The Past 37 Years: A Reflection

Written by Anne-Carol Malone, Director of Professional Development and Volunteers

February 1st, 2019 marked the first day of my 37th year at COMPASS! As I wrote this post, I quickly realized it would be impossible to express the impact COMPASS has had on my life in 500 words or less. So instead I chose five words that encompass the many highs and lows that I, along with my co-workers and students, have experienced over this time.

Perception: On February 1, 1982 I walked into a very large room with a milk crate; it had eight pencils, paper, and some books. As I looked around “MY CLASSROOM” there was a ping pong table, a pool table, and nine chairs. I thought it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen.  I WAS A REAL TEACHER!! Looking back, I now realize it was a very old room in the South Boston Boys Club and really not a classroom at all; however, I SAW it as a classroom, so it became one. The students that entered that day would be the first of many that would enrich my life in ways I could not imagine possible.

Dedication: During my time at COMPASS, I have had the privilege to work with many staff members who were/are dedicated to our students everyday; between teaching academics and coping skills, they listen to, advocate for, and go the extra mile to meet the students’ needs. We are now a staff of 135however, it was not always that way. One May, a staff of seven were told that COMPASS was going to close its doors because of financial reasons. The entire staff then volunteered to work for a month without pay – ensuring our students met the necessary educational requirements and could have appropriate closure.

Selflessness: At the end of that school year, COMPASS was still in financial need, and we all faced the sad reality it was time to close the doors. However, one of our past Executive Directors, Dave, believed in our mission so deeply that he personally guaranteed COMPASS a line of credit with his home so he could pay staff. This selfless act allowed COMPASS to stay open and grow to what it has become today.

Resilience: I have so much respect for the resilience of our students and families; even though they face many obstacles, they continue to come to school everyday. A very important mentor, Dr. Tim Ott, taught me to listen and to always set the bar high. Many of us still quote his words of wisdom ensuring we accept students for where they are and always see the potential of where they can go.

Change: COMPASS has taught me over the last 37 years to embrace change. Over the years we have grown in numbers and services. There was a time we had a staff of three providing services to children in foster care, and we now have a staff of 69 providing Comprehensive Support and Stabilization to families in need. There was a time the school staff consisted of a site supervisor, caseworkers, teachers, and monthly clinical meetings by consultants. We now have an interdisciplinary staff made up of a Principal, Clinical Director, District Liaison, Education Coordinator, Program Directors, Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA), Clinicians, Caseworkers, Speech and Language Pathologist, Teachers, Teacher aides, Culinary Arts Specialist, Physical Education Teacher, Nurse, Transition workers, Computer Specialist, and an Occupational Therapist.

There was a time my co-teacher and friend, Yvonne, and I had access to only one curriculum, Houghton Mifflin, and hand wrote worksheets to meet the different needs of our students. Today, COMPASS has access to cutting edge technology and many different curriculums. Through all the many changes I’ve had one constant, our current Executive Director, John, who has guided us through the above changes and so many others, whether it was moving from South Boston, Jamaica Plain, Roxbury, and Charlestown until we found our current home in Dorchester. He has consistently developed relationships with outside agencies and helping me grow from Teacher, to Head Teacher, to Education Administrator, to Education Director, and currently the Director of Professional Development and Volunteers. I am thankful for his guidance, support, and encouragement to grow over the years.

In closing, so much has changed at COMPASS since February 1, 1982. However, the important things – the positive perception, dedication, selflessness, resilience and the willingness to embrace change – remain the same.

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