A model collaboration among the City of Springfield, Springfield Public Schools, the Springfield Education Association, teachers, administrators, local philanthropy, and the commonwealth to turn around 11 middle and high schools in Springfield will receive the 2018 John Gould Education and Workforce Development Award, AIM announced today.
Now in its third year and serving more than 5,000 middle and high school students, the Springfield Empowerment Zone Partnership represents a groundbreaking initiative in which individual schools operate with autonomy over hiring, budget, schedule, curriculum, and culture.
Schools in the Zone are overseen by an independent board made up of majority community leaders. It remains part of the district and is accountable to the district and the state under a performance contract.
AIM will present the Gould Award at its Annual Meeting on May 18 at the Westin Waterfront hotel in Boston. Lt. Governor Karyn Polito will keynote the event, which will also include presentation of AIM Vision Awards to philanthropists Bill and Joyce Cummings and the financial services company MassMutual.
“The Springfield Empowerment Zone Partnership is an example of what can happen when teachers and administrators are provided with the freedom and accountability to make schools better for students,” said Richard C. Lord, President and Chief Executive Officer of AIM.
“AIM is pleased to honor a project that brings together city and district leaders, the local teachers union, the school committee, the commonwealth, educators, parents and students in a key economic area of Massachusetts.”
The Springfield Empowerment Zone has generated bipartisan support on both the state and local levels. Governor Charlie Baker highlighted the initiative in his State of the State speech in January.
“These zones…allow educators to make the changes to provide a better learning environment for our kids,” Baker said.
Meanwhile, State Senator Eric Lesser, a Democrat whose district includes parts of Springfield, said “Springfield has been able to avoid a state takeover and create a model for getting everyone talking to each other and all the stakeholders working collaboratively.”
The Board of Directors that oversees the Empowerment Zone is chaired by Chris Gabrieli, chief executive of the education nonprofit Empower Schools. The board also includes Mayor Sarno, School Superintendent Dan Warwick, School Committee Vice Chair Chris Collins, and prominent community members John Davis, Senior Trustee at the Davis Foundation; Beverly Holmes, a former MassMutual executive and now active church pastor; and James Morton, President and CEO of the YMCA of Greater Boston.
The Springfield Education Association, the union representing teachers in the city, negotiated a separate agreement for educators at schools included in the Empowerment Zone. Union and Zone leaders maintain an active partnership in their efforts to improve education and create collaborative environments within Zone schools.
Local and state officials and educators caution that it is too early to declare success, but they are encouraged by improving test results and collaborative alignment among district leadership, unions, school committee members, educators, school leaders, and more.
Superintendent Warwick reflected on the progress of the Zone saying “what I see going on in the schools – the energy, the excitement, the buy-in from students – you can already see these schools have improved and they’re going to continue to improve because of the structures that are being put in place”.
The Gould Award was established in 1998 to recognize the contributions of individuals, employers, and institutions to the quality of public education and to the advancement, employability, and productivity of residents of the Commonwealth.
In 2000, the award was named after John Gould, upon his retirement as President and CEO of AIM, to recognize his work to improve the quality of public education and workforce training in Massachusetts.
Past recipients of the Gould Award include; the late Jack Rennie, Chairman and Founder of the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education, Middlesex Community College, Gordon Lankton, President and CEO (retired), NYPRO Inc., William Edgerly, Chairman Emeritus, State Street Corporation, Northeastern University, The Davis Family Foundation, Intel Massachusetts, EMC Corporation, IBM, David Driscoll Commissioner (Retired) Massachusetts Department of Education, State Street Corporation and Year UP Boston, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Massachusetts Manufacturing Extension Partnership, Brockton High School, Manufacturing Advancement Center – MACWIC Program, Christo Rey Boston High School, CVS and Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission and Morgan Memorial Goodwill Industries.