Burlington, Winooski Schools Partner for Education

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Vermont’s political leaders visited Burlington High School Monday to highlight a new initiative between Burlington and Winooski. The state’s two most diverse school districts are working together to remodel and rethink their education systems, and they’re getting a little help from civic leaders.

The schools have received a $4 million grant from the Nellie Mae Foundation to pay for a three-year effort called Partnership for Change.

Lindsey Cox, the project manager for the local initiative, said the goal is to acknowledge that learning doesn’t just happen between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. in the classroom. She said she wants to help students make the connection between what they learn and what they might do as adults.

"We are looking to remodel various aspects in order to provide more student-centered learning and a better future for the students to really engage in being global citizens and a part of this 21st century world," Cox said, sitting in the auditorium at Burlington High as the school band warmed up for a kick-off event attended by Vermont’s top political brass.

Since January, community leaders have held neighborhood meetings to ask for feedback about what’s needed in school, identifying those educational elements that prepare students for the work force. At the top of the list: community-based partnerships.

This week, Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger is offering one of those partnerships, moving his corner office to Burlington High to connect students with city government – to show them how it works and how it sometimes doesn’t work.

On Monday morning, Weinberger lugged a backpack carrying a stack of binders as he and his staff settled into their new office. The mayor said he can’t think of a better way to spend his week.

"If we are going to be one of the states that invests the most in the future of its children let’s make sure we’re getting the most out of every dollar and that we’re seeing results," Weinberger said. "That’s what this effort is about."

Organizers said many schools still cater to an outdated view of the economy. They said businesses are looking for more innovative thinkers. Students agree.

"I think the biggest challenge we face is finding ways to hook students in to resources that are relevant to their personal interests," said Emma Galvin, a senior at Burlington High. Galvin takes five traditional classes, and she’s also doing an internship at the University of Vermont studying education policy.

Galvin said the experience has paid off. "This has been a wonderful experience for my senior year, but that’s not what my peers might be interested in," she said. "I think it doesn’t necessarily have to be expensive because we already have the resources in our community."

The Partnership for Change says good jobs and social mobility are linked to higher education, so the organization wants to create more pathways for all students to get additional education after high school.

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