HARVARD -- During a public forum and interview with Dr. Linda Dwight, current Principal of Hildreth Elementary School, the Harvard School Committee and members of the community posed queries to Dwight to evaluate her possible selection as superintendent.
Dwight has a PhD in educational leadership, comes from a background of six years experience as a teacher and 12 years as a principal, and has two sons in the Harvard school district. As a candidate to fill Joe Connelly's superintendent seat, Dwight provided insight into her leadership-style, moral values and goals for Harvard Public Schools.
Dwight opened the discussion by explaining her reasoning for wanting to be superintendent.
"I would be honored to be the next superintendent," Dwight said. "I think it is a great responsibility... and through all of the time I have been involved in school leadership, I have been wanting to make a school system as good as possible in whatever way I can contribute.
"I feel at this time, what I have to offer Harvard is that I already have relationships here," she said, "and I treasure what you treasure. I think we are on the edge of a whole lot of new changes, some coming from the state and some coming from where education is, and I feel ready to take the reigns and move the school system forward."
While developing educational initiatives are coming from the state, changes coming from the district itself are also apparent, including a new educator evaluator system, declining enrollment, evolving relationships with Devens, and the push for more technology in curriculums.
"I am very dedicated to learning, I am a fast learner, I ask questions and I can work with anyone," Dwight said.
Connelly will be in the office for the next year and available to work with the new superintendent during that time.
A question regarding what Dwight feels is the next phase for Harvard, left her speaking about strategic planning for new programs and state initiatives.
"This year we're going to be making the strategic plan and district plan for the next (three to five years) and it's got to be a (direction) that the community, the teachers, the parents and the taxpayers want to go in together," Dwight said.
As for state initiatives, she said, "you don't have a choice if you do them or not, but how does the leader take the best parts of those so that good things happen based on the state giving us those tools? We are a great small school system, but how do we maintain what's great about being small without getting left behind?" Dwight said.
"I am pleased that Massachusetts has school councils," Dwight said. "That is a great avenue for a voice from parents ... I have been getting a lot more e-mails from parents since sending out a weekly newsletter, so I think once you know what is going on you can ask questions and I can give feedback."
A member from the audience asked Dwight if she would be willing to change a policy area if she had received feedback from a parent disagreeing with it. Dwight answered, "yes," that "absolutely every policy is open for review all of the time."
School security also came up as Dwight discussed what measures should be done and how.
"I don't know if people know but I was a mile from Nickel Mines when a school shooting happened in an Amish school and right after that all kinds of measures went into schools," Dwight said of the event in Pennsylvania in 2006. "I think there is a balance that, as a community, we wrestle with -- how much do we put in place to make sure schools are safe ... It's a challenge because I'll have the same amount of people on the side for increasing security as I will have saying they want the schools to be small town, to have openness, so there is a very fine line. I will air on the side of the kids' safety," she added.
Dwight was questioned about how she plans to built the same type of relationships at Bromfield that she has at HES.
"Relationships just take time and I would be committed to working on that this year and the years ahead," Dwight said. "Face time is what it's going to take..."
As the public forum for questions came to an end the School Committee provided Dwight with their own questions.
Chairman SusanMary Redinger asked, "Please tell us what your core personal values are and apply them to your challenges of leadership."
Dwight responded, "I believe in a leader being a servant and there isn't any job that I wouldn't ask people to do that I haven't done myself... I lead alongside (the teachers)," she said.
Bob Sullebarger asked Dwight how she would continue to keep innovative ideas flowing while also working to deal with outstanding initiatives and goals that the school system already faces.
"I think we should work smarter by getting more people involved in many different things," Dwight said. She also suggested planning district goals years in advance rather than for immediate attention.
Maureen Babcock, the Harvard School Committee representative from the Devens Educational Advisory Committee, asked Dwight if she would continue to support the Devens education contract in the future.
Dwight said she would support it because for her to have "come into it with it already established, seems natural," she said.
The School Committee asked about the superintendent's role in maintaining fiscal responsibility, and asked how Dwight would learn to manage the budget.
Dwight said she would urge regular meetings with school and town fiscal administrators for fiscal planning purposes. Although she has already taken steps to gain knowledge in this area, she said her "steps will become more aggressive" if she is named superintendent.
As the interview came to a close, School Committee member Keith Cheveralls asked Dwight how she foresees her relationship evolving with the committee because "only when a school committee works properly with a superintendent do people see their school district working properly."
"I (will) make sure that I understand that you, as a collective, speak to the goals and vision (of the school district) alongside me. I will give you the educator perspective of what we are wrestling with and you will give me the community view of what the people want to see in their school district," she said.
The values she holds match those of the community and the school committee, she said. She is confident that their relationship "will all be smooth sailing."
Members of the community are welcome to e-mail questions for Dr. Linda Dwight to any school committee member. A decision to either name Dr. Dwight superintendent of Harvard Public Schools, or not, will be made no later than Monday, Sept. 16.
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