Minuteman High School in Lexington Receives $50,000 grant from MA Dept. of Elementary and Secondary Education to Study Changing the Composition of Its School District
By Judy Bass
Minuteman Regional Vocational Technical School District [MRVTSD] in Lexington has received a grant of $50,000 from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) to study the composition of its 16-town school district and examine the feasibility of restructuring it to ensure its viability well into the 21st Century.
Adopting a Regional Agreement on June 17, 1970, Minuteman has been operating for 42 years. The District presently includes the towns of Acton, Arlington, Belmont, Bolton, Boxborough, Carlisle, Concord, Dover, Lancaster, Lexington, Lincoln, Needham, Stow, Sudbury, Wayland, and Weston. In addition, Minuteman’s student body encompasses many young men and women from out-of district communities.
Several key factors have occasioned this move towards possibly revamping the MRVTSD. Among them are the progressive deterioration of the aging Minuteman school building and the stalled discussion among the 16 MRVTSD towns on how to devise a formula for urgently needed capital improvements. Non-member towns cannot be charged a capital assessment by state law, despite the substantial number of non-MRVTSD students attending the school.
Also, several of the member towns in the MRVTSD send a very small number of students to Minuteman and are therefore questioning the financial and legal aspects of remaining in the district under the current regional agreement.
What is not at issue is the excellence of the education provided at Minuteman and the success of its students, plus the status of the school as a unique and esteemed resource for the whole region.
For example: In 2010, 73 percent of Minuteman’s students went directly to college after graduation. Minuteman alumni excel at some of the most prestigious and competitive colleges in America, such as MIT, Brown University and Tufts University.
For the Class of 2013, 98 percent passed the tenth-grade English Language Arts MCAS as first-time test takers. Minuteman students have the highest SAT Scores in Reading and Writing of any Career and Technical High School in the region.
Minuteman provides educational programs for adult learners through the Minuteman Technical Institute, which offers 20 career majors in thriving 21st Century professions, and Science Technology Engineering & Math (STEM) Programs for seventh and eighth-graders at five Middle Schools in the regional district.
The DESE grant represents “an opportunity to think outside the box,” according to Minuteman Superintendent Edward A. Bouquillon, PhD.
“We believe restructuring [the MRVTSD] could have a significant positive impact in serving parents, students and the regional workforce itself,” notes Superintendent Bouquillon. "Our school is a significant regional partner in providing students ready for college, ready for work, and retraining existing workers to meet the ever-changing demands of a global workplace. We are not the vocational school people may have imagined from the 70’s.”
To realize a restructured district, a Regional Agreement Amendment Subcommittee was formed by School Committee vote on Feb. 4. Its members will include members of the Minuteman School Committee, along with municipal representatives from within and from outside the MRVTSD. Non-district cities and towns have also been invited to take part in the discussions, with no commitment to join the region, simply a willingness to explore creative options that will serve students most effectively.
The input and involvement of non-district cities and towns is absolutely vital to the success of this re-evaluation. For a quarter-century, communities such as Cambridge, Watertown, Waltham, Newton, and Medford have played an integral role in Minuteman’s development into the remarkable school it is today. The grant encouraged the
district to reach out to other communities not currently a member of any regional career and technical school district such as Brookline and Wellesley.
Dr. Bouquillon notes, “Our hope is to have their feedback and participation as we prepare to take this major step in moving Minuteman forward.”
Minuteman’s process for restructuring the regional career and technical school district includes working in concert with cities and towns that currently maintain MGL “Chapter 74” programs in their own school systems. There may be attractive proposals that use existing lab and shop spaces effectively and expand options for students while existing vocational programs are strengthened in a cost-effective process. All parties involved in this reassessment share the goal of finding a cost effective solution.
Our intention is to examine all options, create a fresh way to service the educational needs of students in the area, and to arrive at mutually beneficial amendments to Minuteman's governing agreement documents. Participating in the Regional Agreement Amendment Subcommittee guarantees the participants an opportunity to be involved in developing a mutually beneficial proposed new agreement, but does not commit communities or districts to any other action.
The first meeting of the Subcommittee is scheduled for Monday, Feb. 25, in the Paul Revere Room at 7 p.m. at Minuteman High School, 758 Marrett Road in Lexington. Two meetings a month are anticipated through May.
A website and listserv will be created to keep all interested parties informed in a timely fashion.
Another key participant in this initiative is the Massachusetts Association of Regional Schools (MARS), which would serve as consultant to the implementation of this Regionalization Grant. Experienced at looking at regional analysis, MARS will facilitate the grant’s implementation and be instrumental in redefining the very concept of “membership” in the MRVTSD.
This DESE grant represents a crucial and far-reaching first step in determining the future of Minuteman High School. It is the firm intention of those who represent the school in this process to make sure that Minuteman remains at the forefront of career and technical education in Massachusetts for generations to come.