GROTON -- The district's promotion of a global citizens initiative seemed well underway when members of the Groton-Dunstable Regional School Committee were briefed on a number of student field trips held this year or planned for 2015.
"We're very proud of you," beamed School Committee member John Giger upon hearing about the music department's recent trips to New York and Italy and seeing the trophies brought back by students. "You're good ambassadors for the district."
The School Committee had just finished a presentation by music director Timothy Savoy who accompanied students in the chorus and jazz and concert bands to trips near and far.
First up was a trip to New York to take part in a regional competition that the chorus and bands have participated in many times in the past. And just as in the past, won top awards against a half dozen other groups from various states in a number of different categories.
Next, Savoy introduced chamber group students who had accompanied him to Italy a few months before where among other venues, they performed at St. Anthony's Basilica for Easter and were given a special award for their performance.
Next up was assistant principal Marissa Brisson, who accompanied a number of students to China to participate in a leadership summit in Shanghai.
The idea for the trip came from a new Global Studies Committee begun at the high school last year which had learned of a company called Educational Tours, Inc. that was offering to take students from around the country to a "Shanghai leadership Summit" to be held in China.
"This represents a tremendous opportunity for our students," said high school principal Michael Mastrulo at the time.
It was also something likely looked upon with favor by new school superintendent Kristan Rodriguez who officially sat with the School Committee for the first at their meeting of June 11. It was during her interview for the job of superintendent that Rodriguez expressed support for looking at students as "global citizens."
The intention of the Shanghai leadership summit was to put students in touch with representatives of companies with a corporate conscience. From them, students learned how that conscience was being expressed in how the companies did business.
For instance, a company selling shoes might offer to give a pair away to needy countries for every pair sold to more affluent ones.
The overall aim of the summit was to inspire a global consciousness in Groton-Dunstable students who might then take the lessons learned either into companies they eventually find jobs with or those they start themselves.
Keynote speaker at the summit was former presidential candidate Jon Huntsman.
Future overseas trips planned by the high school include those to Costa Rica and various European countries.
Another future trip, tentatively approved by the School Committee at their meeting of June 11, was one to Mexico's Yucatan peninsula where students will join researchers as they study the fauna and flora in a jungle environment.
Also on the itinerary will be scuba diving off the coast and exploring ancient Mayan ruins.
Presented by biology teacher Heather Salemme, the proposed trip would take place over several weeks in July and August of 2015 and involve between 8 and 16 students.
Sponsored by Operation Wallacea, a network of academics from European and North American universities that designs and implements biodiversity and conservation management research programs, the trip will cost each student up to $3,000 to participate.
Salemme assured committee members that students would be safe while in the Mexican back country with comprehensive insurance provided by the sponsor and included in the cost of the package.
Students participating in the trip will observe and help to a limited extent researchers in their work.
Impressed with the itinerary, committee members voted to grant preliminary approval to the effort giving the green light for trip planning to begin.
Also at their June 11 meeting, committee members were informed by assistant superintendent Kerry Clery that the district had completed its participation in the first round of testing involved in the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC).
PARCC is a multi-state initiative concentrating on measuring student progress in mathematics and English Language Arts as they relate to college and career readiness.
In recently concluded testing that began with third graders, students at Florence Roche, the Middle School, and High School were tested using PARCC standards rather than the MCAS testing that has predominated in Massachusetts in the years since passage of Education Reform.
The goal of the new testing is to "assess students' ability to think critically and apply knowledge, as opposed to assessing the memorization of facts" which was MCAS' "greatest shortcoming" as judged in a handout provided by Clery at a meeting held on the subject late last year.
Clery reported that students performed their tests on computers with little difficulty and asked committee members to approve continuance of PARCC testing instead of MCAS for grades between 3 and 8 in 2015.
The committee voted to grant the approval.