In an encore of The Business Beat, Steve Jones-D’Agostino, strategic partner of Susan Wagner PR + Best Rate of Climb, interviews Sheila Harrity, principal of Worcester Technical High School, and Susan Mailman, president of Coghlin Electrical Contractors, a private, family-owned business that is based in Worcester. They talk about changing education paradigms.
This interview aired originally on June 1, 2014. On October 1, Harrity was hired as the new superintendent of the Fitchburg-based Montachusett Regional Vocational Technical School District, with a starting date of October 27.
This March 10, Harrity received a completely unexpected e-mail. Not, it wasn’t from a concerned parent. It was from the President of the United States. Barack Obama wanted to know if he could deliver the school’s Commencement Address on June 11 at the DCU Center. Harrity responded immediately. She accepted the President’s offer with just one request. Her students needed to be the first to know, which is what happened during a school assembly 10 days later, on March 20.
In his fifth State of the Union address, this January, President Obama said, “We’re working to redesign high schools and partner them with colleges and employers that offer the real-world education and hands-on training that can lead to a job and career.” It’s why he picked Worcester Technical High, to give this year’s Commencement Address. The public school has gone from the lowest-performing school in the city -- and one of the lowest-performing vocational schools in the state -- to a 2013 U.S. Department of Education Blue Ribbon School.
Worcester Technical High opened the doors to its new $90-million, 400,000-square-foot campus in the fall of 2006, with 1,100 students. Now in its seventh year of operation, it is the largest of Worcester’s seven public high schools. Worcester Technical High has 1,400 students in 24 technical programs within four small-learning communities. The demographics are: 53% female; 47% male; 63% qualified for free or reduced lunches; and 19% special needs. The school has met Adequate Yearly Progress for "No Child Left Behind" in five out of the past six years. The students exceeded the benchmarks in English, mathematics, and every sub-group.
Last year, Harrity won the MetLife/NASSP National Principal of the Year Award for her significant contributions to student achievement. She assumed leadership of Worcester Technical High in 2006 - the same year the school moved to a new, world-class facility. This prestigious award is given to five high schools from across the country for outstanding student growth in high-poverty areas. Worcester Technical High was the only school selected from New England and the only vocational technical school selected in the country.