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Review ordered at Boston’s Madison Park High School

Students outside Madison Park Technical High School is Roxbury at the start of the 2012 school year. City educators say few of the school’s 1,100 students participated last year in an internship or vocational opportunity.

John Blanding/Globe Staff/File

Students outside Madison Park Technical High School is Roxbury at the start of the 2012 school year. City educators say few of the school’s 1,100 students participated last year in an internship or vocational opportunity.

City and school officials said Friday that they are launching an intervention to improve long-struggling Madison Park Technical Vocational High School, a move that could mean that some teachers will be involuntarily transferred and that some administrators might be replaced.

John McDonough, the interim schools superintendent, and Boston Teachers Union president Richard Stutman delivered the news to staff during an afternoon meeting at the Roxbury school.

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McDonough said he made the decision to take the step, which will include a broad review of the school, after months of observation.

“We collectively have not achieved and are far from achieving a culture that is singularly driven by student success,” McDonough said in a telephone interview.

He acknowledged the stress the review may place on educators. An intervention team will observe lessons, submit teacher reviews, and ultimately provide the superintendent with a report detailing which staff members are suited to stay and which should be removed.

“That’s a hard message to deliver and a hard message to receive,” he said.

Stutman said he felt it was too early for teachers to have fully processed the plan, but that most were “pleased to be able to cooperate with the superintendent.”

“We all anticipated something might happen,” Stutman said. “We heard an explanation today, but it is premature to worry about everyone’s concerns.”

The intervention is intended to ensure that the school’s Innovation Plan, approved by the Boston School Committee in June 2012, is implemented “with fidelity,” the School Department said.

Since the plan was approved, the system has invested more than $1 million in technology, textbooks, and technical-vocational materials, the department said. But the school has not made nearly enough progress, including continuing low attendance and the fact that only 30 of the school’s 1,100 students participated last year in an internship or cooperative career or vocational opportunity, the department said.

The stakes for turning around Madison Park are high, officials say. It is part of a fledgling program that allows students to enroll in nearby Roxbury Community College. The initiative will ultimately let students earn a high school diploma, an associate’s degree, and technical certification.

“We are continuing to fail students,” McDonough said. “But Madison has the potential to be a premier vocational school, if we make it one.”

Under the intervention, the school system will appoint three persons to a seven-
member board, the union will appoint three, and both sides will jointly decide on a seventh member.

The team will study reasons for underperformance and present a plan for improvement, the department said. Analysis will take up to four months, said McDonough.

“What I’m looking to do is deliberately build a foundation we can build upon next semester,” he said. “Next school year we will reset and establish what should be in place. It will be a year of formation that anchors us to our goals.”

The city’s only vocational school, Madison Park has been plagued for years with low standardized test scores and low graduation rates. The school, which educates about 1,100 students, has continued to struggle even after receiving extra resources and extending the school day.

Last summer, parents, alumni, and community activists urged the city to halt what they called a “downward spiral” at Madison Park and to address issues, including building problems.

“It’s time for action,” Mayor Martin J. Walsh said in a prepared statement. “There have been promises made to these students, but not enough progress. These students have tremendous potential, and they need to see real changes.”

McDonough agreed that the focus must be on students. “This is not about me, the administration, or individual teachers,” he said. “It’s about students. I am only looking for people who can commit to this.”

Jacqueline Tempera can be reached at jacqueline.tempera@globe.com; Martin Finucane at martin.finucane@globe.com.
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