School District Undergoes Review Process

By Adam Swift

The Winthrop public school system recently underwent a targeted review from the state’s Department of Education.

The review process, conducted by the American Institute of Research (AIR), included interviews with Superintendent of Schools Lisa Howard; a number of focus groups including educators and parents; classroom learning observations; and a parent Zoom meeting.

“They will probably not produce a report for a couple of months,” said Superintendent Lisa Howard. “This particular group (AIR) is hired by the Department of Education to come out and do this work, and then they turn all of their data and what they found back to the Department of Education and the Department of Education formulates a report.”

The report is shown to the district before being posted on the DOE website.

While some districts have undergone several targeted reviews by the DOE, Howard said this is the first time Winthrop has undergone the process.

According to the DOE, the district review assesses district systems, enabling district leaders to reflect on progress and strengthen performance. The district review is designed to examine the systems, policies, and practices that drive the day-to-day work of the district, as well as those factors that may help or hinder staff performance and, ultimately, student performance and outcomes. Analysis of these systems, policies, and practices includes a focus on the ways in which the district works to improve and promote equity for all students.

The district review is intended to add value to the improvement cycle by providing an experienced team of education researchers who provide an objective analysis of the district’s systems and key findings on strengths and areas for improvement through an equity lens, according to the DOE.

Howard said she answered questions from AIR representatives encompassing a broad array of topics.

“It gives you a sense of accomplishment when you are talking to them and they ask you about the things you do here in the school district, and when you start to reflect on that, you sit back and say, wow, that’s a lot,” said Howard.

At last week’s School Committee meeting, Howard updated the committee on upgrades to the Cummings School playground. She said the project, which improved grading at the playground and paved over some dirt areas adjacent to the playground, was paid for with federal ESSER Covid relief funds.

“We’ve talked a lot about using ESSER funds for one-time improvements in the schools that are going to last us a period of time,” said Howard. “One of the things we’ve been having a lot of issues with is the grading around the playground of the Cummings School.”

In addition to the grading and paving, Howard said Winthrop Loves Trees donated some trades to the project to add more greenery and shade at the playground.

The School Committee also held a moment of silence for former custodian Paul Gallivan.

“He also worked on our athletic fields, lining the fields for our students, and he also drove the Zamboni at the Mike Eruzione Center for Student Athletics,” said Howard. “Paul was inducted into the Winthrop High School Hall of Fame in 2018 for excellent service with the fields and rinks.”

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