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The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

Southbridge Public Schools Update

Members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education
Mitchell D. Chester, Ed.D., Commissioner
February 12, 2016


This memo provides the February monthly update to the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education about our work with the Southbridge Public Schools. In this memo, I am reporting on:

  • Receivership activities since designation;
  • External receiver search;
  • Local Stakeholder Group; and
  • Family and community engagement strategies.

Receivership Activities since Designation

The Board voted on January 26, 2016 to designate the Southbridge Public Schools as a "chronically underperforming" (Level 5) district. Since then, I have been serving as interim receiver and my team, under the direction of Senior Associate Commissioner Russell Johnston, has been working with the district's senior leadership staff to oversee the district's daily operations. We have implemented new protocols to ensure adequate approval and oversight over key managerial decisions, and have contracted with former Revere Public Schools Superintendent Paul Dakin to assist with day-to-day receivership activities until I name an external receiver. Paul brings considerable experience leading and managing schools and districts, and I am confident he will be an asset to the work in Southbridge.

Under Massachusetts law (M.G.L. c. 69, §1K (a)), the receiver has authority to exercise all the powers of the superintendent and the school committee of Southbridge Public Schools. As interim receiver, one procedural change I have made is to schedule monthly rather than bi-monthly meetings of the Southbridge School Committee. Going forward, the agendas and schedule for each school committee meeting will be set based upon recommendations to me from Russell Johnston and members of my team. The external receiver, once appointed, will determine whether the meeting schedule should be adjusted.

External Receiver Search

As we discussed at the January 26 Board meeting, I have been actively considering all potential options for an external receiver for the Southbridge Public Schools. The Request for Responses (RFR) solicitation for receiver candidates closed on February 1, and I am currently reviewing and considering all submitted proposals. I will update you on the receiver selection process at the Board meeting on Monday evening, February 22.

Local Stakeholder Group

In compliance with M.G.L. c. 69, s. 1K(b), the Southbridge Local Stakeholder Group (LSG) is being organized to convene within 30 days of the district being designated as chronically underperforming. The purpose of the LSG is to provide recommendations for the turnaround plan in order to maximize the rapid improvement of the academic achievement of students in Southbridge.

Once the LSG meeting schedule and the group participants are confirmed, the information will be posted on the Southbridge Public Schools website.

Family and Community Engagement Strategies

As we did in Holyoke, in order to engage Southbridge families and community members, especially those who historically have had limited engagement with the schools, Department of Elementary and Secondary Education staff members will host a series of neighborhood-based family and community conversations. All meetings will be held in English and Spanish and will be designed to answer questions and collect suggestions and feedback for my consideration. In addition to the in-person conversations, we have developed a weekly web- and paper-based newsletter to disseminate information to the staff, families, and community members of Southbridge. The first update can be found on the Southbridge Public Schools website.

Senior Associate Commissioner Russell Johnston and other members of the Department's Southbridge team will be at the Board's February 22 meeting to answer your questions.

Last Updated: February 19, 2016
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