The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, March 13, 2009

CCHS Superintendent Rigby shares observations on consolidation, technology

Diana Rigby, who serves as Superintendent of both the Concord and Concord-Carlisle Regional School Districts, spoke about school consolidation plans at her monthly Friday tea on March 6. Rigby said she is not surprised that Carlisle is investigating the possibility of a superintendency union with Concord for grades pre-K to 8. “In good economic times people value local control,” she said, “but, in tight times, to ask questions about economies of scale makes sense.” The biggest accommodation she would expect to make would be interacting with three school committees instead of two, as well as the time spent getting to know the Carlisle community.

She noted the Concord and Concord-Carlisle High School student populations are 1,800 and 1,257 each for a total of 3,000 students, while Carlisle’s district encompasses only 700 students. Having worked in a school district with 16,000 students, Rigby said student population is not a concern as long as she is working with good people. She observed that many communities are looking at unions and the idea is being explored. “The School Committee will make the right decision,” she said. Concord parents present noted they were aware of the union possibility and not overly concerned.

Technology grants hailed

Rigby opened the meeting by thanking the Concord Educational Foundation for funding technology in the schools. She pointed to the new digital studio at the high school as an “unbelievable” resource for students. The support of technology specialists and teachers who integrate new tools into the curriculum is also important. Robin Cicchetti, CCHS Library Chair, who was present, received kudos for helping bring technology alive. Rigby said she is excited to see technology-savvy students involved in multi-media projects that use webcams, GPS, and cell phones as digital aids.

One area of technology the high school is exploring is on-line Advanced Placement (AP) prep courses. Currently the high school does not offer AP courses in English or History, and this can be a concern for students applying outside the region. The administration does not support offering AP because the AP curriculum is very limited, and offering these courses would crowd out the electives now available to students.

High school hours

Rigby reported that a task force that met this winter to examine bus routes has come to an impasse. One goal was to move the high school start time up to 8 a.m. from the current 7:25 a.m., as research has shown that high school students perform better with later start times. But after examining a variety of alternatives, it was determined this would involve an investment of millions of dollars to buy more buses, unfeasible in the current financial climate. Next year the high school day will start at 7:30 a.m. and go to 2:11 p.m.

In response to a question, Rigby noted that the teachers’ contract does not allow for extra school hours during the school week or on vacation days to make up for snow days. Currently the high school is scheduled to end June 26. If snow days pushed the school year beyond June an accommodation would have to be made as Massachusetts law prevents scheduling school days in July.

Foreign language philosophy offered

A parent questioned the lack of foreign languages in the Concord Schools, noting the need to broaden students culturally. Rigby responded that she does not want to introduce elementary languages unless they can become core subjects. “Right now we don’t have the time or money to do it right.” She observed that the Carlisle Schools are able to have foreign languages because of a longer school day and fewer early release days. She would like to examine whether there is broad support in Concord for making the sacrifices needed to add elementary foreign language, perhaps through an internet survey.

Superintendent teas are held every first Friday of the month at 3:30 p.m. Information is on the Concord School website The next one April 3 is planned for the Thoreau School, with the Willard School the site on May 1.

© 2009 The Carlisle Mosquito