Monday, May 30, 2011

A Visit from the Commish

Above: Commissioner Chester with Superintendent Hodges, Jordan Jackson Co-Principal Kathy Podesky, and me.

Last Monday was a key day in our district as we hosted the State Commissioner of the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), Dr. Mitchell Chester. As he usually visits at least district per week, Mansfield was selected for a distinct reason. Michael D'Ortenzio, Jr., a senior at Wellesley High School, and the chairman of the student advisory board for the DESE heard about the campus setup of the Mansfield schools from his colleagues of the advisory board, MHS seniors Justin Deckert and Jonathan Paz. Being curious as how to the campus environment could foster collaboration amongst the schools, D'Ortenzio suggested the visit to Dr. Chester.

During the two-hour visit to all four schools, the commissioner and Michael saw areas that have been focal points for the district in recent years. At MHS, they learned of the work done in the Academic Learning Center (ALC) and the recent efforts to make the response to intervention (RtI) process viable to assist students that are struggling academically. Highlighted was the use of student tutors from the ALC. These tutors work not only with their peers from MHS but also students from the Jordan Jackson and QMS. They also learned about MHS' Senior Option program and how the Career Pathways students perform internships throughout the district's schools and throughout businesses in the community.

Tours of the elementary schools featured an example of how technology is being utilized at Jordan Jackson, demonstrated a smart board lesson at Robinson, and highlighted the theater program at Qualters Middle School. Additionally they viewed the Little Hornets daycare program at the Robinson. This program enables over 75 MHS students to gain a meaningful hands-on experience through the child development coursework.

The visit concluded with a small reception in the MHS library for the guests, Mansfield teachers, students, and parents. During some brief comments and a Q & A session, Commissioner Chester stated, " “I like what I see. It’s down to business but a student-centered atmosphere. The campus atmosphere is not unique to Massachusetts but its not typical. I’m impressed with how Mansfield has taken advantage of that here.”

Virtually all of us were impressed with Michael D'Ortenzio, this articulate young man who will be continuing his studies as a political science major at Boston University this fall. He spoke with ease and confidence on such heady topics such as educator evaluation and school funding. It should be noted that as the chairman of the state's student advisory board, he is also a voting member of the state board of education. Kudos for the state for empowering student voice to this degree! With the young, bright Mr. D'Ortenzio, I could think of no better representation.

Above: Michael D'Ortenzio chats with Director of Buildings & Grounds Walter Parker

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