Friday, September 21, 2001
New CCHS principal Arthur DuLong talks about goals and first impressions
The new school year marks a major leadership change at Concord-Carlisle High School. Arthur DuLong, formerly associate principal of Lexington High School, has begun his new career as principal of CCHS, taking over the position held for the past 22 years by Elaine DiCicco, who retired in June. After only one week on the job, DuLong agreed to discuss his initial impressions and goals with the Mosquito. Following are excerpts from the interview.
What are some of your first impressions of CCHS?
Well, I spent a lot of time this summer reviewing materials left for me by Elaine and talking with staff and some faculty members, so I've already learned some of the history and culture of the school. I've also met with a variety of parent and community groups and leaders, who could not have been more welcoming. As for the start of school, if ever there was a test of our mettle, this week was it [referring to the terrorist attacks on New York and the Pentagon]. I'm extremely impressed with our faculty. Competence is only part of it. There seems to be a really strong tradition of cooperation and mentoring, with especially strong support of young and new colleagues and with each other. There is an obvious pride in the work of their colleagues.
Have you noticed any differences between the Lexington High School and CCHS environments?
There are huge differences in the culture and environments. Although CCHS is undergoing a growth spurt, its student population of about 1,150 is small compared to Lexington's 1,800. It feels quieter here. Lexington has a campus environment, with separate buildings and lots of milling about between them. This is a more contained environment.
There is much stronger department leadership here at CC. Departments are much more cohesive, and department chairs seem to better understand their departments' needs. I like the CC system of chair rotation. Every three years, each department nominates one or two candidates. Then an administration selection process is used to choose a new chair, who will serve for no longer than three years consecutively.
Another difference is that the CCHS student population is not as diverse as Lexington High School's. Although both schools have about the same level of METCO students, Lexington as a community is more diverse. There was also a larger group of transient international students in Lexington.
What are the key challenges you've identified thus far?
They're mostly mundane thus far, but things that are near and dear to our students. For example, there are not enough student lockers or parking spaces. Also, finding and retaining talented and qualified people to fill support staff roles, such as tutors, is difficult. These people are critical to what we're trying to get done in the classrooms.
I've also been surprised at how tight some budget line items are, such as supplies and texts. I know that Concord and Carlisle taxpayers spend a lot on this school, and from meeting with people from the Concord Ed Foundation and other parent and community groups I know that CCHS has wonderful town support. It just seems to me that certain budget line items are a bit too tight, which creates challenges.
With many CCHS teachers retiring over the next five years, and with fewer college students planning careers in education, how do you plan to maintain the high quality of the CCHS faculty?
I feel we must be open to candidates who have taken nontraditional routes to the teaching profession. For example, we just hired a math teacher from industry and an art teacher with 10 years experience creating computer game graphics. Such individuals can get their certifications if they've had teaching experience, and can do very well at CCHS because of our strong departments and mentoring traditions.
We also have to be out there at recruiting fairs, aggressively looking for top candidates. But CC has a real advantage; not only are pay scales good, but the work atmosphere, town support and academic reputation are well known to potential candidates.
Do you have any approaches for creating learning opportunities for gifted and special-needs students and those who may be turned off by the current curriculum choices?
This is not unique to CCHS. I've been asking our staff and faculty to have conversations around the idea of cross-curricular teaching; that is, linking curriculum and teaching cooperatively so that subjects are not so discrete. We should also look at other kinds of course offerings. For example, we have an extraordinary after-school drama program, but only one drama course. We've also begun conversations regarding advanced placement courses. In fact, advanced placement will be the subject of a panel discussion at an upcoming school committee meeting.
I think we must look closely at our applied arts and computer curricula. These are legitimate areas of study in an academic high school. We'll never go back to strong home economics and industrial arts programs, which are best served by the tech schools, which have the right resources and teachers. But we must address the needs of all our students, including the five percent who do not go on to college.
How do you feel about later start times at CCHS?
Research seems to support the fact that teenagers need more sleep than they typically get, and that they wake up slower than other age groups and perform better in late morning compared to early morning. That said, however, our American culture does not make it easy to do. We demand of our public schools all sorts of after-school activities and opportunities, such as sports, music, drama and student government. All these things require time. The only way I could see later start times happening would be as part of a national or statewide phenomenon.
Have you set any specific goals or objectives for your first year?
My main goal for this year is to really learn the culture of CCHS. I want to understand what people here are most proud of, and what works best. Change is inevitable, driven not only by the educational philosophies of a new leader but by personality as well. But I want to be respectful of the fact that I have come to an excellent school, not a crumbling one. Any changes must be improvements, which means that I must first learn what is working well.
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