The Hartsbrook School

Blog Author — Thomas Heineman

Reflections from a Student Trip to MCI Shirley

Recently, Hartsbrook Juniors and Seniors spent some time with inmates at MCI-Shirley, a medium and minimum security facility housing criminally sentenced men in Shirley MA. Here are some reflections:

The visit officially began as soon as we drove into the parking lot, which we later discovered was monitored at all angles by high security cameras. Everyone had dressed according to the harsh prison code but even so, a good deal of time was spent leaving certain items in lockers and being led through a metal detector/pat down area. On our way to the visiting area, there were several reality hits such as seeing the metal fences topped with layered coils of razor wire. Also the energy around the electronically controlled gates that we had to pass through was cold, inhuman and tense. We did eventually arrive at the small visiting building, where we met with a select group of inmates who showed us around in groups. There were several concepts that they explained to us such as the “no- contact visiting room” and the strip room (pretty self explanatory) which inmates have to endure before and after each visit. After our tours we re-connected with the whole group. Each inmate introduced themselves and then one stood up and told the story of his life, giving details on how certain choices and behaviors had led him down the wrong path. We ended with a Q+A session, in which each inmate reiterated the importance of staying true to yourself and to never be afraid to ask for help from those around you. 

Alena, 2018

There hasn’t been a single day since last Wednesday where my thoughts haven’t drifted to the experience we had at MCI Shirley prison. Every day I have found myself checking the clock, wondering what the men we spoke to might be doing, remembering a point they made that I want to ruminate on, and above all, wishing that I could go back and speak with them again. Because more than just a scared-straight-type situation, the experience forced me and many other students to ask ourselves extremely penetrating and complex questions. Is imprisonment for life a just punishment for a crime committed at seventeen? What had to have happened in these men that they ended up making such enormous, horrific mistakes? When a crime is committed, how do we balance the victim’s family’s need for justice with the perpetrator’s need for rehabilitation?

I had so many thoughts and feelings after the visit, unsure about all of them. The only thing I am sure of is that I want to go back and listen to their stories again. They spoke to us with such bravery, entrusting total strangers with their darkest moments, and asked us to learn from them. And, regardless of their pasts, I admire that bravery.

Poem inspired by the trip:

Across some stretch of land, a prisoner sleeps in the concrete cell;
My mind reaches impetuously across time and space for him…a state of near limerence.
Hands which once killed another gripped my own palm with such gentleness;
Let me wait…quivering, not knowing what is wrong and what is simply law.

There is the impulse to say I too am a prisoner…but iron bars and razor wire are not my fences:
The cup of coffee is my prison;
The ceaseless beat of the second hand is my prison;
I am the bars which keep my soul in check.
Yet nothing compares with the monotony of that prisoner in the concrete cell…and no prison of mine is comparable to the fences he endures.
No barriers of mine, no heartache or sorrows can touch on his…why, you ask, and I answer,because of you.

Let me hold you I call across the stretch of land.
My soul aches for him…inexplicable, intangible.

Hero,  2018

Our trip to MCI Shirley last Wednesday helped humanize the inmates while giving us a better understanding of the way the prison works, both logistically and emotionally. I took from our trip that it is best to be yourself and to ask for help when you need it as well as bettering yourself: always the best option.

Teresa, 2019

Teacher Review Process

To our community,

The Teacher Development Committee, or TDC, consists of three groups: Professional Development, Mentoring, and Reviews. Every teacher has his or her work reviewed by a review group, the Pedagogical or Department Chair at three-year intervals. A review group generally consists of two Faculty Conference members assigned by the TDC to gather input from classroom observations, colleagues, previous reviews, outside evaluators when necessary, parents, and a self-evaluation by the teacher.  When all these materials have been gathered, the review group meets with the teacher and his or her mentor to discuss the areas which are working well and those which may need support. From this meeting, or meetings, the review group draws up a list of commendations and recommendations, which are reported to the TDC. The teacher is asked to take up the recommendations with his or her mentor in a timely manner, and a date may be set for a follow-up visit and meeting.

Parent feedback is a valuable part of every review process; parents can tell us how their child’s teacher is communicating in parent evenings, conferences, reports and other updates. Parents can tell us how the whole class community is being held by the teacher. In the interest of involving the parent community as fully as possible in this process, we are publishing the list of teachers up for review this year, along with their review committee members and their mentors. The first name on the review committee is the head, and the name in parentheses is the mentor.

While class teachers may reach out directly to the parents of their students, subject and High School teachers have many more students and families, so we ask that you consider this article to be our review notification of your child’s teachers if they are on the list that follows, and that you take time over the next few weeks to write to the head of any review committee for the relevant teachers. In the interest of fair employment practices, we will not accept any communication sent by email, nor any sent anonymously. Forms for parent feedback are available in the main office, and may be returned there for the head of the review committee, or for the teacher. Alternatively, you may make an appointment with a member of the review committee for a conversation. Of course, you can always speak with your child’s teacher or mentor directly.

Thank you in advance for taking the time and thought to participate in the review process.

The Teacher Development Committee, review group:
Thomas Heineman, Magdalena Toran