Monday, March 14, 2016

Not with a bang but a whimper*

*T.S. Eliot "The Hollow Men"

Tonight the Worcester School Committee votes on the new superintendent of the Worcester Public Schools. While there's been some reporting, the analysis on this has been weak, with marked exceptions of Clive McFarlane and (provided you can roll your eyes over the intro), of all things, GoLocal.
The School Committee conducted all four interviews on a single night, held the meet and greets on a single night two days later, and are voting a week later.
Not a lot of time for consideration in there.
As I said before, though, it's less the rush and and much more the lack of perspective that's the real worry here. The Committee wants someone who "knows Worcester"--I heard this referred to as the "did you shop at Spag's" test. Fine. All four of your finalists pass that one with flying colors.
What else?
Last week, CPPAC heard that the budget gap is in the vicinity of $20 million. That isn't going to magically vanish, and, yes, that's the first order of business for the new superintendent. Important to note that the interim contract for Dr. Rodrigues is through July OR the appointment of a new superintendent. 
We're one school away from being a Level 3, not Level 4 district. That, however, depends on getting Burncoat Prep out of Level 4 status and nothing else sliding. Given the way that such decisions are made, the only thing standing between Worcester and a few more Level 4 schools is continued assurance in Malden that Worcester is making progress. With Dolores Gribouski's retirement, June Eressey's going back to retirement, and who knows what happening with Dr. Rodrigues, Worcester's just lost most of those who have been doing this work at the district level successfully (Mary Meade-Montaque being the exception). If you lose DESE's confidence, there's literally nothing preventing Malden from declaring other schools Level 4. If you can't turn those around with the dwindling resources they're extending, well, welcome to the receivership club.
And if you think the state isn't looking at Worcester, you haven't been paying attention.
The district has a settlement agreement with the federal Department of Justice regarding how we treat our kids. Worcester just completed the periodic Coordinated Program Review, which now needs to have all the loose ends tied to make sure we continue to receive grants and aren't violating civil rights laws. The district is under federal and state scrutiny on dozens of matters and ultimately all that falls to the superintendent.
And that doesn't of course get into the day-to-day management of an organization that employes 4000 people and is responsible for the well-being and education of 24,000 kids.

It isn't pretty. It isn't photogenic. But it is absolutely the superintendent's job.

I saw today some comments that "overwhelmingly" comments from constituents were favorable about the search and the candidates.
Overwhelmingly what I've heard from parents and others across the district was that there was no point in weighing in, as the decision had been made months ago. Thus the terrible turnout at the meet and greet. "Why bother?" is what I have heard over and over again.

"Why bother?" isn't what a school district needs to be hearing from parents and community members.
Yet that is just where this superintendent search has left us.

Not with a bang but a whimper.

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