METCO aims to increase enrollment in Marblehead Public Schools

Caja Johnson, METCO program director since Sept. Photo by MPS website- received approval from Caja to use.

The Metropolitan Council for Educational Opportunity (METCO) program, a voluntary school desegregation program funded by a grant from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, has experienced a decrease in enrollment since the program was available to Marblehead Public Schools in 1967 with 43 students currently enrolled.

Caja Johnson, director of the METCO program for the Marblehead Public Schools since Sept., aims to “increase enrollment.”

According to Johnson, the decrease in enrollment could be due to the high turnover in Marblehead Public Schools and the geographical location of Marblehead.

Johnson’s goal includes a fully staffed program with 5 members, a full-time program Director, three part-time tutors, and one part-time clerical paraprofessional. As of last week, the METCO program is fully staffed with a newly hired employee. Johnson aims to “see consistency across the staff.”

The METCO program is designed for Boston students of color to be transported to a predominantly white school district for the opportunities for white school districts to experience the advantages of learning and working in a racially and ethnically diverse setting, to break the barriers of geography and race.

Because Marblehead is the furthest away from Boston, and there are other METCO districts closer to Boston, Marblehead Public Schools are seeing the effects in the number of enrolled students.

“Rights now, it seems that there’s a shortage of drivers across the state in Massachusetts, there’s also increased traffic due to construction and work that’s being done on the NBTA and so when I say transportation improvements, I just mean the length of time it takes to get from here, from Boston with the lack of drivers,” said Johnson.

In addition, Johnson aims to see more staff representation across Marblehead Public schools.

New to the program, the METCO headquarters will be allowing parents and families to select their top three school district preferences with a free showcase this upcoming Sat. Dec. 10th at the Boys and Girls Club in Dorchester.

“I would like to be supportive of creating more opportunities for parents and families to be able to be present here in the district for our events and school committee meetings,” said Johnson. Currently, the METCO PTO program has three members enrolled.

For social and emotional support for METCO students, Johnson would like to see intern social workers incorporated into the program. “I think it’s a great district where interns would thrive and learn so much,” said Johnson.