From the Executive Director – August 2016

As we head into the “dog days” of August, I want to share with you some reflections of this past year. I am struck by the significant impact our member educational collaboratives have made, both individually and collectively. Our voice is not only heard, but it is acknowledged and valued. Where is that impact most noticeable?

Member District Services

First and foremost, our daily working relationships with our member districts are incredibly strong. The programs and services you provide are highly respected and in demand from our member districts. Superintendents and other school leaders recognize and appreciate the value you add to their districts. They know that they can rely on your expertise to fill in the capacity gaps and service needs that they may experience.

➢ Leadership through Partnership

During the course of this past year, you have strengthened and expanded many of our long-standing partnerships. Our investment in, and commitment to, the social and emotional well being of all our students has resulted in the very thoughtful planning that has been done with MASC, MASS, MSSAA, MESPA and Teachers 21 to help create the SEL coalition (exSEL). We look forward to the launch of this initiative in September.

The contract that ESE has awarded us to promote inclusive practices is gathering much attention. In partnership with MSSAA and MESPA, our project has already resulted in our Inclusive Practice Ambassadors scheduling visits with 374 principals from more than 70 school districts across the Commonwealth. The target to visit with and share resources to 1,000 principals by October 31, while daunting, has focused our efforts and energies and yielded impressive results to date. Your assistance in getting us to that 1,000 principal number is critical to our success. So please reach out to the superintendents in your member districts who have not yet signed up and encourage the to do so. If you do not know which of your districts have not yet registered, please let me know and I will send you an updated listing.

We are fortunate to have a strong working relationship and partnership with AESA. For the past two years, Cathy Cummins has served on their Executive Council and assisted their strategic planning. I appreciate her efforts, as MOEC board president, to bolster the value of educational service agencies both nationally and statewide. We are in the midst of designing the agenda for our regional AESA meeting on May 5 and 6. Invitees will be representative partners from the Boards of Cooperative Education Services (BOCES) in New York, the Educational Collaboratives in Rhode Island and the Regional Educational Service Centers (RESC) in Connecticut. We are looking forward to a most informative and engaging conference with our colleagues from the northeast. I look forward to your participation.

➢ Advancement of Member Professional Development

We are excited that on August 3-5, we will hold the first three of six sessions of our Leadership Academy. More than 50 collaborative staff members have enrolled in this course, which designed to enhance and inform the leadership skills and expertise of the participants. Many are taking advantage of the three optional graduate credits. Plans are also underway for a new professional development opportunity focusing on the financial complexities of leading and managing an educational collaborative. I am confident that this offering will also be very enthusiastically subscribed.

➢ Legislative and Regulatory Initiatives

I remain hopeful that H.457 will be enacted before the legislative session ends in early next January. We have invested a lot of time and energy in imagining the next generation of educational collaboratives. Passage of the legislation will facilitate the implementation of that vision.

We are also hopeful that our conversations with staff at the Ethics Commission will yield positive results. The statute, as it currently exists, can inhibit our ability to take advantage of the skills and expertise of staff from our member districts. We know that the Commission staff understand and appreciate our dilemma and have included a resolution on the Commission’s “to do” list.

In closing, I wish you the very best as for the remaining days of summer as you ramp up for another successful school year. Keep up the great work you do to ensure that your member districts continue to receive high quality programs and services cost effectively through your economies of scale.

– Steve

 

From the Executive Director – June 2015

It does not seem possible that another school year is drawing to a close and that it has been twelve months since I last wrote to you. I am not sure where the time goes, but as I get older the speed and pace of the school year seems to accelerate. When we met as a group at the Annual Meeting in May, I was struck by the energy and passion which you brought to the task of advising us in the ways in which we can incorporate Tom Hehir’s recommendations, Commissioner Chester’s perceptions about the progress of the Commonwealth in the twenty years of education reform and the strategic goals of your statewide organization. The MOEC Board, at its June 15 meeting, will begin to synthesize those thoughts and suggestions into a priority action plan that will guide our future initiatives. On the board’s behalf, I want to thank you for sharing your perspective and wisdom with us.

My analysis of your thoughts from those charts reveal an interest in:

  • expanding your influence in providing professional development to member district staff to build capacity in regular education
  • lending your expertise to member districts to reduce over-identification of special needs students
  • better articulating our many programs and services both individually and regionally
  • promoting greater dialogue between the Department, ourselves and member districts
  • updating the design of our MOEC mentor program to more effectively support our new collaborative leaders.

