Posts Categorized: Education

Q&A with the Court Management Advisory Board: Glenn Mangurian Covers the Latest Report

The Legislature created the Court Management and Advisory Board (“CMAB”) in 2003 as an independent group of professionals who could bring management expertise, knowledge and experience to bear on the challenges facing the court system. The CMAB reports it findings to the Justices of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, leaders of the Legislature as well as the Chief Justice and the Court Administrator of the Massachusetts Trial Court.

BBA Week spoke with advisory board member Glenn Mangurian about the most recent report.

Q:       What are the main findings of the Advisory Board’s report?

Mangurian: Over the past 11 years, the Massachusetts Trial Court has been on a difficult but essential journey as it seeks to transform itself from an unevenly-performing, decentralized, often autonomous set of “islands of justice”, managed according to anecdote, intuition and habit, to a consistently high-performing system, managed according to modern best practice disciplines.

The Massachusetts Trial Court is on the move and headed in the right direction.  The Trial Court is addressing the consequences of the fiscal crisis of 2008-2012, and implementing and adapting to the structural changes made by the 2011 court reform legislation. Court management is “under the spotlight”. This focused attention to management “raises the bar” on execution excellence and follow-through at all levels.

The Trial Court must confront additional challenges such as the growing importance of specialty courts to address evolving judicial needs of the public and the scarcity of resources. Regardless of court funding levels, the public expects to be treated with respect and dignity in our courts, and to have its business handled in an expeditious and orderly manner.

The Trial Court “has a lot on its plate” for the next five years. The recent partial restoration and relative stability of the essential funding of the Trial Court is having a significant impact on court management and is important to further court management improvements.

Q:       What do you see as an important call to action as a result of these findings?

Mangurian: The 21st century Trial Court requires increased cross-disciplinary teamwork, active learning and innovation, and expansive talent and leadership development.  To assist the Trial Court in solidifying the progress made to date and preparing for the management challenges that lie ahead, the CMAB believes the Trial Court should focus leadership responsibility and overall accountability in three areas:

  • Knowledge management and decision analytics

The Trial Court should concentrate significant management attention on policy development, best practice sharing and training related to all aspects of evidence-based, data-driven decision-making.

  • Experience of court users

The Trial Court should work to improve the experience of court users having a wide range of perspectives, issues and concerns, and to measure the courts’ performance in this regard over time.

  • Talent development

The building of the Trial Court’s leadership capacity and human capital is of critical importance to the quality, strength, flexibility and resilience of our justice system. Because of an aging workforce and the prospects of increased retirements, there is a growing need to cultivate the next generation of court leaders to ensure continued judicial excellence into the future.

In addition the CMAB recommends the SJC establish a regular and recurring schedule of strategic and operational oversight meetings with the Chief Justice of the Trial Court and the Court Administrator.

Q:       How would you encourage BBA members to use this information?

Mangurian: The BBA has long been an advocate for the judicial funding. The Court Management Advisory Board thanks you for your support of the Trial Court.

We encourage all members to read the report. The report can be accessed here.

The document should serve as a catalyst for conversations among members and with employees of the Trial Court. The CMAB is planning an open discussion with the BBA on the report and work of the CMAB. Stay tuned for the specific date, time and location.

Helping Our Children Through Education Advocacy

Anyone who thinks special education advocacy is a niche issue should meet Marlies Spanjaard, an attorney affiliated with the EdLaw Project, an initiative of the Children’s Law Center of Massachusetts and the Committee for Public Counsel Services – Children & Family and Youth Advocacy Divisions. You’d be surprised – shocked, even – to learn some of the facts she gave me recently.

For example, did you know that only about half of Massachusetts third-grade students score proficient or above in reading on the MCAS? Or that two-thirds of children who can’t read proficiently by the end of fourth grade will end up imprisoned at some point in their lives? Yet in spite of this, only 17% of students in grade K-12 across the state receive special education services.

My background in education, particularly special education, has been an important influence on how I approach the legal profession. Working with children is a powerful reminder that there are members of our society whose voices are largely unheard and whose livelihood and success often depend on the assistance of others. Children with disabilities are particularly vulnerable, and when it comes to their education, it is our responsibility to ensure that their best interests are protected.

With this in mind, I have a particular interest in promoting this cause alongside the BBA’s many other public service initiatives. I was therefore pleased to see that Marlies Spanjaard will lead a Special Education Advocacy pro bono training next week. While I hope you will consider attending any of the many pro bono training that the BBA holds, I focus my blog on this one because it’s an area in which attorneys may not be aware that they can make such a substantive difference.

The failure to deliver special education services to children in need has broad consequences, which come with a heavy price tag for the individuals involved, and also for society as a whole. Children who fall behind are more likely to end up as part of the criminal justice system. The Massachusetts Department of Youth Services states, “annually, there are approximately 6,000 juveniles arraigned in court on criminal charges.”  According to the Massachusetts Department of Correction, sending a person to a correctional facility costs taxpayers almost $50,000 per prisoner per year.

