By Nick Grabbe and CATHERINE BAUM Staff Writers
Published on September 04, 2009
The Amherst Regional Middle School, which has endured public criticism this year, lost its principal this week with Glenda Cresto's resignation four days after classes started.
She told Superintendent Alberto Rodriguez she was not a "good fit" for the position, a view she'd previously expressed to him and to former Acting Superintendent Maria Geryk, he said. But other issues came into play as well, Rodriguez said.
"I'm sure that there were not ideal working conditions," he said. "You don't want to be clubbed over the head morning, noon and night. It's hard to work with that kind of criticism."
When students arrived at the middle school for the first day of classes last week, some were missing class assignments. A report on what went wrong is being prepared, and everything will be ironed out by Tuesday, Rodriguez said.
Cresto took responsibility for problems even though they weren't necessarily her fault, he said.
"In the short term, we're making sure every student has a teacher in every period," he said. "In the long term, we're redoing all schedules to make sure all kids are in the right teams."
Rodriguez said he had already chosen a consultant to do a "deep and intrusive assessment" of the middle school's effectiveness before Cresto resigned.
"I think it takes an incredible amount of courage to openly say 'I'm not sure I'm the right person for the job,'" he said. "I don't know many people who would do that. I take my hat off to her."
He said the resignation was "her decision all the way."
Asked whether the intense scrutiny that principals are under in Amherst was a possible reason for Cresto's departure, Rodriguez said, "Sometimes the expectations of administrators is unrealistic."
Cresto was on the job for only a year, and had never been a principal before. In August 2006, she resigned as assistant principal of Carver High School for personal reasons, not long before school resumed.
She was hired by former Superintendent Jere Hochman and expected to get mentoring from him. But Hochman resigned, and there were three interim superintendents last year before Rodriguez arrived in July.
"It's been a very challenging year," said School Committee member Catherine Sanderson. "She made good progress in moving the middle school in the right direction. She was excited about the opportunities to make the middle school the star of the district. The middle school has faced a challenge for a long time, and no one has assumed the problems were created in Glenda Cresto's tenure."
Posts on Sanderson's blog have described Cresto as "attentive, open, available and helpful" and said "she had no ego, was flexible and always put kids first."
One posting described her as "a caring professional who improved communications with parents and tried to make some headway in a time of enormous budget cuts and transition at the superintendent level."
Interim arrangements and plans for finding a permanent replacement will likely come up at Tuesday's Regional School Committee meeting.
High school principal Mark Jackson has assumed on the additional role of middle school principal. Sanderson said she's heard from parents who are concerned he is taking on too much, though Rodriguez said, "He's fine with it."
Michael Hayes, who was interim principal before Cresto arrived and a finalist for the position, has become senior assistant principal of the middle school. Teacher Diane Chamberlain has become temporary assistant principal at the high school.
As for a permanent successor, Rodriguez said he will look internally before advertising the job. Sanderson said she favors advertising immediately and getting a principal on the job by the end of December. "It's very important to have someone in place," she said. "You can never tell what is going to be available, given the budget cuts. There may be some super candidates who are out of work."
There could be a positive component to Cresto's resignation in providing a clean slate for a thorough review of the middle school, Rodriguez said. "This is best for Ms. Cresto and best for the middle school to have a fresh start," he said. "She will go on to bigger and better things, and we will get a deep, hard look, without personalizing it, at the whole middle school operation without it being about the principal. This is the best time to do it."
My Goal in Blogging
I started this blog in May of 2008, shortly after my election to the School Committee, because I believed it was very important to both provide the community with an opportunity to share their thoughts with me about our schools and to provide me with an opportunity for me to ask questions and share my thoughts and reasoning. I have found the conversation generated on my blog to be extremely helpful to me in learning community views on many issues. I appreciate the many people who have taken the time to share their views. I believe it is critical to the quality of our public schools to have a public discussion of our community priorities, concerns and aspirations.