Carnegie Schools Design Teams Underway

Under development with a strong student voice and a focus on independent learning, the two new Carnegie by Design High Schools have named their design team members and future principals.

Courtney Paulding, a U.S. Army veteran who recently served as the school and district monitoring and accountability specialist for the R.I. Department of Education, has been named mastery specialist/project manager. Paulding is a former classroom teacher who spent nearly 14 years in Houston as an assistant principal and director of federal and state compliance.

Donna Lucy, a 13-year education veteran and former high school assistant principal in the New York City Public School system, is the design leader for the Mt. Pleasant location. Kerry Tuttlebee, who has worked at Hope High School as the principal resident and was project director for The New Teacher Project’s work in Rhode Island, is the design leader for that school. Lucy and Tuttlebee are expected to become the school’s principals.

The small high schools will open in the fall of 2015 with about 100 ninth-grade students in each school, eventually growing to 400 students by adding a grade of approximately 100 students every year. The schools will be co-located within Mt. Pleasant and Hope High Schools, sharing some facilities and spaces such as science labs and the cafeteria, but operating independently with its own staff. Space exists in each building for the larger ninth grade class this will create next year as well as accommodate the fully matriculated school in 2018-2019.

The development of the schools is funded by a $3 million grant over three years awarded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the philanthropy founded by Andrew Carnegie in 1911 and now headed by Dr. Vartan Gregorian, former president of Brown University.

Building a new high school from the ground up offers unlimited possibilities, but the design teams for these schools are guided by ten principles developed by the Carnegie Corporation based on research of high-performing secondary schools in order to effectively meet the demands of the Common Core Standards. Those principles range from positive youth development to school operations to supporting students beyond high school.

The schools’ focus will be on personalized learning, meeting students at their individual levels, including allowing those who have mastered a subject to advance while those who are struggling will be given additional supports in order to master the course standards. Technology will be an important factor in these schools as will self-reflection, and reviewing data to make adjustments as needed.

The school will have a great deal of flexibility and autonomy to meet students’ needs. Increased school autonomy is a priority in Supt. Dr. Susan Lusi’s strategic plan to improve student achievement.

Some of the innovative ideas may include a longer school day, extended learning opportunities, Saturday classes or distance learning. Successful programs can be scaled and replicated in other schools across the district.

In accordance with the design principles, there will be wide-ranging community involvement in the design process. Each school has a design team of 10 members who were chosen from 88 applicants. The design teams meet often as the lead designers of the new schools. A Student Steering Committee comprised of up to 12 students in grades 8-12 had their first meeting on December 1 and will also meet weekly to influence the design of the schools and make sure that the design is truly student-centered. An additional advisory group comprised of up to 25 family members, district staff, community leaders, business groups and civic leaders will meet monthly to offer guidance and share feedback with the school design leaders. All stakeholders will be invited to participate in focus groups, design forums, interviews and surveys to offer further input. Each of the schools will be different and will have different names but those distinctions are still being designed.

“We had many incredible candidates apply and members of the stakeholder groups include outstanding teachers and administrators,” said Paulding. “We want to be largely impacted by the student voice so we can meet their needs. We want all of our stakeholders to be involved in the design process but students are at the center of that process. We want to make the high school environment work for all kids.”

To date, the Design Team has been assessing student needs and district resources and begun mapping implications for the school design. From December to June, the design process will continue while staff are recruited and hired. The Design Teams are working under the direction of Rachel Mellion, executive director of the Innovation Zone.

At the High School Fair on December 13, students and their parents will have the opportunity learn more about the new high schools and decide if they wish to include them in their school choice selections. Students from across the city will be assigned to these schools through the same school choice process used for other high schools.

“The message will be that the schools will have caring, personalized learning environments, that we will be using technology as a tool during instruction and that the design of the high school is student centered,” said Paulding.

“This is a great opportunity for any Providence student looking for a unique learning experience, who wants to take ownership of their own learning,” she added.