These are worthwhile and ambitious goals for us to consider and adopt.

Last June, I reflected for you my recollection and understanding of the way we were, the way we are and the way we might become. Despite the “noise” that continues to engulf and distract us, that message still resonates with me. My work with you and our Board is to create, build and sustain the kind of statewide organization you wish it to be. You lead very busy and intense professional lives. My goal is to help you channel your energy and wisdom in ways that benefit you, your organization, and the greater educational community so that you receive the recognition and support you deserve.

I am hopeful and confident that in the year ahead the legislature will enact House 457. Our conversations with and support from Chair Peisch are most encouraging. The bill alone will not realize the vision and aspirations set forward in the “Next Generation” but it will lay the conceptual framework. We have journeyed a long way over these past eight years that I have had the privilege of working with you. The past and the present have been marked by outstanding successes and achievements. The future beckons and is ripe with opportunity and challenge. You have earned and deserve the respect that House 457 places in you. I look forward with great anticipation to its realization.

In the interim, enjoy some quiet time and relaxation over the summer months. You have earned and richly deserve this respite.

                                                                        Steve Theall

 

 

 

 

From the Executive Director – June 2014

I am confident it is part of the aging process but I continue to be amazed by how quickly each academic year unfolds. In September we open with a flourish, push steadily forward throughout the fall and on into the December holidays.

Along the way we remember those who have served us so bravely in the armed forces, celebrate the holidays and greet the New Year with cheer and optimism. We then return to business endure the darkness, storm filled and and shortened daylight of winter. Past presidents are honored, vacation breaks are welcomed and the promise of spring is imagined and wished for.

Out of those winter doldrums we emerge looking for sunshine and a respite from the weather, only to find the rain and unseasonable cold of a raw and rainy spring. Steadfast to the end we long for and have found the weather more delightful, the temperature on the rise and as well as the stresses associated with the closing of schools and programs in June. Where does the time go!

As I finish my seventh year as the MOEC Executive Director, I ask myself the same question and reflect on the organization you have entrusted me to lead and its evolution over that time. Are we different? Yes, I think very much so! How have we evolved from what we were to what we are and what we might become?

The Way We Were

Yes,Barbra sang it far better and more beautifully than I could ever say it.

In the July 2007 MOEC Directory,we numbered 29 member organizations, three of whom no longer exist. Gone but not forgotten are Coastal Collaborative in Newburyport, Spoke Collaborative in Norton, and Southern Berkshire Collaborative in Great Barrington. Of the Executive Directors listed in that Directory, only six will be in place this July. Thank you Joanne, Catherine, Richard, Patric, Ed and David for your long time service and commitment to us and to your collaboratives. Back then, we were a loose confederation of independent entities who were not organized regionally and whose mantra was “to stay under the radar screen.” I do not believe that that was necessarily unwise since it reflected the collective aspiration of our membership. However, the interest and vision of the MOEC Board was evolving and began to look for a greater role and recognition across the educational community. My marching orders were then, and remain today, to increase and enhance our statewide profile and expand the potential that we represent.

The Way We Are

From that vantage point in July of 2007, you and I should look back in satisfaction at the progress we have made, the challenges we have met, and the energy by which you, and we, are driven. Today we are regionally organized and driven by the reality that more and more, our services and expertise are needed both individually and collectively. We are engaged by and committed to the opportunity and potential that a new expanded role presents to us and for us.

Increasingly, elected officials and policy makers recognize us for the work we do and the contributions we make. Indeed our voice is now sought, listened to and in fact matters.

The Way We Might Become

We have spent and continue to spend our creativity and energy in the implementation of the “Next Generation of Educational Collaboratives.” The Legislature will soon enact the Collaborative bill as further endorsement and appreciation of the work you do and the potential that resides within our membership. Not to take advantage of this opportunity would be a significant opportunity lost and a disservice to our member school districts. The path we must travel to get there will be arduous and complex and fraught with many challenges and ambiguities.

Challenges that Await Us

As I reflect on the years ahead I am reminded of the importance of focus and steadfast determination. In Greek mythology, Odysseus struggled for many years to return home to Ithaca after the Trojan War. He was beset on his journey by many seemingly impossible obstacles to overcome. One of those obstacles was to resist the sweet singing and enchantment of the Sirens who wished to lure and hold Odysseus and his mates captive.

