The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, September 15, 2006


Carlisle School remains subject of debate

As classes get underway at the Carlisle Public School, teachers and administrators are not only busy with lesson plans and bus schedules, they are also busy reaching out to parents, some of whom remain troubled by management issues at the school. Parents have begun to express their concerns in new ways: groups of parents have held at least two informal gatherings to discuss changes at the school, including the resignation of several faculty members this summer. Around September 9 bumper stickers were seen at the Transfer Station, and were anonymously mailed to the Selectmen and members of the School Committee (see editorial, page 2.) Parents have invoked the Massachusetts Public Records Law (similar to the federal Freedom of Information Act) to obtain copies of correspondence among the Carlisle Teachers' Association and the School Superintendent and CSC (see article below). The situation has even caught the eye of the Boston Globe, which is planning an article for the September 17 issue of Northwest Weekly.

The resignation of Principal Steve Goodwin last February marked the start of a period of heightened parental concern and questions. Four administrators had resigned by the end of the 2005 - 2006 school year — Principal Steve Goodwin, Assistant Principal Michael Giurlando, Business Manager Steve Moore, and Director of Student Support Services Linda Stapp. At Superintendent Maria Doyle's annual review, the School Committee directed that a facilitator be hired to assist Doyle and the incoming administrators in defining management roles. The cost of the facilitator — $10,000 — was made available by delaying the starting date of the new school Business Manager and Director of Student Support Services.

The majority of the CSC gave an overall positive review of the Superintendent. If the School Committee doe not choose to renew Doyle's contract, which expires June 30, 2007, the CSC must notify Doyle in writing by January 1, 2007. If Doyle is not notified by the deadline, her contract will automatically be renewed for one year.

School reaches out to parents

During the summer two "coffees" were held to allow parents to meet the new Principals, Paul Graseck and Patrice Hurley. During the second week of school, each grade has had a short "parent coffee" to introduce all the grade-level staff to the parents. This fall parents have been invited to spend an evening with Graseck at four "House Calls" and visit with Hurley at a "Saturday Morning Drop-In" at the Carlisle School (see press release below.) Superintendent Marie Doyle will be inviting parents to four Thursday morning coffees during the year: September 14, November 16, February 15 and April 12, all at 9 a.m. The annual Parent Nights, where parents meet with classroom teachers, will be held on Thursday, September 28, for elementary grades and Thursday, October 5, for the middle school.

At the start of school year the new principals wrote to parents, introducing themselves. Graseck said, in part, "To begin this year without acknowledging the nervousness, anxiety, and unsettled tone that system-wide change in leadership sometimes provokes would be a denial of Carlisle's recent past. It would also suggest an administrative unwillingness to engage in practical and creative problem-solving. I can assure parents, teachers, and students that my work in the district will confront knotty issues and daily problems with transparency, gusto, and a commitment to working together.

Parent concerns linger

A number of Carlisle School parents have been communicating with each other, concerned about changes at the Carlisle School. They have begun loosely-formed parent discussion groups. The first took place two weeks ago and offered a place where a "bunch of people could sit and talk about how they feel," explained Jim Harris of School Street. He said one of the topics was the resignations of teachers and staff, and the teaching environment. "I was hurt" when Steve Goodwin resigned, he said. "I could talk to him."

Parent Kelly Driscoll, discussing plans for another informal meeting, explained, "It's a sharing of ideas. We're coming to share information, and an opportunity to share concerns with a School Committee member." School Committee member Michael Fitzgerald attended the next gathering on Tuesday, September 12. (Fitzgerald could not be reached by press time for comment.) Stressing that the parents are not forming an action group, Driscoll said, "No one is taking e-mails, and there's no sign-up list. Part of the reason why we are doing this is because there seems to be no public forum where people can share ideas. The school committee is a one-sided dialogue with no interactive discussion." Driscoll said the attendees brought a variety of opinions. She added, "Everyone shared information in an extremely respectful manner."

A statement agreed on by the gathering was provided by Driscoll, "We would like to see the School Committee take a much more active role in understanding and resolving issues before discussion of [Superintendent] Marie [Doyle]'s contract. Everyone feels let down by the School Committee, that there was no correspondence to the teachers' union after the letters were sent to the committee. The correspondence back to [CTA President] Mike Miller was a generic form letter. There was no consensus on the root problem, but everyone agreed that the School Committee seems to be taking no action."

CSC chair Nicole Burkel spoke with the Mosquito about parent concerns, and encouraged them to attend meetings with the new principals, as well as meetings of the Carlisle School Association and CSC. "We are going through a period of change and it's a delicate process. It's easy to lose sight of our mission and vision." Burkel added, "Everyone moves at their own pace. Some people are ready to move on and some aren't. We're just struggling with the process of change."

2006 The Carlisle Mosquito