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Boone Agrees to Meeting Over ‘Political’ Hiring of Principal

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

 

Worcester School Superintendent Dr. Melinda Boone has agreed to meet with a group of parents convinced the fix is in to hire a new principal.

GoLocalWorcester first reported on Monday about a group identifying itself as Worcester Parents United (WPU). The group, without identifying any specific members, e-mailed city and school officials and demanded a meeting with Boone and Mayor Joseph Petty over what they called the political appointment of Paula Severin as new principal at McGrath Elementary School. Severin is the current principal at Claremont Academy and announced she was resigning and not returning next year.

Parents Angry

In an e-mail to GoLocalWorcester on Tuesday, the group would not identify its members, saying only they were “Parents at McGrath School.” The group said it would remain anonymous until a meeting is held with school administrators and parents.

“We have researched Ms. Severin's principalship at Claremont Academy,” the group said in the e-mail. “During her tenure as principal (with the same Assistant Principal, Shannon Sutton), no gains were made at Claremont. If you look at other principals who were replaced and given other positions in the district, their schools were making progress, but not enough to satisfy the state (we believe this is more than fair). Also, Ms. Severin resigned from the Worcester Public Schools, which is clear that she was ‘abandoning her ship’ to us. We hope the district will schedule a meeting with all McGrath School's Parents. Until that time, we do not want our children to be subject to any discrimination.”

Severin has declined several interview requests from GoLocalWorcester.

Hiring Not Complete

A spokesperson for Boone said the superintendent reached out to WPU on Tuesday and asked the group to contact her office so she could schedule a date and time to meet. On Monday, Petty said he would accommodate a meeting “at the earliest possible convenience of all parties.”

Boone has insisted the search for a new principal at McGrath Elementary has not been completed and that no decision has been made. In an e-mail sent to Petty, school committee members and school administration officials, Boone said: “I want to inform you that the principal appointment process for McGrath is in process and has not concluded. As I stated at the last school committee meeting, all five schools with a retiring principal have included a full stakeholder process with teachers and parents as participants on the interview panel. This process has been followed at McGrath. I have not held interviews with any finalists from McGrath yet. As always, I will notify the school committee when an appointment is made.”

School Committee Reaction

That process is precisely what School Committee member Brian O’Connell expects.

“I’ve always felt we’re far better off to have a selection process that involves the community of the school,” O’Connell said. “Ultimately, it brings the new principal into the school with support and a broader base of support.”

O’Connell said he was unfamiliar with Worcester Parents United and does not know any of its members. Told that Boone had agreed to a sit-down with the group, O’Connell said: “It’s good for the superintendent to know what their particular concerns are. If they’re concerned about the future of McGrath, certainly they’ll have some advice to offer. Certainly, the conversation will be beneficial. I think it’s a step in the right direction.”

As for Severin’s prospects at becoming the next principal at McGrath, where she would replace retiring Principal Nancy Dahlstrom, O’Connell said he has been impressed by some her work at Claremont.

“I think there were some solid academic initiatives at Claremont during her tenure,” O’Connell said, noting Severin’s efforts to tailor academic programming to the specific needs of students. “Whether she’s the ideal principal for McGrath, I’m not sure. The fit between a principal and school is very important and vital.”

School Committee member Dianna Biancheria hedged on whether she would welcome Severin as the new principal at McGrath. Like O’Connell she wants an open process.

“That’s why I have a question on supporting the appointment,” said Biancheria, acknowledging that Boone has the authority to hire principal’s without school committee approval. “Once again, I have as a school committee member discussed and highlighted the benefits of transparency.”

 

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