To avoid the allure of the Sirens, he filled his mates ears with beeswax and had himself lashed to the mast so that the “outside noise” would not derail his mission and/or cause him to lose focus. While I am not suggesting you turn a deaf ear to the “noise” that surrounds you, I do believe that our focus in the next few years is of critical importance. We are created and enabled by the resources of our member districts to provide support and create capacity in ways that are beneficial to them, their staff and students. In so doing, we can also partner with the Department to coordinate and implement many of those high quality cost effective programs and services for which we are so well known and appreciated. We have much work ahead. In the interim, enjoy your summer, gain some rest and relaxation and regenerate your energy for the work ahead. You have earned and deserve it.

Steve

From the Executive Director – April 2012

Stretch Run

In horse racing it’s called the “stretch run”; in education it’s “Oh my God, how can I get

everything done by the close of school.” Outsiders don’t get it. They have no clue how frantic and hectic it is to be faced with a host of tasks such as placements, grades and evaluations for both student and staff, in such a short period of time. Talk about multi-tasking!

Now that the legislation has been enacted and signed by the Governor, we prepare to deal with the many requirements and expectations contained within. Cathy Cummins and a very energetic subcommittee have identified the many tasks we are required to complete. Not surprisingly the associated questions outnumber the required tasks, and clarification will require the guidance and wisdom of legal counsel and department of education staff.

The MOEC Board will at its next meeting recommend to Secretary Reville whom it wishes to represent us on the new Collaborative Commission. This 11-member panel will analyze and proscribe the seven separate issues that have been described for its examination. I anticipate that the Commission will begin its work in May and report back its findings and recommendations 12 months later. In closing we look back over the past 10 months from a variety of perspectives. Certainly there were days in which we felt under siege and not appreciated. One quote from a prominent elected official stands out:”the system is broken.” Well, we knew the system wasn’t broken, as did our staff, constituents and colleagues in our member school districts. We have counteracted perceptions such as that with a strong and articulate voice to legislative leadership, other elected officials and policy makers. The folks from O’Neill and Associates have ably and professionally supported us in that regard. As a result our message has been continuous and articulate. We could not have been as successful without them. As you know I tend to be a ”glass is half full” person. I believe that today and presumably 12 months from today, when the Commission issues its report we will be in a better place. Yes, the reporting requirements will, at times, seem onerous, but the recognition and validation we receive will be worth the effort.

Best wishes for a successful “stretch run”!

Steve

From the Executive Director – September 2012

The Power of Words

It’s hard to believe that yet another summer has passed and a school year about to begin. The annual ritual of opening school after the summer recess seems less measured than perhaps it used to be.

In the “old days” summer was a time of respite, relaxation and rejuvenation. Now June and the end of the school year rushes headlong through July and August and into September in a blur. Nonetheless, I trust that in those intervening months you had some time to relax, read or enjoy a favorite outdoor pastime. While hot, it certainly was a glorious summer. Recently I have been reading a biography of Walter Cronkite, the noted CBS broadcaster. He once was described as the most trusted man in America. In fact it is said that when he declared in 1968 that the Vietnam War after the TET offensive would at best end in a stalemate, his words and their reception by the American people created quite a stir. Many historians argue that it caused President Johnson to decide not to run for reelection. In fact, it is said by some intimates of the President that he said upon learning of Cronkite’s assertion of the stalemate “if I have lost Cronkite I have lost the American public.” Such are the potential power of words.

While we have a platform of less magnitude from which to speak it in no way diminishes the power of our words. For us is given the privilege of using our words to nurture, promote and challenge our young people. We never know what that kind word of praise or nod of encouragement can mean in the development and self-esteem of our young people. As we begin this school year and the trials and tribulations that it will inevitably bring, make sure you take the time to visit with your students and staff to tell them what a great job they are doing and how much you appreciate their efforts.

Such acts of kindness and attention will have lasting impacts and make the challenges they face more easily overcome. They rely on you and are most fortunate to have you as their leaders. Best wishes for another successful school year and a happy and restful Labor Day Weekend!

