Letter To School Committee
I will not be able to attend the upcoming school committee meetings for health reasons. Below are my comments on two important items on the agenda- the superintendent’s evaluation and the letter from town officials about the current level 4 process. It is often hard to tell what is intended by certain items that appear on our agenda that do not have supporting documents or explanations. . I therefore apologize if the remarks below make unwarranted assumptions about the agenda.
1. Superintendent’s Evaluation
I’m not sure what this is about but assume it is to begin the evaluation process noted in Superintendent Ekstrom’s contract? If so, there are a number of pretty serious issues we need to try to resolve before moving forward. First of all, I do not think the school committee as a whole has discussed or even approved of Nadine’s contract. Secondly, questions have been raised by committee members and town officials re the search process (or lack thereof) for choosing a permanent Superintendent. In response, vague claims have been made about the contract that seem to imply it prohibits a search.
Finally, the committee seems to have put my suggestion to develop a broad educational-institutional plan aligned with the fiscal plan on the back burner. Yet without some sort of comprehensive plan or vision, how do we know what kind of superintendent we want? What exactly are the criteria for evaluating the interim superintendent? You simply end up with a generic process not targeted to our needs. Same old problem.
I think it would be a huge mistake for the committee to ignore these questions and forge ahead with a pre-packaged evaluation not aligned with the core issues we face..
2. Letter from town officials..
Similarly, it would be a mistake to simply ignore this letter without some concrete response or action. I strongly agree with most of the criticisms expressed in the letter and with the argument that so-called “accelerated” improvement plan can be implemented within a year. While I have some doubts that the best strategy is to have the school committee alone keep complaining about the time frame, I think there is much value in working with town officials to continue to engage the state on the district’s status and the broader process for evaluating districts. There are still big questions to be resolved.
I am also extremely concerned with comments by some committee members suggesting that active and persistent critical engagement with the state does no good. We heard this frequently during the process that produced the long term fiscal plan and it proved to be wrong. It is disturbing to me that after all we have been through the argument keeps appearing.
I would suggest a response to the town officials something like the following (with editing of course).
To town officials:
“The school committee shares many of the concerns in your recent letter about the validity of the GMRSD’s Level Four status and the exit criteria being imposed on us Consistent with your letter, we feel it is necessary to comply with state requirements, which can be implemented during the current school year.
Although we agree that the exit criteria and time frame set by DESE are not well justified, we doubt that more protests by the committee alone at this time will produce results. However we would like to meet with you to develop an on-going capacity to monitor the level 4 process and any other state mandates or policies that impact the viability of our school district. This might be modeled on the collaboration that produced the long term fiscal plan..
3. Long term educational-institutional plan.
Both the process for choosing a new superintendent and how we relate to the state should be considered in the context of an overall educational-institutional plan linked to the fiscal plan. Without this we simply make fragmented, incremental decisions out of context. This, in turn, increases the tendency for issues to get submerged by the divisions on the committee. As I have stated, my plan or vision is not cast in stone .I look forward to others, not to mention some real discussion of the ideas I put forward. The process can begin now without undermining the work that Nadine is doing.It actually might help if done correctly.