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School Committee: Superintendent meets, exceeds goals

by | May 3, 2024 | Education, Featured: Education

Although no vote will be taken until May 16, the School Committee held a workshop on Thursday to evaluate Superintendent Carol Cavanaugh, rating her as having “met” or “exceeded” seven goals.

During the 2 ½ hour meeting, four committee members (Adam Munroe was absent) discussed individually how they weighed in on her abilities surrounding math achievement, writing curriculum, co-teaching at the middle school, diversity/equity/inclusion practices and social/emotional learning, enrollment growth/building expansion, analysis of student experiences, and 360 assessment of district climate.

The committee praised all the detailed data Cavanaugh collects and presents, as was the case when assessing student learning in math in grades K-12. Several members spoke about how the superintendent broke down student achievement not only by grade, but in subgroups and using examples of individual performance.

“I continue to be impressed by your love for data,” said chair Nancy Cavanaugh, “as well as the deep dive you do on it.”

Vice chair Amanda Fargiano said this was a goal with its outcomes still to be seen over time.

Overall, she noted that if compared with the 300-plus superintendents across the state, Cavanaugh would be a “high achiever.”

Fargiano had praise for how writing across disciplines has “become a core element to curriculum and where we can see results.”

Member Susan Stephenson said although it sometimes difficult to digest all the data the superintendent presents, she thinks Cavanaugh is doing an outstanding job.

Member Lori Nickerson acknowledged that she had only served on the board for five months and felt at a disadvantage not knowing all the past information in some categories.

However, she said that co-teaching is having favorable results with special education students improving as they get into higher grades.

SEPAC relationship discussed

Under DEI, members spoke about the relationship with the Special Education Parent Advisory Council (SEPAC) as well as the English Learner Parent Advisory Council (ELPAC).

Nancy Cavanaugh described the groups as “vibrant,” while discussion ensued about how plans to meet regularly with SEPAC fell by the wayside.

Stephenson spoke about the importance of talking and meeting with SEPAC to build trust and how that process would be ongoing to maintain a good relationship.

Nickerson said administrators should seek SEPAC’s involvement and make sure that when promises are made (such as to meet regularly), they are carried out.

If not, “marginalized groups take that as a slight,” she said.

Fargiano and Nancy Cavanaugh said the School Committee had to take at least part of the blame for not following up with plans to meet with SEPAC.

“We dropped the ball the most,” Fargiano said. “The failure is on our part.”

Nancy Cavanaugh said she accepted personal responsibility for the oversight. She noted that turnover on the committee as well as a new director of student services were extenuating factors.

But she added the district and SEPAC are getting along better than they were in the past, and in the future, they need to have transparency and keep to their scheduled meetings.

Also in DEI, members praised the fact that correspondence from schools is available in many languages. They spoke also about how the superintendent altered the weapons policy to allow students to wear kirpans (sheathed dull blades), to be sensitive to the religious traditions of Sikhs.

Handling of enrollment growth praised

How Carol Cavanaugh handles the enrollment growth/building expansion issue was universally lauded by the committee.

Nickerson applauded her “tremendous effort and strategic vision,” pointing out that not only is the superintendent dealing with the new Charleswood School project, but also the proposed Hopkins addition/renovation.

She noted Carol Cavanaugh does a good job explaining the district’s building needs as a whole and how “they are all closely tied.”

Stephenson said she is impressed not only about handling numbers but also how the curriculum is going to be shaped after grade configurations change.

Fargiano likes that the superintendent is forward thinking and tries to “build solutions to address problems with the future in mind.”

Another area evaluated was the district’s efforts to get feedback from alumni to see if high school prepared them for their lives ahead — no matter what paths are chosen.

Stephenson and Fargiano said that this would be a multiyear type of goal, as surveys were sent out and the results not analyzed.
Nickerson said the next step would be to “build into the culture” the idea that college may not be the path for every student, and “no one is looked down on about it.”

Fargiano agreed, noting options may include giving students more training in the direction they want to go or “make the purpose of learning to be a smarter citizen” rather than centered around grades.

The climate assessment was a goal added on late and spearheaded by former committee member Holly Morand. Nancy Cavanaugh said the superintendent “dug more deeply than envisioned” on a goal that was supposed to be “light.”

Standards looked at

Committee members went on to review specific markers of performance to see if they measured up to standards. The superintendent received either “proficient” or “exemplary” ratings in this portion.

“From one high achiever to another,” Nickerson suggested Carol Cavanaugh be seen out and about in less formal settings where she can interact with parents beyond sending written materials.

“It feels like parents are afraid to approach you,” she said. “There’s still a gap from your vision to where parents are.”

“Maybe when we stop building a new school, she’ll have more time,” Fargiano noted, acknowledging Carol Cavanaugh’s attendance at building committee and other meetings beyond the school day.

Fargiano said they are not “detracting from excellence,” by pointing out areas of growth and improvement the superintendent can work on.

1 Comment

  1. Avery

    Is the SC member frequent absences been addressed by the SC.
    How do we get full representation to deal with all these important and high impact issues affecting Town’s School District?


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