Friday, March 3, 2006
Wanted: two principals for small suburban school
Interviews began this week in the search for two new principals for the Carlisle Public School to replace Steven Goodwin and Michael Giurlando who have resigned effective June 30 (see "Parents respond to Carlisle School principals' resignations," February 10). Given the community dissatisfaction voiced over the process used to hire a new Chief of Police this winter, many questions were asked when School Superintendent Marie Doyle met with the Carlisle School Committee (CSC) on February 15 and with parents and community members the next morning.
A total of 37 resumes were received for the job openings. A small preliminary committee winnowed these down to roughly a dozen candidates, who will be interviewed by a larger, 13-member search committee created by the Superintendent. The preliminary selection was composed of Doyle, teachers, and Director of Student Support Services Dr. Linda Stapp.
Doyle will chair the full search committee comprised of two administrators, four teachers, five parents and two students. The committee will conduct a first round of confidential, 45-minute interviews with candidates. Committee members will rate each candidate on a scale of one to five on a list of qualifications, including education, experience and interpersonal skills.
The superintendent has the final say in hiring principals, but CSC member Michael Fitzgerald questioned her participation in the search committee. "My biggest concern," said Fitzgerald, "is the fact that if you are sitting in on that process you could end up with a committee who won't like the direction, but won't want to be vocal. They need a free hand in making a recommendation. You are their superior, and could influence their recommendation."
Doyle disagreed, and said that hiring high-quality principals was extremely important and she needed "to hear everything." She said she would be a non-voting member. At the meeting on February 16, she explained, "My job is to lead the committee to consensus." According to Goodwin, the Winchester Superintendent and Assistant Superintendent served on the search committee that hired him.
Is the role of the search committee to provide a set of final candidates, or to choose the two principals, pending the Superintendent's approval? "Be it two or four candidates" recommended by the search committee, Doyle said that the community and faculty would have a chance to meet with the finalists. Fitzgerald would prefer that the committee recommend "three to five" candidates, from which Doyle would hire two. Parent Alex Kraft said he was less interested in hearing public interviews of only two finalists for the two jobs. Someone else countered that the community needed to "trust your committee."
The search committee will assist Doyle with visits to the schools where the finalists currently work. The Superintendent will conduct a second, private interview with each candidate. Doyle told the Mosquito there will be feedback sheets for the community to fill out after meeting the finalists. The Superintendent can also be contacted by e-mail at email@example.com. In checking backgrounds, Doyle will go back at least two jobs and try to call every school where a candidate has worked.
Stapp will serve with Doyle on the search committee, as will the following faculty chosen by the Carlisle Teachers Association: fourth-grade teacher (and parent) Liz Gray, reading specialist Susan Helenius-LaPorte, sixth-grade teacher William Gale and sixth-grade special educator Patricia Comeau. Parents are represented by Carlisle School Association (CSA) president Andi Gettys, incoming CSA president Dale Ryder, Carlisle Education Foundation (CEF) vice-president Lauren Bakewell, Carlisle Parents Advisory Committee (CPAC) president Kris Tocci, and Selectman Bill Tice. Student representatives are eighth-graders Tasha Bjork and Mairead Murphy. Although initially any interested parents were asked to volunteer, Doyle said she later decided, for reasons of fairness, to invite parent leaders of school-related volunteer organizations and a Selectman.
Defining principals' roles
Currently, the school has a principal and an assistant principal. Doyle plans to hire two principals, both with several years of experience in teaching and administration. They would each be responsible for some tasks which span all grades, but one principal would administer grades K-4, while the other would oversee grades 5-8. Tasks that involve all grades include staff development, buses, the cafeteria, Title 1 grants (state funds to help remedial math) and scheduling substitute teachers.
A parent asked if the school was large enough to require a superintendent and two principals. Cost-saving suggestions made by a parent included hiring a teaching principal for the elementary grades, or to combine one principal's role with the superintendent's job. SCS chair David Dockterman said the school has grown through the years and now needs three administrators.
Dockterman suggested two "co-principals" might avoid the apparent division into two separate schools. He also noted a potential problem of hiring two equally strong candidates, where each might try to "carve out their separate turfs."
Doyle said that teachers were in favor of the new structure. Their main concern was how the two new principals would continue to value and maintain a K-8 school atmosphere, where interactions between older and younger students were fostered. Goodwin supports the division, which would allow each principal to concentrate on the needs of about 400 students.
Grouping grade five with the older children was questioned. While technically in elementary school, fifth-graders already ride the middle-school buses and start and end their school day earlier than the younger grades. Doyle thought the arrangement would help grade six "stay younger," since they would be combined with grade five for assemblies. She said that under the new system, middle school dances would remain closed to fifth-graders.
An additional $40,000 has been added to the FY07 school budget for the higher salaries needed for two experienced principals. Doyle said, "the town has got to understand that it has grossly underpaid their administrators." Experienced principals are typically paid between $90,000 and $100,000 per year in this area, according to her research.
Doyle explained that an "aggressive schedule" of interviews was chosen to attract consideration by the strongest candidates who are being courted by other schools in the area, including Harvard and Lincoln. Advertising has included at least one national publication, Education Week. However, it was noted that in-state candidates would be more familiar with MCAS requirements. If good candidates are not found, Carlisle will advertise again later in the spring.
© 2006 The