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Thursday, May 24, 2012

Press Release: ‘Progress Together’ Plans Its Next Move



For immediate release 5-24-12
Contact: Meghan Bouchard, 617 515-9364, meboucha@hotmail.com
or Michael Chiu, 617 501-4714, michael.a.chiu@gmail.com


More than 50 Somerville parents and other community memberscrowded into a church room Sunday to make a start toward answering an important question: What will their organization, Progress Together, work on next?

And the answer is … it’s not quite decided yet.

At the end of the meeting the group picked two broad areas for more exploration. They were strengthening parent involvement and communication, and finding ways to help the schools tailor instruction better to the needs of individual students.

The group will meet again to focus on one of these and get more specific.

Parents were excited about many ideas proposed and debated at the meeting. “This is amazing,” said Jason Behrens of Winter Hill, a preschool teacher and Somerville High graduate. “We have an opportunity to bring about real change – the city is listening. We can change how people feel about our schools.”

Probably the biggest challenge at the meeting was that the participants, debating alternative proposals in six smaller subgroups, had so much to say that it was hard to hear.

Progress Together originally formed in a hurry last fall to respond to the proposal for a new charter school. But from the start, the group planned to stay active beyond the charter battle. After the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education turned down the charter proposal, Progress Together organized a community forum and surveyed parents across the city. The survey asked parents what they liked best about the schools and what they would like to see different. The survey form was online, but Progress Together members also brought it to parents individually and in groups across the city.

When the results were tabulated, teachers were number one the most-liked list, by far. Suggestions for change covered a wide range, and Progress Together leaders divided them into six categories, which they then presented to Sunday’s “Community Congress,” held at the First Congregational Church.

Parents divided themselves into subgroups to discuss and analyze each of the six categories. Progress Together members translated for parents who spoke Spanish and Portuguese. Afterwards, they voted for their top choices. But they discovered along the way that many specific ideas didn’t fit neatly into one category, but overlapped two or even more.

Group leaders plan a follow-up meeting to sort it all out.

“It’s taking us a while, but helping our schools is not a simple task,” said Meghan Bouchard, one of the organizers. “I’m impressed with the energy and creativity that people showed on Sunday. There were enough good ideas to keep us working for a long time. We’re all eager to get started.”

For more about Progress Together, visit http://www.pt4s.org. To join the group’s mailing list, go to http://tinyurl.com/join-pt4s. Progress Together is open to anyone in the city who is interested in improving our schools.

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