Friday, March 30, 2001
Three finalists selected for CCHS principal
The search committee seeking a new principal for the Concord-Carlisle Regional High School interviewed six candidates for the job in open meetings over the last week. On Tuesday, the committee selected three of these candidates as finalists. Chosen were Arthur Dulong, Pamela Culver and Peter Badalament. The six semi-finalists had been chosen from 13 applicants that the committee had interviewed privately.
The final decision on who will be made principal rests with Concord and Concord-Carlisle Regional School District Superintendent Ed Mavragis. The new principal could be named by mid-April, according to Dick Sederstrom, Personnel Director of the Concord Schools, after the superintendent has conducted final interviews with the three chosen candidates and gone to their school systems to obtain information. Principal Elaine DiCicco, who has guided the high school for the past 24 years, will retire in June.
The interviews were held in the library at CCHS on March 20, 22 and 26, before a search committee of 17 members, including faculty, administrators, school committee members, parents and students representing both Concord and Carlisle. Teachers and parents in the general audience were also asked to comment on the applicants on a form supplied by the committee.
The committee questioned the candidates separately in interviews lasting about an hour each. During the interviews, Sederstrom emphasized that community expectations for the continued success of the high school are extremely high. Following are the candidate's views and educational experience as explained during the interviews.
Peter Badalament is currently Dean of Students at Concord-Carlisle High School. The Dean of Students is an assistant principal who focuses on student achievement. He has taught in Washington DC, New Jersey, and was a principal intern at Lincoln-Sudbury High school.
He sees the job of principal as that of manager and instructional leader. He also would be responsible for budgets and public relations. He said that the principal must devote incredible amounts of time to get things done. "I'm in awe of the current principal," he said. "I've been trained well," and would put in 12 to 14 hours each day to maintain the excellence of the school, he said. He would commit all his time and energy, he added.
Asked about aligning the curriculum with students coming from two towns plus Boston, he said that there could be more sharing between CCHS teachers and middle school teachers from both Concord and Carlisle. He mentioned a presentation he had seen in Carlisle about inquiry-based science.
On MCAS, Badalament said that the MCAS test should not be the sole assessment for graduation. "We are committed to proficiency in English and math, but there need to be other ways to assess students, too," he said. The original education reform legislation said that there would be other forms of assessment, and there still need to be, he said.
The greatest challenge for the school is the hiring and retention of excellent staff, he said. Many veteran teachers will be retiring soon so recruiting new teachers will become a bigger job for the principal. Younger teachers will also need to be trained to be supervisors and leaders so they will be able to become department chairs, he added.
His core values include tolerance, non-violence, and caring. "I let people know that non-violence is important to me. Even the language people use is important," he said. There have been very few violent incidents at CCHS, he said, because of the hard work of all the staff and community agencies. Caring is a core of the curriculum; the school is a caring institution, he said.
Arthur Dulong is currently Associate Principal at Lexington High School. He has also been a math teacher, head of the mathematics department, and Assistant Principal at Lexington High School. His High School experience was different from most, he explained. As a student, he hated school, but he went out for the track team and became very successful and competed nationally. He became a better student because of his success at track, he said.
With regard to the responsibilities of a principal, Dulong said, "I'm a very hard worker, I put in long hours, I like to be thorough and to do things well." He has been handling public relations in Lexington and has budgeting experience as well, he said.
Assistant Superintendent Karen Nerpouni asked about evaluating teachers. Dulong said he could tell that the teacher is doing something good if the students are excited and interested, actively engaged, given opportunity and respectful of the teacher.
Asked about things that make him angry, he answered, "Inequities all students need to have the same opportunities. Lack of respect for each other I have zero tolerance for bullies and zero tolerance for drug or alcohol abuse it shows lack of respect for school."
Dulong is "not a fan" of the state imposing the MCAS test on schools that are doing well, though he acknowledged that some schools are having trouble. "School bashing is popular," he said. "Most schools in the state are doing better than ever before," he added. Since the test is a requirement, though, the school must try to help students pass it, he said.
He said that students have not changed much over the years, "kids are kids." Parents have changed more though, he said. "Parents don't necessarily trust that the school is doing the best for the kids. Parents don't react to discipline of kids the way they used to." Parents always think that they are doing what is best for their child, he said, although "sometimes I disagree. Everyone would agree that I tell it straight."
Craig Hardimon, a former Social Studies teacher, is a Housemaster at Newton North High School. At the high school a Housemaster is assigned to each graduating class to follow students through their four years of high school.
On MCAS, Hardimon said he agrees with higher standards for education, particularly to address the different standards that exist for students living in various towns across the state. However, he opposes one-size-fits-all testing and believes that each student explores knowledge differently.
When asked what "pushes his buttons" Hardimon said he believes "kids are supposed to be kids, and teenagers are supposed to do things." What he doesn't like to see is a teacher treating a student without respect by publicly reprimanding a student.
