The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, May 12, 2006


Carlisle School Superintendent Marie Doyle. ( File photo by Cynthia Sorn)

Carlisle School Committee gives Doyle thumbs up
Will hire facilitator to clarify roles

"The position of superintendent is unbelievably exposed," said Carlisle School Committee (CSC) Chair David Dockterman on May 4 as he presented the CSC's generally favorable annual evaluation of Marie Doyle, who is completing her second year as superintendent at the Carlisle School. The CSC set three goals for the future: to clarify administrative roles, communicate consistently, and to slow the pace of new initiatives. Dockterman said the CSC and Doyle will jointly hire a facilitator to assist her in working toward these goals. The need for a facilitator was not included in the FY07 school budget just passed by Town Meeting.

Doyle has one year remaining in her three-year contract. After the public meeting, the CSC met with her privately to complete her evaluation and begin salary negotiations. Last year she received a 2% increase, as did Carlisle teachers.

Evaluation details

Dockterman explained the evaluation process to a large crowd of parents and teachers. He thanked Doyle for her openness in dealing with the evaluation procedures, which included a written report from each School Committee member, based on specific subjects such as relationship to the CSC, educational leadership, general, budget and personnel management, communications and public relations. He passed these evaluations on to Doyle, and she responded to specific areas of CSC concern. "The reviews are confidential," Dockterman said. "I have prepared a public summary." In it, he detailed the new initiatives Doyle has brought to the school. These include: curriculum benchmarks, World Language, self-funded after-school science classes, the re-configuration of the middle school classes, and the Primary Source/Chinese program of teacher study and travel. He said there have been positive developments under her leadership. Dockterman noted there have been rough patches, but he is optimistic that the period of transition is over. (See "Change comes hard at the Carlisle School" on page 5.)

Three goals

Dockterman described three recommendations for the superintendent that emerged from the evaluations:

1. Clarify directions, roles and responsibilities, and align the team around a vision.

2. Communicate clearly and consistently, including publishing job descriptions.

3. Slow the pace and let the new people get used to the school before adding new initiatives.

Summary from Doyle

She noted, "change is never easy," and she understands "the concern felt by the community during this time of transition." She looks forward to "building a new team with a shared vision." Doyle stressed, "I continue to meet with people, listen and do my best to build bridges and enhance communication. My style is open, honest and respectful; I encourage dialogue and continuous growth."

Doyle noted that the vision of the school, to establish a world-class school with life-long learners, has not changed since 1992.

Doyle, listing her goals for students, said "helping them develop into responsible citizens who are accountable for their actions" is one of her highest priorities, and notes she will not compromise her goals. She said she also believes in "listening to all constituents as we strive to 'leave no child behind.'"

"The pace of change for the staff is important," Doyle said, "and I am monitoring this closely." She said important future goals are "communicating and including staff in the creation of the District Goals and School Improvement Plan."

Strategic planning

A new committee called the "Strategic Planning Committee" will start during the summer, Doyle explained. A facilitator will be hired to "work with the administrative team on building a team and sharing a vision." After gathering information on the vision and mission statements, including responses from the community, "core values" will be developed, she says. At that point the goal is to create "a short-term and long-term plan for implementing the district goals so the staff are involved and understand the goals are a living document that belong to all of us."

Doyle closed her statement by saying, "There is much work to do." She asked for support and "understanding that change is inevitable as we prepare our children for the work force of the twenty-first century."

Lauds to Dockterman

"Tonight is bittersweet," began Burkel, noting this meeting was the last for Dockterman in his nine years of service as a School Committee member. She thanked Dockterman for his "thoughtful, intelligent, and articulate abilities, and his skillful leadership." As she finished her praise of Dockterman the school committee and the audience gave him a standing ovation.

Hire a facilitator

A parent asked what the CSC was doing to deal with the changes at the school, noting, "What you describe as transition I see as crisis." Dockterman said he talked to every administrator to understand their reasons for leaving. "I appreciate your concern, we see things happening. We have two qualified and excited principals coming in." He said he is confident that, with the help of a facilitator, the next year will be a "good strong year."

Parent Lori Tucker asked who would be selecting the facilitator and how it would be "accounted for in the budget." Dockterman replied the facilitator would be selected jointly by Doyle and the School Committee. "If there is no money in the budget," he added, there may be places to go to for the funds. "We have no idea of the costs, but we prefer to go for quality."

Concerns about extra programs

Expressing concern that "all these programs are draining" from what needs to be covered in school, Parent Wendy Solomon said the students did not need to be prepared for a career when they are ten years old. "That's a great question," responded Dockterman, saying there wasn't one answer. The teachers are involved in "strategic vision" planning, which will involve the facilitator and parents as well.

Doyle pointed out the work with curriculum benchmarks, which align what material is taught within grades, and above and below each grade. "You are asking us to wait for benchmarks," replied Solomon. She said she was concerned about how math is being covered, saying, "When my child is being taught fractions and hasn't been taught division, that is tough." Dockterman suggested parents should speak to the Superintendent, pointing out there wasn't much the School Committee can do. "We don't operate at that level," he added. "What you are talking about is a principal's responsibility, not the Superintendent's responsibility. Some of what you are talking about will emerge as we have a new team," Dockterman clarified.

School survey

Doyle said the School Council is working on a survey for parents, to be sent out in the fall. Tucker asked if there was "any way to get the survey from the School Council so the new people coming in" can get it as they start their new jobs this summer. Doyle replied they would try to get the survey out sooner.

Audience concerns

Parent Kelly Driscoll, saying she appreciated the summary of Doyle's evaluation, admitted she was disappointed by the small information released to the public. Personnel files are confidential, Dockterman explained, and he focused on the "more sharable information at a higher level."

Retired Carlisle teacher Linda Clark said though she knows it is "exciting about the new principals," the losses "are a tragedy." She felt going slow during the transition would help.

Fifth-grade teacher Deborah Butts thanked the School Committee for opening up and listening to the teachers. "I hope this is the first of a long line of communication between the staff and the CSC." Parent Alex Krapf, saying he has been "critical of Marie over the year," has seen some movement. He said the next year is critical. "If the new principals don't work out then what do we do, and if we don't get that transition nailed then what will we do?" wondered Krapf. "We'll give it as good a shot as we can for the sake of our school and kids," replied Dockterman. He said he came out of meeting with the faculty feeling positive despite the issues. "Our core values were in agreement."

How to fit in elementary language

Fourth grade teacher Liz Gray pointed out the difficulty in deciding what to keep and what to remove in the curriculum to make room for the elementary foreign language, which will start in September. Principal Stephen Goodwin assured the committee that by June 30 there would be a plan in place to accommodate the new language initiative. If the school day was extended by fifteen minutes to accommodate new initiatives, a parent asked, would the teacher's contract have to be re-negotiated? The school committee thought negotiations would be needed.

Loss of SPED leader

Parent Joan Hoffman expressed concerned about losing Director of Student Services Linda Stapp. Parent Tom Bjornson praised Stapp, saying she is "unbelievable, knows every child, and she is right on top of it." He said it will be difficult to find someone to step into her place. Doyle said she has invited parents to meet with her and she knows parents are worried. The hiring search will be "for someone who meets all the criteria," she added. Stapp thanked the parents and the community, saying she appreciated the support she has gotten." A round of applause was given to her.

2006 The Carlisle Mosquito