NORTHAMPTON, MA – When Dr. Joan Schuman was hired as Executive Director of what is now the Collaborative for Educational Services the agency was a “tiny provider of special education and professional development programs to a limited number of schools in Hampshire County,” according to CES Board Chair, Lisa Minnick. This week, Schuman will be awarded the prestigious Justus A. Prentice award in honor of her work at the helm of the Northampton based non-profit agency. The award is bestowed by the Association of Educational Service Agencies to an educational leader who exemplifies innovative leadership and advocacy on behalf of educational service agencies (ESAs) at the state and national level.
Minnick describes Schuman’s leadership as transformative, in that the agency has “become one of the most respected, exemplary ESAs in Massachusetts.” Schuman was nominated by Minnick and her colleagues across the state for her pioneering spirit in developing innovative programs that had not previously been implemented by ESAs in Massachusetts. At a time when ESAs have come under harsh scrutiny by state agencies, CES has continued to engage communities and schools in positive dialogue about how to improve the lives and education of young people. This past year, CES partnered with the Holyoke Public Schools to manage Dean Technical High School, in order to turn around chronic low student achievement scores. Minnick said Schuman has also expanded the awareness among state leaders about the critical role the state’s 27 ESAs can play in supporting the needs of students, educators and schools. She added that the path-breaking programs designed by Schuman and other staff have “motivated the state to consider ESAs in a new light, and inspired smaller collaboratives to broaden their service portfolios.” Innovative programs designed by Schuman and her staff include:
* Creation of federal grant-funded services that support the social/emotional needs of young people, birth through young adulthood.
* Partnerships with educators to develop collaborative school-based teams that analyze student and other school-based data to improve curriculum and instruction.
* Integration of arts into statewide schools for youth residing in juvenile justice settings of the state’s Department of Youth Services.
* Collaboration with state agencies to improve the quality of special education services for students residing in institutional settings across the Commonwealth.
* Development of an alternative licensing program for teachers focused on using an asset-based approach to working with all children and youth, particularly those at risk.