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.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Principal's sudden resignation called 'distressing' by parents

Hampshire Gazette, September 9, 2009
Staff Writer

AMHERST - Parents told the Regional School Committee Tuesday of their distress over the resignation of middle school principal Glenda Cresto just after classes started.

Julia Rueschemeyer praised Cresto's flexibility and openness and said she called her to ask her to consider coming back. Rueschemeyer, a lawyer and mediator, said she would like to arrange a meeting between Cresto, Superintendent Alberto Rodriguez, herself and another parent.

She said it would be helpful if Rodriguez called Cresto and ask her to come back. "Ms. Cresto will need to contact me," he said.

Karen Levine said the resignation seems to be "shrouded in mystery," and this has created "a level of stress that is extremely distressing for parents."

Jennifer Keller Jackson said her eighth-grader asked, "Why on earth did the principal resign on the third day, and are we ever going to know?"

Several School Committee members said Rodriguez can't legally talk about Cresto's situation because it's a personnel matter, and even they don't know exactly what happened.

"It's her business, and if she wants to tell you, she will," said member Kathleen Anderson. "It's not our right to try to fish out something we don't have a right to have."

Several parents criticized Rodriguez for not communicating the information about Cresto more effectively. "My priority was acting quickly to bring stability to the middle school," he responded.

But he also said, "Could we have done it crisper? Yes." He said he didn't want to "raise hysteria."

Committee members Irv Rhodes and Steve Rivkin said they are concerned about stretching high school principal Mark Jackson too much by giving him responsibility for the middle school.

"Splitting Mark threatens to make him psychotic," said Rhodes. "I want his full attention on the high school."

Rodriguez responded that "it's not like the school is devoid of administrators." Michael Hayes has become senior assistant principal at the middle school, and Libby Hurley acts as assistant principal.

He said it's hard to hire a new principal at this time of year, and the situation will be reassessed in December.

Rodriguez thanked Hayes for redoing the class schedules of all 490 students over the weekend, after a mix-up that was revealed just before Cresto resigned. He said he is negotiating with a consultant who can study the middle school and provide "a blueprint for next steps."

Jackson "has a vested interest in having things go well" at the middle school because those students will move on to the high school, Rodriguez said.


Anonymous said...

Hard or not, the middle school position needs to be filled ASAP.

Our superintendent likes to focus on NOT doing things- ("It's hard")
He wants to hire lots of consultants and he wants to hire another assistant.

Is he able to do anything independently???

Tom G said...

Here are some answers to questions from the Sept 3 article, "Middle school principal quits amid criticism":

[1] She [Ms. Cresto] 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 [2] other issues came into play as well, Rodriguez said.

[3]"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."

Rodriguez could be more specific about the conditions he described in [3] but as SB members stated, school administrators are not at liberty to disclose personnel matters.

Julia Rueschemeyer ... said she called her [Ms Cresto] to ask her to consider coming back. ... "Ms. Cresto will need to contact me," he [Rodriguez] said.

Superintendent Rodriguez is open to a dialogue if Ms. Cresto, who resigned, initiates the process.

If this happens, I would like to know that the issues of "fit" were fully explored, that there is a high degree of confidence that the "fit" issue and "other issues" could be resolved successfully, and who would accountable for resolving them.

I'm a little troubled that the Sept 9 article about the issue of Ms Cresto's resignation does not tie back to the Sept 3 article. Was none of the parental and student distress remediated with the explanations provided at that time?

Also, on what informed basis did lawyer and mediator Julia Rueschemeyer initiate a reconciliation process or was it simply exploratory without specific details about the resignation and the "other issues" that came into play?

That said, maybe the initiative will answer some other questions I posed: IF Ms. Cresto "is a big loss who, had we handled it differently, could have stayed and helped implement an improved middle school, then we should know that."

The task of becoming one of the top public schools in the Commonwealth is a long haul. This bump in the road and others will mark the route. Let's make sure we keep our eye on the goal and continue the work of getting there.

On another note, have we - the SB and Superintendent - looked at the public school challenge President Obama and Sec of Education Arne Duncan has made to determine if we should be competing for that money?

Abbie said...

Did any of the Amherst schools air President Obama's speech to kids yesterday? My daughter didn't see it at WW.

does anyone know why it wasn't shown? It seems a tremendous opportunity was lost. Yes, I will show it to my daughter individually but I think a lot of the "group impact' and resulting lost group discussion is an opportunity lost. A genuine "teachable moment".

