The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, July 4, 2008

Moving forward to improve the Carlisle School climate

At the June 4 Carlisle School Committee (CSC) meeting former chair Nicole Burkel described facilitator John Littleford’s work with the school and listed initial results from the subcommittees that were formed to move forward on Littleford’s suggestions. (See also “Carlisle School releases facilitator’s recommendations.”)

A total of four subgroups were created, with each group containing a cross section of members from the CSC, the Carlisle Teachers Association (CTA), the administration, and faculty. The group membership was mutually agreed upon by Superintendent Marie Doyle, Burkel and CTA President Mike Miller. Each subgroup focused on a different section of Littleford’s recommendations: those for the CSC, CTA, faculty and superintendent. The groups met three to four times, from January to June.

According to CSC Chair Chad Koski, “We have only just begun a process which will take many months to complete. I am unaware of any subgroup meetings over the summer, but I do know that the groups plan to continue in some form next year. Now that the plans have been presented to the entire faculty, it is likely that the groups will be expanded, or membership may change, as people choose an area of interest to continue working. With everyone’s efforts, this process will be successful, and our students will be the ultimate beneficiaries.” Burkel adds, “The superintendent subcommittee has made plans to continue next year. In September, I will meet with Chad, Marie and Mike Miller to discuss continuing the other subcommittees and opening membership to others who did not participate in the process.” Both Burkel and Koski noted that the process is expected to take another 12-18 months to fully implement.

The subgroups each focused on a few of Littleford’s many suggested goals, and they developed suggestions of concrete actions, both large and small, that might make positive effects on school climate.

Thoughts on the process

Koski said the facilitator’s work was helpful. “Through this process, members of all constituencies in the school community expressed their opinions about the issues we face. These interviews allowed Mr. Littleford to identify patterns in the answers and focus his recommendations on the areas where there was the most concern.” Koski said, “Littleford’s most significant contributions were in his impartiality and direct manner.” He added, “The only weakness I see is that this is an expensive process. While I believe this has been money well spent, the district does not really have the means to hire Mr. Littleford to oversee the next 18 months.”

Burkel agreed that Littleford helped the school. “It was crucial to the district to bring in an impartial person to listen to the different constituents. Then bringing the entire group together to hear our strengths, weaknesses and areas for improvement was very sobering and constructive.”

She noted, “The district has had limited experience dealing with transitions. I think this will continue to be a major issue. All the districts in my EDCO school committee chair leadership group are experiencing significant turnover with administrators and faculty.” ∆

Action proposals from school climate subgroups

Burkel presented the subgroups’ preliminary results, listed below:

Goal – define superintendent/principal role.

Superintendent subgroup proposals:

- Review/update organizational chart

- Review/update job descriptions

- Develop parent communications guide similar to that used by Acton and share with staff

- Publish the organization chart and parent guide on school web site

- Develop a communication guide for teachers and share with all staff

- Review para-professional communication and share with staff

Goal – Advisory group of teachers and administration to advise superintendent

Superintendent subgroup proposals:

- Define group’s role and selection process. Establish and begin group

Goal – Clarify decision making

Superintendent subgroup proposals:

- Define different types of decisions as follows: Doyle/administration makes decision; Doyle/administration seeks input but makes decision; Task force/subcommittee makes decision

- Establish clear task force guidelines and provide a written charge

- Minutes should be taken at all meetings and distributed to Doyle, members and administrators

- Unexpected events/changes should be communicated to a task force at once with the option to adjust membership or disband it based on the change.

- Purposely consider the size and makeup of each task force.

- Break down initiatives and task forces by elementary vs. middle school when appropriate.

- Examine all existing committees and evaluate each as to whether it should continue as is, change focus or disband.

- Evaluate the possibility of combining some existing committees.

- Consider holding roundtables two to four times a year on defined topics such as technology and handwriting/keyboarding

- Establish an open discussion time at all faculty meetings.

- Principals to set up voluntary monthly faculty meeting.

Goal – CTA Facilitate communication /collaboration with administration

CTA subgroup action proposals:

- A cross section of CTA members will meet monthly with administration to discuss issues/concerns/changes or needs.

- Share good news

Goal – Work with School Committee and Administration on Budget and contractual challenges by emphasizing positive results for the school system and children.

CTA subgroup action proposals:

- Discuss how the CTA can act in the best interest of its members

- Discuss how the CTA can act in the best interest of the school community. Example: positive accolades for books written, awards won, courses taught, etc.

- CTA membership will explore an internal dialogue relating to a code of ethics for CTA memberships. The idea will be on the agenda of the first full CTA meeting in the fall. If CTA approves, form a subcommittee to draft code.

Goal – Increase and encourage CTA membership participation in all CTA events and business.

CTA subgroup action proposals:

- On calendar for early release days

- Sign up sheet for snacks

- Suggestion/question box in teachers’ room

- Find a VP or Co-VP (outreach)

- Provide a job breakdown/description of VP position

- Nomination of Silly Awards

- Share good news

- Send out reminder e-mail with agenda and encourage new teachers to attend meetings

- Social Committee - Seasonal athletic gatherings, holiday party, showers, social gathering, Friday memo

Goal – Express appreciation

Faculty subgroup proposals:

- Carousel - “Good Seeds Grow in Strong Cultures” – group activity to identify and support what each teacher sees is the healthy culture of the school.

Goal – Improve faculty and administration communication

Faculty subgroup proposals:

- Include social component to K – 8 staff meetings, Elementary School staff meetings and Middle School staff meetings

- Re-embrace social opportunities for faculty, staff, and administration

Goal – Improve faculty to faculty communication

Faculty subgroup proposals:

- Opportunity for staff to discuss classroom scenarios

- Post “Presume Good Intent” signs

- Place funny “selective interruption” object for lunchrooms to use as a reminder when the conversation is going down the wrong road

Goal – Develop new member’s orientation

School Committee subgroup proposals:

- Prepare, distribute, and implement school committee handbook

- Transition meeting with new and old members

Goal – Begin a formal mentor program

School Committee subgroup proposals:

- It was discussed at transition meeting and two retired members offered to mentor

Goal – Work with superintendent to make CSC more visible

School Committee subgroup action proposals:

- Visiting campus and classrooms

- Opening and closing luncheons

- Coffees

- Milestone occasions such as retirements. ∆

Additional school-related articles in this week's edition:


© 2008 The Carlisle Mosquito