Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Paraphrasing Shakespeare and the McDevitt Decision

Our outgoing Superintendent, along with our incoming Superintendent (to whom Outgoing refers to as a "Superintendent-elect", even though he is not elected, but is hired and works under a contract.  But I digress) announced yesterday that Michael Sabin will be the principal of the McDevitt beginning July 1st.


I am, of course, extremely disappointed that Beth Gavin won't be there to welcome my son and all of the other incoming sixth graders in September.  I am frustrated that, for the sixth of his seven years in Waltham Public Schools, my kid will start his first year in middle school with a principal who is in his first year at the school.  I am concerned that there will be little things that will be missed when a new principal starts at the school: while he's trying to remember which stairwell is up and which is down and what to do while an assistant principal is out on maternity leave, how is he going to remember the nuances of my student, which, really, is the only thing that I want him to remember, just like any parent.

Don't get me wrong: it seems that Mr. Sabin is very qualified, even overqualified.  I like that he is bilingual and so will be able to communicate with parents who are Spanish-speaking.  It appears that he and Dr. Echelson have likely crossed paths in the Boston Public Schools and at Harvard, and, if that is true, then that's also a good thing.  I like that Mr. Sabin lives in Lexington (of course, I liked the fact that Beth lives in Waltham even more.)  The only concern that I had was that he does seem to change jobs every five years, which takes me to the year my younger son will be moving from 7th to 8th grade.  I look forward to meeting and working with Mr. Sabin, and I am sure that we will get on famously, since I am well practiced in befriending new principals, whether they are interims or permanent candidates.

Not to go full Shakespeare here, however, something is still rotten in the City of Waltham.  That is, we -- the taxpayers, the parents, the constituents, the voters, the stakeholders -- have never been given a reason for the non-renewal of the contract of a very popular and well-regarded middle school principal. The Outgoing Superintendent has not spoken to the press and, according to at least one member of the School Committee, the elected body responsible for her oversight, not to the School Committee either.  Where is the transparency?  A principal is an administrator: the Chief Executive of the school.  Since we taxpayers pay a collective $77 million to the WPS, I do think that we need to know the reason that a contract at this level was not renewed.  The last time I wrote about this, some anonymous posters asked if I felt that I had to know about every personnel change that was made.  No, I don't.  Unless it is contested.  And then, at the very least, the School Committee should know.  Just because the Ed Reform law allows a superintendent to end a contract with a principal with no oversight, I would certainly think that a superintendent, acting in good faith, would want to advise the School Committee regarding his or her reasons to seek change at the Chief Executive level in a school.  Unless, of course, there's no good reason.

Of course, the lack of transparency is permeating Waltham right now, as our Mayor won't talk to the press and only responds to questions submitted via email (the better to parse them), so it's no surprise that the Outgoing Superintendent would do the same.

In the spirit of transparency, I have never pretended to be objective about my thoughts regarding Beth Gavin.  She is a superstar and I am honored to know her and her family and I have no doubt that her son and my younger son are going to get into a whole lot of trouble together at some point in the future.  I also know that she will quickly get another position in another district, following many department heads and principals who have led an exodus out of the WPS during our Outgoing Super's tenure.  Wherever Beth lands, her teachers and students will be that much better for knowing her and working with her.  And that's Waltham's loss.