Sunday, May 3, 2015

A Few More Thoughts on a Certain Decision by our Superintendent

I read with interest a Letter to the Editor in the News Trib.  My first question is, why do most letters to the editor in Waltham start with "As a lifelong Waltham citizen…."?  As a non-lifelong Waltham citizen with lots of friends who are lifers and just as many who are Breezers, I really don't see how that adds or detracts from one's observations on and thoughts about a topic.  Maybe all my Waltham peeps can let me in on the secret.  Certainly with the current issue of the non-renewal of the the McDevitt Middle School principal's contract, I would think that lifelong residents would be more inclined to side with the principal, who is herself a lifelong resident, rather than our current superintendent, who has never made any attempt to connect with the Waltham community.

These questions came to me as I was reading that letter as well as the responses to my last blog post:

  • What is the role of the superintendent of schools in dealing with alleged assaults, staff firing, and alleged bullying incidents?  I call these incidents 'alleged' not because I don't believe them, but because our system of justice states that an accused person is innocent until proven guilty.
  • If there is evidence that the principal at the McDevitt school was not dealing with alleged incidents appropriately, wouldn't it be incumbent on the superintendent to provide the principal with training and resources so that she could appropriately manage them?
  • What is the succession plan?  If the principal at the McDevitt is so terrible -- in fact, the worst of any principal in the district -- and there is documentation to support this, what happens in September?  Right now, there are two assistant principals at the McDevitt: one is an interim and the other is preparing for maternity leave.  So, that leaves us in September with a brand new superintendent and no principal and one interim assistant principal.  Keep in mind that, in addition to the 6th graders from the Stanley and the Whittemore, the students from the Fitzgerald will be there in the fall.  Those incoming sixth graders have never had a principal for more than two years: Shull in K, MacInnis in first, LaRoche for 2nd and 3rd, Castelline in 4th, and now Santillo.  Yes, MacInnis and Castelline were interims, however, does anyone else here see a trend with inability to manage direct reports?  Turnover at the principal level has also plagued the Whittemore School.  And let us not forget that there has been significant turnover at the superintendent level, too. 
  • How will the Waltham Public Schools attract strong leaders with a record like that?
  • What is the reasoning for the non-renewal of the contract?  Given that a new superintendent starts in two months, why not allow him to make such critical decisions regarding his team?  That is, unless the McDevitt principal was caught with a pack of matches and a can of gasoline trying to burn down the school, what is so urgent that it can't wait?  If it's the timing of the contract, then why not just give an extension and allow the incoming superintendent to assess and make the determination?
Many many parents and students will attend the School Committee meeting on Wednesday in support of Beth Gavin.  Again, I ask the School Committee to take a vote of no confidence in the Superintendent and to ask her to renew Ms. Gavin's contract.