Friday, February 10, 2006
Parents respond to Carlisle School principals' resignations
Parents and teachers filled the school library for the School Committee meeting last week, hearing public discussion for the first time about the resignations of Principal Steve Goodwin and Assistant Principal Michael Giurlando.
Goodwin thanked the "world's best staff" in a statement he read, including teachers, administrators past and present, support staff and parents. He said his new job as principal of Lynch Elementary School in Winchester will allow him to run his own building for the first time and have the benefit of other colleagues at the principal level in Winchester's other elementary schools. Lynch Elementary is a pre-kindergarten to grade-five school. Goodwin called it a hub for special education in the town.
"I seem to seek out new challenges every five to seven years," Goodwin explained, and with a shorter commute, he hopes to have more time with his two young daughters. "The Carlisle School is a sublime mosaic each day. It's the heart and soul of the town," he said, praising the "excellent kids" and strong community support.
In the last two years, Goodwin said, he worked with Superintendent Marie Doyle on benchmarks for student learning, staff professional development and many other school issues.
Assistant Principal Michael Giurlando said he planned to relocate back to New Jersey, nearer to his family. He also thanked the school and community for their support in his first two years as an administrator.
Carlisle Teachers' Association president and fifth-grade teacher Deborah Butts read a statement from teachers. "We regret that these energetic, respected young administrators will not be returning to Carlisle next fall to lead and help pave the way for students and faculty to continue to grow and learnWe thank Michael and Steve for all they have done. We will miss them."
Saying it was a bittersweet evening, Superintendent Marie Doyle acknowledged the entire staff would lose a "beloved principal" in Steve Goodwin. She said he has a great sense of humor and always makes people feel at home. "He'll be difficult to replace. He's a true professional who we can count on to the last day." The Superintendent also praised Mr. Giurlando, who shares responsibility for running the school with Goodwin, and this year focused on the middle school grades six to eight, school clubs and school buses. "He reaches out to children, teachers and parents and puts children first."
Parents ask questions
After the statements from the school, parents asked about the staff changes. Alex Krapf said he was concerned about low morale and losing teaching staff, particularly experienced teachers who mentor new teachers.
School Committee chair David Dockterman assured parents that no new resignations have been received. "No teachers are leaving, except those we know who are retiring at the end of the year." (Teachers due to leave at the end of the school year are Sara Bysshe, Phil LaPalme, Tom O'Halloran and Carolyn Platt.)
Jim Harris also emphasized parents' concern about teachers leaving in the wake of the principals' resignations. "Teachers are our most prized possession." Marty Blue agreed, "My primary concern is retaining staff."
"We lost role models. I would like some transparency tonight," said Colleen Walsh. She asked the school committee, "Why are the principals leaving?" Dockterman said the principals' statements captured everything to be said about why they decided to leave.
Scott Brazina, who said his family moved to Carlisle because of the school, asked, "Is there a change in direction in the school? There was one leader, Davida Fox-Melanson for ten years. Now we have a different leader, a different style. Is there a style shift?"
Dockterman answered, "I don't see a change in direction at the school." He acknowledged that the school committee is not at the school every day, and encouraged people to talk with the superintendent directly.
Roxanne Brazina asked about the overall academic plan for the school, "beyond the world language program that we hear so much about." Doyle said that both math and literacy are of primary importance, but new initiatives, such as adding to the world language program, tend to be discussed most at public meetings.
Ending the public discussion, Dockterman told parents, "You can contact either Marie or the school committee members," with both good and bad comments.
The superintendent later said she had asked Goodwin to stay, though he wanted to move to a larger school system. "He's a very talented leader," and their relationship is "collegial and professional," she said.
Doyle plans to respond to what she sees as the staffs' sadness over the principals' resigning. Both teachers and parents feel a "real loss with Steve leaving," she acknowledged. She emphasized that Carlisle has "outstanding, excellent teachers who give 1,000 percent. I want to have honest dialogue with the staff. I want to hear from teachers."
She also wants their input on what the school needs in a new principal. "I want their input before any decisions are made that impact the school." There will be some public interviews of candidates for the new principal. "We need to look at how we can divide responsibilities that include being in the classroom, working closely with the staff, and going to all functions. With 800 children that's a lot for one principal to do." The school also has 75 teachers and a total of 148 staff, including both full-time and part-time employees. In the last three years, 31 new teachers started at the Carlisle School to replace teachers who left due, in part, to early retirement benefits offered to teachers with 30 years experience by the Massachusetts Teachers' Retirement System.
In their statement, teachers highlighted the need for outside input into the principal selection process. "As an organization, the Carlisle Teachers' Association encourages a larger community dialogue to explore what changes must take place in order that we might attract and retain highly qualified candidates to replace these leaders."
After the meeting, school committee member Michael Fitzgerald said as an outsider he could not comment on the personal dynamics, positive or negative, in the relationship between Doyle and Goodwin. Dockterman said he believed the meeting was constructive and that people were ready to look forward.
Steve Goodwin said this week that Carlisle will continue to be a great school because of the staff and community. An ad for the principal for the Carlisle K-8 school system was in the January 29 Sunday Boston Globe and will run again this Sunday. The school has already received several resumes.
© 2006 The