WE2BA introduces new model for business and school partnership

WPS Superintendent Stefan Czaporowski and English supervisor Mary Keane. (Photo by Amy Porter)

WESTFIELD – Westfield Public Schools Supervisor of English Mary Keane introduced a new concept for the “Adopt a Classroom” program to district and business officials gathered at the Westfield Education 2 Business Alliance (WE2BA) meeting at Mestek’s Reed Institute on Wednesday morning.
Keane said she wanted to provide opportunities for businesses interested in being involved in the schools in ways that are not monetary. Getting together with Jamie Naughton of Westfield Gas & Electric, Danisha Serrano of the Westfield High School Career Center and Susan Leggett of Westfield State University, they came up with a time-limited focused project that would benefit all.
The project, which would pilot in Westfield High School, would link a business with a WHS teacher to teach real world business opportunities and workforce development to students. Keane stressed that she would serve as a liaison between the business leader and teacher, to make sure the needs of all the parties are met.
The five-day commitment would involve one day of co-planning the instruction, to clarify expectations and outcomes. Day two would involve direct teaching to the students on the topic, such as interview skills, how to deal with co-workers talking negatively about you, should I get a neck tattoo, should I answer a text message in a meeting, and the impact of social media on work opportunities.
Day three would be for student research on the topic that was introduced, after which students would be expected to draw on their research and bring examples back to the classroom. Day four would be practice for students for the Socratic Seminar in Day five. Keane explained that in a Socratic Seminar, students arrange chairs in a circle around the business leader and the student on point. The students in the circle would also have a role, such as in an interview practice, assessing eye contact and body language, and would provide feedback.

District and business leaders brainstorm at the WE2BA meeting. (Photo by Amy Porter)

Keane said as business owners, they have a variety of employees with a variety of needs. She said the exercise might help them consider their employees through the lens of a teacher.
The feedback from the businesses at the meeting was positive, saying they liked the structure, support and focus of the project. They also could see it helping new employees with presentation skills.
“Why you’re here needs to be part of the project, to make it meaningful,” Keane said, adding from the students’ standpoints, their motivation would be how to get a job. “It has to be meaningful to all the stakeholders,” she said.
“Sometimes, what some of our kids need is a different voice,” said Chris Rogers, WPS administrator of student services. “Sometimes, just bringing someone in with a different perspective can make a huge impact with the kids,” he added.
“I think the possibilities here are endless,” said WPS Superintendent Stefan Czaporowski. Greater Westfield Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Kate Phelon talked about how to get more business involved. Keane said any businesses interested in participating could contact her at [email protected]

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