From the Executive Director – June 2013

It’s not that I have had writer’s cramp or block but sometimes when your routine is interrupted you fail to realize how much time has elapsed. Similar to my workout schedule (not to be confused with my golf schedule), I realized recently that it has been ten months since I last wrote to you. To say that it has been a hectic and momentous year would not do service to what you have been through during that time. So with your indulgence, let’s step back for a minute and reflect on where we have been since the last September issue of Collaboratively Speaking.

At that time we were bracing for the impact of Chapter 43 that had been enacted earlier that year. Regulations would need to be developed and promulgated, collaborative agreements revised and submitted, annual reports prepared and published, and a variety of other requirements imposed. Notwithstanding the stress and anxiety associated with the completion of these tasks, you came through with flying colors. Of particular interest to me and most impressive was the body of work incorporated in your annual reports. The breadth and depth of the programs and services you provide is truly remarkable.

As I perused through the reports I could sense the dignity and esteem in which you hold your students, the quality and versatility of your staff, and the commitment and collegiality you share with and impart to your member districts. If I were to look up the definition of educational service agency, I know that I would find 26 unique and powerful representations of what that definition is designed to embody. Next, we monitored and worked optimistically with Joanne and her colleagues on the Commission on Educational Collaboratives. We were diligent but at the same time apprehensive that the work you do every day would somehow be overlooked. That apprehension, while reasonable, was not brought to fruition. We came together and were expertly guided by Susan Leddick who helped us shape our vision of the Next Generation of Educational Collaboratives.

We made our case and the Commission through its recommendations believed in us. We are grateful and appreciative of the confidence and trust that they have placed in us.

As we look ahead we are energized by the opportunities that lie ahead. We are optimistic that our vision of a regional network of collaboratives in service to our districts and at the same time, planning, coordinating and implementing, when appropriate, Departmental initiatives will one day be the norm. At that point, we can look back with great satisfaction and pride that it was you who weathered the storm and brought us to a place where our value is truly recognized and our capacity greatly enhanced. We owe each of you a debt of thanks and want to especially thank those of you who are retiring or will do so shortly. Thank you Susan Rees, Susan Cuoco, Theresa Watts, Joan Dio, Joan Schuman, Maureen Bingham, and Nancy Sullivan. May you enjoy much happiness and good health in the retirement you so richly deserve!

 

From the Executive Director – December 2013

It is amazing how quickly the school year speeds along. It seems like yesterday that final preparations had been made, staffing had been concluded, and the arrival of students and the new school year anxiously awaited. Yet, in a seeming New York minute, here we are close to half way through the school year and in the midst of the holiday season. While others are “making their lists, checking it twice, and trying to find out who’s been naughty or nice” you are documenting your successes and challenges in annual reports and meeting other obligations as required by law and regulation. Where does the time go!

At MOEC, the same kind of blurring of the months is evident. We have analyzed the recommendations of the Commission on Collaboratives, advocated for the Next Generation of Educational Collaboratives and closely monitored the progress of House #458 which is designed to respond to the recommendations of the Commission and promote the value that you provide to your districts and their students and staff. I continue to be impressed by and appreciative of the excellence of your programs and services and energized to tell your story to legislators and policy makers.

This week a number of us will represent Massachusetts as we gather at the AESA annual conference in San Antonio. The conference is always a worthwhile educational opportunity to learn and grow professionally and to share our own experiences. As with many similar educational gatherings we are reassured and to some extent, comforted to know that the challenges we face, the successes for which we strive, and the contributions we make are not unique to us but shared by our colleagues across the nation. We look forward to hearing from and sharing with them. I encourage you to plan to attend this conference next year if you are able to do so.

I recognize and acknowledge the many requirements and initiatives with which you and your districts must comply. The MOEC Board has reached out to Commissioner Chester in an effort to support our school districts and facilitate the implementation of the educator evaluation process, the district determined measures associated with it, the soon to be implemented student expulsion mandates and forensic (fingerprint) testing of staff. We are confident that educational collaboratives can play a critical and supportive role for our districts in their implementation.

Without minimizing the importance and value of these and other initiatives we must not lose sight of what is of critical value. In short, that which is of greatest value is the day-to-day engagement of you and your staff with the many vulnerable and disabled students whom you educate and foster, the programs and services you provide and the efficiencies and economies of scale you create. For that I congratulate and thank you and offer best wishes for the holiday season!