Springfield, Massachusetts is discovering that partnership builds empowerment, as their “empowerment zone” school model is now being considered for expansion across the state.

Soft SkillsThe Springfield Empowerment Zone is a unique educational model, a partnership between the state of Massachusetts, the teachers’ union, and Springfield school officials.  The partnership has established a board to oversee eight public middle schools and have autonomy over localized decisions such as curriculum, hiring, budgeting, and schedules.

“I viewed this as a compelling model because this provides the ability to make changes while investing in the school system and maintaining local control of the school system,” said state Sen. Eric Lesser, D-Longmeadow, a sponsor of a bill, SD.1209, to expand empowerment zones statewide.

Ensuring that the model mirrors the Springfield model is key to getting the bill passed.  “The key is any legislation must specifically model the Springfield deal, because that was key to making it work, with an administration, teachers, unions. We all collaborated and worked together,” said Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno.

At present, the Massachusetts Teachers’ Association opposes the bill, citing concerns that control of schools would be removed from local officials and be under the power of the state.

“There’s not a partnership element to this model,” said MTA President Barbara Madeloni. “There is an appointed board, so it undermines democratically elected school committees.”

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