Friday, September 29, 2006
Management roles detailed at CSC meeting
How do the School Superintendent, the two Principals and the Carlisle School Committee (CSC) share the task of administering the town's school district? The many parents who attended the September 20 CSC meeting heard several speakers address this issue, of interest to many in recent months as the school has experienced a high turnover in the administration.
MASC gives state-wide perspective
Glen Koocher, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Association of School Committees (MASC), was invited by CSC Chair Nicole Burkel to speak at the CSC meeting. According to the web site www.masc.org, MASC is a "member-driven association whose mission is to support Massachusetts school leaders in their increasingly complex governance role." The Association "serves to communicate the school committee perspective to government leaders, the media, administrative agencies and other education-related associations."
School Committee role described
Koocher, who was involved in Carlisle's superintendent search two years ago, began by discussing the overall tasks of school committees including: reviewing and approving the school budget, hiring of the superintendent, and overseeing goals for the school district. The focus of his discussion was on questions of communication, policies, and ethics. He noted the school committee and not the superintendent has "full responsibility of agenda items for meetings."
The CSC also annually reviews the performance of the superintendent, and negotiates contract renewals. The School Committee has until January 1 to decide whether to renew the superintendent's contract, which ends June 30, 2007. According to Burkel, contracts are typically for three years, but terms may vary.
Views on citizen comments
In discussing formats of school committee meetings, Koocher said "generally school committees should be listening and not rebutting." Reached later, Koocher explained that school boards can invite citizens to speak, but are not required by Massachusetts policy to allow comments from the public. CSC Chair Nicole Burkel, reached by phone, thought the School Committee has been generally more flexible than other Carlisle committees. She said the CSC is considering asking citizens to sign in if they wish to speak. Members of the public will be allowed a set period of time, perhaps two minutes, for comments, she explained. Questions that are specific to the agenda may be allowed, she added.
Always on duty
Koocher pointed out the School Committee members are like "targets," in that they are in their role even when not at meetings. Citizens are allowed to approach the CSC members to discuss issues at any time, he explained, not just at meetings.
It is best for the CSC to hear all concerns regarding the school in advance, instead of after information is published, the document explains.
Role of the press
According to "Carlisle School Committee Resource Materials" which Koocher handed out at the meeting, "Reporters may ask whatever they wish and report as the First Amendment allows — which is very broad. They can also report rumor, unattributed comments, criticism, and editorialization without crossing ethical lines."
Koocher discussed the "Code of Conduct" from the Massachusetts State Ethics Commission. He pointed out school committee members should be careful in accepting gratuities. The handout defines gratuities as cash or favors. He noted committee members are not allowed to act in bias or as the handout explained, "in a manner such that a reasonable person might conclude that he or she might act with bias."
Expand the school council's role?
Koocher suggested the Carlisle School Council could play a larger role in communication. The school council is a state-mandated group consisting of the principal, parents representing each grade level, teachers and at least one community member with no children in the school. They are elected yearly and report to the school committee at the end of the year. Historically the council's goal has been to assist the school in adopting educational goals, identifying educational needs and formulating the school improvement plan. In other districts, Koocher explained, the school council takes on a larger role. Burkel said the CSC would discuss how the school counsil could be involved in parent communication.
Lyle Kirtman of Future Management Systems spoke regarding his role as a facilitator. He was hired to assist in strategy and role definition for the new administration team as an outcome of Superintendent Doyle's yearly review by the School Committee.
CSC Chair Nicole Burkel explained to the Mosquito that Kirtman has met with the new administrators, the superintendent and the leadership of the Carlisle Teachers' Association. His work will consist mainly of workshops and meetings rather than producing reports, and will probably span a "couple of months." She noted Kirtman provides a similar service for more than twenty other superintendents in the state.
Patrice Hurley, Elementary Principal, and Paul Graseck, Middle School Principal, described their first 45 days at Carlisle School. Hurley noted she has been involved in devising an "administration response plan" for bullying. Superintendent Marie Doyle said the principals will attend all future CSC meetings.
Doyle said she would focus on long-term planning now that "day-to-day operation" of the school has been delegated to the principals. She listed many tasks for the coming year:
• Chair the anti-bullying committee
• Begin curriculum review cycles
• Develop a strategic planning committee
• Work with the technology committee to develop a long-term plan and secure funding
• Improve communication between staff and administration
• Oversee staff development
• Represent Carlisle on the board of directors of: the Education Collaborative (EDCO), Concord Area Special Education Collaborative (CASE), and Primary Source
• Attend local and state meetings on Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) programs
• Work with Project Alliance, a program by the non-profit Middlesex Partners for Youth to help schools with issues relating to violence and substance abuse
• Work on legal issues
• Update the school's emergency planning
• Work with the School Building Committee on facility needs
• Host writing round tables
Committee member Michael Fitzgerald discussed a recent gathering he attended at which parents were invited to discuss issues related to Carlisle School. There was a "divergence of opinions" at the meeting, he said, but he "walked away with a few issues we should work on." He noted that the "lack of communication has worked to contribute to a feeling of distrust." He thought "the meeting was a good start to a beginning of dialogue."
Members of the audience were encouraged to comment both at the beginning of the CSC meeting, which was a change in School Committee procedure, and at the end of the meeting.
Chair of the Board of Selectmen Doug Stevenson of Cross Street read a statement "On behalf of the Town of Carlisle and the Board of Selectmen," which welcomed the new members ofthe Carlisle School community. He also noted that, as changes have occurred at school, some of the "discourse has not always been constructive," and encouraged that debate "be done in a manner that is open, respectful, thoughtful and civil." He said, "Our school committee is made up of people like you and me. People who care about our children — so much that they volunteer many hours of their time to help make our school the best that it can be." Noting the job is not always easy, he suggests the community should "work with them, we should support them in their endeavors and we should respect their decisions, even if in the end we disagree with them."
Other comments included parent suggestions read by Kelly Driscoll of Wilkins Lane, "It has been over a year since the school committee was first informed of concerns regarding Marie's leadership by the Teachers Association. In that time, there has been no formal effort by the School Committee to accurately quantify the magnitude of the problems." Parents have suggested a confidential survey of teachers and parents be done, she read, "with final data being published."The second suggestion was to create a list of specific information about reasons for staff departures. Driscoll also requested "future gatherings where parents can have an interactive dialog with school committee members."
Marty Blue of Buttrick Lane said many people are concerned that if the administration and teachers are not working as a team then the new hires may not stay. "It's not change [that is the problem]", she clarified, "but how you handle the change. It's the way that changed is managed."
Cathy Marks of Cutter's Ridge Road and Deb Belanger of Palmer Way both expressed pleasure with the new administration and encouraged parents to focus on the future and not past events.
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