2014 MetLife/NASSP National High School Principal of the Year Sheila Harrity hosted US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan at her Massachusetts school March 12 for a town hall meeting on career and technical education (CTE).
Duncan toured Worcester Technical High School to meet with educators, community college officials, and business leaders. With Harrity’s leadership, Worcester Tech, which was named a NASSP Breakthrough School in 2011 and a National Blue Ribbon School in 2013, has become a CTE success story.
The town hall meeting, moderated by Harrity, consisted of a panel that represented key CTE stakeholders and partners: the school’s CTE director , a business partner, a school department head, the president of the local community college, and of course, a student.
The school, which has 24 technical programs, has been able to leverage partnerships with businesses, industries and four-year colleges and universities, which help support a full-service restaurant, day spa and salon, 16-bay auto service center and a veterinary clinic at the school, giving its students the opportunity to graduate from the school with the skills to secure good-paying and rewarding jobs.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a school that’s more open,” Duncan said of Worcester Tech. “Whether it’s higher education partnerships [or] business partnerships, you’re literally inviting the community into your school every single day. This school is an extraordinary community asset, and we need more schools to understand that they shouldn’t be scared of the community.”
Duncan made clear his belief that the school’s success is a direct result of Harrity’s visionary, collaborative leadership.
“Dr. Harrity is an athlete, and she understands teamwork,” Duncan said. “But there are no great teams without great leadership, and you have a great leader here in Dr. Harrity.”
To commemorate the visit, Duncan presented Harrity with an official signed US Department of Education basketball.
Duncan and Harrity first met at the September 2013 Principal of the Year awards gala, and they immediately connected over their love of basketball. Duncan played collegiately at Harvard University and professionally for a time in Australia. Harrity played college ball at Providence College in Rhode Island.
Shortly after being named high school principal of the year last fall, Harrity testified during the House Education and the Workforce Committee’s hearing on the reauthorization of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act. Her testimony underscored many of NASSP’s recommendations for Perkins reauthorization. NASSP has long been an outspoken supporter of the Perkins Act, which provides the greatest source of federal funding to the nation’s high schools.