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Front Page News

May 22, 2013


Pittsfield High Presents At National Showcase

Submitted By Derek Hamilton, Site Council Co-Chair

Pittsfield Site Council.jpg

The Community Engagement Team visited Washington D.C. prior to its presentation at the Breaking Ranks School Showcase in National Harbor, M.D. Presenters (left to right) Rebekah Adams, Alexandra Briggs, Elizabeth Cyr, Noah Manteau and Bob Bickford are pictured in front of the White House.


At the recent Breaking Ranks School Showcase in National Harbor, Maryland, the presentation from students, teachers, and administrators from Pittsfield Middle High School (PMHS) earned the highest rating. The annual showcase was hosted by the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) and the Center for Secondary School Redesign (CSSR).  PMHS was one of eighteen middle and high schools invited from across the country to share innovative strategies that improve student performance.


For the past four years, PMHS has undergone a comprehensive redesign resulting in higher student engagement and increased test scores. PMHS hosted an engaging, ninety-minute workshop that told the story behind the school’s redesign efforts and recent success.  The presentation was highlighted by a video on student-centered learning and interactive breakout sessions on best practices.  Participants had the opportunity to learn information first hand from students who articulately described the role of the Site Council and Advisory Program.


Seniors Rebekah Adams and Elizabeth Cyr shared their experiences as representatives of the Site Council, the student-majority governing body of the school.  They explained how Site Council has raised student interest in school groups and improved climate and culture. Adams noted, “With student representation on groups typically made up of staff, students not only have a place at the table but a voice that is respected.” 


Junior Max Tuttle and freshman Noah Manteau presented on the Advisory Program, which has strengthened relationships among students and staff.  In advisory, with the guidance of an advisor, students develop professional portfolios to explore college and career interests.  Tuttle, the student co-chair of the Site Council, remarked, “The advisory program connects students with an adult to help them develop pathways for success in high school and beyond.”


The workshop also featured presentations from PMHS principal Bob Bickford and teachers Alexandra Briggs and Derek Hamilton on community engagement, authentic assessment, and common planning time.  The workshop received high praise from participants and tied with two other schools as the highest rated presentation at the showcase.  


All of the presenters are members of the Community Engagement committee, a subcommittee of the Site Council.  Over the past three years the Site Council has evolved as the decision-making body of the school and has expanded its focus to informing the greater community of its work.  Since last spring the group has been sharing presentations on the school’s redesign efforts, best practices, and recent achievements for a wide range of audiences.


The original audience included several local organizations such as the School Board, Rotary Club, and Pittsfield Listens hosted by Pittsfield Youth Workshop.  As PMHS gained notoriety for its innovative practices the presentations expanded to the Investing in Innovation (i3) Network PAR Board, representatives of the Carnegie Institute, and a regional workshop at Noble High School in Maine.   


The Breaking Ranks School Showcase gave PMHS the opportunity to share its work on a national level. In an interview on School Tube, Tuttle said, “It’s awesome to be able to come to Washington and present. It’s definitely on a different stage and to be representing such a small school, in such a big arena, it’s an honor.”


Since its return, the Community Engagement committee has continued sharing its presentation in the local area. In April, the group presented to the Women of Rotary and is booking other organizations for next fall.  This past week PMHS received an invitation from the NASSP and CSSR to return to the Breaking Ranks School Showcase to present in 2014.  PMHS will be one of only four schools returning to the conference which will be held in Dallas, Texas.


“The opportunity to share our work with the local community has created a stronger understanding of the work at PMHS and presenting it nationally has been a tremendous experience,” said Principal Bob Bickford.  “The most frequent comment we have heard from audiences is how effective and professional the student presenters are, which is a direct result of the hard work of the faculty and staff at PMHS.  We all have a clear focus on student centered learning.”





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