Laying The Groundwork

Laying The Groundwork

Three communities, two aging school buildings, one conversation. Pentucket partners with Thoughtexchange® to discover common interests and bring people together around a facilities vision.

The three distinct communities that make up Pentucket Regional School District care deeply about their schools and also highly value their autonomy. As a result, their competing ideas and views can sometimes complicate or even stall decision-making in the district.

“Our communities have a strong sense of identity, and there is generally a high level of competition among communities here in northeastern Massachusetts,” says Superintendent, Dr. Jeff Mulqueen. “That competition can play out in a way that short circuits collaboration when it’s needed.”

Faced with two aging secondary school buildings and a need to show the state there is agreement on how best to improve them, it was Dr. Mulqueen’s challenge to bring the communities together around a common vision for the future of their facilities.

Bringing communities together

Over his five years as superintendent, Dr. Mulqueen and his team had already made progress towards bringing people in the district together.

They answered a call from people to revitalize the district by turning it into a leader in the state’s Innovation Schools initiative. With 10 of the semi-autonomous collaborative learning academies, Pentucket has the most in the state.

“At the root of Innovation School work, is a focus on bringing high quality standards, rigorous content, adaptive leadership and high levels of personal meaning to every classroom,” says Dr. Mulqueen.

He and his team also worked hard during those five years to bring the communities together around a common innovative curriculum. Doing that was a key part of getting preliminary approval from the state for funds to replace or repair the district’s 1950s-vintage high school building, which can’t adequately support the district’s curriculum and student outcomes.

With a middle school building from the same era as the high school and population in the region on the decline, Dr. Mulqueen and his team wondered if a combined Grade 7 to 12 facility would be the most practical and effective option for the district.

The challenge they faced was hearing what people in the communities truly thought about the future of their school facilities, and getting them to consider the possible benefits of a combined school.

It was at this point that Dr. Mulqueen and his team partnered with Thoughtexchange to confidentially and independently reach out to the community and gather their thoughts on the two facilities options: keeping the current Grade 9 to 12 school or shifting to a Grade 7 to 12 configuration.

“In the past, it may have been some of the loudest voices driving the conversation, rather than the common interests and everyone’s good thinking,” Dr. Mulqueen says. “Thoughtexchange provided us with a venue that not only built collaboration around shared interests, but also let some of our content about the potential building project permeate the community.”

“Our community’s conversation and the results from Thoughtexchange helped clarify that a shared facility may be the best pathway forward.”Dr. Jeff Mulqueen, Superintendent

Leapfrogging ahead

“We met our initial objectives around conveying content and building consensus,” Dr. Mulqueen says. “And it exceeded our expectations, in that it brought our conversation to the next level. We don’t have to guess what people are thinking. They’ve already disclosed that. The conversation will make sense to more people as we go forward.”

Mulqueen says the district’s work with Thoughtexchange has laid the groundwork for Pentucket to leapfrog ahead on the project by giving the designer and school board direct insights into what the community would need to see in a combined facility to support it.

“Our community’s conversation and the results from Thoughtexchange helped clarify that a shared facility may be the best pathway forward,” he says.

For example, one of the top thoughts shared in the exchange said, “All for the most cost-effective approach that produces the best facility. The kids deserve the best facility and will encourage/attract families to the partner towns.”

“Thoughtexchange allowed things to percolate in such a way that the best thinking emerged,” says Dr. Mulqueen. “It puts everyone’s thinking on the table and provides value by helping us account for that thinking. That lets us be responsive in a way that wasn’t possible in the past.”

Thoughtexchange provides software solutions that bring people together, build trust and make progress on important topics. Whether it’s employees, customers or whole communities, our solutions effortlessly connect you to your stakeholders. People can confidentially and independently share their thoughts, appreciate other points of view and understand how their perspectives are connected to decisions. Our patent-pending data analysis gives you the insights to make informed decisions and take action.

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