Superintendent Mark Benigni is a beacon of good news, and his district, Meriden Public Schools, is a great district to watch if you are a fan of successful digital transitions, and it is one of only six districts in America to obtain the EduJedi Knight level in the EduJedi Leadership Society.

According to Benigni, “Game-based learning really has opened up so many opportunities to our students and virtual and augmented reality really has put the world at the fingertips of our students. So for us, the guiding principle, regardless of socioeconomic status or prior learning experiences, is that all students must be able to access digital resources to expand their world. Our core values are, One, we all learn differently. Two, voice and choice matter for our students and our staff. Three, learning spaces need to be flexible. And Four, we must embrace anytime, anywhere learning.

“There were two years of challenges. There were two years of unique and different opportunities, but there was not two years of lost learning. For us, there were months where the governor shut us down and we were all home on remote learning. As soon as that was over, we offered two options. We offered in-person learning and we offered distance learning, and we wanted to make sure that students and families had that choice. So, two-thirds of our students and families chose in-person learning and another third chose a distance or remote option. We also want to make sure, even at the highest levels, that those who chose a remote option will still get a very rigorous program. Uh, these were some of the advanced placement courses that we offered. We offered after school AP and ECE classes. And we let our in-person and our distance learners choose those options and opportunities.

“And for us, it's always been critically important. If you want to raise up a district, you need to get students to take the highest-level classes you offer. So, one of our goals every year is to increase our advanced placement and our early college experience course enrollments. And you'll see some of the progress we've made, although there is still work to do. And we're partnering with Mass Insight through a Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation grant, to continue to look at how do we get more and more students, especially students who are more reflective of our student population, into those courses.

“So what are some of the lessons we learned through the pandemic? If you work together as a team, you focus on the positives, and you are committed to collaboration and putting your students first, only good things can happen. Devices, hotspots, single-sign-on, those aren't luxuries. There are ways that you can successfully have students in class, in front of you and some online at home. It's not easy, but it's doable. Our teachers created exemplary practices for including remote learners in their daily instruction, and I thank them for their efforts. We also learned through the pandemic that more choice and anywhere, anytime learning is critically important to our staff, and we should embrace them in their professional development, and the ability for them to do it at home. And also, to support the ability for our staff to be more, and to give them more choice and selection in their learning as well.”

This is just a small part of the wisdom that Benigni shared. If you like to hear good ideas that you can use in your own school and /or district, you’ll love this presentation. Mark Benigni is a genuine treasure, and his fun and upbeat presentation is a treat to watch, and is absolutely filled with value for you, your staff and learners at home.