Editorial: School board owes the public an explanation

Posted 6/24/22

The drama is over, and Deb DiBiase is no longer principal of Mt. Hope High School. She announced on Wednesday morning that she had accepted another administrative position within the district, ending …

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Editorial: School board owes the public an explanation

Posted

The drama is over, and Deb DiBiase is no longer principal of Mt. Hope High School. She announced on Wednesday morning that she had accepted another administrative position within the district, ending her eight-year tenure as high school principal.

If some are wondering why, understand she had no choice. She was not invited back to her job; this was the only option presented to her.

The whole affair is baffling, as “Dr. D.” is not just popular within the high school community, she is beloved.

She brought energy and optimism to her school, and she encouraged students to be unique, to be individuals, and to discover whatever it is that they love to learn. She fostered a culture of learning — not a bad quality for any high school leader. We have not seen any other educational leader in the last 30 years, in any of the seven East Bay school districts we regularly cover, who inspired as much passionate support as she has.

But some in the Bristol Warren Regional School Committee wanted her gone, and they got their wish. The big question is why — and why now?

Just up the road, the state’s top public high school also will be without a principal in a week’s time. Longtime Barrington High School Principal Joe Hurley is retiring. That district has been conducting a search for months and has not found his replacement. Two finalists for the job both dropped out late in the process.

Considering Bristol Warren has not even begun a search, what are its prospects for finding a quality replacement within weeks?

This is a critical time for school administrators. While students and staff kick back and relax for much of the summer, principals typically face demanding challenges — interviewing and hiring for open positions, organizing departments, overseeing building repairs and readiness. What is the justification for ousting Dr. D now, just to get rid of her, rather than extending at least a one-year contract as principal to provide stability and long-term succession planning for the high school?

Regardless of their justification, school committee members still must answer that overarching question — why? We suspect they won’t. They may hide behind the superintendent, using her as a shield for why they were never presented with a principal’s contract for Deb DiBiase. Or they could hide behind exaggerated “privacy” claims, ducking accountability by saying they can’t discuss personnel situations in public.

Neither defense holds water. This personnel decision has already played out in public, and the public deserves answers, dubious or otherwise.

2022 by East Bay Media Group

Barrington · Bristol · East Providence · Little Compton · Portsmouth · Tiverton · Warren · Westport
Meet our staff
Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.