GROTON — Over two months have passed since School Superintendent Alan Genovese made the surprise announcement that it was his intention to resign in June of 2010 when his current contract with the Groton-Dunstable Regional School District runs out.
In that short time, much water has gone under the bridge, including a difficult budget process as well as initial questions regarding behind- the-scenes talk of not rehiring Genovese by the then chairman of the School Committee.
At the time of the superintendent’s announcement, the School Committee was in the process of conducting his annual evaluation. Questions arose suggesting that Chairman Paul Funch should recuse himself from deliberations due to prejudicial remarks he made on the subject in e-mails to the New Hingham Regional School District.
Refusing to step down, Funch proceeded in his role as facilitator of the evaluation process which resulted in some heated exchanges among School Committee members at a work session intended to collate individual responses to performance questionnaires dealing with the superintendent.
As a result, many in town wondered if the superintendent’s decision to resign coming as it did so close on the heels of the controversy, was more than coincidence.
“There are many factors that enter into a life-change decision,” said Genovese. “It is time to pass the torch to someone else to help the district grow. I have had to make some pretty difficult, substantive changes that were unpopular. A new person can now focus on budget and curriculum. Health and more time with children and grandchildren were certainly high on the list (in my decision to retire).”
When pressed as to whether he thought Funch should have recused himself from the facilitator’s role, Genovese was noncommittal.
“I respect the decisions that people make,” said Genovese. “What I think of this issue is not relevant.”
“The future of public education will involve more use of technology in exploring creative solutions to problems,” said Genovese. “There will be more use of virtual classrooms and solving problems as a team approach. There will also be a sharper emphasis on higher order thinking skills and every child will likely have an individual education plan.”
Reflecting on his years as an administrator and superintendent, Genovese drew some conclusions about the strengths and weaknesses of public schools.
“Public schools are not providing reasonable class sizes for students to get the individual attention they need,” said Genovese. “But there are many things that public schools are getting right. We have the best educational system in the world and strive to meet the needs of all children regardless of the social, intellectual, emotional or physical challenges.
“In this new century, public schools cannot afford to simply concentrate on reading, writing and arithmetic,” he said. “Public education must offer a comprehensive support system for students to thrive in today’s world.
“But its greatest weakness is that there is simply not enough funding to support education,” said Genevese. “I believe, however, that whatever weaknesses there are, they can be fixed. Where there is a will there is a way to support public education but more resources are needed to support public education. And people resources are as important to assist in instruction as financial support. Adequate funding is part of the answer but better coordination of state agencies is also part of the answer.”
Hired by the district to replace outgoing superintendent Mary Jennings, Genovese was the focus of controversy when the district suffered a spate of high profile resignations including well respected high-school and middle- school principals among others. At the time many questioned his judgment and began to doubt the administration’s communication skills.
Genovese became the subject of public inquiry when the decision was made to close the former Prescott Elementary School and most recently has been questioned regarding the recent dismissal of a popular middle school teacher.
“Unions do not present problems,” said Genovese of the future of employee relations. “What presents problems is the language used in contracts that doesn’t keep up with changes in the world; that doesn’t take the opportunity to look at doing things differently.Union leadership will be part of the solution if public education is to survive in the 21st century.”
Not unfriendly to other forms of education, the superintendent, however, insisted that a level playing field is needed.
“Competition can be productive and healthy,” Genovese said. “But the rules for charter schools and public schools must be the same.”
Genovese served as superintendent of the multidistrict Mohawk Trail Regional School system in the western part of the state before being hired by Groton-Dunstable. He began his career in the Athol-Royalston Regional School District in 1973 where he taught elementary school and became supervisory principal of the district’s Riverbend School in 1991.
But of all the roles he has taken in his long career, Genovese said none pleased him more than when dealing with youngsters on a day to day basis.
“Of the different parts of my career, I most enjoyed the time I spent as a classroom teacher in grades 4 and 6,” Genovese said. “Teaching is the best job in the world.”