In our latest look into the past year in Somerville Public Schools, we explore efforts to to keep the community up-to-date on the virus and its effects on Somerville students. From virtual platforms, to phone calls, emails, and social media, communication came through various channels. The most effective communication took place where community members had existing networks, which they could leverage to address needs exacerbated by the pandemic.
In our latest look into the past year in Somerville Public Schools, we explore the challenges students and educators faced in navigating a virtual classroom. When schools closed last spring, Somerville undertook a massive device rollout to make virtual classes available to all students. This process exposed significant inequities in internet access across the district. Even once students were connected, they found it difficult to connect to classes through multiple learning platforms. Many educators also faced obstacles in acclimating to teaching online. However, there are some lessons districts can build upon and integrate into in-person learning, as technology continues to be a great tool for engaging families.

We are releasing a series of dispatches on the bright spots and challenges of the past year in Somerville Public Schools. We hope this in-depth look at one community can shed light on what students and schools across the state need right now and how communities and policymakers can support them.

Our conversations with students, families, and educators confirmed what research tells us: strong relationships are essential components of learning. However, everyone also agreed that building relationships remotely is incredibly difficult. This post explores teacher-student connections, student-student connections, and teacher-family connections during remote learning.
The Future Education Leaders Network (FELN) aims to transform how young people, particularly people of color, are connected to and move through careers in education. Initiated and led by young leaders at the Rennie Center, it serves as a centralized hub where members can build connections, develop a knowledge base, and create their ideal career path. Earlier this month, FELN Planning Committee members Meghan Volcy of the Rennie Center and Kristal Castro of Boston University had a virtual sit down with members of FELN to discuss the value of this network of peers.
Catherine Rauseo brought her passion for storytelling and graphic design to the Rennie Center five years ago, and has made it her mission to make the Center's work more accessible. Through jargon-free writing, easy-to-digest infographics, and a user-friendly website, Catherine has created an approachable public presence to engage all those interested in improving public education.
In the first post of our "A Year in the Life" series, we dig into the City of Somerville, its public schools, and the challenges it has faced through the course of the pandemic. While Somerville is unique in many ways, its experiences amid the pandemic reflect those of cities and towns around the Commonwealth. We hope this in-depth look at one community can shed light on what students and schools across the state need right now and how communities and policymakers can support them.
As students head back to the classroom in the coming weeks, many will be carrying with them social, emotional, physical, and economic scars from the past year. Some students need connections to vital services that provide food and a safe place to sleep. Others need help accessing mental and physical health care. Many need opportunities for enrichment—even if virtual—to nurture their strengths and give them social connections in this isolating time. To fully support students, schools should have an integrated system of support that can evaluate every student’s unique strengths and needs and connect them to the right resources.
The Rennie Center is pleased to announce the addition of two new board members, Dr. Pam Eddinger and Dr. Jessica Boston Davis. Dr. Eddinger has been the president of Bunker Hill Community College (BHCC), the largest of the 15 community colleges in Massachusetts, since 2013. Dr. Davis currently serves as the Director for Equity and Excellence for the Somerville Public Schools and is an adjunct faculty member at Lesley University, where she teaches Culturally Responsive Teaching.
By Susie Smith, Teacher, Spark Academy in Lawrence | In the transition towards active antiracism, schools have repeatedly overlooked one vital point: we are often disenfranchising the students we are trying to serve. In our conversations about antiracism, is it not crucial to hear from the students who have experience in the classrooms? Research is valuable, and teacher input is imperative, but excluding student voice in conversations about the student experience is marginalizing the very voices that need to be at the center of our thinking and planning. Yet across the country and throughout history, students are so rarely welcomed into discussions of reimagining teaching and learning.