As I drove by the new East Providence High School construction site the other day, I was in awe of the magnificence of this building. More importantly, the building is only costing me, and the average East Providence taxpayer, the equivalent of two pizzas per month (a selling point when this project was originally presented to residents). Still, it got me wondering what the future might look like once this building opens. I wondered if our expectations might exceed the results.
Will the current #37 statewide ranking for the high school improve? Will we still graduate 88% of our students at a 16% proficiency level in math and 42% with proficiency in reading. We all understand that the new school will have all the modern-day bells and whistles, but will we expect too much from all the new technology integration? Seems to me, it’s still going to take the most up-to-date teaching methods in order to utilize this building to its fullest potential. I pass no judgement on teachers, their unions or the district’s management but you’ve got to wonder what changes parents will see once the new high school opens. If we build in all this technology, will the staff know how to use it? I’ve witnessed some teachers really struggle with Google Classroom and other computer-based programs since distance learning became a daily reality. Has the district used some of this year’s professional days to upgrade proficiency in this area? What educator enrichment programs are planned for all those lucky enough to be chosen to teach in this new facility?
I respectfully say all this because I come from the retail world. When we spend millions on a new location, we bring in the best people from our system to work alongside the new employees. We pledge to always put our best foot forward. If a restaurant has mediocre service and food that is just OK, will a $2 million dollar remodel change the taste of the food or improve the service? Of course not. So, does the district fill this new school with the same staff or will they pick the best of the best from the entire system, those who can bring the new school to its full potential.
I would ask every parent in the city to take 45 minutes of their time, go to YouTube and look up John Stossel’s ‘Stupid in America’. This aired on ABC over 10 years ago, but you’ll see things haven’t changed much in those 10 years. In fact, you’ll see a case study where a district built a state-of-the-art high school, but the student results didn’t change one bit. Conversely, a charter school in the same district excelled, despite students having to erect cafeteria tables to eat lunch and then break them down to take gym. It’s not the building folks…it’s what goes on inside.
In short, will my two pizzas just have cheese topping, or will I get all the toppings for the same price?
East Providence, RI