The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, December 11, 2009

Wendell Sykes explains CSC resignation

Wendell Sykes resigned from the Carlisle School Committee (CSC) shortly after the eventful November 18 meeting where the School Committee voted to accept a new teachers contract, accepted Superintendent Marie Doyle’s resignation (effective June 30) and voted to restructure the school administration, combining the superintendent and principal duties. The School Committee is an elected office and the Selectmen will be asked to appoint a successor until Town Election next spring. In his letter of resignation, which appeared in last week’s Mosquito, Sykes said he resigned because of “serious philosophical differences” with other members of the School Committee. The Mosquito recently spoke with him about his decision.

“My decision to resign was the result of careful thought over a period of months,” Sykes said, and explained, “I was concerned that my presence was causing the remainder of the Committee to avoid full public debate of the cost effectiveness of possible administrative alternatives.”

Asked why he had abstained in the executive session vote on the new teacher’s contract, he said, “I was handed a 20-page document that I had never seen and was asked to approve it on the spot. I did not think this was an appropriate action even if I had no specific reason to doubt that I would eventually approve it, so I abstained on principle.”

He reiterated the reasons listed in his letter of resignation, where he cited disagreement over the “role of the CSC in the governance of the Carlisle Schools.” In particular, he criticized the process used in the examination of administrative cost reductions and “the resulting decisions made by the majority of the CSC regarding the administrative structure of the Carlisle Schools.”

Sykes elaborated, “It was reasonable for the School Committee to look at the structure and compensation of the administration of the Carlisle Schools, since there has been a reduction in both the size of the faculty and in their compensation structure. However, I feel that the approach that the School Committee was using did not make full use of the expertise of the present administration and that this approach was destabilizing, as shown by the resignation of [former School Business Manager] Heidi Zimmerman.” Sykes said, “Intervening in the area of administrative structure is not the responsibility of the School Committee nor are they qualified to do so.”

He also expressed doubts about the new administrative structure saying, “The NESDEC consultants made a point in both reports that the current administration was exceptionally cost effective and that any of the changes that NESDEC proposed would not have a positive effect beyond a small reduction in administrative costs that might be negated by a change in circumstances. Every one of the present senior administrative staff has told me that one of the most important factors in their decision to come to Carlisle was the stature and reputation of Marie Doyle.”

Sykes said that the fact that the superintendent’s contract was up for renewal might have influenced the actions of the School Committee. When asked if it might have also affected the negotiations with the teachers’ union, he replied, “Since I did not serve on the contract negotiation subcommittee I don’t really know for sure but, I suspect no.”

Asked for his hopes for the future of the school, Sykes concluded, “As Secretary Clinton once reminded us, “It takes a village to raise a child.” I hope that the voters of Carlisle will recognize that the ability of this country to retain its world stature and its current standard of living depends on the effective education of its children to survive in the current world-competitive climate of the 21st century. I also hope that Carlisle can remain a child-focused ‘village’ in the best sense of the word.” ∆

© 2009 The Carlisle Mosquito