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Secretary of Education makes impromptu visit to Minnechaug

Date: 12/5/2013

By Chris Maza

WILBRAHAM – Making an impromptu visit, Secretary of Education Matthew Malone met with Hampden-Wilbraham Regional School District Administrators on Nov. 26, offering praise for the new Minnechaug Regional High School building and the staff working within its walls.

Malone made the stop in Wilbraham prior to the announcement that University of Massachusetts had chosen Tower Square for its Springfield satellite location, speaking with Superintendent M. Martin O’Shea, Hampden-Wilbraham School Committee Chair Peter Salerno and Minnechaug Principal Stephen Hale before touring the new high school.

He explained he has been touring schools throughout the Commonwealth at the behest of Gov. Deval Patrick in an effort to share ideas not only between his office and school districts, but between the districts themselves.

“What the governor is really serious about is the replicating of practices to get at achievement results,” Malone said.

Salerno said getting face time with Malone was crucial for strengthening the relationship between the district and the state.

“I think we look at ourselves as partners with the state in the education of our kids,” he said. “Locally, we benefit from experiences throughout the state, so anytime we have the opportunity to bring our positions or our views forward, it benefits all of us. He’s going to take away an image of our district that is very positive and very powerful and that will pay dividends for us in the years to come.”

O’Shea concurred, calling the brief meeting a “learning experience for both parties.”

“We were able to learn about developments at the state level and he was able to learn some very interesting things about this district,” he said. “We also took the opportunity to advocate for our local concerns.”

Malone said he was particularly impressed with the way Minnechaug staff was able to blend new technologies and contemporary learning tools with classic teaching methods.

“They never lost their comprehensive, traditional values, but they are allowing for new ideas and innovation to help them shape what the future of the school looks like,” he said.

The new building, which O’Shea told him he believed was the most cost-effective Massachusetts School Building Authority new construction project in the state, played a big role in the positive energy in the building, Malone added.

“The building encourages a sense or pride and ownership, which are really cool things,” he said. “It’s good to be a student here and these kids are excited.”

Malone also met with students working in computer and robotics labs and touted his office’s “Go Public” campaign, which encourages Massachusetts high school students to enroll in state colleges and universities.

“It was great to see him interacting with the students,” Hale said. “I think the kids appreciated having that real-life experience with a statewide political figure. He was very genuine, really down to earth.”

He also had the opportunity to sit down with students taking advantage of the school’s internship program; something he said was crucial to 21st century learning as well as the future of certain industries.

“We know when kids get connected, they do better in school,” he said. “It opens up doors and helps us close gaps across a lifespan and helps generate economic growth.”

He added that Minnechaug’s internship program, which boasts approximately 100 students, was the largest he had seen.