Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger went back to high school today; he's making good on a campaign promise to move his office to Burlington High School for a week. This Monday through Friday, the mayor and his three-person staff will be conducting city business out of a fishbowl office belonging to BHS assistant principal Nick Molander.
Weinberger's schedule for the week includes riding the school bus, hosting his weekly coffee klatch in the school cafeteria and hosting a business roundtable on Wednesday in the school auditorium. A "press corps" of student reporters will reportedly be blogging about his time there, and posting updates on social media.
Is Weinberger playing hooky? Getting stuffed into a locker? Batting .400 for the school's baseball team? Get up-to-the-minute reports on his activities on Twitter, using the hashtag #miroBHS.
Weinberger kicked off his week in residence at BHS at a schoolwide assembly Monday morning. Hundreds of students and community members turned out to see him get his keys, ID badge and a BHS ballcap.
But orientation wasn't the only thing on the agenda — the mayor hoped to use the gathering to highlight the Burlington-Winooski Partnership for Change, a three-year, $3-million-plus effort to remodel Burlington's and Winooski's high schools, made possible by a grant from the Nellie Mae Foundation.
On hand to celebrate the partnership were a whole host of lawmakers and local officials, including Gov. Peter Shumlin and House Speaker Shap Smith (D-Morristown), as well as representatives from Senators Leahy and Sanders' offices.
"This is an exciting moment," Weinberger told the crowd. "All levels of government are focused on education."
In a nutshell, the partnership aims to explore ways in which Burlington and Winooski can shift their educational experiences to become more student centered and proficiency based. The schools are hoping to more effectively tailor education to individual students, and to evaluate them based on what they've learned — not on how much time they've spent in the classroom.
To that end, five teams of teachers, students and community members are engaged in conversations and exercises to help them reimagine what a contemporary high school could and should be like. For example, the partnership is paying for a group from the Youth Engagement and Leadership Empowerment team to head to Rhode Island for three days in April to study student government at schools there.
The group has recently produced a video articulating its mission, which aired during the assembly.
The partnership's goal, as Gov. Shumlin noted in his remarks, is to design schools where everyone can succeed. Shumlin used his own experience as a dyslexic student to criticize a one-size-fits-all approach to education. And he emphasized the importance of pursuing some kind of post-secondary studies. "If you don't get beyond high school, chances are you're going to have a low-wage future," he warned the kids. "That's the brutal truth. And that's why the partnership is so critical."