The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, October 5, 2007


Principal Peter Badalament becomes reaquainted with CCHS

Peter Badalament. (Photo by Cecile Sandwen)

A harried, yet smiling Principal Peter Badalament takes a seat in his office at Concord-Carlisle High School (CCHS), saying, "It's good to be back." It's been six years since he left CCHS, where he was assistant principal, for stints as principal at two other Massachusetts high schools. He returned this summer, and spent the past months getting reacquainted with staff, students and the parent community.

"It's great to be at a school with so many teachers so passionate about what they do, who care about students and are real intellectuals," Badalament says. He recently observed a CCHS freshman English class. A one-time English teacher himself, he admired the thoughtful lesson, close reading, and Socratic discussion, "There is excellent teaching and learning going on here. It's very refreshing." He knows about half the teachers from his first stint at CCHS, reflecting a "fairly typical" staff turnover. He values having large numbers of mid-career teachers with 10 or 15 years. "Those are increasingly rare teachers," he adds.

Uses of technology

I note how many teachers at Parents Night found creative ways to integrate "active boards," screens that allow manipulation of information, into their presentations. Badalament agreed, "These are not technology for technology's sake. They answer the question of how to appeal to the visual learner." Even a veteran teacher found the boards "reinvigorated his teaching style and caused him to rethink his approach." Badalament expresses appreciation for the community's "generous support of a terrific school system" which "seems to be pretty adequately funded."

He says his return to the school is a reminder "how active this community is. There are a large number of incredibly dedicated parents that work to make this a better place." He pointed to the Parents Association, Concord-Carlisle Parent Initiative, and Youth Alliance as examples of support for students both in and outside school, adding, "It's rare to have parents so involved in the non-athletic life of the school."

Pressed to indicate what he would change, Badalament at first demurs, but later steps up to the plate, commenting "The obvious biggest issue is the building and its effect on the learning environment. With a new building, we could reconfigure the space to better support student learning." He points to facilities for the arts that are "woefully outdated." Noting the past successes of CCHS music and drama in spite of the limitations, Badalament observes, "With more space better defined for our needs, those programs would flourish."

Space considerations also affect the science program, he says. Current practice is to have labs and classrooms together so experimentation can be integrated with discussion, but CCHS has separate lab space, and too little of it. For example, two labs are available for 16 sections of chemistry, meaning students have lab time one day in eight. In other subjects, the ability to bring in presenters or have large discussion groups is limited by the lack of Little Theater-type rooms to hold 60 or 80 students.

"I'm sensitive to the fact both towns face difficult fiscal times," Badalament says. "We do very well given the circumstances. The maintenance, custodial staff, and IT keep us in as good a shape as can be." But, he adds, "There are some real basic needs. The towns need to decide if they want the high school to be a 21st century learning environment."

Other than the building, Badalament says "Nothing rises to the level of 'that's really broken'." He has heard much appreciation for the new freshman orientation and extends congratulations to the student senate and advisor Brian Miller. He will be looking at other ideas for improving the school experience, including looking at coordination between the Carlisle and Concord school districts to better integrate students coming from the middle schools.

Asked to defend the limited Advanced Placement (AP) offerings at the school, Badalament refers to current college acceptances. "A tremendous number of students are going to the best schools in the country," an indicator APs are not holding students back. The school currently offers APs in science and math, but he believes freedom from AP strictures allows CCHS to offer superior courses in the humanities. "Some courses are richer and more engaging than standard AP."

Badalament hopes to get re-aquainted with the Concord and Carlisle communities. Toward that end, he will be available to chat with anyone who wants to stop by the Carlisle School library between 6:30 and 7:00 p.m. before the School Committee meeting on October 23.

2007 The Carlisle Mosquito