Tag Archives: Worcester School Superintendent Melinda Boone

ICT supports what these folks are saying! NO to police with GUNS at North High! YES to School Superintendent Dr. Melinda Boone and her strategy for SUCCESS at North!

Here is the complete, unedited Public Statement of Support for North High School and Superintendent Dr. Melinda Boone from a coalition of Worcester minority community leaders and their allies:    – R.T.

A group of several leaders of color which include faith-based leaders, educators, activists, youth workers, cultural groups and multi service organizations have been meeting weekly since January to discuss how we can leverage our collective leadership capacity to address community needs for all residents in our city.

Given the recent events surrounding North High School, we felt it pertinent to respond in support of our over 25,000 students in the public school system, comprised of more than 60% students of color and 70% low-income students.  Many of us in the community share a deep concern for the urgent and ongoing needs at North High School and have been incredibly alarmed by the inflammatory comments being made about our children by the general public.

We stand with the North High School community to embrace the best version of what the school truly represents in our community.  We applaud the students who have demonstrated such strong resilience and commitment to their education and the parents who are stepping up to reclaim the narrative for their school.  We appreciate the teachers and administrative staff who show up everyday with one agenda in mind and that is to educate our students.

We requested and were presented with a meeting to discuss our concerns with Dr. Melinda Boone, Superintendent of Worcester Public Schools, Lisa Dyer, Principal of North High School, Joseph Petty, Mayor of the City of Worcester and Edward Augustus, Worcester City Manager.  We want to thank Dr. Boone, Principal Dyer, Mayor Petty and City Manager Augustus for responding to our sense of urgency around this matter.

Both Dr. Boone and Principal Dyer presented us with a timeline of events and response to those events.  We found that the information provided helped to dispel myths about the school, which have been perpetuated by local media and self-serving politicians.  It became clear to us that a campaign of misinformation has been waged against the school.  While there have been incidents of concern, the level of scrutiny received by the school has been misplaced and counterproductive to the school and administration’s efforts to create a positive climate for students and faculty.

We urge the Worcester School Committee to work with community partners to support the efforts led by the Superintendent and North High School administration.

We strongly agree with many of the targeted and universal approaches being taken and support the school and administration in their efforts to:

Engage students, parents and faculty in these important dialogues.

Expand North High’s effective restorative justice programming beyond the ninth grade

Address the structural challenges which can contribute to interpersonal violence in the schools such as the number of transitions during the school day and additional support for special education programming at the school

We also think there is room for improvement within the school safety plan and we have full confidence that we can approach existing school leadership and administration around our concerns.  In particular, we believe the increased police presence and police surveillance at North High School is a reactionary response to increase the perception of safety.

However, this should not be a short-term or long-term solution.  Research has shown that the more encounters young people have with the police, the more opportunities for unnecessary arrests and involvement with the juvenile justice system. We propose that Worcester Public School’s focus on identifying the root causes that have contributed to the cultural climate of the school and has led to the perception that North High School is unsafe.

Specifically we recommend the school revisit its plans and:

Decrease police presence in the schools and  increase trained, culturally competent parent liaisons and/or highly experienced youth workers who can be the ears on the ground, responding to conflict before it arises and building strong networks of support among faculty, staff and the student body.

Engage leadership from communities of color, who are largely underrepresented in the school’s faculty, administration and community partners at the school, in both the planning and implementation of community-based strategies to support students, parents and faculty.

Review school personnel policies around the use of social media to ensure that public comments and posts by school personnel do not perpetuate racial bias against students of color and racial discrimination under the law.

Reallocate teacher professional development resources to support district-wide inclusion training.

We look forward to working with and supporting the students, parents, faculty and administration at the school as well as working with the Educational Association of Worcester whose mission includes cultivating a spirit of understanding and good will among its members and the community.  As in the past, when our communities are collectively called to action in focused ways, we can be a strong enough force to help turn the tide in a positive direction for our children.

The following organizations and groups stand with leaders in support of this statement:

Belmont A..M.E. Zion Church
Black Clergy Alliance
Black Legacy
Centro Las Americas
Christian Community Church & The Shalom Neighborhood Center
Discrimination Law Agency Advocates
Future Focus Media Cooperative and Youth Training Institute
Men of Color Think Tank
Mosaic Cultural Complex
Mt. Olive Pentecostal Church
Our Story Edutainment
Pleasant Street Neighborhood Network Center
Women of Color in Solidarity
Worcester Latino Ministers Alliance
Worcester Roots Project
YWCA of Central Massachusetts

Order of Speakers:

Maritza Cruz
Independent Community Activist

David Jerry
North High School Parent

Brenda Jenkins
President and CEO of Mosaic Cultural Complex

Joyce McNickles, Ed.D,
Adjunct Professor, Emmanuel College
Social Justice Educator and Consultant
Co-Chair of the YWCA Racial Justice Task Force

Keesha LaTulippe
Community Organizer and Equity Consultant

Celebrating the good at North High School

By Edith Morgan

I’m sure you have all heard the story of the blind men who were asked to describe an elephant: the one standing by the tail said elephants look like a rope; the one in the middle thought they were like a wall, and the one at the front end said they were like a snake. (That is an abbreviated version, of course).

Looking over the media frenzy about events at North in the past couple of weeks reminded me of this story, and also of the edict about what sells: “If it bleeds, it leads.”

So, in the absence of a fire, explosion, death, or other newsy calamity, we have the usual stuff designed to make headlines and cause fear and panic. So, I feel compelled to restore he balance.

