Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Super Duper

The PTO mom confesses that she has not been paying as much attention to her blog as she ought to. There are things like a JOB and the demands of CHILDREN and HOLIDAY preparation and whatnot that have taken precedence.

I have, however, been paying attention to the search for a replacement for Superintendent Nicholson. The search committee did a fantastic job of reducing the field to four candidates and the School Committee pared that down to a final three. You can read a bit about the finalists here.

Here's my take:
Mr. DeMeo has been the principal of WHS for 4 years, which doesn't seem like a very long time to me. His background with high school age students and with vocational technical education are both, I would think, very strong reasons to keep him where he is, as Waltham is looking to expand the Career Technology Institute and to build a new high school. His strong suit is, of course, that he is a Waltham native and has been working in the district for many years. A criticism of recent Waltham Superintendents is that they have come up short in their knowledge of Waltham. Personally, I don't think that that is as much of a factor as native Walthamians think it is: all school districts are full of local politics and crazy parents and second-guessed School Committees and changing standards dictated by the state. If I were Queen for a Day, I would keep Mr. DeMeo right where he is so that we have grounded leadership to get the science labs at the high school accredited and to break ground on a new high school and to increase the offerings of the Career Technology Institute, all of which are in line with what the School Committee has been working toward.

Ms. Price is the current principal at Newton North HS and is liked by her students, their parents, and her staff.  She came to Newton North after the new high school was built and her teaching experience is also entirely with high school aged kids. She brought chocolate chip cookies to her interview, which makes me like her even more, and she wrote a lovely letter to the Newton North community to inform them that she was interviewing for superintendent positions. Ms. Price has a doctorate from Harvard's GSE Urban Superintendent Program, which means she probably learned a thing or two about managing a large urban school district. She is also a finalist for the Winchester Superintendent position. Ms. Price lives in West Newton, which is a heck of a lot closer to Waltham than, say, Methuen.

Mr. Echelson lives in Cambridge, also closer to Waltham than Methuen, though not as close as actually being in Waltham. He works for the Boston Public Schools as a Network Superintendent for area F, which includes Dorchester, Mattapan, and Roxbury. As such, he is the only candidate under consideration who has administrative experience at the superintendent level; he has additional experience as an intern to the superintendent of the Seattle schools. He also has the same doctorate from Harvard GSE that Ms. Price has and he has experience in helping to create programs that better serve students in Special Education and in moving programs to spaces where capacity issues (both over- and under-crowding) are addressed. His teaching and administrative background are primarily at the K-8 level, singling him out from the other two candidates and our current superintendent. Since I have kids who are in grades 2 and 5, I don't care about any other grades than those and so of course his elementary experience is a plus for me.

So, as Queen, I have Mr. DeMeo continuing to do a good job at WHS and working to get things sorted out there. Then what do I do? That's a hard call, however, as Queen, I need to make decisions that are completely non-binding and to which no one ever has to adhere. So, I appoint Mr. Echelson as the new Superintendent of the WPS and I stay in close touch with Ms. Price. Because the Queen always wants good people in her court.

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