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Superintendent’s Recent Award Has Silver Lining

To the Editor:

Last week you reported that Superintendent of Schools Robinson received the Outstanding Superintendent Award from the Neag School of Education. That is a stunner to me. Even more stunning is the basis of the award. Neag made the award because Robinson is “open and available to all” and “is continuously listening to local…”

Is this the same superintendent who hired a communications consultant to handle her interaction with the town? The same one who dismantled the owner-operator bus system despite the majority of the community’s desire to preserve that system?

I can only wonder what planet the folks at Neag have been residing on for the past couple of years. But there is a good part to all this. As the Board of Education begins a search for a new superintendent, this is the time for a job description and performance expectations to be clearly and firmly spelled out. Elements of Neag’s award nomination are, in fact, relevant to developing those expectations. For example, mentoring, communication, listening, and learning about new trends in education. The previous board was either clueless or careless (I suspect the former) when it came to managing the superintendent’s performance. The result speaks for itself.

The board must evaluate candidates on the basis of these performance objectives and prior performance. Then, following a selection, the board must conduct annual performance reviews that are based on clear objects and measurement against those objectives, with an honest appraisal by category; something the previous board glossed over. Neag may run a mutual admiration society, but Newtown can’t if we expect our schools to be best in class. Now more than ever we need a superintendent who can connect to the community, one who has excellent communication and collaboration skills. And we need a school board that actively manages the school administration, not a rubber stamp.

Finally, as in all assessment, if expectations and goals aren’t met, then action needs to be taken. Bottom line, let’s get it right this time!

RP Gottmeier

13 Antler Pine Road, Sandy Hook              April 22, 2013

Comments

Yes and No

Mr. Gottmeier, I just want to answer the two questions you posed early in your letter.

Yes, this is the same Superintendent who hired a communications consultant, but not for the reason you stated. Dr. Robinson needed help on the communications front to ensure more frequent and thorough responses and communications to parents, officials and to the taxpayers. Her job responsibilities also require that she personally handle much of the interaction with the town which she did.

We can argue whether she was lacking in this area or did her focus on the District and education prevent her from meeting the increased demand, but either way, in the year before she sought the help of a professional, the Superintendent was directed by both a Strategic Plan prepared by parents and teachers AND by Newtown's Legislative Council to figure out a way to address the communications gaps. That's what she did. Despite what you may have heard or read, the Superintendent is the "CEO" of the District and had the authority to retain professional help and did not break any rules in the process.

And as the comment above points out, the Superintendent was not involved in the decision to change transportation providers. That decision, a difficult one made by the BOE, is on track to reduce our cost for transportation this school year (and the next four) by even more than the "promised" $500,000.

Bus System

Mr. Gottmeier I share your disaapointment that the owner/operated bus systerm was not sucessful in winning the RFP. The BOE had no choice but to award the contarct to All_Star based on the bid. The Superintendent did not make that decisiopn.

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