This is where the early assistance of an attorney in securing any necessary special education resources can really make a difference. Our pro bono training on Monday will prepare attorneys to help a family navigate the legal system and advocate for them – whether it’s an issue of guiding them through the special education eligibility process or advocating for specific services that a school district may not agree that the child needs. Rather than trying to solve the problem once the child has already started to fall behind, an attorney can work with the family to support their child more immediately after a need has been identified. For low-income families whose children are at risk, this can absolutely change the trajectory of that child’s future.

We talk a lot about pro bono and public service work at the BBA, and we do so because there are so many ways to get involved and it is so important to offer our skills in this way. Particularly around this time of year, I think it’s extremely fitting to think about ways that we can give back to help those who may be less fortunate, or less able to defend themselves. With a new year and a fresh start coming up, there is no better time to consider expanding our commitment to serving others.

Being Principal for the Day

The BBA is always looking for ways to reach out to the greater Boston community and understand how the legal community can support and interact with a wider network. Education is a huge priority for us: we proudly hold the Law Day in the Schools program, Summer Jobs program, and Financial Literacy program every year to educate Boston public school students of all ages on issues ranging from the role of democracy in everyday society to professional development and fiscal responsibility.

One other program that I have the privilege of participating in as President of the BBA is the ‘Principal Partners’ program (formerly known as ‘Principal for the Day’), run by the Boston Plan for Excellence. For years, the BBA President has been invited to visit a public school for the day to learn more about its structure, curriculum, and challenges. This week, I paid a visit to the Mary Lyon Pilot High School in Brighton to find out what it’s like to see the school from the top.

The Mary Lyon Pilot High School is only one part of the Mary Lyon school system. What started in 1992 as a K-5 program for special education students with emotional and behavioral impairments gradually expanded to become a K-8 program. Under the guidance of Headmaster Jean-Dominique Hervé Anoh, the school subsequently added a full high school over the last five years and now spans K-12. The high school has 134 students in total.

Headmaster Anoh – who, by the way, was tirelessly energetic and informative even for such an early hour! – was kind enough to show me around the school and explain its structure. As a former teacher in special education, I found the program fascinating: every single class at the Mary Lyon Pilot High School is fully inclusive, incorporating both general education and students with emotional and behavioral impairments. This is very different from many other schools that claim to be inclusive, but which only place special education students in certain classes and have a separate special education resource center.  Headmaster Anoh informed me that the Mary Lyons model is perhaps the only one of its kind in the country.

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The students enjoy small class sizes ranging from 15 to 20 students, with two to three teachers and/or aides assigned to each class.  The fourteen teachers at the high school are dually licensed in their content areas and special education.  The enrollment goal for each class is to have approximately 25-30% special education students and the rest general education students. Structuring classes this way is the most effective teaching model, according to Headmaster Anoh. As funding and the student population have changed, the school has had to adapt. For example, right now the school’s junior class is 49% special education students. This is not optimal, according to the headmaster, but because inclusion is such an integral part of the culture, the school works hard to accommodate students of all backgrounds and emotional and learning capabilities.

The school also focuses on ability-based learning and grades students on their achievements while taking care not to penalize them for their disabilities.  For example, Headmaster Anoh told me about a student who transferred into the high school from a different school system. This student was a repeating ninth-grader based on his low overall grades, yet he had achieved high scores on the MCAS and on his final exams. When the headmaster asked him why this had happened, the student explained that whenever he handed in his homework late – not out of laziness or procrastination, but due to a learning style that compelled him to revisit each assignment to try to complete it perfectly – he had points deducted. At Mary Lyons, work is graded solely on its academic value, so the student was able to succeed in this setting and is now attending Curry College on a full scholarship.

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The Mary Lyons Pilot High School has a rigorous academic curriculum, which is unusual for a school serving a large population of special education students in an inclusive setting.  In 1992, when the program was first trying to transition from a special education program to an integrated program, the school attracted general education students by offering free before- and after-school care; now, they attract students based on their test scores and overall reputation for excellence. In fact, the Mary Lyons school system consistently achieves high MCAS scores. I visited several classes at the school and found students hard at work on calculus, physics, AP statistics, advanced history courses, and other college prep subjects. Another fact that I found particularly notable is that the school’s demographics reflect a population that is roughly one-third Hispanic, one-third black, and one-third Caucasian – but unlike many other schools, there is no significant achievement gap between these groups.

Overall, I found the experience to be enlightening and enjoyable. It is encouraging to see a successful academic model that empowers teachers and students of all learning levels to achieve their fullest potential. My thanks to Headmaster Anoh and the Mary Lyon Pilot High School for inviting me to be ‘Principal for the Day!’