February 24, 2014

Foxborough Regional Charter School: A Commitment to Learning and Leadership

Nominated by Robin Organ, Executive Director/Founder, GreenSchools:

“When it comes to identifying a Healthy School Hero, Green Schools believes the Foxborough Regional Charter School (FRCS) is exemplar! The entire FRCS community embraces the importance of Health and Wellness throughout key elements of their mission, including academics, service, and leadership.”

The Best of Everything!

Like the community in New London TX that was deservedly proud of its new state-of-the-art school building and excellent academic and athletic programs, Foxborough Regional Charter School (FRCS) has many building features, achievements and awards that make its staff, students and community proud.

FRCS, a K-12 charter school with 1300 students, was the winner of the Green Schools 2013 Green Difference Award for its outstanding commitment to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) and for being a Green and Healthy School with a focus on wellness, sustainability and environmental education. FRCS was awarded the Gold Medal, a 2012 Commonwealth of Massachusetts Health and Wellness Award (tied for first with one other school) from the Massachusetts Departments of Public Health and Elementary and Secondary Education for comprehensive efforts of programming, curriculum, training, policies, and practices. Over 100 students participated in the 2013 Foxborough Regional Charter School Science Fair. (Photos Foxborough PATCH: Third Annual FRCS Science Fair ‘Huge Success’)

However, unlike the school in New London TX where students had the best of everything except when it came to safety, FRCS’s standard of safety and responsible leadership fulfills the needs identified by the 1937 Court of Inquiry for keeping students safe:

1) schools need technically trained administrators for modern school systems,
2) schools need to do rigid inspections and more widespread public education about managing hazards, and
3) schools need a comprehensive, rational safety code.

Indeed, FRCS’s staff and students can depend on school leaders with a high degree of technical expertise. There is ongoing professional development and training as well as engagement with local officials and community safety partners. FRCS’s values are embedded in comprehensive school policies and practices, curriculum and extracurricular activities.

“Safety and security is Ongoing, not one and done,” says FRCS Executive Director Dr. Mark Logan. "I am extremely fortunate to work in a school with extraordinarily caring and dynamic faculty and staff who constantly go above and beyond for our kids.  Our professional and collaborative culture recognizes the great importance that safety and security have on learning.  We embrace it and it is seen, heard, and felt throughout our campus."

Dr. Logan also serves on the Massachusetts Charter School Association Facilities Committee which assesses building needs and provides guidance on expansion, renovation, and financing with a big focus on safe, secure, and adequate facilities.
Highlights of FRCS policies:

“The number one priority for all our staff members is to heIp ensure students’ safety. It is our belief that when students are and feel physically and emotionally safe they are best prepared to learn.” (FRCS Safety and Security Plan)

“Foxborough Regional Charter School strives to provide a safe environment that supports academic success by providing school buildings and grounds and equipment that meet required health and safety standards (including environmental air quality) keeping them inviting, clean, safe and in good repair.” (The Wellness Policy)  

The comprehensive Wellness Policy and the integrated wellness curriculum include high standards for safe and healthy foods and snacks and beverages including ““No sponsors or partners that violate wellness standards.” There are important protective measures to make the school safe for students with food allergies -- discouraging food sharing, eliminating some allergenic foods from classrooms, and frequently cleaning high touch areas. The FRCS website includes information about the SafetySack for safeguarding medication for asthma or severe allergic reactions. The design of the building provides for convenient hand washing near the cafeteria.

FRCS has a variety of committees, working groups, wellness teams and a health and safety council that monitors, evaluates, recommends, and creates ongoing opportunities for interdisciplinary information sharing. FRCS has two nurses on staff.  The Health and Wellness Advisory Committee is chaired by a school nurse leader and includes a student leadership board. There is an Integrated Pest Management plan with both preventative and responsive protocols in place for pest management and pesticide management.

Building and technology management is efficient and effective. There is a software “ticket system” to log maintenance requests for building and technology systems, analyze needs and report corrective actions. There is also a ten-year strategic facilities improvement plan.   

Dr. Mark Logan, “Enter to learn. Exit to Lead”  

Executive Director Dr. Mark Logan has a bachelor's degree in legal studies and a master's degree in business. Throughout his career, he has worked with youth as a teacher, coach, and mentor. After spending years helping at-risk early adolescents and teenagers focus on overcoming obstacles and making smart choices, he formally changed his career to public education, seeking to improve the learning opportunities for a greater number of students.  Now twelve years later, he is making such a difference as the Executive Director of one of the largest K-12 charter schools in the state. Dr. Logan has also demonstrated his own continuous love for learning by earning his Ph.D. in Educational Leadership from Lesley University.
Dr. Logan’s leadership skills include developing leadership in others. He thinks of “leaders as teachers and teachers as leaders.” He says, “No one knows it all. Hire the right people and support them. Provide the stewardship, ongoing staff training and professional development to empower others.”
"I strongly believe in collaborative leadership and for our organization to continuously improve, we must actively listen to all.  My role is to facilitate meaningful conversations around topics central to improving the academic, social, and emotional growth of our students.  We all have a seat at the table to think critically, to problem-solve, and to create engaging and powerful opportunities for every learner."

