The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, November 13, 2009

Carlisle School heads toward administration reshuffle

The Carlisle School Committee (CSC) will invite the consultants from the non-profit New England School Development Council (NESDEC) back on Wednesday, November 18, to answer additional questions about the proposed reorganization of the school administration. Depending on the results of that discussion, CSC Chair Chad Koski said it is possible the school committee may make a decision on November 18.

The current administration includes a superintendent, two principals, a director of student support services who oversees special education, and an (acting) business manager. Last month the consultants presented estimated cost savings for each of three restructuring options: $86,000 for combining the superintendent and business manager functions; $116,000 for a part-time superintendent; and $169,000 for combining the superintendent and principal role. In all plans the number of senior school administrators will shrink from five to four. There is no official word on which administrators would be retained.

Administrative consolidation is needed to trim the school budget, according to Koski. Other ways to cut the budget will also be explored, with the goal to maintain quality education and acceptable class sizes. CSC member Dale Ryder agrees that reorganization is necessary, “I don’t think there is anything else to cut. At this point with this size of the [projected budget] deficit, this is what we have to do. We don’t want to cut teachers or activities like music – we’re trying to avoid that.”

The restructuring options were discussed at the November 4 CSC meeting, which was attended by members of the Board of Selectmen and Finance Committee (FinCom) as well as several parents. After the meeting, Koski spoke with the Mosquito about the proposals.“The committee is leaning more toward the [combined] superintendent/principal model than the other two options.”

Comments on the options

Under the superintendent/principal proposal, there would be one full-time principal, while the superintendent and the director of student support services would each serve as principal of three grades. One reason Koski favors this option is because Carlisle has had a superintendent/principal in the past. During the 1980s and 1990s the school administrative structure varied, growing from four to five administrators in 2001. At various times the school has had a superintendent/principal or an assistant superintendent/principal.

Combining the superintendent and business manager positions was less appealing. Koski said, “We like the idea of keeping the business manager separate from the superintendent. One reason is that it’s hard to find someone, as NESDEC pointed out, who can fill both roles.” A second reason, he explained, is that “you lose some of the focus” because a superintendent and business manager have ‘diverging goals’ – the superintendent’s primary goal being to manage the education while the business manager’s goal is to manage the money.

Why not share a part-time superintendent with another school district? “It’s an issue of control,” Koski said. “It’s not a whole lot different than the superintendency union proposal discussed last spring.” He said that parents preferred to have a superintendent on campus full-time. A shared superintendent “just wouldn’t be around all the time. It seemed it would not be a very popular option for the town.”

The School Committee does not currently favor a fourth option, to keep the current format. Koski said that at the November 4 meeting, “there were suggestions from the audience that we go for an override and try to keep everything as is. We didn’t go down that path.” CSC member Wendell Sykes recalled that the crowd responded “favorably” when he said that “things are working well the way they are.”

(The NESDEC report is available online at Click on the “School Committee” menu item. Their presentation was described in the article “Carlisle School considers administrative changes,” which appeared in the October 30 Mosquito.)

Financial pressures cited

Koski feels the school needs to be mindful of other pressures on taxes, including the three-year spike in Carlisle’s assessment at the regional high school and proposed school building projects. FinCom Chair David Guarino agreed that the CSC plan was being developed “in the context of a tough budget year.” The FinCom has asked most town departments to be prepared for 10% cuts next year. Though the schools were exempted from this request, Guarino said they were sent copies of the letter, so they would understand what is being asked of non-school town employees.

Guarino has spoken with School Committee members and attended the November 4 CSC meeting and said the CSC was making their decision after much study. “They’ve spent a lot of time on this.” He noted “their challenge is, given the limited resources, how do we keep the [educational] product we have?”

Lori Tucker Goldberg, co-chair of Carlisle’s Special Education Parents Advisory Council, worries that if the director of support services’ workload is expanded, there may be less time for problem solving to meet students’ special needs without expensive out-of-district placements. “For any SPED director wearing too many hats, things will fall through the cracks.” Tucker said that the CSC listened to her. “That’s all you can ask. I know it’s only one facet of what they have to consider.”

Tucker is also concerned with the strain of the reorganization process on all the administrators, saying “I’d hate to see good administrators leave. This is the second year their job has been on the line and now they’re potentially getting a new job description.”

Input from administrators, faculty

Koski and CSC member Louis Salemy met with some school administrators last week to discuss the superintendent/principal option, and Koski said the group felt the plan was “definitely do-able.” Superintendent Marie Doyle did not attend the meeting. She has been out sick and unavailable for comment.

The Carlisle Teachers’ Association (CTA) is currently in contract negotiations with the School Committee. The teachers have been working without a contract since the end of June. CTA President Michael Miller says the teachers union has not been involved in evaluating the administration reorganization proposals, “We don’t really have a comment on the potential administration, because we don’t know much about it. We have not been asked for our input.” Miller plans to attend the next CSC meeting on November 18.

If the School Committee decides to adopt the superintendent/principal proposal, it will take time to implement, Koski said. “Who’s going to do what is one of the things we have to work through.”∆

© 2009 The Carlisle Mosquito