Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

December 12, 2013

STEAM Studio would offer further diversity

The Andover Townsman

---- — Editor, Townsman

I’m a parent of three Andover High School graduates and the former chairman of Cornell University’s Alumni Admissions Ambassadors in Eastern Massachusetts. In those roles, I became quite familiar with both student capabilities and high school programs throughout Eastern Massachusetts. I also have some familiarity with science, technology, engineering and mathematics. I earned a Ph.D. in electrical engineering and computer science from Cornell University and spent over three decades in R&D within the telecommunications industry.

I urge you to support the Andover STEAM Studio Charter High School. Its programs more closely match the needs of our technology-based economy than that of either Andover High School or Greater Lawrence Vocational Technical School. Although both claim to have excellent STEAM programs, they fall far short of the STEAM Studio Charter High School proposal.

For years, the Andover School Committee and faculty have fought the introduction of STEM programs and school/industry cooperation. The recent extended labor difficulties at Andover High School are indicative of faculty intransigence, especially, some union leadership encouraging teachers to boycott the state certification process.

Although Greater Lawrence has excellent programs for a large segment of the region’s population, it seems that it has been unable to attract many Andover students. It could be that its requirement that students enter as freshmen precludes Andover parents from making the decision that their child is best suited for a vocational career at such an early age.

I wish this STEAM program was available when our three sons went to Andover High School. Their career paths might have had fewer perturbations if they had had more “hands-on” and “project-based” experience. Especially for our eldest, who moved through three environmental management consulting companies and two middle school teaching positions before finding his passion as an elementary school science teacher.

A new Obama Administration program, Youth Career Connect, will give substantial grants to “innovative programs that give students industry-related job skills.” This grant program also addresses those teenagers who find “high school boring and drop out because they don’t see the connection between a diploma and future job prospects.” This proposal addresses both the needs of those who will aim for careers in research and development, and those who work on teams to implement, install and maintain evolving technologies.

Andover is strengthened by the diversity of the interests of the people in the community.

Its citizens support a multitude of educational institutions. At the primary school level, in addition to the public schools, they support Catholic, Jewish, Montessori and independent day schools. In addition, they participate in cultural, religious, music, arts, drama and athletic after-school programs.

At the secondary school level, I would guess that about 20 percent of our students seek education outside of our public school system. Phillips Academy, Brooks School, Governor’s Academy, Central Catholic, Austin Prep, St. John’s Prep to name a few. Our top students find the need to attend the Russian School of Mathematics enrichment program.

They seek summer programs at a full range of local camps, colleges and universities.

I would expect the STEAM program to bring back many of these students and provide educational access for others. Its curriculum significantly enhances that which is provided at Andover High School and its smaller size can make it more nimble to respond to evolving needs.

At the public hearing held at Andover’s Memorial Hall Library, I perceived an intriguing split ... a couple of parents against, a couple of parents for; a couple of students against, a couple of students for (including the student representing the student council); the educational establishment strongly against, those who worked in technology-related industry strongly for.

We should encourage, not deny, our youngsters this opportunity.

Bob Friedenson

109 Bellevue Road