Franklin County Technical School   82 Industrial Blvd.   Turners Falls, MA 413 . 863 . 9561

Peer Mediation: Students Helping Students Resolve Conflicts

Conflicts in high school can come in many forms.

It could be an argument among friends, name calling, or jealousy. It could be fighting, or threats, or bullying. Maybe it’s just a simple misunderstanding. Whatever the problem, a group of students who are trained in mediation are available at Franklin County Tech to help resolve conflicts among their peers.

Peer mediation is a private, nonjudgmental resolution technique that brings the students with disputes together to solve the problem. The fact that students are guided through the process by another student is what makes the intervention so effective.

“Kids feel better talking to someone their own age,” said Erica Farnham, a freshman mediator. “If you’re mediating with kids your own age, they know what you’ve gone through.”

Added Zaviere Washington, a senior mediator, “Students feel more trusting toward other students. They feel more understood.”

The peer mediators are advised by special education teacher Lynne Paju and school psychologist Timothy Murphy. To prepare to become peer mediators, Paju said the students underwent daylong training to hone their skills in active listening, conflict resolution techniques, and communication, as well as engaging in role playing.

“You have to be a good listener and observer,” Paju said. “You have to be nonjudgmental.”

Students who have a conflict and feel mediation is a way to resolve the problem, can contact a peer mediator, Paju or Murphy, another teacher, or through Dean of Students Earl McGraw.

Washington said he wanted to become a peer mediator because he noticed that many conflicts around the school can be resolved before they grow out of proportion.

“I’ve noticed throughout my high school career that there is a lot of drama that goes on,” he said. “It causes people to take sides, but to be able to keep that down from the get-go would make the high school experience more enjoyable. Nobody likes to deal with the drama.”

Farnham said she knows what it’s like to get into arguments with friends and to be picked on. She became a peer mediator to help other students work through those and other issues.

“I want to be there to help my peers so they’re not just wishing they had someone to talk to,” Farnham said.

Brandon Boudah, a junior peer mediator, said mediators don’t tell other students what to do, but help with finding a balanced solution.

“We help students make the best decisions for themselves,” he said.

Freshman Thalia Garcia wanted to become a peer mediator because she knows other students who have experienced conflicts and thought she could help them work through issues with someone they trust.

“They know they have somebody they can come to who will understand and keep it private,” she said.

Aubrey Klerowski, a junior mediator, urged students who need conflict resolution to seek her or other peer mediators out. She said talking through and resolving difficult problems will be a skill students will take with them beyond high school.

“It’s up to kids to sort out our own problems because that’s what we’re going to have to do in life,” Klerowski said.

Students who want to become peer mediators, should contact Ms. Paju or Mr. Murphy.

Franklin County Tech School Holiday Charitable Efforts Help Those in Need

Franklin County Technical School students, faculty, administrators and staff helped their needy neighbors this holiday season by feeding the hungry and donating food and other items to area organizations.

For the fifth year in a row, the school held its holiday food drive, which yielded 22 boxes and a large trash bag full of food and other items including paper products, shampoo, toothpaste, feminine products, hand cream, and laundry detergent. The drive also collected $60 from a raffle held at this fall’s Little Drummer Craft Fair held at the school. Homemade scarves were donated by the Franklin County Technical School’s Pre-Employment Program.

All proceeds were donated to the Family Inn in Greenfield. Students Cheyenne Edwards of Greenfield, Cassidy Shaida of Greenfield, Trevor Blake of Northfield, Tyler Millane of Turners Falls, and sisters Sarah and Katie Koshinsky of Orange, all members of the National Honor Society, loaded, delivered, and unloaded the food and other items for the Family Inn.

Franklin County Tech School Holiday Charitable Efforts Help Those in Need

Food drive organizer Barbara Williams, FCTS accounts payable/bookkeeping clerk, said the effort was very successful.

“This was our best year,” she said. “We had a lot more of everything and I think a lot more people donated this year. I believe people are realizing we have a great need in this area.”

Williams said she and the students were greeting by Family Inn Director Fran Lemay when they made their delivery, who explained to them where and how the food and other items would be used.

“He was wonderful and the kids were very respectful,” Williams said. “It made all of them feel wonderful. They commented that they didn’t realize the great need we have in this area. You always think its happening somewhere else.”

