Friday, October 24, 2003
Getting to know CCHS Assistant Principal Alan Weinstein
Weinstein, who has taken on the role vacated by former assistant principal Henry Damon (who retired last summer after 34 years with the school), comes to CCHS after 26 years as a science teacher and administrator at Cambridge Rindge and Latin School, the only public high school in Cambridge. In 1995, Weinstein was able to complete his EdD degree at the Harvard School of Education, even as he continued working full time at CRLS.
Now, after nearly three months of getting settled, we thought it would be an appropriate time to check in with the new assistant principal at Concord-Carlisle High School.
How are things going so far at CCHS?
"It has been a relatively quiet fall, and the transition has been smooth. The most difficult issues have been those which have affected me indirectly such as the budget. Statewide and federally, these are hard times, and it's hard to escape that. Individual towns can help, and can make things a little easier, but everyone is suffering. Indirectly this affects me, because the amount of support I get will determine how I allot my time.
"Then there's the question of learning the culture and how things operate. There is a new computer system, which I have to learn. The schedule of classes is different, as well as the codes of discipline. I know most of what I have to know, and I will continue to learn."
What are some of the positive aspects of your job here at CCHS?
"This is a culture with high expectations, and folks meet those expectations. Kids go about their business, and I don't have to walk around with a stack of disciplinary issues. The people here are of high caliber, and the school runs very smoothly.
"Sometimes in the urban system, I used a boat metaphor. The boat was rocking all the time and we didn't know if it would make it to shore. This boat [CCHS] is on a pretty smooth course. We never wonder if it's going to make it."
Can you describe a typical day in the life of Al Weinstein, Assistant Principal?
Weinstein reaches into a back pocket to retrieve a folded sheet of blue notebook paper, which he consults. "Every night, I look at my day book and write out my schedule," he explains.
"This morning, there was a discipline issue and I dealt with that. There was a teacher of a student with difficulties. Next is a Health Week assembly. Later I'll punch in data for the state." Earlier, Weinstein noted that much of his time currently is spent with online data processing, entering information about students and services at the high school, which helps the state compile information for statistics and finances.
"I will frequently do a walk-around, perhaps make a visit to the lunchroom. I haven't been able to get to know as many kids as I'd like as yet.
"After I'm through compiling data [for the state], I will have to do teacher evaluations, one class a day. I'll sit with the teacher before and after visiting the class, then write a final evaluation. There are four-year evaluation cycles and each warrants a different set of activities.
"There are also meetings with department chairs, guidance counselors, and once a week we have a principal/assistant principal meeting."
What are some of the greatest challenges you've encountered at CCHS?
"Not that it's particularly great or difficult here, but the nature of the drug and alcohol issue is challenging. Certainly it's part of the teen culture everywhere, but I've discovered there doesn't seem to be a lot of activities for kids after school in Concord and Carlisle. If kids don't have homework or it's the weekend, what are they doing? They've got to get into a car, go to someone's house, and find themselves susceptible to drugs and alcohol in a way that gets me concerned. Kids get in cars, things will happen, and perhaps even have happened. This is not different from other communities.
"Cambridge has community centers in every section of town, where kids spend evenings and weekends, well into the night. There are also places for kids to 'hang out,' like Central Square and Harvard Square. Kids need that kind of setting, like a local YMCA or community center. Apparently the community center idea has been tried here, but I've been told it hasn't clicked. It's not part of what kids do. This is a challenge for the entire community, and not just the schools."
What are your goals?
"Initially, I'd like to get to know more people; more students and more adults. The kids I'll need to know, I'll get to know. It's easy to identify the kids I'll be spending the most time with. But the kids who don't get in trouble, I might not have a chance to meet.
"Also, this is the first year in my career that I have not taught. I really feel that empty space. It's an odd feeling, not being in front of students. I'll have to find ways to get into a classroom, maybe getting involved in an existing class or offering a seminar."
How is CCHS different from Cambridge Rindge and Latin School?
"It's a very different demographic here. There, it was almost 70% minority, 30% white. Basically, it had both the advantages and disadvantages of an urban school system. It's the only public school in Cambridge, and in years past, attracted an upper echelon — many of the parents were professors at MIT and Harvard. We had many immigrants as well, creating a wonderful mix of kids at all levels of achievement. But within the last five or six years, rent control was eradicated and the number of those in the "middle" — middle class, middle students — has waned. At times, it's difficult to blend students.
"One has to understand that the students in Cambridge don't always come from a background in which they've had the advantages of going to school, liking school and succeeding in school. Rewards can be harder to come by."
Weinstein also notes that there have been many changes at CRLS in recent years, including frequent changes in principals and an effort to divide the school into five distinct learning communities. These changes have often been difficult for staff and students, he says.
"The major thing is that it was getting too unstable. You can only go through so many changes. I'd been there a long time, and I was ready to move on."
Is Henry Damon a tough act
"Sure. He's a tough act to follow here, as I will be in Cambridge. When people thrive within an environment accumulating a certain knowledge base, they become the keepers of an institutional memory.
"Henry was a very solid, very efficient administrator who knows this system very well. I was fortunate to have his help making this transition over the summer."
What would you like people to know about Al Weinstein, the person?
"I do a lot of art. I carve stone, do photography, painting, different kinds of crafts. I'm also an avid sports fan. I have not recovered yet from the Red Sox, and it will take a long time. I like watching basketball and football. I like to play sports too, and especially enjoy tennis and biking.
"I hope people will recognize that I'm pretty easygoing and I have a sense of humor, something I think will help in all situations.
"My biggest challenge so far has been Route 128 on my drive home [to Newton Center]. Otherwise, it has been a joy. I've had a wonderful fall."
© 2003 The Carlisle Mosquito