Pentucket Screening Committee Gives Green Light to Two New Innovation School Proposals

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WEST NEWBURY, Mass. — The Pentucket Regional School District screening committee has approved
proposals for two additional innovation schools for further planning and development: The Pentucket Regional School District Secondary Academy (STEM) and The Academy for Business, Finance, & Entrepreneurship. Each of these proposed academies would expand educational opportunities for Pentucket students in grades 7 through 12 with in-depth learning experiences, early-high school credit, and early-college and early-career experiences.

“The Pentucket Regional School District seeks to become the preferred educational opportunity for students and families, the career opportunity of choice for talented educators, and the investment opportunity of choice for its member communities,” said Jeff Mulqueen, Superintendent of Schools. “Innovation schools present a fantastic opportunity to expand opportunities for our children and broaden the appeal of the district as a whole.”

Pentucket won five of the nine competitive Innovation School Planning grants awarded by the Department of Education in 2014. The $50,000 awards resulted in each elementary school converting to an Innovation School and the adoption of three new academies for students in grades 7 – 12. Implementation of these new opportunities is currently underway.

“Governor Deval Patrick has made closing achievement gaps a priority and Innovation Schools have been closing gaps and opening new opportunities for students and educators in the Commonwealth,” said Matthew Malone, Massachusetts Secretary of Education. “I applaud the Pentucket Regional School District for making the decision to think outside the box and provide access to new and exciting programs for its three communities.”

In January 2010, Governor Patrick signed historic education reform legislation that gives all students and families greater access to high-quality schools. The Innovation Schools initiative, a key component of this legislation, paved the way for new “Innovation Schools,” in-district and charter-like schools that operate with greater autonomy and flexibility, while still remaining a part of the school district.

A competitive, multi-step process is prescribed by the state for developing and implementing an Innovation School. The first step is for a proposal to be approved by a screening committee composed of representation from a school district’s school committee, teachers’ union, and superintendent of schools. Pentucket’s screening team unanimously approved each proposal to move to the planning phase.

Superintendent Mulqueen credited good communication and strong working relationships among all levels at Pentucket for the success of the Innovation Schools effort.

“Pentucket has the benefit of a strong working relationship and tight bond among the school committee, Pentucket Association of Teachers, and district administration,” Mulqueen said. “This is the foundation needed to take steps toward becoming a World Class school district.”

The next step calls for an Innovation School Planning Committee to construct an innovation plan for each of the proposed schools. Planning committees have a broad membership to ensure the process captures the good thinking of all stakeholders. The purpose of the innovation plan committee is to develop the innovation plan, assure that appropriate stakeholders are represented in the development of the proposed Innovation School, and provide meaningful opportunities for the stakeholders to contribute to the development of the school. The purpose of the innovation plan is to comprehensively articulate the areas of autonomy and flexibility that the proposed school will use.

Pentucket Regional Middle School staff members are taking lead roles in the development of these innovation school plans. Principal Ken Kelley (KenKelley@prsd.org) is focusing on the Academy for Business, Finance, & Entrepreneurship and STEM educator Shawn MacDonald (SMacDonald@prsd.org) is focusing on the Secondary STEM Academy. Community members and parents are encouraged to contact Mr. Kelley or Mr. MacDonald for more information.

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