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September 19, 2013

'Innovation Schools' to be implemented at Pentucket

WEST NEWBURY — In an effort to shape its educational programs to better fit the interests and needs of its students, the Pentucket Regional School District has decided to adopt a key component of Gov. Deval Patrick’s Achievement Gap Act of 2010.

At a meeting of the Pentucket School Committee held on Tuesday, Superintendent Jeffrey Mulqueen identified the designing and planning for the implementation of Patrick’s “ Innovation Schools “ as one of his four top strategic priorities for the school year.

What Mulqueen describes as “a school within a school,” an Innovation School offers face-to-face instruction while providing room for creativity and flexibility within curriculum, staffing, scheduling, budgeting, professional development and policy making.

According to the state’s website, these schools are “in-district, charter-like public schools that employ inventive strategies and creative approaches to education while keeping school funding within districts.”

But unlike charter schools, which report directly to the state, these schools report to the superintendent and the school board and must adhere to most provisions of the teachers’ union contract.

Mulqueen said the program is in the planning stages at Pentucket and will hopefully be implemented next year. He is still researching the state protocols he needs to follow to establish the locally run program and any possible grant money available to help with its design and implementation.

According to the state’s website, $2 million in funding for Innovation School planning and implementation grants is supported by the federally sponsored Race to the Top program and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Under the plan, the district’s current curriculum would be considered “core” and the Innovation School would be like “a concentration” in a particular area that serves as “a stepping-stone to college and career readiness,” Mulqueen explained.

At the secondary level, Mulqueen plans to pilot three Innovation Schools: “Animation and Special Effects,” “Safety and Public Service” and “Athletics and Movement Science.” He worked with students last year to determine which areas of concentration to focus on in this initial year.

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