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School board should have taken Jefferson’s principal plan seriously

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I am concerned on several levels with the rushed decision by the School Committee to hire an interim principal for the Hildreth Elementary School (HES) with seemingly little thought or discussion.

I e-mailed all members before their meeting last night requesting that they reconsider their decision made at an unadvertised special meeting convened on a Friday morning, allowing limited input from the community. To no avail.

At last night’s meeting the chair, Keith Cheveralls, announced that the School Committee’s decision to hire an interim principal was final. Since Keith’s wife, Maryanne Cheveralls, reports directly to the HES principal, I find his participation in any talks about hiring a new principal a conflict of interest. He publicly pronounced that he would not participate in the exit interview of Ms. Banios due to his wife’s employment at the HES and yet he is participating in talks about hiring her replacement.

When Ms. Banios arrived at HES there was no core curriculum for the school. She requested to have curriculum coordinators instead of filling the assistant principal position, which was vacant at the time. Under her excellent educational leadership, the coordinators have made great strides in curriculum development. An interim will be a placeholder who will not have the HES experience to continue to push forward the important curricular work that addresses the needs of all learners, a key goal of the system.

If you hire an outside interim principal for one year, the person will need six to nine months to meet the staff, understand the culture, appreciate the expectations of the community and grasp the challenges of the budget for FY12, which will start to be developed in the fall. Difficult decisions are not likely to be tackled by someone who has no vested interest in the system.

The School Committee barely discussed Dr. Jefferson’s proposal to assume the role of interim HES principal with the assistance of Gretchen Henry and save approximately $75,000. He was an elementary-school principal for 20 some years before becoming a superintendent, so he clearly understands elementary education. He is very aware of the work at HES and will offer the necessary leadership that will allow the school to move forward with initiatives as opposed to being stagnant for a year or possibly losing ground.

HES is losing a terrific principal who has brought many needed changes. I would urge School Committee members to support Dr. Jefferson’s recommendation on how to fill the vacancy that Ms. Banios is leaving. As our superintendent, he is responsible for hiring the principal. School Committee would best serve the schools by listening to his knowledge and expertise instead of once again micromanaging a process for which they are not responsible.

He has an excellent track record as evidenced by his hiring of Principal Jim OShea (Bromfield), Vice Principal Scott Hoffman (Bromfield), Facilities Manager Mark Force and Special Education Director Pam DeGregorio.

I encourage others to share your thoughts with School Committee members.

WILLIE WICKMAN

Harvard