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New chapter begins at Dean Technical High School

Date: 8/3/2011

Aug. 3, 2011

By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

HOLYOKE — Students, parents and staff were streaming into Dean Technical High School on July 28 during the school’s open house where school officials were explaining the new educational programs and emphasis.

On July 13, the Holyoke School Committee voted to approve a contract for educational services with the Northampton-based Collaborative for Educational Services to manage the high school that was deemed a Level Four school by state educational officials.

Linda Rex, the school’s interim principal, explained even though the Collaborative for Educational Services is managing the school, the School Department is still responsible for student performance.

William Diehl, the deputy executive director of the Collaborative for Educational Services, added the teachers are still public employees. The agreement gives the Collaborative an amount of freedom in adjusting school programs and schedules.

Diehl said the news about the school caused some people to wonder if it would reopen this year. He added the goal is to make Dean a “school of choice.”

A technical education has become “invaluable” in today’s workforce, he added.

The open house was an effort to attract new students.

Diehl said that when state education officials order a “re-start” to a public school, often times a for-profit company is called in to manage the school. Part of that process is termination of staff and teachers. The Collaborative is a non-profit organization that works with existing teachers and part of its plan includes increased professional development classes for the staff, he explained.

There will also be initiatives for teachers for improvement in student performance, he added.

Rex said Dean will have a longer school day that will incorporate an additional 40 minute period that could be used for regular class times, academic interventions, clubs or other activities.

Rex noted that Dean students still have to pass the Massachusetts Academic Assessment System (MCAS) like all other Bay State students. She said Dean students have exhibited improvement in MCAS scores, but must show more growth this year.

Diehl explained the traditional technical/vocational education model has been to put students in academic classes one week followed by vocational classes the next. Part of the change at Dean will be to emphasize the academic classes during the ninth and tenth grades and the vocational education during the 11th and 12th grades.

For many years, the conventional wisdom has been that a four-year college degree could increase a person’s earning potential. While Diehl is an advocate of college, he said new studies have indicated a technical education can produce the same level of earning and life satisfaction — and sometimes better — than a college degree.

“There are different pathways for different students,” he added.

Another difference at Dean will be a change in how academic classes are taught with a greater emphasis on projects rather than traditional lectures, Diehl said.

Rex said that Dean students have proven themselves capable. The school came in second last year in a statewide competition for technical and vocational schools, she added.

With the construction of the High Speed Green Computing Center in Holyoke and the promise of other businesses being attracted to the city, both Rex and Diehl see great future for Dean and its students. Rex said that CISC Systems — one of the partners in the computing center — and school officials have spoken about internships for Dean’s students.

“We really see Dean as an integral part [of the new technology coming to the city],” Diehl said.

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