Realizing the potential of community-wide social-emotional support
Back in 2013, we spent a lot of time helping Gateway City leaders develop a shared vision for public education. Every time they came together for planning meetings, the unmet behavioral health needs of the students in their communities was a hot topic. Through these conversations, community-wide social and emotional support systems emerged as a key pillar of their vision. But it was also clear that putting together a strategy to improve these complex systems would require a lot more thought. As a next step, MassINC recruited the UMass Donahue Institute (UMDI) as a research partner. This week we are unveiling a new report that provides recommendations for strengthening social and emotional support systems in Gateway Cities.
Without question, there is already a growing focus on supporting the social and emotional development of students in Gateway City districts. Educators recognize that these systems protect at-risk children who, without effective intervention, face difficulties that can result in enormous costs for entire cities. Gateway City educators also believe wholeheartedly in a universal approach, which means every child receives learning experiences that enhance their ability to collaborate, problem-solve, and persevere. Such social-emotional skills make for more resilient individuals, stronger citizens in inclusive urban communities, and more productive workers in today's global workplace.
The hard work currently unfolding on this issue in Gateway Cities is inspiring, but without more coordination and assistance from the state, these efforts are unlikely to fully deliver on their promise. Professional development is one of the most notable challenges. Classroom teachers are not typically trained to deliver social-emotional support, and the professional development Gateway City districts have been able to offer is insufficient, especially given the high staff turnover that is typical for these urban school systems. With staff-to-student ratios for social workers well above recommended thresholds, particularly for high-poverty settings, overextended student support professionals is another common problem. Perhaps the greatest challenge is the lack of specialized child and adolescent mental health treatment in regions outside of Greater Boston.
UMDI researchers captured these common challenges through survey responses and interviews, but these service gaps are very difficult to demonstrate quantitatively because our data infrastructure is underdeveloped. Attorney General Healey reinforced this finding in a recent report on healthcare cost containment, which highlighted the lack of critical information on mental health services in Massachusetts.
For this reason, our recommendations are heavy on improving this data infrastructure. We also call for creative thinking about how the state can help Gateway Cities recruit and train educators to support the social and emotional development of their students. We look forward to partnering with Gateway City leaders to generate action on these recommendations. In the coming months, we will be venturing out to capture the work in individual cities up close with a series of case studies. We will also be hosting events and meeting with leaders to help raise the profile of this issue and draw attention to the potential of achieving the vision for robust community-wide social and emotional support systems.
Communities & People
Longtime Gateway City leader, state Sen. Thomas Kennedy of Brockton, died last week at age 63. The senator was honored with many fitting tributes. Senator Kennedy served three decades in the Legislature, winning a seat in the House in 1982 and moving to the Senate in 2009.
Housing & Economic Development
Writing for Commonwealth, Ben Forman contrasts unbalanced growth in Massachusetts with more equitable development in other states.
The Globe takes an interesting look at the connection between public safety and economic development in Brockton and Lowell.
Quincy holds a public forum to get feedback from city residents regarding housing issues and future development. This comes as a new report shows Quincy's stock of affordable housing has dropped below 10 percent.
WBUR takes readers on a tour of a medical marijuana farm in Brockton.
Fall River Mayor Sam Sutter identifies five areas that are critical to the city's economic development.
A newly re-vamped Business Expo Conference & Trade Show will take place this November at the DCU Center in Worcester. The city is adding several small hotels downtown, with officials hoping the new rooms will attract more conventions to the city
Sperling Interactive hosts a ribbon-cutting ceremony for their new office in Salem, while a developer is looking to remake a key corner of Lafayette Street.
Federal Street land owner Charles Patsios receives help from Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy and finalizes plans to bring a Market Basket to Lynn.
The Lowell City Council votes to establish an ordinance requiring a certain percentage of city residents be hired on major development projects.
Lt. Governor Karyn Polito and Mayor Kevin Dumas sign a Community Compact in Attleboro, with the state committing financial help for the city and the city committing to take the right steps towards making the program a reality.
The Legislature approves the state budget and sends it on to Gov. Charlie Baker with many appropriations focused on Gateway Cities, including $1 million for the Transformative Development Initiative.
During the caucus meeting, chaired by Rep. Antonio Cabral and Sen. Ben Downing, Ash voiced the Administration's strong belief that the ultimate economic success of the Commonwealth is closely connected to the future success of the Gateway Cities.
A special election cycle has been set to replace fill the vacated seat. Democrat Rep. Michael Brady, of Brockton, and Republican Rep. Geoff Diehl, of Whitman have announced they will consider a run for the
vacated seat in the fall.
Holyoke goes into fiscal 2016 with a deficit that it is furiously trying to trim.
Lynn may scrap its preliminary election and save $125,000 because of lack of interest.
The desalination plant Brockton Mayor Bill Carpenter has proposed the city buy for $88 million may not be worth that much, according to a long-awaited consultant's report.
Fall River's legal counsel says a vote by the City Council on a controversial trash pickup fee was legal even though Mayor Sam Sutter filed it more than a month after the May 1 deadline set to propose new fees in city bylaws.
A new Brookings Institution report looks at technology strategy for local governments.
The Rennie Center releases a report on early college designs, another key component of the Gateway Cities education vision.
Legislators secure an increase in funding for both the City of New Bedford and its Public Schools, which will help create and improve cultural and educational opportunities in the city.
John Schneider calls for development of a "Lowell Promise" program that would guarantee that financing gaps are filled for all graduates of city's public schools who pursue degrees from Middlesex Community College or UMass Lowell.
School may be out for the summer, but for many Fall River kids, learning, physical activity and nutritional needs met at school during the academic year continue in July and August through a variety of innovative summer programs that help nourish the mind and body.
Fitchburg State University's new President, Richard S. Lapidus, brings with him a wealth of experience, and with several new ideas in mind is eager to see the campus take the next step.
John McCleary starts as Superintendent of Holyoke School District with targeted goals already in mind.
More social-emotional research: Child Trends looks at soft skills that matter in the workplace.
Major James Fiorentini of Haverhill looks to utilize a data-driven pavement management system after receiving $1.5 million for road maintenance this year, in the hopes of making the most efficient use of the money.
The new CapeFlyer train stop in Brockton opens, making it easier for people to make those summer weekend trips to Cape Cod.
Barnstable looks to upgrade the infrastructure at its municipal airport after receiving a grant from the Department of Transportation.
Atlanta thinks big and bold about regional transportation infrastructure. The New York Times reports on an even more creative concept to raise funds for infrastructure projects.
A hospital merger in Westfield is celebrated as Noble Hospital becomes Baystate Noble Hospital. An increase in access to specialists is cited as one of the benefits of the merger, according to Baystate CEO Mark Keroack.
A popular grocery store in Brockton teams up with a community health center with the goal of addressing health issues in the community.
For a full list of Massachusetts Gateway Cities, click here. The Gateway Cities Journal is a weekly news publication of MassINC. If you would like to unsubscribe to The Journal but would still like to hear from MassINC, please let us know. If you are not yet on our list and would like to sign up, click here. To contribute news or comments, please email MassINC.