Skip to content




Having painted an optimistic and hopeful picture in our last column that there exists new leadership — or the potential for it — at the state and national level that bodes well for belated and genuine public education re-structuring, let’s consider a short menu of hopeful possibilities and immediate programs and tasks toward that end that we can commence in 2007.

The community college: Graduation rates at these two-year schools have hit new lows. We need to restructure their service delivery to re-train unskilled workers whose jobs are disappearing from the state’s declining labor market. While we grow in health, retail and service jobs, we must provide options for those adults being displaced. Adult basic education and worker training must become the focus of the community colleges.

Middlesex Community College has taken the lead in forging partnerships with local health, technology, energy and communication firms to train adults as well as prepare young people for entry-level positions.

Local high schools must partner with their local two-year college — there are 15 in the state — to revive what was once a most promising tech prep — or 2+2 — program. The concept articulates the last two years of a high-school curriculum with the two years of a community-college program providing students not bound to a four-year college program with four years of focused study and 14 years of formal education.

Schools at risk and high-poverty schools: State officials — in particular new Gov. Deval Patrick — must “capture the moment” for serious bargaining with the state teachers’ unions — MTA and AFT.

Finally, the unions have opened the door for discussion on differentiated higher pay for teachers in high-poverty areas because of the significant challenges they encounter. Heretofore, the unions stood firmly behind salary parity for all teachers regardless of assignment.

Cost of higher education: The state must approve the senate’s plan to invest $400 million over seven years in exchange for colleges holding the line on tuition increases. Families of college students are spending a higher share of their incomes for college costs than 10 years ago. There has been an increase in tuitions and fees of nearly 70 percent at state universities and four-year public colleges between 2001 and 2005. Too many students as well are leaving college with encumbering debt.

A new nation at risk: As congress prepares to debate the re-authorization of the 2001 No Child Left Behind Law, a “must read” for these lawmakers is the very credible — and radical — blueprint for education authored by a Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce. Our state had three members on the 26-member panel — David Driscoll, retiring commissioner of Education; Tom Payzant, former Boston superintendent; and Harry Spence, commissioner of the Department of Social Services.

We’ll devote an upcoming column to a capsulization of this controversial plan. In the meantime, all you need to know is that is adds a significant and bold voice to reform as the report underscores emphatically that “U.S. workers will see their standard of living drop unless major steps are taken to improve how children are educated.”

Democracy in action: Alexis de Tocqueville noted years ago that the genius of American democracy is “voluntary association — free citizens coming together to solve problems, celebrate successes and pursue common passions.”

The recent national and state elections demonstrated the power of the vote in influencing our local and federal agendas. We must come together as de Tocqueville suggested to divert our national focus and preoccupation with Iraq, North Korea, congressional scandals, the Middle East, Darfur, Iran, etc. to the future prospects, quality of life and hopes of our children.

We must rein in the legislators who continue to distance themselves from the needy by providing themselves with perks, pay raises and retirement benefits thus robbing millions of dollars for desperate and struggling human services and people.

We can’t place blame on others unless we are being responsible citizens.

“I long to accomplish a great and noble task, but it is my chief duty to accomplish small tasks as if they were great and noble.” — Helen Keller

Casey is a retired public school educator of 36 years, serving 24 of those years as an administrator in four school districts. He has served as a consultant to the Ayer and Weston school districts and as director of the Nashoba Valley Partnership for Excellence in Education.

In 1997-1998, Casey was a member of the Massachusetts Secondary Schools Administrators’ Association Blue Ribbon Panel on the needs of high-school principals under educational reform and participated in a consortium at the Lab at Brown University on restructuring high schools for the 21st century.

Join the Conversation

We invite you to use our commenting platform to engage in insightful conversations about issues in our community. We reserve the right at all times to remove any information or materials that are unlawful, threatening, abusive, libelous, defamatory, obscene, vulgar, pornographic, profane, indecent or otherwise objectionable to us, and to disclose any information necessary to satisfy the law, regulation, or government request. We might permanently block any user who abuses these conditions.