Latest News

New England Educational Leader Gil Traverso Affects Change Under the Most Challenging Circumstances

Turning around a failing school is no small feat. It is a large and impressive enough task to be the subject of movies and TV shows, where the safety concerns and lack of learning can be clearly illustrated by Hollywood writers and directors. But for veteran educational leader Gil Traverso, turning around failing schools has become his specialty. In fact, he has earned a name for himself as the man to call in New England when a school has fallen so far that it has nowhere else to go.

By always putting the children first, even when up against seemingly impossible odds, Traverso has been able to take on some of the most troubled schools in Massachusetts and Connecticut – and come out on top. Measuring in metrics like dropout rates, graduation rates, test scores, number of fights, and number of suspensions, Traverso has a pretty incredible track record. Not only does he implement new policies and procedures, but he balances budgets; improves staff morale; engages parents; and balances the politics of keeping teachers, parents, and district officials happy.

Currently the Executive Director of the Paulo Freire Social Justice Charter School in Chicopee, Massachusetts, Traverso is perhaps most well-known for his work at the Roger L. Putnam Vocational Technical Academy in Springfield, Massachusetts. He was also previously brought on to Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School and the State Department of Education-Connecticut Technical High School to work his magic.

Traverso’s Work at Paulo Freire

In July 2020, when the COVID pandemic was in full swing, Traverso came on at Paulo Freire, previously telling The Republican that he is drawn to the students, staff, and mission at Paulo Freire.

Traverso got right to work on changes and policies that simultaneously help student learning thrive while honoring Paulo Frieire’s unique social justice model. Some of the advancements that he spearheaded were the creation of a library and a mock trial room, as well as a daily social justice class addressing current issues. New after-school programs are being offered, as well as dual enrollment programs with five local colleges.

As always, Traverso is focused on finding and remedying the root cause of every issue.

“First, an effective analysis of data speaks volumes when seeking the performance outcomes,” he says. “The next critical step is understanding the root causes of the data results, which requires inquiry for understanding. This needs to be followed by providing tiered supports and interventions that will positively impact the present performance data.”

In the case of Paulo Freire, the vast majority (92%) of students are high-needs: low-income, learning disabilities, and/or English as a second language are the top difficulties. But under Traverso, attendance has been on the rise and the graduation rate is going up as well; standardized test scores are getting better but still below where they need to be.

But the progress under Traverso is undeniable, as students who were struggling at large public high schools are finally succeeding at Paulo Freire’s 240-student campus.

The Putnam Turnaround

It was during Traverso’s four years at Roger L. Putnam Vocational Technical Academy, from 2010-2014, that really put his abilities as a leader in the spotlight. After falling far from its previous reputation as a leader in vocational-technical high school education, Traverso inherited a school that was failing in many ways. With high dropout rates, low graduation rates, and low test scores, Putnam was in need of a major overhaul.

By the time Traverso moved on, Putnam was voted Best Technical High School in Western Massachusetts three years in a row. Four-year cohort graduation rates increased from 60.4% to 85% in three years, and the school came in second in standardized test gains in the entire state of Massachusetts. They also tied for the lowest dropout rate statewide at .7.

In 2014, Traverso was nominated for Principal of The Year for Massachusetts.

It took more than 80 policy and procedural changes to turn Putnam around, and Traverso delved deep to figure out why kids were placed in the school who shouldn’t be, how parents could help their children stay in school versus dropping out, and how to test vocational students appropriately and fairly. He found that many guidance counselors have limited understanding of vocational schools, taught parents remediation measures, and selected specialized testing for vocational students that would reflect their time spent in shops.

In short, he found the root causes of Putnam’s biggest problems and remedied them in systematic, creative, and effective ways. He did so while fixing their messy bookkeeping problem and moving the school into a new state-of-the-art building.

What’s Next for Traverso

With Paulo Freire’s state charter unrenewed, Traverso is looking forward – and up. He currently mentors other principals and maintains his passion for leadership. After witnessing the detrimental effects that poor leadership can have on a school and its staff, Traverso is deeply passionate about affecting positive change at as many schools as he can.

With his methodical determination and intense focus on what is best for children in a learning environment, Traverso is an asset to any school district.

To Top

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This