Regional School Committee meeting notes: Remote learning feedback; handling spring events; and hiring search updates

by beth on April 16, 2020

Post image for Regional School Committee meeting notes: Remote learning feedback; handling spring events; and hiring search updates

Last night, the Regional School Committee held its April meeting. I’m sharing some highlights from school administration updates. (Not all of them are specific to Algonquin.)

They include an upcoming survey on remote learning, how the schools are tackling special spring events, and and update on hiring searches.

NSBORO-CONNECT 2.0 feedback

The administration has gotten a lot of feedback from parents since the “mandatory” learning module was launched. Not surprisingly, the responses have been mixed. Superintendent Greg Martineau says he’s heard from parents who say that the remote schooling demands are too much and others saying that there isn’t enough. He said they are trying to strike the right balance.

Look for a survey to be issued early next week (likely Tuesday or Wednesday.) The administration will seek feedback from faculty, students and parents. (Note: Since this was the Regional Committee meeting, the focus was the high school. I’m not sure if any lower school students will be directly surveyed.)

High School Spring Events/Milestones

Principal Sarah Walsh said that the administration is aware of how important certain spring events are for students. With uncertainty about when or if students might return to classrooms this year, they are planning for every contingency.

For graduation, possibilities include a virtual ceremony. But given how important many students feel that crossing the stage is, they are also working on a possible plan that allows that, while keeping physical distance.

For Junior prom, they secured a date for late spring and a backup date for the fall.

Clubs have begun meeting virtually this week and are planning virtual versions of their fundraising events and opportunities.

For athletics, coaches have been leading virtual team meetings and even weight lifting. If school resumes on May 4th, there will be a full spring season without big post-season tournaments. If the closure is extended, it won’t be a full season, but they’ll set up some interscholastic competitions. If the remaining in-school days are too short for that, they’ll offer intramural sports opportunities.

Assistant Superintendent and ARHS Principal searches

The search for a new Algonquin Principal is underway with candidates selected for interviews. (No numbers were given on the amount of applicants or those being interviewed.)

The Assistant Superintendent search was further into the process when the school closures took place. They received 50 resumes, held a first round of interviews, and winnowed down to three semi-finalists.

Those semi-finalists will go through a 2nd round of interviews that include more people. The plan is to narrow it down to one recommended finalist. If the Superintendent approves, that candidate will be recommended to the three school committees to approve. 

Regional member Paul Butka (S)* expressed disappointment in the process. He didn’t like that school committee members only get a single candidate to approve or reject. He said that he’d at least like to review semi-finalist resumes to give feedback on before the candidates were narrowed down. The member noted that helping to select the right leadership team was one of the roles of the job he most valued.

In previous meetings, Butka explained why he saw the Asst. Superintendent position as critical. He pointed to its past use as a training job for the higher role. (The past two superintendents were promoted from the Asst. position without conducting an external search.) At the last Combined School Committee meeting, Butka was surprised to learn that might no longer be the case. 

At the April 9th meeting, Martineau presented a plan for who would take over his duties in his absence (from a short illness to worse). While the Assistant would assume the mantle for a few days, beyond that a different district Director could be named an interim Superintendent.**

Last night, Superintendent Martineau explained that they were following the policy for hiring staff at that level and how it was done in the past. But he said they could consider changes. That prompted a long discussion with other committee members supporting the traditional process. 

Member Kathleen Harragan (S) said it was important to understand why the hiring process was created. The interviews candidates go through are very long and involved. She said that the recommendation of a finalist has to be by unanimous vote of the search committee. Bringing three to the school committees would unbelievably lengthen the process. She mentioned that it’s a highly confidential process.

Responding to Butka’s assertion that they haven’t had leaks from confidential Executive Sessions, member Lynne Winter (S) noted that when school committees conduct interviews they need to happen in public sessions. She reminded that candidates often don’t want their districts to know that they are seeking another position. Sean O’Shea (N) said that he would agree with Paul if there was only one school committee. But since the approval needs to be made by all three committees, he agreed that interviewing multiple candidates would be too much.

Dan Kolenda (S) stressed the importance of hiring the candidate that the Superintendent believes he can best work with. 

Martineau said he understood how Butka felt about only having one finalist to approve or reject. He stated that when one finalist was recommended by the committee last year, he and then Superintendent Christine Johnson weren’t satisfied with the candidate. (That’s apparently how they ended up selecting an internal, interim Assistant Superintendent last year.)

Chair Cathy Kea (S) is the Regional Committee’s representative on the search committee. She addressed Butka’s desire to give feedback on resumes. Kea said that while you can poke holes in resumes, when you interview the candidates, they can explain apparent issues.

Joan Frank (N) acknowledged Butka’s concerns about not having a way to give input earlier in the process. For future searches, she said she would be willing to work with him in looking at what changes could be made to the policy.

*Rather than referring each time to whether a committee member is from Southborough or Northborough, I decided to abbreviate with S and N.

**Martineau indicated in the April 9th discussion that the Asst. Superintendent was now seen as at a similar level to other district Directors like Operations and Finance. Some other districts have changed the Asst Superintendent role to a director of curriculum. Last week, Butka said that if they are viewing it that way they should consider changing the title.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

1 Frank Crowell April 20, 2020 at 12:20 PM

Mr Butka – Thanks for going against the internal group think. Please keep it up. If you fall off Kathleen Harraganā€˜s Christmas card list, all the better. If you can figure out and post here why our per student costs are higher than surrounding school districts, you will have done a large service to all Southborough property taxpayers.

Reply

Cancel reply

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: