'Windham United for Great Schools' movement started
By Melanie Savage - Staff Writer
Windham - posted Tue., Oct. 15, 2013
In August, when standardized test scores were revealed to have plummeted for the second year in a row, Windham teachers began an effort to mobilize parents, students, and education advocates in an effort to halt and reverse negative trends within the district. Read about initial responses in ReminderNews articles from Aug. 27 and Sept. 17 : http://www.remindernews.com/article/2013/08/26/teachers-speak-out-about-... http://www.remindernews.com/article/2013/09/16/parents-students-teachers.... But after Special Master Steven Adamowski’s contract was extended, despite the objections of many students, teachers and parents, teachers sought the assistance of their legislators. Read about Adamowski’s extension here: http://www.remindernews.com/article/2013/09/09/adamowskis-oversight-of-w....
Legislation was passed in 2011 as a temporary effort to avert a complete state takeover of the district. The legislation directed additional resources and appointed a Special Master to Windham's public schools. The turn-around plan was premised on the benefits of an education expert working collaboratively with the local board of education, teachers and the community to enact effective reforms. But until very recently, changes were being implemented without regard for local input and without consideration of the consequences to the education opportunities for all the community's children.
On Oct. 2, state Sen. Donald E. Williams, Jr. (D-29) and state Rep. Susan Johnson (D-49) attended a forum organized by the union representing the district’s teachers. “There they pledged to continue collaboration with local stakeholders and to raise their concerns with the commissioner of the State Department of Education and the Special Master assigned by the department to Windham's schools,” according to an American Federation of Teachers press release.
"Our challenge is great and we've made our position clear," said Windham High School social studies teacher and football coach Randall Prose at the forum. "Our students cannot succeed without valued input and meaningful collaboration from the entire community in reforming our schools," said Prose, president of the Windham Federation of Teachers, Local 1577. "Our elected officials are listening to us, and they are ready to take up our cause," he said.
"I was very fortunate to work in the bilingual program, and I have seen many great student successes," said Ines Rolon, a local resident who recently retired after 14 years teaching at Windham Middle School. "But there have been recent changes, and I don't know where they are leading. I truly hope our elected representatives will support the families who have children in Windham public schools so there are changes for the good, not for worse," she said.
Rolon was among more than a dozen residents who appealed to the legislators at the forum to "be champions" for quality education in Windham at the state capitol. They asked that lawmakers unite with the community and demand that parents, teachers and taxpayers have valued input on any and all future policy changes under the Special Master.
"This is what responsive and responsible representation looks like," said Melodie Peters, president of AFT Connecticut. "We applaud Senator Williams for his continuing leadership on this issue. He was there two years ago to help prevent a complete state take-over of Windham’s struggling schools. And he is here today to make sure this community has the support and collaboration needed to get reform right," she said.