Personally, I think the superintendent ought to be begging Ms. Cresko to return to finish out the year. The alternative as presented last night is simply unacceptable and provides a great loss to both the HS and the MS. Even IF Ms Cresko wasn't the exact type of principle Mr. Rodriguez wants, she is infinitely better than the "solution" offered last night.

Also, a piece of friendly advice to Mr. Rodriguez, lose the gum.

Anonymous said...

Oh my...a superintendent chewng gum???

Anonymous said...

Anon 1:47

After just a few weeks it has become apparent that our newly hired Super attempts to shirk responsibility and avoids taking ownership for decisions. It's safe to hide behind consultants' findings. It's even safer to blame those that report to him. Why hire more assistants? More insulation.

Then, of course, there's the research data game. Having retired from academia, I know all too well the "my findings are better than your findings" tune. In fact, I sang it a few times myself.

So in answer to your question, yes he can do something independently. But he certainly does not want to.

Anonymous said...

Well, it seems he tried to do something independently - move the 6th grade to the Middle School.
Poor choice!

Alison Donta-Venman said...

Abbie, I don't know about the elementary schools, but our kids in the middle and high schools didn't see the President. We were also upset about that (I agree that it was a huge teachable moment...I remember experiencing things like the first space shuttle launch or presidential inaugurations in school) and asked Principal Jackson that night at the ARHS new parent night. He said he only found out about the speech on Friday afternoon and that "wasn't enough time to readjust the bells." So instead of watching it as a community, he offered each teacher the video clip and let them choose whether or not to show the speech in their classes later on. Apparently some teachers did; I have heard of a few kids in the high school who watched it in school.

Anonymous said...

"Ms. Cresto will need to contact me," he said.

That's extending the ol'hand and building team spirit. Pretty macho!

Anonymous said...

There's only 1 sitting SC member who voted for this superintendent -- Kathleen Andersen. Catherine didn't vote for him; Andy Churchill first voted for Sklar and then changed his vote; and all the other members chose not to run for re-election or stepped down.

Anonymous said...

One of my kids watched Obama at CF, the other didn't at the HS but said others there did. Don't know why. I think hearing the message at the MS/HS level would have been a great thing.

TC said...

My daughter watched it at Crocker Farm

Anonymous said...

Anon 11:46 a.m.

Maybe there is hope then. Maybe we won't have to live with this mistake for 3 years.

And as a white male, who has had to experience the past Supers and, I might add, present and past Principals, may I request that future selections seriously consider a female for a position of leadership. The hierarchy within the Amherst system is way too male oriented. And look what we have had and continue to have to endure!

lise said...

The handling of the presidential address seems symptomatic of the Amherst approach. No decision or plan on a school, grade or district basis. Teachers choose what to do in their individual classrooms, without any guidance, support or coordination. I think this causes both inefficiency and missed opportunities.

Anonymous said...

the failure of the superintendent to ensure that every child heard the president's speech should be explored by the SC. It doesn't seem to be very complicated. Put it on a public address system, ensure that every teacher can show it. Why would it be left to the teacher to decide? Not only was a huge teachable moment denied, but an extraordinary opportunity to build community in individual schools was also lost. Lastly, for a district who is supposedly so concerned about the rate of absenteeism, I would have thought the President's speech would have been part of the solution. This should have been a district wide mandatory event. My high schooler did not see it, nor did most of his friends.

Anonymous said...

The new supe is a republican, told us that Ron Reagan was one of his two heroes. Not surprised he didn't push the Obama speech.

Tom G said...

Homework for
Amherst Public School
Parents and Children:

Prepared Remarks of
President Barack Obama
Back to School Event


Anonymous said...

Rodriguez responded that "it's not like the school is devoid of administrators."

AND he wants to hire more plus another consultant. Is it just me ...?

Anonymous said...

1:26- yes, tom g every family should make sure their child saw the speech. but seeing it IN school, with your classmates and your teachers, having it as a shared frame of reference and possibly having it as a topic for conversation, would have been its own learning activity and unique teachable moment.

i really don't want to hear about the problems with absenteeism in Amherst and how they're going to punish kids, when they miss a chance to have the president tell them to stay in school.

Anonymous said...

I am VERY disappointed in what I have seen of our new superintendent so far. Yes, its early still. But I must admit to being worried.

All the students in Amherst should have seen the President's address. Was it because our Super is a Republican that he did not mandate that our students watch the President? I really hope that was not the case.

Is the SC supervising our new Super? Do they have any control over him? Any oversight of his activities?