Voc-tech woes continue at Boston’s Madison Park
Leadership turnover at troubled school is the one constant
AMIDST ALL THE TURMOIL and angst that has turned the world as we know it upside down, we long for signs of normal life, some sort of consistency that can be counted on.
Look no further than Boston’s troubled Madison Park Technical Vocational High School, where a global pandemic has done nothing to upset the drumbeat of dysfunction that has seen school leaders come and go at a dizzying pace. Today’s Globe reports that the school will be launching its eighth search for a new headmaster in eight years.
The current school leader, Brett Dickens, is being yanked from her position and the head of the neighboring O’Bryant School of Mathematics and Science, one of the city’s three exam schools, will temporarily be in charge. The school’s executive director, Kevin McCaskill, is also being pulled and assigned to a job at the school department headquarters.
The moves come after years of tumult at the top at Madison Park, which has seen enrollment numbers sag and has a graduation rate of 68 percent.
The problems at Madison Park have taken place while a number of voc-tech schools across the state have emerged as high-achieving training grounds, successfully launching kids into skilled trades as well as four-year colleges.
Worcester Technical High School’s success drew President Obama as its commencement speaker in 2014. Meanwhile, the controversy that dogged Massachusetts voc-tech schools as a whole has not been their performance struggles, but their selective admission standards, which critics say are locking out some of those who would benefit most from their mix of traditional academics and hands-on learning.
The success of the state’s voc-tech schools has put an even bigger spotlight on the problems at Madison Park and Boston’s failure to get its vocational school on track for the thousands of city youth who would gain from a quality program there.The Globe reports that the changes at Madison Park are part of a set of leadership appointments made by new Superintendent Brenda Cassellius in her effort to boost academic performance, especially low-performing high schools. The story reported a few other interesting developments, including the return of one-time Boston principal Andrew Bott to be headmaster of Brighton High School. Bott, who led a much-acclaimed turnaround of the Orchard Gardens K-8 School in Roxbury before leaving to serve as superintendent of the Brookline schools, has the sort of track record that should inspire confidence in Cassellius’s moves.
If she can finally bring stable, high-quality leadership to Madison Park, maybe the latest round of changes there will mark the last chapter in its long slide and a new, more promising era can actually begin.