Monthly Archives: October 2012

Hurricanes and Principals

October 29, 2012: (Hurricane Week!) An initial word about weather: If on any day there is bad weather and the schools nonetheless remain open but a parent does not believe it safe for his or her child to go to school, the parent always has the right to keep the child home. A parent shoud follow the regular absence notification procedures, and the absence on a bad weather day would be excused.
Good News: Amy Spangler, recently of Smyrna, Georgia, who is moving to Massachusetts, has accepted the offer of the Belmont Public Schools to be Principal of the Wellington Elementary School, succeeding Amy Wagner, who is retiring. Ms. Spangler has a rich educational background and impressive administrative credentials. She served as a principal in public schools in Oregon for over nine years, provided teacher and parent professional development while stationed with her husband in Japan, and most recently was the Senior Director for Learning and Development for Knowledge Universe, a private educational corporation providing early education and care programs nationally. From 1998 through 2001, Ms. Spangler was the Director of Strategic Planning for the Portland, Oregon, Public Schools. Her reputation as an instructional leader, building administrator, long-range planner, and community builder is superb.
The school district was fortunate to be able to interview two excellent and qualified candidates to follow Amy Wagner’s distinguished achievements at the Wellington. Ms. Spangler’s breadth of experience and reputation as a consolidator were critical factors in the determination to give her the offer. She will begin her transition to the new position at the end of November and will enjoy a short overlap with Principal Wagner.


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Wellington Candidate Interviews

October 22, 2012:  This week we will have to make a critical decision about new leadership for the Wellington Elementary School.  Principal Amy Wagner, after her distinguished career, is scheduled to retire at the end of November.  A screening committee has reviewed 19 eligible applicants to be the new principal and has rated candidates according to their applications and in light of three on-site interviews.  We are bringing forward two candidates to meet both professional staff and the community this week. 

Ellen Quirk, an assistant principal at the Bowman Elementary School in Lexington, will meet district employees at 3:00 Monday afternoon, October 22, and be present for a community meeting from 7 – 8 pm Monday evening.  Both events will take place at the Community Room of the Wellington School.

Amy Spangler, formerly an elementary principal in Oregon and currently working with an educational nonprofit organization will also be at the Wellington Community Room on Wednesday, October 24.  The staff interview will be at 3:00; the community forum at 7:00.  Because we have been informed that there is a conflict with the League of Women Voters’ candidates’ night on Wednesday, community members wishing to meet Ms. Spangler are free to attend the 3:00 session.

At each session, we will ask those attending to complete a brief questionnaire about their impressions about the candidate.  The candidates respectively will have met with Assistant Superintendent Janice Darias and me between the school and public sessions.  On Friday, I will meet with the screening committee to review the overall impressions of staff and community.  There are two possible consequences.  Based upon our interviews and research, we will either offer a contract to the better candidate; or, if we do not have reasonable confidence about a good fit, we do have an option of seeking an interim appointment and reinstituting the search.

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New Butler Playground

October 17:  A year ago this month I closed the Butler playground because the equipment failed a safety inspection I had commissioned.  There had been complaints about the quality, upkeep, and safety of the grounds and play equipment.  Not only was the Butler playground inspected, but also Joey’s Playground and the Burbank lot.  Joey’s Playground is in the planning stages for replacement, and the Burbank received some minor modification to the ground area to comply with safety and accessibility standards.  The big project was the Butler site.  Through efforts of the Butler Playground Planning Committee, the Butler PTA, the Board of Selectmen, the School Committee, a special Town Meeting appropriation, and several generous private and public donors, within nine months sufficient funds were raised to proceed with demolition and replacement.  The new playground will comply fully with safety standards and the Americans with Disabilities Act.  With the appropriate annual maintenance for which I have committed the School Department, the new facility should last for 25 years of active use.

Saturday, October 17, there will be a “community build” for the Butler Playground.  Under supervision of the equipment vendor, adult volunteers from throughout Belmont are invited to help erect the equipment.  Work will begin at 8:00 Saturday morning and conclude, we hope, by 4:00 that afternoon.  After the equipment has been installed, the contractor will lay a rubberized play surface.  Any adults willing to help for a few hours to construct the new playground should call the Butler School (617-993-5550) so that the building crew knows the number of volunteers available and at what times. 


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New Goals

October 9:  Now that the 2011-2012 review of the superintendent’s performance has been completed in accord with the new Model System, a superintendent, in the language of the guiding documents, “identifies at least two goals to propose to the school committee:  one related to improving his or her own professional practice and one related to improving student learning.”  I am submitting to the October 9 meeting of the School Committee two proposed goals so that between now and the October 30 meeting committee members may review the draft and comment to me directly before the Committee would vote approval of the two goals at the October 30 meeting.  In addition to these two personal goals, “the superintendent and school committee develop two to four district improvement goals with key strategies and benchmarks.  Once adopted, the professional practice, student learning, and district improvement goals—with their key strategies and benchmarks of progress—become the Superintendent’s Annual Plan.  The plan serves as a basis for assessing the superintendent’s performance.”

From the District Leadership Council, the Superintendent will present to the School Committee, also on October 30, a summative report about the six prevailing district-wide strategic goals that were implemented in April 2011 and conclude this October.  As well, there is a new draft strategic template, based on the three goals developed and approved by the School Committee in February 2012.  After review by the District Leadership Council, that plan will also be proposed for School Committee review as the next iteration of the district’s strategic improvement plan. 

In the meantime, the superintendent’s two proposed goals are as follows: 

1)      In concert with administrators, the joint administrative/Belmont Education Association advisory team, and educators throughout the district, I shall oversee the faithful implementation of a new, comprehensive educator evaluation system that implements the state’s model with the first phase of implement completed by June 2013.

2)      As a coach within the New Superintendent’s Induction Program, the superintendent will continue to acquire knowledge about leadership development, team building, and strategic planning.  He aims to inform—from monthly content sessions and the practical work of coaching individuals new to district leadership—the Belmont Public Schools’ effective leadership practices and programming, in particular for the development of district leadership, hiring and mentoring of new administrators, and long-range strategic planning.

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Finding a New Principal

October 1:  It might seem a bit strange to be conducting a search for a new principal in October, but in reality such timing is not at all unusual for public school districts.  While finding a replacement for Amy Wagner at the Wellington Elementary School is no easy task, we are proceeding full throttle to select a leader who will continue the strong tradition of academic excellence.  A screening committee will review the files of eligible applicants, select a finite number for on-site interviews, and forward to the central administration between 2 to 4 individuals for a final selection.  Certainly an interim appointment might also prove preferable.  The broad Belmont community will have an opportunity to meet finalists and to forward to me comments and suggestions individuals have.  Dates of the public forums will be announced once a group of finalists is selected.  Members of the screening committee are Kate Ascione, Wellington PTO Co-President; Janet Carey, Principal, Winn Brook Elementary; Kim Dargon, Wellington PTO Co-President; Jaynene Delitt-Young, Elementary Coordinator; Regina Kalajian, Arts Specialist Teacher; Mary Jo Peterman, Community Member; Laurie Slap, School Committee Member; James Tatten, Wellington Head Custodian; and Christina Westfall, Wellington Teacher and BEA Appointee.


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