Letter: School Committee overreach would be a textbook blunder

Posted 6/24/22

Like almost everyone else who cares about our kids, I've been reading — and kvetching with friends and neighbors — about the School Committee’s apparent decision to not extend a …

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Letter: School Committee overreach would be a textbook blunder

Posted

Like almost everyone else who cares about our kids, I've been reading — and kvetching with friends and neighbors — about the School Committee’s apparent decision to not extend a contract to Dr. DiBiase for the upcoming year. As a concerned citizen — one of the over 1,000 who has signed a petition in her support — I feel compelled to share my thoughts based on what's become known to the public.

At the bottom of the heartburn, I think many are feeling is what appears to be an overreach of the BWRSD’s "Chief Executive," the Superintendent, who, according to the School Committee’s policies, has, among other things, management responsibility for the District's staff. I was in the (very) large corporate world for decades, and I learned if there's one thing that is sacrosanct and essential to creating a high performance organization, it is respecting and trusting the professionals you hire to run it. By questioning one of the first major staff managerial decisions Superintendent Riley has made, the School Committee has effectively violated every one of those tenets. I have not seen an organization (and I was in many over 35 years) where this sort of mismanagement lead to anything but dysfunction, low performance and high turnover.  

As to specifics, effectively firing the "Principal of the Year," whose students have raised their performance significantly, especially in ELA, where we just saw they set an historical high in SAT's in this key Strategic Plan discipline, and who has by all accounts created a positive, nurturing environment in her building, is a real head scratcher. We look to Principals, if nothing else, to provide the leadership that results in student achievement. Dr. DiBiase has done that, in spades, and the School Committee is apparently considering reaching over her boss (Mrs. Riley), and countermanding that boss's recommendation, to fire her? Hmmmm…

A Top 5 Charter of the Draft Strategic Plan is "Professional Learning." In fact, Dr. DiBiase is the Executive Sponsor of it, with "staff authority (important word) for “implementation." Yet bafflingly, when she hired a consultant, using no district resources, to do professional learning for her building, the School Committee reached over the Superintendent AND her (a two level overreach), and denied her the ability to develop her own staff, with no clear reason given. So much for the "transparency" the Strategic Plan says will lead to "meaningful collaboration." Where is the trust in our proven professionals to make their own decisions?

The BWRSD Organizational Chart shows one direct report of the School Committee — the Superintendent.  The Superintendent, on the other hand, is responsible for 28 (I counted 'em) direct reports and/or departments. The School Committee hired Supt. Riley for a reason — she's a smart, experienced, accomplished professional. The right thing, here and beyond, would be to let her do her job. To allow her to manage the District and to retain one of her best, Dr. DiBiase.

The School Committee has a tough job, with many difficult decisions to make. In my experience, this would appear to be a very easy one.

Tony Morettini
Bristol

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