Welcome to the Springfield Empowerment Zone Partnership (SEZP) a groundbreaking voluntary partnership of Springfield Public Schools (SPS), the MA Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), and the Springfield Education Association (SEA) aimed at rapidly improving outcomes for a majority of Springfield’s middle school students. The information below is a primer to the SEZP and how it might impact you and your child. If you have questions not answered below, please contact us.
What is the Springfield Empowerment Zone Partnership?
The Springfield Empowerment Zone Partnership (SEZP) is a groundbreaking voluntary partnership of Springfield Public Schools (SPS), the MA Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), and the Springfield Education Association (SEA) aimed at rapidly improving outcomes for a majority of Springfield’s middle school students.
SEZP consists of Chestnut North, Chestnut South, Chestnut TAG, Duggan, Forest Park, Kennedy, Kiley, and Van Sickle middle schools. Together, these schools serve more than 4,400 students.
The Zone is governed by a seven-member Board of Directors appointed by the Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education and Springfield Public Schools. The four DESE appointees are Chris Gabrieli (chair), John Davis, James Morton, and Beverly Holmes. The three Springfield representatives are Mayor Domenic Sarno, Superintendent Dan Warwick, and school committee vice chair Chris Collins.
Why does Springfield need an Empowerment Zone?
Many of the graduates of Springfield Public Schools remain in our immediate or local community and become our future civic and business leaders. In order for Springfield to become the economic hub it can be, we need to better prepare our students now. Middle school students are a particularly vulnerable population. If students are not achieving at grade level by 8th grade, they will likely not catch up in high school. By improving the student outcomes in 6th through 8th grade we can better position our city for future success.
We have to use every opportunity available to give all of the students of Springfield a world-class education. A partnership between SEZP, DESE, SPS, and SEA gives us the resources, expertise, and opportunities to implement what works.
What are the core principles of the Empowerment Zone?
Best of Springfield, Best of the Commonwealth
SEZP schools will represent both the most promising people and programs already in Springfield and the opportunity for partnerships with the best organizations from across the Commonwealth.
SEZP believes that individual schools are the unit of success in education and enabled by a new teachers’ contract, SEZP teachers and leaders will be empowered in their own school to make decisions that are in the best interests of their students and families.
Achieving a high quality, well-rounded education will drive every decision that SEZP makes. To this end, SEZP will foster a performance-driven culture of high expectations Zone-wide for students, teachers, leaders, and partners alike.
Ecosystem of Supports
SEZP will strive to provide diverse training and professional development opportunities to ensure that every teacher and leader gets the support he or she needs to participate in the new highly autonomous environment.
How will the Empowerment Zone affect my child?
If your child attends one of the eight Empowerment Zone schools, your child will continue to be enrolled at that same school in September. No action is required to ensure them a spot in the school.
More details will be coming soon about the specific changes at your child’s school. Teachers and leaders are currently working on finalizing the School Operational Plans. Rather than a one-size-fits-all approach, these School Operational Plans are custom-designed to meet the needs of the students in each school. Some changes might include a longer school day for students and teachers, a school-wide focus on literacy, or other programmatic changes decided on by the teachers.
Will the schools remain public schools?
YES. All of the Empowerment Zone schools will continue to be a part of the Springfield Public School District and will continue to be public schools. The difference is that the schools will be accountable to the SEZP Board instead of the Springfield School Committee. Additionally, the schools in the Zone will have a considerable amount of autonomy to design the school calendar, the daily schedule, the kinds of curricula used, and the programming available for students.
Who is paying for this?
All of the Empowerment Zone schools will continue to be SPS schools and will continue to receive funding from the traditional federal, state, and local sources. Additionally, SEZP will be seeking out federal and state grant funding where appropriate to support school turnaround, extended learning time, and other initiatives.
Empowerment Zone schools will benefit from being able to make budget decisions at the school level which will enable them to spend more money where it counts- in the classroom.
What about the teachers union and collective bargaining?
Teachers in the Empowerment Zone will continue to be full members of the Springfield Education Association. In December, 2014, the teachers in the Empowerment Zone schools approved a new teachers contract that allows them to have more of a say in the development of the School Operational Plans and the day to day decisions at the school level.
How can we be sure the Empowerment Zone will work and what if it does not?
Examples from other parts of the country and from within our own Commonwealth show that the model has a very good chance of succeeding in this environment. While the SEZP board, DESE, SPS and SEA leadership are confident in the potential of the Empowerment Zone to get great results for students, there is still a lot of work to be done. School performance will be closely monitored and changes will be made if a school is not producing the right results for students.
Have more questions about the Springfield Empowerment Zone Partnership? Contact us.