In a separate holiday charitable effort, NHS students Blake, Millane, Shaida, the Koshinsky sisters and Gabby Roy of Turners Falls served close to 100 meals at the Second Congregational Church in Greenfield for the Franklin County Community Meals Program.

Franklin County Tech School Holiday Charitable Efforts Help Those in Need

“We cook the meals here and bring them to the church,” said NHS advisor and mathematics teacher Christopher Kusek. “This is the second year we’ve done this.”

Kusek said the students not only deliver and serve the meals, they also eat with diners.

“Our mission is for the kids to have a dialogue with the people they’re serving,” he said. “We want them to have that human connection. The kids have been great. It teaches them some responsibility and a different perspective on poverty then what they would learn in the classroom.”

Martin to Become Next Franklin County Tech Superintendent

Natick native Richard J. Martin, principal and assistant superintendent of Franklin County Technical School, has been named as the school’s next superintendent beginning July 1, 2015.

The Franklin County Technical School Committee voted to promote Martin to the school’s leadership position at its December meeting. He has been the school’s principal since 2009. Martin will replace James M. Laverty, who is retiring after being hired as superintendent in 2012.

Martin graduated from Natick High School in 1982, and earned bachelor’s degrees in education and special education from Green Mountain College in Poultney, Vermont in 1989. He went on to earn master’s degrees in counseling and psychology at Framingham State College in 1993.

In 2005, Martin earned a master’s degree in psychological and special education assessment, and another master’s degree in 2006 in educational leadership and management, both at Fitchburg State College. He is currently in the final stages of completing his dissertation in educational leadership management at Northeastern University.

Martin began his career in education at Tri-County Regional Vocational Technical High School in Franklin as a school psychologist. He then worked as assistant director of pupil and personnel and special educational services for Littleton Public Schools.

Just prior to coming to Franklin County Technical School, Martin was assistant principal at Lunenburg High School.

The Franklin County Technical School science department has been awarded a $99,557 STEM Equipment and Supplies Grant from the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center, half of which will be used to buy a 3-D printer.

Besides the purchase of the 3-D printer, the grant will be used to renovate the science rooms, including replacing cabinets, electrical equipment, buying new laptop computers, student work stations, and more.

According to FCTS Principal Richard J. Martin, physics and engineering teachers Jonas LaPointe and Matthew Gancz co-authored the winning grant application.

“We felt that as the area’s regional technical high school Franklin County Tech was perfectly positioned to secure the MLSC resources for our students,” Martin said.

LaPointe added that the purchase of equipment and renovations paid for through the grant will have a significant impact on the science department.

“The grant will be a huge push for the science department,” LaPointe said. “We wanted the science department to have a teaching space that is up to industry standards and follows up on the improvements and renovations that were made last year in our machine technology program. We’re very excited and very fortunate to be awarded this grant to bring the science department up to the next level.”

Last school year, the FCTS machine technology program was revamped when a combination of public-private grant funding totaling over $700,000 allowed it to purchase new machinery and supplies, and develop a new curriculum.

The STEM Equipment and Supplies Grant Program for High Schools allows for the purchase of equipment and supplies to train students in science technology and research, and to close the funding gap for public and not-for-profit workforce training and educational institutions.

The grant program also seeks to increase student achievement and interest in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math), as well as support the implementation of state STEM standards.

Eligible high schools, as well as community-based organizations that serve high schools, can apply for up to $100,000 in grant funding.

“We want to attract top notch science students,” Gancz said. “We want to ramp up academics here. We want them to be as prepared for college as our technical students are for the workforce. And we want our tech students to have an experience that mirrors the workforce.”

The school will spend approximately half of the grant money on purchasing a ProJet 460Plus color 3-D printer for the school. LaPointe and Gancz said 3-D printing is the wave of the future for all kinds of skills and applications being taught to students who will not only be seeking jobs in the sciences, but also in vocational and technical professions.

“Our focus is on training students for careers in industry,” LaPointe said. “3D printing is the coming standard for industry, especially the machining field. Our students who have this type of education will now be ahead of the game.”

LaPointe said another goal is to set up an advisory committee for the science department made up of community partners to inform the school on where jobs are being created. The committee will also advise the school on how best to prepare students for an evolving workplace.

“Our community partners can help direct us as a science department to best prepare students to be competitive for jobs,” LaPointe said.

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