MVMS principal does not respond to request for interview by consultant
What the public won’t find in the $35,500, 116-page study is participation by the school’s principal, Jim Hunt.
According to the results of the study conducted by Learning Innovations at WestEd of Woburn, Mass., five administrators were invited to participate in individual interviews with representatives from the company, but Principal Jim Hunt did not respond to an email request to meet.
“Everyone but the principal, who was not at school the day of the first round of interviews, was interviewed,” the report said.
According to the report, a follow-up email was sent to him to schedule an alternate date to interview, but he did not respond.
Elizabeth Dubrulle, who was part of a parent and staff committee that met twice this summer, said she hopes personnel issues at the school will be addressed.
“In my opinion, the main issue at MVMS has always been primarily a personnel issue, and if anything, this report confirms that opinion, although you have to read between the lines to see it,” Dubrulle said. “The real question is whether or not there are other problems at the school once the primary personnel issues are resolved. This report shows that there are, but that they are not as extensive as originally feared.”
Dubrulle said she expects the School Board and the superintendent to use the report as a springboard to enact a thorough overhaul of the school, which is the only thing that would justify the expense of the report.
“It’s a great opportunity to rethink the vision for the school and ensure that everyone who works there is actively supporting that vision,” Dubrulle said. “If not, then they have to go – period.”
More than 20 students, 13 parents and nearly 30 staff members participated in focus groups led by WestEd staff.
Teachers stressed the need for high quality professional development and for collaboration among team teachers, special educators and paraprofessionals.
While many teachers touted the school’s Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) program as a morale booster, some teachers expressed concern about how they are treated by school administration and fellow teachers.
“One concern related to how administrators treat and talk to staff members,” the report said. “In general, teachers described a sense of not feeling valued or respected by top-level administration at MVMS.”
The parent focus group also expressed concerns about the school administration.
In general, the study concluded, parents were hopeful about the future of MVMS, supportive of teachers and felt as if there had been recent improvements at the school.
They praised the PBIS program and such class offerings as music, world language and advanced math.
However, the report indicated that parents experienced difficulty being involved in school activities because they don’t feel welcome by administration and have a sense that administration does not support parent involvement.
“Related to concerns about parent involvement was a frustration over communication with the MVMS administration,” according to the report. “Multiple parents expressed negative experiences communicating with administrative staff. A couple said they were reticent to raise concerns or ask questions for fear of being labeled.”
SAU 19 Superintendent Stacy Buckley said Hunt was not required to be interviewed during the study process.
“It would be no different than a parent or teacher not being interviewed,” she said. “It wasn’t about one individual – this was one data point out of thousands.”
The report outlined the strengths of the middle school, which houses about 890 students from Goffstown, Dunbarton and New Boston, as well as recommendations for improvement.
The report stated that MVMS has many dedicated children, parents and staff who are doing much to support student learning, and that there were multiple areas of improvement that the school can target.
Four key recommendations were highlighted:
• To continue investing and supporting the school’s Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) plan;
• Create a committee to explore and clarify the school’s mission;
• Consider researching and conducting more classroom observations to determine future areas for professional development; and
• Develop a plan for celebrating student and staff success and publish that information for parents and the community.
Buckley said WestEd representatives offered to meet with the School Board to answer any questions they have.
The study included data collection of student test scores from 2010 to 2012, which showed that students performed above national averages in math, reading and language use.
Parent, student, teacher and staff surveys and focus groups were also included in the study, as well as classroom observations.
In terms of culture and climate, students weighed in with positive feelings about classes, their teachers, support for learning, school activities and recess, but also expressed concern over misbehavior by other students, including bullying, inconsistency in enforcing rules, a lack of activities that encourage school pride and lunch.
Buckley said the study was very well done, and was not surprised by its findings, adding that the details of the study will help the district focus on what needs to change.
Buckley has asked school staffs to review the report, and the process of how to implement the recommendations will begin at a later date. “It’s going to take some time,” she said.
Dubrulle said the report illustrated that there are many positive things going on at the school. “It’s time to capitalize on those things, get rid of what’s not working, and give that school a fresh start,” she said.