The 2022-23 edition of Westfield Washington School’s Shamrock Academy will start in August. This will be the second year for the program, which offers district parents and the public a firsthand look at what it takes to run the district.
“The first edition of the Shamrock Academy was a lot of fun. The attendees were able to learn about curriculum, finance, transportation, food service and so much more,” said
Joshua Andrews, director of communications for WWS. “We know that our community values transparency and the people who went through the first class of the academy were no different. They were able to ask some pressing and timely questions to key decision-makers in the district.”
Last year, the Shamrock Academy had seven sessions. This year, Andrews said they plan to begin the program at the start of the school year and will have 10 sessions, one each month.
“Last year, the cohort was 25 people. This year, we’re looking to expand that number, but we’re still working on how that expansion will work, logistically,” he said. “We don’t have a set number yet, but as many people as possible will get to experience our school district from the inside.”
Erica Strahm was a member of the inaugural class. At the time, she had four children in the school system, had lived in Westfield for 22 years and is a member of the Westfield Washington Township Board.
“It’s especially meaningful to be part of Shamrock Academy and have children in the school system; however, I think this experience is also outstanding for citizens who don’t have children in the school system,” Strahm said. “I know of at least one member of our Shamrock Academy 2021-2022 class who didn’t have children at WWS, and I think she got a lot out of the experience and thoroughly enjoyed getting an intimate look at our school system.”
Strahm, who previously worked as a WWS Instructional Assistant and was a member of the District PTO and Vice President and President of individual school PTOs, felt she knew the school system well. But found there were programs and offerings she didn’t even realize existed.
“It also surprised me what a huge undertaking it is to run transportation and food service for a large school district. The amount of work and juggling these two departments do is incredible,” she said. “I’ve become more gracious and less critical of these two departments (and I’ve encouraged others to do the same), because I had no idea what their day-to-day operations were truly like. The amount of preparation and last-minute pivoting these departments have to do is unbelievable.”
Andrews believe attendees received the school district’s message of “transparency, community inclusion and two-way feedback.”
“We asked that members not be shy about sharing their first-hand experiences within their social circles and that paid dividends very quickly. In the early parts of the school year, when COVID was making it very difficult on our entire school district, our transportation department was facing major challenges and was facing lots of public criticism,” he said. “So, when our cohort was able to ride a bus with Director of Transportation Larry Johnson and hear about what his process was like to make sure all kids get to school safely, we immediately saw people on social media imploring our community to give the district some grace when it comes to transportation. They were able to speak to the community from first-hand knowledge and personal conversations with Larry and the district definitely felt some of the external pressure lighten up.”
Final dates for the sessions will be published soon. Andrews said they will likely by the second Thursday of every month.
To apply for the next Shamrock Academy, visit docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSczTCUfJlpj1zfI-cHy3pcA8SWhj6hJAU_1ordPiAFccoMHlQ/viewform.