The Latino community welcomed a new superintendent, Daniel Warwick, at the Fort in SpringfieldThursday night with a warm reception put on by the Latino Breakfast Club and the Puerto Rican/Latino Leadership Council.
But underneath the celebration, is a very grave concern.
"There's issues of attendance and high drop out rates and low graduation rates. The new superintendent has his plate full," said co-chair of the Latino Breakfast Club and former Springfield city councilor Jose Tosado.
In 2010, the district reported that only 53 percent of seniors graduated.
Those at Thursday night's gathering said the Latino community is hit the hardest. And with Hispanic students making up nearly 60 percent of the district population, officials said they can no longer turn a blind eye.
"In my opinion there is not a lot to celebrate when it comes to the Hispanic community and the school department," said State Representative Cheryl Coakley-Rivera.
Coakley-Rivera said the high percentage of drop-outs leads to a vicious cycle, where lack of education equals unemployment, which keeps new businesses from entering the area.
In fact, according to the Alliance for Excellent Education, if just one year's worth of drop-outs actually graduated, it would add an estimated $2 billion to the state's economy.
"There are a lot of excuses, but the bottom line is we all need to sit down collaboratively and make sure that we are educating all the children of Springfield," Coakley-Rivera said.
Currently, the city has ten under-performing schools. So how will newly-hired Warwick tackle the mounting challenges?
He said literacy programs and a multi-faceted approach will get them on the right track.
"It's going to take years to put a new plan into effect, but we're working really hard to make some significant changes this coming year and we hope to move the results forward right away," Warwick said.
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