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Sheila Harrity, 2013 NBRS Principal: Making Magic Happen–Twice

sheila harrity address nbrs audience
Photograph by Astrik Tenney @astrik_tenney

Dr. Sheila Harrity offered ceremony attendees both praise and a challenge. Her talk, “Congratulations! What’s Next?” traced how she approached the transformation of Worcester Technical High School (Worcester, MA) from a struggling school to a national example cited by President Barack Obama. Key to her success were a vigorous outreach to local businesses and community members to support construction of a new facility and at the same time, a dramatic infusion of academic rigor and opportunity through dual enrollment classes and expanded AP offerings (AP enrollment has increased 187% since she began). Worcester Tech also became a vital member of the local community, housing a full-service cafe, a bank, beauty salon, automotive repair shop, state-approved preschool, and a certified veterinary clinic, among other resources, offering low-cost services to residents and invaluable skills to students.

So when opportunity knocked in 2015 with an offer to lead the Montachusett Regional Vocational Technical School District (Fitchburg, MA), “Monty Tech,” the third largest voc school in the state, she was ready to replicate her earlier success. In short order, she marshaled business and community resources to reinvigorate the culture and revamp teaching and learning. As at Worcester, she expanded industry certification and AP offerings and created real-life learning settings, such as a student-run credit union. Through a partnership with a local college, and raising funds through grants, donations, and business sponsors, she is creating the Monty Tech Veterinary Training Center, due to open in 2017. Monty Tech teachers and students are building the 7500 square foot facility, saving the district more than $1 million in labor costs. She cautioned educators against negative thinking and urged them to seize this moment.

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