Friday, September 28, 2007
Facilitator workshops discussed by Carlisle School Committee Teacher privacy concerns raised
The Carlisle School Committee (CSC) formally voted on September 19 to spend $28,000 for the continued consulting services of John Littleford, the facilitator who met with administrators, a small group of teachers and the CSC on August 31. Details of the process were debated, including the challenge of assuring that teachers feel comfortable making candid comments while in the group workshop with administrators.
Unused school legal funds will cover approximately $25,000 of the expense. The facilitator will providefour workshops for the School Committee and personnel. Littleford offered to conduct parent focus groups of eight to ten people for an additional $2600 per day.
The first workshop, on September 25, was held with Carlisle School Superintendent Marie Doyle and other school administrators.
The second workshop, scheduled for October 5, will involve Doyle and the CSC. Though the 4 p.m. workshop is posted as an open School Committee meeting, according to School Committee Chair Nicole Burkel, they will immediately go into executive session. The third workshop will be with Littleford and a group of teachers. Carlisle Teachers Association (CTA) president Mike Miller expressed concern about how the teachers would be chosen. "It would be better for privacy purposes if Marie and I were not involved" in choosing the teachers, explained Miller. "For what reason?" asked Burkel. "They don't want administrators to know who is being interviewed and who is not," replied Miller.
Burkel explained that all the teachers who are interviewed must be willing to participate in the final group workshop. "Everybody is going to be sitting around talking with administrators and teachers?" asked Miller.
"School Committee, administrative team, and teachers," Burkel clarified.
Miller thought many teachers would feel uncomfortable with the process if it was not completely anonymous.
"I think the goal is to build leadership and trust," said Doyle.
"Is the primary concern among the younger faculty — those faculty members who have not achieved professional status?" asked committee member Michael Fitzgerald.
Miller said, "I think that's a major part of it." Fitzgerald said, "People should be able to speak freely and be able to participate in that program without fear of some level of retribution coming back at them."
Reached later for comment, Miller affirmed that teachers would participate in the workshops, "We will be involved, but are just ironing out the details."
The committee discussed their communication with others, but did not reach any conclusions. In August, Ryder had suggested the School Committee add communication to their list of goals, and to further explain her idea she proposed a plan for "improving communication with the community, administration and teachers." Burkel suggested a sub-committee be formed to review the topic.
"What is it we are trying to communicate, I guess was my question," asked CSC member Chad Koski. "I mean, what's missing?" He noted that the CSC meeting minutes are published on the school's web site as soon as they are approved.
Fitzgerald said, "Let's keep in mind one of the things that brought us to this point is the situation that we have dealt with over the last five or six months with respect to ongoing changes at the school, and parental concerns about what was going on at the school. We all agree we could have done a better job communicating what was going on." Burkel noted that she has relaxed the meeting rules, allowing more comments and discussions on particular subjects. However, an example of the difficulties of balancing the needs of the meeting with the public's desire for communication occured when Burkel called on Scott Simpson of Judy Farm Road, but then asked him to hold his question about the facilitation process until the end of the meeting. After waiting 2 1/2 hours, he left without having had a chance to speak.
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