For example, the “fight” at North High School involved about 10 students, according to Principal Lisa Dyer ( I believe only three were actually arrested), and the last bomb threat was NOT a local call, but was traced to Melbourne, Florida.

When I got in touch with various persons at North High,  I was met with so much gratitude and help, so much eagerness to tell the story of all that is being accomplished, that I just HAD to round out the picture, and give voice to students and staff who are boosters of their school.

Mayor Joe Petty has been quoted as saying, “There are so many good stories coming out of that school – those kids should be proud.” And many of them are, and they took the time to write down some details for me.

All mentioned the fact that North High is the most diverse high school in Worcester, serving recent arrivals from all over the world: about 30% of North students are learning English. And about 85% of North students live below the poverty line – and many are the first in their families to go to college. These facts place a greater responsibility on the staff to help them get into the best colleges.

The school is structured into three “learning academies, one on each floor:”

1. A School of Social Systems and Justice (SSJ) headed by Assistant Principal Elizabeth Lupafya:  offering electives in criminal justice, forensics, psychology, introduction to government and early childhood education. Seniors can participate in internships at the courthouse, fire stations, and elementary schools.

2.The Health and Science Academy (HAS) headed by Assistant Principal Bruce O’Connell, offers the Alled Health Program, As part of the Worcester Pipeline Coalition, with UMAss Medical school.  Students now can graduate as  Certified Nursing Assistant – and soon there will be opportunities to be EMT’s and other health professional certificates. (This program was featured on Channel 5 this year). Five students each year go into the Nursing program at QCC>  Course offerings include pathophysiology, CPR, and human anatomy.

3. The School of Technology and Business (STB)Headed by Assistant Principal John Creamer, offers electives in technology, marketing, and multimedia. Students here mostly do their internships in-house, serving North’s tech and audiovisual needs.
As can be seen, great experiences in exploring various types of careers and interest are available to the 1300 students at North High.

North High students have a direct pipeline to their school principal: approximately 12 students meet with their principal every Monday morning at 6:30 a.m. as members of the Principal’s Advisory Council – working on ideas for graduation rate improvement and establishing routines that will help students want to stay in school.

North High senior Nancy Lopez wrote me a great essay detailing …”how amazing North High is)… She says that    “North is home to every kind of student that anyone can think of: we have the musicians, the artists, the writers, the builders, the thinkers, the doctors, the nurses, the dancers the mathematicians, the engineers – we have it all!” She then details the clubs:  Art ( led by Mr. Harthan), Music (led by Mr. Thibodeau, and Drama Club led by Mr. Savage – meeting after school and  sharing their productions with the public. There is also a program called CSI (Collegiate Success Institute)  that partner with  Holy Cross College, and is open to Juniors. For those taking SAT’s , there is LGR (Let’s Get Ready) offering free help to Junior and Seniors to help them develop strategies for getting perfect scores.

Lest I have given the impression that it’s all study and no  human service at North, here is a brief foray into community serve by North students:

Of course, there is the NHS (the National Honor Society) according to Nancy, a “community of students who, besides being excellent students, also love help their community ). One example is their holiday project helping 50 families in need of food.

I have not the space to detail all the AP courses being offered at North, nor the winning athletic teams fielded by North. Those are features shared by all Worcester Public high schools.

But perhaps not all of them also offer great after-school activities like cooking classes, yoga and Zumba!

Nancy closes her remarks  thus: “I think that what really makes us  unique is the fact that we are so diverse yet we have strong relationships between staff, teachers, and students. ……Thanks to God, my mother and North, I have a roof … where to sleep, an education,   and … places where I can go and fulfill … my passions.  North High has an AMAZING staff that is willing to do WHATEVER it takes to keep their students safe, warm, fed, clothed and loved.”

Student Bryan Paula also wrote about how North High had become his home these last four years. Besides naming all the programs and opportunities I have  already mentioned, Bryan talks about North High’s Posse program, making it possible for students to get full college scholarships. Many North High students are accepted  into renowned schools. And the Worcester Tech/North High track team is “currently  doing fantastic and is on their way to nationals.” Bryan concludes his remarks thus: “As expected, the experience is not the same for all students, which is why I can only speak for myself … . We are all trying to fix our home, and we are doing our best to coexist”

North High School also has a very active ROTC program, with many community service activities in addition to their regular duties, and Major Godin sent me a long list of all the events that his cadets have participated in the past year: Earth Day at Lake Park; staffing the March of Dimes Walk ;putting out grave decorations for Memorial Day at Hope and Rural Cemeteries, setting up Treasure Valley for the Boy Scouts; staffing Canal Fest, Revolution of 1774, and StART. They also participated in the Columbus and Veterans’ Day parades.

There is so much more to tell! But I hope InCity Times readers have a little of the flavor of North High, as it really is, through the eyes of some people who are there every day and who make their contributions in so many ways. My thanks in particular to Principal Lisa Dyer, students Nancy Lopez and Bryan Paula, staff members Major Godin and Bruce O’Connell  who took time out between snowstorms and their February vacation to answer my plea for information about the great people and programs at North High. It is always easier to criticize and tear down, but I have found that when you ask people to focus on the good, everyone is so eager to help.

In the present difficult times, I was very gratified to see how easy it was to get so much positive feedback in such a short time – and appreciate the courage it took to go against the tide of fear being created . I always remember that “the coward dies a thousand deaths, the brave but once.”

Let us keep speaking up in defense of the best idea America has to offer: A free and quality education for ALL its children.