Friday, September 15, 2006
A number of parents continue to be upset about Carlisle School management issues, including last year's large turnover in faculty and administration. Unfortunately, the dialog is threatening to degenerate and further damage the school community that everyone values so highly. The "Fire Doyle" bumper stickers posted at the Transfer Station on Saturday and mailed anonymously to every Carlisle School Committee and Board of Selectmen member were too much. Is this how we want to teach our children to resolve differences?
Many faculty, staff and parents are pleased with Marie Doyle's work during her first two years as Superintendent of the Carlisle Public School. In May the Carlisle School Committee (CSC) evaluated Doyle's work, and Chair Nicole Burkel said "The majority of the School Committee completely supports the actions of the Superintendent."
Others remain concerned by changes at the school. How can school administrators, teachers and parents work together to move forward with the job of educating our children? Open, respectful dialog is key.
As a result of the CSC evaluation, the committee and Doyle hired a facilitator, Lyle Kirtman of Future Management Systems. According to Burkel, the facilitator will work with all the school administrators to provide training in leadership development, team building and decision styles. Another goal is to "enhance the communication among the superintendent, principal, staff and community."
Towards that end, the school has increased opportunities for parents to meet with administrators. During the spring, Superintendent Doyle invited parents to public meetings on several occasions to discuss their concerns. The new principals, Paul Graseck and Patrice Hurley, held two parent coffees in August, and have scheduled a series of informal meetings during the fall. These are excellent steps, but more may be needed.
While the CSC is not responsible for the day-to-day management of the school, it is this committee that hires and fires the Superintendent. It makes sense that people might bring questions relating to the Superintendent to the CSC.
The CSC usually meets twice a month. At the meetings I have attended the agenda was crowded with a large variety of presentations and discussions relating to our pre-K through grade 8 school system. However, unlike other town committee meetings, the CSC did not provide many opportunities for audience questions. In fact, we were explicitly cautioned that the CSC was not required by law to hear anyone. The audience was given a chance to comment at the end of the entire meeting, hours after the start. This meeting structure seems unduly harsh.
Are there ways the CSC could be more welcoming to parents while still maintaining order and finishing the business of the meeting? Would it be possible to add more frequent, brief audience comment periods? Would it help if the CSC had a dedicated e-mail address to receive community input? What about an informal coffee attended by a few CSC members who dispensed with regular business and just talked with parents?
Whatever venue, whether meetings, e-mail, or through letters to the editor, people will be more likely to listen and engage in serious dialog if we all acted as though our children were listening — because, in fact, they are.
How I spent my summer vacation
I do understand the assignment, but summer has so flown by that it is mostly an indecipherable blur. I am, however, pretty clear about what I didn't do this summer.
For example, our family did not take a month-long bicycle tour of the Scottish Highlands, including a lovely ride through the Great Glen to Loch Ness and Inverness, then up the coast to John O'Groats. After a cold, misty ferry ride to the Shetland Islands, we'd have warmed ourselves with some enthusiastic traditional Shetland dances accompanied by local fiddlers. Back on our bikes again, we would have ridden along the rugged North Coast to the aptly named Cape Wrath, thence down through Ullapool to see the exotic plants of Inverewe Gardens, wrapping up with another ferry ride, this time to the Western Isles, where I would have been inspired by the monumental Standing Stones of Callanish. The photographs we would have taken wouldn't have done this trip justice. You really have to see it for yourselves.
Karen and I didn't bop down to New York City to see Meryl Streep's amazing (even for Meryl) performance as Mother Courage at the Delacorte Theatre in Central Park. We didn't sit on a blanket as we waited in line for the tickets, as we were wont to do in our youth, pre-kids, under a glorious late-summer sky, reading the Sunday Times and snacking on the bread and cheese we'd gotten on the Upper West Side to go with a cheap but eminently drinkable Chardonnay. And after that memorable afternoon and evening, we didn't feel groovy crossing the 59th Street Bridge to Queens the next morning to catch an early match of the U.S. Open, knowing that Agassi would soon play here no more.
We didn't even make it to Lowell, staking out our turf early in the day so we'd have good seats for Los Lobos, whom we haven't seen since the Rose Ballroom in the Village back in New York when Karen was pregnant with Casey. We didn't spend the afternoon admiring the current exhibition at the Quilt Museum followed by a few drinks at Cobblestone's before returning along the canal to claim our spot right in front, indeed close enough that we would have been among those invited onstage at the end to dance to a rousing rendition of "La Bamba." What a night that would have been!
And on the home front, let's see once again I didn't get around to repainting the mailbox and painstakingly rendering the house number upon it, nor dealing with the support post, carefully scraping the peeling paint and priming before applying two thick coats of Colonial White. And while I was at it, I didn't tackle the major clean-up and reorganization so sorely needed in the garage. I didn't clear everything out onto the driveway, in the process sorting through the mismatched garden gloves and finally tossing the ones with holes in all the fingers, taking the flower pots we'll never use to the Swap Shed, sweeping out the leaves, sand and peat moss that have accumulated over the past few years, then hosing it all down and putting things back in a well-thought out way such that the bicycles will be easy to get to, it will all stay tidy, and the garden tools will still be easy to find next summer. And don't get me started on what I didn't do in the basement.
But summer is like that. Once gone, it always feels like it went by too fast, and whatever you did (or didn't) do, there wasn't enough time.
© 2006 The