The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, August 25, 2006


Carlisle's new principals met with parents at an August 8 coffee held in the school cafeteria. Elementary Principal Patrice Hurley listens, second from left. (Photo by Darlene D'Amour)
Those who shared coffee and ideas on August 8 include (from left) new Middle School Principal Paul Graseck and Business Manager Heidi Zimmerman. (Photo by Darlene D'Amour)

New Carlisle School principals meet parents at summer coffees

The change in administration, school-parent communication, and student bullying surfaced as some of the top issues for parents at a summer coffee hosted by new Principals Patrice Hurley and Paul Graseck.

Hurley, principal of elementary students in grades kindergarten to four, and Graseck, Principal of middle school students in grades five to eight started on July 1. They have been meeting with teachers and staff this summer before the busy school year begins. Parents received an invitation to two coffees by e-mail this summer as a way for the principals to reach out to parents and introduce themselves at an informal time and setting.

Parents' opinions sought

Graseck asked each parent at the August 8 get-together in the cafeteria to list three things they believe are important to the school. As Hurley took notes, the two principals, obviously working together as a team, began to get to know some of the parent community.

One parent told the principals the school should set a high bar for behavior. "There should be consequences for a student's actions." Children sometimes show a lack of respect for each other and for authority, another parent observed. "Students need to be more humble." She also pointed out that special needs children are sometimes the targets of bullies, and that both boys and girls can do bullying in one form or another.

Several parents mentioned their concern about safety and behavior aboard school buses, an issue that often needs to be addressed here and in other communities. Patrice Hurley said the principals plan to meet with all students about bus safety and conduct during the first week of school, and they will have ongoing meetings with bus drivers throughout the year. The first few days of school are important in establishing bus conduct, Graseck said. "It's important to set a good tone right off the bat."

Year of Respect will stress civility

In an e-mail to parents this week, Superintendent Marie Doyle outlined plans for a "Year of Respect" that will seek to improve student life by emphasizing good conduct and respect for others.

Throughout the meeting many praised the teachers and staff for their daily efforts with children and said they believe Carlisle is a good school. "We have fantastic teachers," said one parent, while another noted their "strong dedication" and another enthused, "I love the teachers!"

After hearing many parents praise the good work of the teachers, Hurley agreed, "Teachers are our greatest assets." Graseck affirmed the teaching staff is the backbone of the school and they work hard at their jobs.

Academic issues brought up ran the gamut from science and math needing improvements to concerns about too much homework. One parent pointed out there are kids who need attention, "They're not all Grade A students. There are all types of needs in the same system." Hurley said that teachers are trained to tailor learning to different student needs by differentiating instruction within the classroom.

Several listed the school facility itself as a priority. On the exterior, the appearance of landscaping around the plaza and the safety of the stairs from the main parking lot were noted. The aging Spalding Building that houses kindergarten and first-grade classrooms, and the make-do elementary art, music, and special education spaces were also mentioned.

Hurley said the principals will communicate with parents through letters, the "Buzz" newsletter, Carlisle School Association forums, notices in the Mosquito, and school committee meetings. CSA President Dale Ryder offered the continued support of the group in setting up parent forums, such as the math roundtables offered this spring to discuss the math curriculum.

Communication should come from the school rather than through the grapevine, said one parent. She urged the principals to consider "the Carlisle culture" and how things were done before, to ensure some continuity at the school during the changing administration.

Several people brought up obvious issues in the school administration earlier this year, when four top administrators resigned from the school. They wondered what teachers think of all the changes. The new administrators, aware that one of their key jobs is to move the school ahead on a confident track, assured parents that teachers were ready for the new school year. "Teachers want a positive year. They want to move forward," said Hurley, "and those I've talked with give their support to both Superintendent Marie Doyle and to the new administration."

About 40 parents attended the meeting in the cafeteria while many were still away on vacation. Karen Slack, new Director of Student Support Services, in charge of special education administration, and new school Business Manager, Heidi Zimmerman, also attended the coffee to introduce themselves to parents.

New principals

bring extensive experience

With 55 years of experience in education, Hurley with 25 and Graseck with 30, much of it in the classroom as teachers themselves, the two principals feel optimistic about Carlisle and are prepared to handle any challenges ahead.

Graseck said he was impressed by the number of parents he saw turn out for his interview in March, indicating strong support for the school. Hurley saw what seemed to be "one-third as many volunteers as teachers," during her interviews, a fact that impressed her and helped her decide to take the job here. She was also impressed by students who were confident to ask questions and the quality of the teaching staff.

Hurley was the assistant arincipal at the Ephraim Curtis Middle School in Sudbury since 2002. She lives in Bedford with her family and has two sons, one a senior at Bedford High School, and another in his junior year at Boston College.

Since 2002 Graseck was the grades 6-12 curriculum director for English and Social Studies in the Hudson Public Schools. Previously he was the principal of the Woodstock Academy Middle School in Connecticut for one year, where he was a history teacher for 13 years. He was also the assistant principal at the Windham High School in Connecticut for one year. He and his wife live in Hudson and have two daughters, one who will begin student teaching in Arizona this fall and another who just received her Master's Degree in English as a Second Language and lives in Seattle.

The principals said they are the bridge between students, teachers, and parents. Graseck told parents they should contact the principal for their children's grade if they have a concern. "We want to hear from parents, don't hesitate to see us," he said.

2006 The Carlisle Mosquito