Dr. Carolyn Cragin gets rare opportunity in education
Technology, culture will differentiate new district from the competition
To open a new school is often the high point of a school administrator's career. Indeed, most principals and superintendents never get that opportunity. Dr. Carolyn Cragin, transitional superintendent of the new Monomoy Regional School District, will not only open a new high school building - she has the rare opportunity to open a new school district when Chatham and Harwich consummate the merger their school districts.
The education field has changed many times since Dr. Cragin started as a teacher back in 1971. Back in those days the nation was still recovering from the "new math" and "open classrooms" were still in vogue. Today technology and individualization are of paramount concern to educators, all the while working in the shadow of MCAS and other standardized tests.
On October 4th we had an opportunity to spend ninety minutes with Dr. Cragin, who spoke with us on a wide range of topics - from the new school district, to MCAS, to school choice and education technology. It was a wide-ranging discussion far too complex to cover in a single story. Cape Cod Today will cover this interview in a series of articles on the various topics covered.
Competition comes to Public Education
Many educators have questioned the medium-term viability of the new Monomoy Region because of declining enrollments Cape-wide and because of competition from charter schools, private schools and other area school districts.
Competition? In public education? Absolutely! In an era where the pool of students is dwindling, every school district is fighting for its share of a smaller pie. Districts such as Provincetown have faded because they couldn't draw sufficient enrollment to sustain themselves. Indeed, Chatham maintained its independence for over a decade based upon its ability to draw large numbers of school choice students from neighboring districts.
So now the Monomoy Regional School District enters the fray. The fledgling district faces challenges on several fronts. First they must meld the cultures of the Harwich and Chatham middle and high schools into two new regional schools. Second, they must find a way to maintain the in-bound school choice students that have helped both districts - last year 207 students in Chatham and 144 in Harwich. Third, Monomoy must continue to attract more school choice students from other districts even as student counts Cape-wide continue to decline.
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The most technologically sophisticated school on Cape Cod
There are also some splendid opportunities ahead for Monomoy. Dr. Cragin tells Cape Cod Today that she's looking forward to Monomoy Regional High School being the most technologically sophisticated school on Cape Cod. They will continue to cultivate a culture of a public school with a private school environment that was executed so well, especially by Chatham. Another opportunity that Cragin was too polite to mention is the potential separation of Dennis' K-8 students from the Dennis-Yarmouth Regional School District. Should a schism develop in DY, Monomoy would be in an excellent position to welcome additional school choice students from Dennis and would offer an excellent high school alternative to families in Dennis.
How to measure a school's success
One cannot rate the success of a school simply by who has the most technology, the broadest curriculum, the most diverse population, the nicest building or even who has the hippest culture.
The only truly successful school is the one that employs teachers who can connect with the students and advance their education. A gifted teacher in a derelict schoolhouse can turn out far more learned students than a congenial imbecile trying to teach in the most splendid building.
Dr. Cragin certainly has the experience and desire to pull that rabbit out of her hat for Monomoy.