James Fitzgerald Elementary School parents on Monday expressed concerns over the school’s revolving door of principals, and communications during a meeting with Mayor Jeannette McCarthy.
The meeting came after McCarthy took flak for agreeing to meet with parents without first notifying the School Committee.
McCarthy told parents the meeting was scheduled after she received concerns about the stability of the school given its turnover in principals in recent years and their “disenfranchisement” with the process used to select a new principal.
The mayor took note of the concerns and promised to share them with Waltham Public Schools Superintendent Susan Nicholson. Nicholson did not attend the meeting.
· Parents expressed worry that the school district does little to communicate with them, especially about decisions made that could impact other schools.
· Parents were also worried about ongoing overcrowding and spaces issues at the Fitzgerald school, with one parent lamenting the lack of a “long-term” vision to address the issue. One parent said shifting students between schools hurts their education.
· In response, McCarthy said, “Redistricting won't work, that it has to be something greater.” The school district is planning to hire a consultant to examine the space issues. Also, the district is waiting for one additional year of enrollment data to use in future studies of how to address space issues, McCarthy said. “Somebody will come in and look at the big picture,” she said.
· Parents also expressed issues of inconsistent leadership. They citied examples of how prior principals had an active School Council (not school committee) but under former principal Robert LaRoche’s tenure, that did not happen. “Things are not consistent … I feel like we’re all going backwards,” said one parent.
· Another parent, who declined to give his name to Waltham Patch, said he thinks Fitzgerald is “in crisis.” He said: “I see Fitzgerald as in crisis … It seems like we can’t get our act together in terms of keeping that principal employed for the long term.” He added it was “unsatisfactory” to have an interim principal for the upcoming school year and his kids will suffer from the instability. “They’re just punished every year for this inability to sort things out,” he said.
- Parents suggested either a periodic email or meeting to better communicate between school staff and parents.
· The following school committee members attended the meeting: Margy Donnelly, Teddy Tarallo, Susan Burstein and John Graceffa.
· School Committee members Lisa Limonciello and Robert Cincotta did not attend the gathering. Mayor McCarthy said the School Committee was welcome to attend the gathering.
· Also in attendance were City Councilor Thomas Stanley, a Fitzgerald parent, and City Councilor Joe Vizard. City Councilor Diane LeBlanc also attended.