Dr. Paul Hyry-Dermith Testifies on Full Service Community Schools Before U.S. Senate Text Size

Dr. Paul Hyry-Dermith has been busy lately, but “it’s the good kind of busy,” he says.

On June 26th, Interim Assistant Superintendant Hyry-Dermith traveled to Washington, DC to testify before the U.S. Senate on the Full Service Community School (FSCS) model that he put to great use as Principal of the PeckSchool. A week later he was officially approved as Assistant Superintendant of Schools, having been recommended by Superintendant Dr. Sergio Paez. Now, the Interim Assistant Superintendant is preparing for his first school year in his new position and looking ahead at how Holyoke can best utilize the FSCS model.                                     

As the saying goes, it takes a village to raise a child. The FSCS movement that Dr. Hyry-Dermith supports is predicated on that notion – that education is a process strengthened by partnerships between community volunteers, nonprofits and educators.

Dr. Hyry-Dermith served on the panel in D.C. along with four other education advocates: the president of First Focus, an advocacy group promoting the increased federal support of schools; a Montgomery City, Maryland, educator; a representative from the Children’s Aid Society; and the presenter of a paper on the use of schools as a “safety net” for high-risk children.

He testified on his work at the PeckSchool, where 95% of the students come from low-income families and 60% use English as a second language. Though the school still has “a long way to go,” he says, “in student growth we’ve consistently outperformed both comparable schools and the state.”

The FSCS model works by “recognizing that strategic aligned partnerships” in education, he says, “are a way of really strengthening the experience of kids and families – not only in the school but also in the community.” PeckSchool parents dedicated over 5000 hours of their time to the school. Additionally, UMass students gave over 1800 hours of their time tutoring and mentoring students. 

The Interim Assistant Superintendant was invited to testify after meeting with Marty Blank, President of the national Coalition for Community Schools (CCS) at a statewide panel. Later, when Senators Jarred Brown of Ohio and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts sponsored a panel on education and safety nets for children, an organization closely involved with the panel asked the CCS to select an educator from a community school to speak for the strategy. Dr. Hyry-Dermith was selected to do the job based on his successes at the PeckSchool and the impression he left on Marty Blank at the panel.

As the Holyoke Public School Department experiments with the implementation of the FSCS model in more schools, Dr. Hyry-Dermith is confident that Holyoke will stay at the forefront of the education movement and continue to improve schools. “I think there’s a very good chance that they’ll invite us back when there are other opportunities to represent the strategy,” he said.

Making certain to recognize Meghan Harding for being “exceptionally good at putting together presentations,” Dr. Hyry-Dermith says that it was a “good, successful event.” He’s kept in contact with the CCS and the writer of the paper on safety nets in schools and hopes that the attendants “understand full service community schools as a real, viable strategy for school development and for improving student outcomes.”

Posted on August 8, 2013 by