly beneficial,” Superintendent of Schools Frederick F. Foresteire said of “Measures, Milestones, and Meanings.” “Naturally, we’re very proud of improved test results. But we take greater satisfaction in the collaborative effort that is leading to greater student achievement and recognition from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.”
Obremski encapsulated the wide-ranging and far-reaching efforts Everett educators make to help meet the physiological needs (food, shelter, clothing, and safety) and social and emotional well-being of its students. The EPS utilizes a wrap-around service model in which it coordinates in-school efforts with those of health and human service providers in the community. The result is faster and more effective response to the myriad of issues that might otherwise negatively impact a child’s success in the classroom.
“I applaud our school counselors, teachers, principals and assistant principals for familiarizing themselves with the family situations of each and every one of their students,” said Superintendent Foresteire. “This helps us quickly identify the things we need to be doing to help our students and their families.”
Obremski discussed how the EPS draws on a deep pool of resources at the state and local levels and strong relationships with businesses, organizations, and service providers. “I can’t envision a district being more closely partnered with civic, community, and business leaders,” Obremski said. Everybody is genuinely on the same page.”
Groups like the Everett Elks and the Kiwanis and Rotary clubs, individuals such as Joe O’Donnell, and businesses like the Everett Co-Operative Bank, Distrigas, the Exxon Corporation, and Schnitzer Northeast consistently lend their time and resources to the EPS. “These businesses buy school supplies and dictionaries for our students, provide gift cards for deserving families at Thanksgiving and Christmas, give out hats and gloves in the winter, serve as judges for our science fairs, sponsor scholarships, and help us with our massive Homecoming festivities,” Obremski said. “They are a vital part of what we do, and it’s empowering for our students to see leaders and world-class businesses take an interest in their success.”
Never was this more evident, Obremski said, than at the mock interview event held this past fall at Everett High School, where more than 100 members of the community volunteered their time to conduct interviews with seniors and give them feedback and advice about what they will encounter in the job market.
Also covered in Monday’s presentation was the school system’s strong relationship with State Senator Sal DiDomenico, Mayor Carlo DeMaria, State Representative Joseph McGonagle, the City Council, and School Committee. Elected officials helped EPS secured more the $7 million in grants, and have assisted the district in launching several successful initiatives, including the English Language Learners and MCAS afterschool and summer programs.
Parents are also active members of the EPS community. Whether it’s serving on advisory and school councils, volunteering at math and literacy nights, or taking advantage of outreach opportunities like Parent University or English-as-a-second-language classes for adults, the district is continually connecting parents with individual schools and the district as a whole.