Northeast - Local Panel of Administrators: “Our Digital Transition”


In what is certainly one of the most popular segments of our digital transition events, we bring a local panel of administrators together for a wide-ranging, no-holds-barred discussion about the hottest issues in education. Invariably, our local panel is made up of some of the top minds in education. This panel is no exception, and includes Dr. Mark Benigni, Superintendent of Meriden Public Schools, Khechara Bradford, Deputy Superintendent of Learning at Providence Public School District, and Dr. Patrick McGee, Superintendent at the Woonsocket Education Department.

Dr. McGee explains one of his district’s biggest challenges, “Some of the challenges that we've faced are probably the same challenges that most districts across the country are facing, and that's student engagement and student attendance. We've had the fortune, however, of having support staff at each of our schools and at the district level, whether they be attendance, officers, guidance, counselors, social workers or school psychologists, they've been working hard to try to reach out and communicate with those students in those families who do not attend as often as we would hope that they do. But that really has been our biggest challenge. Some positives have come from this as well. We've provided one-to-one for all of our students in our district. Our goal was to provide our students across the district in grades pre-K through 12 with the device prior to the pandemic and the pandemic kind of sped that process up” On the plus side, “We've done a great job of providing professional development to our teachers and our staff around virtual and hybrid learning. We've worked very hard there and we've also worked very hard reaching out to our families and providing support to our families around navigating through Google Classroom and navigating through the various platforms that we're using in the district. So very, very proud of that work, which will certainly continue as we, you know, prepare for next year. Um, but we're in the process now of, of really, you know, looking to obviously, you know, get through this year. Our hope is to bring all our students back soon as most of our teachers and staff are vaccinated.”

Moderator LeiLani Cauthen, CEO and Publisher at the Learning Counsel News Media and Research, kept the discussion going with some hard-hitting questions. “I'm just going to tick off some of these points, massive loss to homeschooling and all alternatives in the last year for everybody. The national average is anywhere between another 3.6 and 15 percent of students just left. And then you have another issue of 35 percent of the kids that maybe are doing some virtual with you in the past year until maybe you reopened that just weren't showing up consistently. And then as you try to reopen, 20 percent don't want to come back.”

Dr. Benigni replied, “We're embracing this concept of anytime, anywhere learning and that learning occurs outside of our classroom walls. I think now we're also thinking, the structures of the day. Why do we need those types of structures? We've been running AP and ECE classes with a limited number of certified teachers, who are teaching it during the day, but also doing it for students who selected distance learning in the evening, breaking down some of the barriers where we'd only run this class at one high school, but not at the other. For us, we have two high schools. I probably should have mentioned. We have 8,500 students. We're two hours from New York, two hours from Boston, and 75 percent of our students identify as nonwhite, 77 percent received free and reduced lunch benefits. So we're a very diverse school system. And I think what we've seen is that, for some students, this distance learning model has really worked.”

The topics move quickly, and these three administrators do not disappoint. Watch the video, and you’ll get the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but. To be sure, this discussion is must-see.


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