The root of Logan’s values, and especially his interest in helping kids, is his mother who instilled in him an ethic of service. Even though the family was poor and she was a single mom, she took in homeless families to give them a supportive environment and sense of security. Dr. Logan learned that no matter what your circumstance “by enriching the lives of others you enrich your own.”
Thus it is no surprise that FRCS’s student leadership teams are an important element of its program. During a daily period in grades 6-12 students run extra curricular activities, mentoring and peer tutoring programs as well as service projects. Many are student-initiated with staff advisors. The teaching gardens, an initiative of the Health and Wellness committee, has rallied the entire K-12 community.  

Daniel Yates-Berg, “THINK BEFORE YOU ACT”

Daniel Yates-Berg is the FRCS Laboratory Safety Officer and Science Instructional Leader for AP Chem, Earth Science, Biology, Physics. He has a background in BioTech Research and earned a degree in Elementary Education at Boston College (1995). Yates-Berg taught in Rhode Island and is now in his fifth year teaching at FRCS.

Yates-Berg, a self-identified idealist, says that his own commitment to safety comes from several sources. First, his background in the BioTech research industry always emphasized high safety standards. Also, the Advanced Placement Science courses and the State Science Fair Safety Board demand high standards.

His motto for safety is  “Think Before You Act”. He adds, “There are new labs in AP Biology and Chemistry. They include more complex experiments that require more thought.”  

And perhaps, most essential, Yates-Berg cares. He has three children of his own and thinks of the students as his honorary nieces and nephews. “Accidents can happen to anybody. I feel the same responsibility for students as I do for the safety of my own children.”  

He feels fortunate and grateful to always have the understanding and support of his leadership. “My supervisor Ron Griffin has a background in science and Executive Director Mark Logan is fantastic.”

When Yates-Berg first came to FRCS, Dr. Logan readily approved his request to attend the Laboratory Safety Institute’s Two-Day Lab Safety training. “The LSI program was a great comprehensive training. It was intense and well-organized. I would highly recommend it. It gave me the tools and resources to create training for all the science teachers at FRCS.”

Yates-Berg developed instructional modules for chemical use, handling, and storage, and emergency response. The local fire and safety officials get information related to all the chemicals (types, amounts, locations, etc.) and both new and veteran public safety officials get tours throughout the year.
The new science labs in the expanded school facility included significant safety features. “We just moved into the new addition 2-1/2 years ago. Everyone shares the responsibility for taking care of it. We are going to take care of each other,” says Yates-Berg. MORE PHOTOS  

Yates-Berg values the close working relationship with the Foxborough Fire department and especially Deputy Fire Chief Steve Bagley who conducts regular quarterly inspections.

He called Bagley when he got a new electron microscope. “We talked to him about all the gasses we would be using. He made sure the exhaust fans were working properly. When the science club was making rockets we called Steve to be there to observe and make sure things are done safely. He is a judge at the FRCS High School Science Fair.”

Deputy Fire Chief Bagley comments that FRCS and all Foxborough Schools are very cooperative with inspections, code enforcement and safety tours. They have good communication and good working relationships. He adds, “Science teachers take their job seriously. They look out for kids and the public and first responders.”

FRCS is also involved in a school safety partnership with the Metropolitan Law Enforcement Council (Metro-LEC) that provides safety and security expertise in a variety of areas. One outcome is a school-specific comprehensive incident plan that includes both a hard copy and virtual infrastructure map of key areas.

The map shows chemical storage, labs, boiler/heater systems, electrical panels/rooms, etc. It also shows key internal and external points for safe evacuation, tactical response locations, rally points, command centers, student/family reunification spots, and press locations. Responding officials have immediate access to this hard copy and virtual plan on their IPad, for example.

As a result of the quality of FRCS’s grant proposal to the Norfolk County District Attorney’s office to fund the partnership with Metro-LEC, the DA’s office not only funded FRCS’s proposal, they also notified all Norfolk County school districts and public safety officials that they would fund their projects, based on FRCS’s grant. Now several school districts are developing their own plans with Metro-LEC and many more are in the queue to be completed.

Links to Foxborough Charter School Foxborough Regional Charter School Wellness Policy