Why Grafton High is on warning status

Text of the NEASC letter on Grafton High’s status:

April 22, 2008
James F. Pignataro
Principal
Grafton Memorial Senior High School
24 Providence Road
Grafton, MA 01519

Dear Mr. Pignataro:
The Commission on Public Secondary Schools, at its March 30-31, 2008 meeting, reviewed the school’s Report of Substantive Change, the school’s Pre-Self-Study Report, the information collected as a result of a Commission-Directed visit to Grafton Memorial Senior High School.
The Commission continued the school’s accreditation, but placed the school on warning for concerns regarding its adherence to the Commission’s Standards for Accreditation on Curriculum, Instruction, and Community Resources for Learning.

The concerns prompting the warning status include:

Curriculum
– the inability to ensure access for all students to all of the elements of the
curriculum, such as art and chemistry, to which they are entitled

– the inability of lab facilities to support and enhance the curriculum due in part to the use of what are basically general purpose classrooms serving as science labs

– the lack of space sufficient to effectively deliver the curriculum in the foods and nutrition and creative crafts/quilting/clothing classes

– the use of an area originally designed as a small engine repair classroom as a rudimentary art classroom that suffers greatly from noise infiltration due to its proximity to the cafeteria and as a main distribution point for ducts that provide HVAC for the building.

– the general lack of spaces that support the delivery of the art curriculum

– the lack of appropriate learning areas to sufficiently support the delivery of the physical education curriculum

– the virtually 100% room utilization that limits the school’s master scheduling process, deprives students of the equitable opportunity to practice and achieve the school’s academic expectations as stated in the mission, and stifles curricular innovation

Instruction
– the failure to provide sufficient and adequately equipped science labs impeding the inclusion of the requisite level of necessary and appropriate laboratory activities as a feature of science instruction

– the lack of sufficient computer stations in the library to accommodate whole class activities

– the failure to provide adequate space for storage of, and adequate access to, foreign language textbooks

– the gradual but ultimate loss of the language lab as a tool for supporting and differentiating instruction, and the correlative overall loss of access to technology as an instructional tool due to the conversion of the old lab into a TV studio

– the lack of space sufficient to effectively support instruction in the foods and nutrition and creative crafts/quilting/clothing classes

– the failure to provide sufficient space to adequately support instructional practice within the area reclaimed for use as an additional art classroom

– the lack of access to computer labs for whole class use to support the integration of technology as a tool for teaching and learning

– the lack of sufficient spaces to accommodate and enhance the instruction of students with special needs

Community Resources for Learning
– the inability of the facility to accommodate current enrollment needs and the projected significant increases in enrollments – the practice of regularly re-allocating spaces to meet chronic, emerging needs butwith the effect of eventually relegating some programs and services to the use of substandard areas, such as the National Honor Society, speech/language pathology, the school psychologist, and the school resources officer

– the general lack of spaces for xerographic services that are easily available to the faculty resulting in the expropriation of spaces originally dedicated to other purposes, such as the science workroom, the teachers’ room, and the library/media center

– the chronically crowded conditions in the corridors during student passing, particularly where the old and new wings of the building meet, necessitating the use of an outdoor walkway that presents security and health risks
– the lack of work and storage space for the overly large number of traveling
teachers the short-term remedy for which necessitated the loss of a teaching station used as the locale for the Virtual High School program and as a music lab
– the lack of sufficient space for the nurse, including the current use of cramped quarters as well as the lack of a dedicated space to conduct confidential conversations
– the use of substandard space to serve as the meeting place for the school’s older age (18-22) students
– the cramped quarters in the guidance area, including the loss of space for
conducting small group meetings, preventing guidance personnel from effectively delivering expected guidance services to parents and students

– the chronic roof leaks throughout the building, including in the manufacturing shop, the gymnasium, and in the area housing the school’s data processing equipment

– the lack of sufficient electrical service in the library/media center to support the desired level of technology

– the re-allocation of some areas within the library/media for other purposes due to facility shortcomings, such as for use as a Virtual High School access point, a temporary office for the athletic director, and as a teacher work area

– the difficulty in the library/media center in accommodating the increased level of requests for whole class visits by teachers

– the use of music practice rooms for music department storage due to the
conversion of the original storage area for use as a small instrumental area and for a music theory class

– the lack of spaces for teacher prep rooms/offices resulting in the use of a single area as a workroom, an eating area, and a xerographic services center

– the erratic operation of the exhaust hood in the chemistry lab and the use of temporary eyewash stations in some science classrooms

The Commission requests that school officials submit another Special Progress Report by November 1, 2008 describing action taken to complete the highlighted recommendations which are listed below:

– provide the Commission with a progress report on the school’s response to the Massachusetts School Building Authority’s (MSBA) designation of the school as being eligible to move into the feasibility study phase of the MSBA funding process

– provide the plan, including any completed educational specifications and planning documents, and a timeline for the school’s plan to remedy the facility shortcomings, including any short-term remedies adopted to mitigate those shortcomings

Although the Commission has concerns about some aspects of the school, it does wish to commend the school faculty’s efforts, including the creativity of teachers and the redoubling of their efforts to maintain the viability of the school’s curriculum and the breadth of instruction practices to overcome the facility’s shortcomings. Specifically, the Commission further wishes
to commend:

– the exceptional efforts of the entire professional and support staff, as regards lesson planning and instructional practices, focused on overcoming the burdens of an overcrowded facility

– the creative conversion of spaces to meet increasing enrollment demands in art
– the creation, by the re-allocation to student use, of an additional space in the cafeteria to mitigate overcrowding
– the updating of procedures for chemical storage and for the handling of hazardous materials to ensure the school’s procedures are up to code

– the upgrading of electrical service in the physics lab

– the numerous short-term re-allocations of spaces to accommodate emerging needs in support programs

– the consistently high level of day-to-day maintenance and cleanliness of the facility despite its significant shortcomings

– the successful outreach to local industry to supplement the school’s level of available computer technology

– the replacement of student lockers throughout the building

The school’s warning status will be reviewed when the Commission considers the Special Progress Report. Consistent with the Commission’s follow-up procedures, the Special Progress Report should be signed by the principal and chair of the Follow-Up Committee and sent to the Commission office in duplicate by certified mail, return receipt requested.

Sincerely,
Pamela Gray-Bennett
PGB/mv
cc: Joseph F. Connors, Superintendent, Grafton Public Schools
Donna Stock, Chairperson, Grafton School Committee
Thomas R. Moore, Chair, Commission on Public Secondary Schools

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