On a question about how he would handle a veteran teacher who appeared to be slipping on the job, the administrator said he would first see if the teacher was aware of the problem and try to offer assistance. He said he would take into account the experience and contribution the teacher has made in the past and help the teacher try to improve by offering the opportunity to attend a workshop.
Jean Wentworth is the Principal at Nonnewaug High School in Woodbury, Connecticut. The high school also has an agricultural program that draws students from over 20 communities. She was formerly a Housemaster at Lincoln-Sudbury High School where she was assigned a section of students. Wentworth said she is used to a demanding community and is aware that many families decide to move here because of the quality of the public schools.
When asked how to make electives more interesting to students, Wentworth said she has devised a questionnaire for students asking them what electives they would like to see offered and has worked with department chairs to develop new electives. One of the initiatives she took while at Nonnewaug was to organize a forum for graduates who went away to college to return and talk about their experiences with current students.
Wentworth said she feels strongly about anything that threatens a person's physical or emotional safety and security. She says she tries to walk in with a smile and always thinks of how to be professional and have a sense of humor.
Wentworth said she has found that she really gets to know kids when they get into trouble. As a principal, she said, she has encountered difficult issues ranging from a student attempting suicide to a fire set in a bathroom.
Responding to a question on how she would try to prevent METCO students from feeling as though they are guests in the community, Wentworth said it's important for local families to make connections after school. As principal, she said she would go to Boston to attend events there. METCO students go the distance every day to attend school in Concord, she said.
Pamela Culver is Principal at Masconomet Regional High School with students from Boxford, Topsfield and Middleton. Culver, a former math teacher, has been a principal for 20 years in various towns in New York and Massachusetts.
When questioned about the difficulties of leading a regional high school, Culver said she now deals with three different communities and the finance committees in each town. It's important for the high school principal to be visible in the community and it is a demanding job, she said but, "Being a high school principal is not a job, it's a way of life." Also, she said her six years as a former school board member in New York helped her to learn about negotiating and to sharpen her budgetary skills.
Culver said when she visits a school she looks to see what the climate is like by reading posters and seeing what is displayed on bulletin boards. In her brief visit to CCHS she noticed that students said hello to her and were friendly to her as a visitor, a sign, she said, of a good environment where kids feel comfortable.
Her basic philosophy for a school includes high standards for respect. Having respect for others and for student property and the property of others leads to self-respect, she said. Culver worked with juvenile delinquents for 12 years, an experience that has made her much more flexible and understanding than she would be otherwise, she said.
Regarding MCAS tests, Culver said Masconomet High School students also test above the average for the state as do CCHS students. One of her concerns with the tests is that schools need more time to align their curriculum with the academic frameworks before requiring students to pass the tests for graduation. Culver is also concerned that students are learning "too much, too fast" with algebra now introduced in middle school in her district, and biology introduced earlier in order to prepare students for the Grade 10 exams.
Culver acknowledged one of the key challenges she faces at CCHS is how to retain a core group of faculty. Many veteran teachers, at CCHS as well as across the state, are expected to retire in the next few years. There is also a shortage of teachers at the high school level, particularly in math, science and foreign language.
Yvonne Spicer-Driver is currently affiliated with the Massachusetts Department of Education and is a sabbatical teacher in the technology field.
Prompted by a question from the committee, Spicer-Driver told of her high school experience at Brooklyn Technical High School, a high-achieving high school whose students were expected to do well. She spoke of the importance of the support networks in the school and the role they played. This has influenced her teaching style by encouraging her to give that "extra bit of support" needed. She commented that the most beautiful gift of teaching is having a student come back and say thank you.
Spicer-Driver said that to continue to foster the success of CCHS she would give 110 percent to the effort and use her know-how in conveying the needs of the school to the community.
When asked about her lack of experience in the position of principal, she spoke of her active search for leadership skill-sets needed to do the job. Asked how she viewed the role of principal, she said she needed to "learn the terrain (and if it's not broke don't fix it) ... look at gaps that need attention, and focus on long-range planning for growth."
Because of her affiliation with the Massachusetts Department of Education, Spicer-Driver was asked to comment on the MCAS exams. She opened by commenting on the department's perspective on the exams, but was redirected to give her opinion. She stated that collaborative discussion on how to modify the exams is needed and that towns needed to lobby for change. Given the CCHS open stand against the MCAS exams as the sole criteria for graduation, one committee member asked if we wouldn't be embracing the enemy by hiring her. Spicer-Driver commented that she would be more effective for having the benefit of the experience with the department.
As an outsider, Spicer-Driver said she was prepared to earn everyone's trust, that she has strong convictions, is fair, consistent and a person of her word. She is willing to do whatever it takes to support the community, and would see herself fitting into the role as principal at CCHS because her values match those of the community, giving her a strong foundation upon which to build.
© 2001 The Carlisle Mosquito