By Joan F. Simoneau, Community Reporter
Marlborough – For many years school leaders have been working hard to improve academic outcomes of students in poverty. A large delegation of local school committee members and school personnel recently attended a Summit on Poverty at Clark University in Worcester.
The focus of the meeting was “the impact of poverty on students across the commonwealth, with ‘from the field’ reports from school leaders, administrators, faculty, students and service providers; sessions on strategies that are working, partners in the process, district and legislative policies and practices that can provide support and assistance; and a call to all communities that poverty isn’t just someone else’s problem.”
Marlborough School Committee Vice President Michelle Bodin-Hettinger found the conference very enlightening.
“The primary takeaway for me was the acknowledgement that poverty is not simply an urban issue,” she said. “It is affecting communities all over the commonwealth and by coming together to share information and resources, there is a greater hope of providing students and teachers with the educational resources they need to be successful.
“In Marlborough we have 54 percent of our students qualifying for either free or reduced price lunches,” she continued. “The issues that students bring with them to school when even their basic needs are not being met at home makes it more difficult for them to learn and excel at their studies. The administrative team has participated in book studies and other forms of professional development regarding poverty and its impact on students over the past couple of years. We have ongoing plans to train staff to identify issues and to work with support services. Seeing what other communities are doing is helpful information to bring back to our community.”
Noah Berger, executive director of the Mass. Budget and Policy Center, presented an historical perspective on poverty in America and Massachusetts, along with data on the present conditions. Corrective measures and community action initiatives were introduced by many attendees. A question-and-answer session around pending legislation designed to affect schools and communities in their attempts to counteract poverty in their communities drew much interest, Bodin-Hettinger stated.