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April 4, 2011

School Superintendent Search Reaches the Home Stretch

by at 8:55 pm.

Those of you who subscribe to the Sun read in yesterday’s Column that Assistant Superintendent Jay Lang did not make the cut as a finalist for the Lowell School Superintendent position because he was “blacklisted by union members on the screening committee.” When I read that I wondered what were the motivations of the individual(s) who made that suggestion to the paper. I do not think that assessment is correct. I am not disputing the fact that one or more School Committee members told the Sun reporter that they would have liked to see Lang on that list but if they are the ones who implied to Paul Georges and the other two union members controlled the rest of the screening committee members is folly.

Here is the list of the 15-voting committee members and their affiliations: Fred Abisi, Lowell School Administrators Association; Danielle Bergeron, Greater Lowell Chamber of Commerce; Anushareddy Chemicala, student at LHS; James Cook, the Lowell Plan; Colleen Cox, Middlesex Community College; Paul Georges, UTL; Anita Greenwood, UMass, Lowell; Rev. Cecilio Hernandez, Immigration Commission; Sidney Liang, CPC; Kathleen McLaughlin, UTL; George Petereson, Parent Special Education Advisory Council; Kim Scott, CPC; Michael Sheehan, custodian’s union; Liam Skinner, Principal at the Daley School; Rithy Uong, CMAA.

As you can see it is a good cross section of our community. Perhaps Lang’s lack classroom/educator experience did not work in his favor. And those of us who occasionally watch the School Committee meetings and have seen him interact with the SC may describe him as wonkish and knowledgeable in his area, school finances.

The screening committee was charged with bringing forth the names of the top 5 qualified candidates. In retrospect, perhaps the SC should have stated that if any of the Deputy Superintendents apply, they automatically get interviewed. But then it would have eliminated one political discussion (in-house candidates get slighted) and replaced it with another (in-house candidates get the inside track). The process used was the same one as when we selected Chris Augusta Scott and Karla Brooks Baehr before her.

On another note, I had mentioned on the City Life show last week that I thought the SC may have reserved the right to add a name to the list. But that is not accurate. All 5 candidates will be interviewed by the entire School Committee who has had already an opportunity to hear these five. As you may recall, the SC had agreed that they could sit in to observe the non-public questioning conducted by the screening committee. The SC’s interviews will be public and they will take place during a marathon session this Saturday starting at 9:00 a.m. in City Council chambers and I am sure they will be televised live on our local access cable station, LTC.

I have learned the hard way not to speculate about the strength and weakness of candidates for Superintendents or City Managers. Neither current City Manager Bernie Lynch nor current School Superintendent Scott had the inside track when they applied for their respective position. But they both had excellent public interviews. So, I will wait to see what happens on Saturday before I let the speculation begin.

10 Responses to “School Superintendent Search Reaches the Home Stretch”

  1. Insider Says:

    The Lowell Sun got this one wrong. The Sun seemed to think that Jay Lang’s relationship with the teacher’s union resulted in Paul Georges denying Lang the opportunity to move forward because Lang is so strong in negotiating against the union. The truth is that Lang plays a minor to nonexistent role in union negotiations, which are handled by the school committee’s attorney and the superintendent. Even after the relationship between the school committee and superintendent went down the toilet, the school committee sent the superintendent off to do the negotiating.

    Maybe Jay Lang had a lousy interview? Maybe he revealed just how little he knows about curriculum? Maybe his total lack of experience in teaching led the Blue Ribbon Commission to Just Say No? Maybe enough people in the school department knew that Jay Lang was just another GOB who isn’t really very good at his current job, and would be an absolute train wreck of a superintendent?

    The real question is why does Jimmy Leary seem to be so upset about his buddy’s failure to make the finals? Seems that Jay Lang was the one paying the consultants, Jay Lang was the one budgeting the alternative school, and those knives ended up in Chris Scott’s back. Palace coup?

  2. Jack Mitchell Says:

    ZOMG! The Lowell Firsters ignited afterburners on the high dudgeon. You got Anthes being Anthes on City Life. And then the AM radio afternoon babblers took the easy way out, parroting what they heard while wiping the sleep out of their eyes.

    It almost sounds rehearsed.

    Swear to Gawd. Where where these folks when we invaded Iraq?
    Small potatoes, I guess? They where fat, dumb, and happy then. Every Lowellian who is a “nice guy” got a City job, back in those days.

  3. Mill Girl Says:

    I don’t think Insider has spent as much time inside as he thinks. Ask the custodians why they don’t want Lang as superintendent. He’s a hard negotiator and they didn’t like that they couldn’t push him around. He still needs more experience maybe but you can’t fault Lang for not doing his job well. Even the people who don’t like him, respect him.

    I don’t really get the way they set up the blue ribbon commission. Giving 20% of the seats to union members who have been hell bent to disrupt the process seems crazy to me especially where there was no counterbalance from the management side of the table.

  4. C R Krieger Says:

    Shift key, zJack!

    I think this is a good report by Mimi.  The Only thing I would disagree with is the idea that the Committee was a “good cross section of our community”.  Adequate cross section perhaps, but it represents the smaller K through 12 Educational Community.  It is a Committee/Community unlikely to give us real innovation, real change, real hope that our kids are going to be Riding the crest of the 21st Century waves.

    Regards  —  Cliff

  5. Kim Says:

    I would argue that the K through 12 Educational community was under represented. There were excellent university and business members there.

    Chairperson Robert Gilman (Non voting member),Cambodian Mutual Assistance Assoc. Rithy Uong, President City Wide Parent Council Kim Scott and Sidney Liang, Greater Lowell Chamber of Commerce Danielle Bergeron, Co-Chair, Greater Lowell Unionized Employees Michael Sheehan,
    Immigration Commission Pastor Cecilio Hernandez, Lowell Community Health Center Dorcas Grigg-Saito, Lowell High School (student) Anushareddy Chemicala, The Lowell Plan James Cook,
    Lowell Schools Administrators Assoc. Fred Abisi, Director of Adult Education, Lowell School Department Liam Skinner, Principal, Middlesex Community College Colleen Cox, Assoc. Dean,
    Parent Special Ed Advisory George Peterson,United Teachers of Lowell Paul Georges and Kathleen McLaughlin, University of Massachusetts Lowell Anita Greenwood, Dean of Science

  6. Insider Says:

    Mill Girl, I checked in my school with the custodians. The animosity doesn’t come from from negotiations. It comes from directives that just get passed down from central office. Go back to the December 24 Lowell Sun and read about how everyone was unhappy when Jay Lang decided to change the paychecks for the Christmas holiday and didn’t tell anyone until the day before the vacation. People were used to getting two checks on the day before Christmas vacation, and Jay decided to change the pay period so that checks were issued on the last day of the year instead. There were lots of custodians and clerks who were surprised and very unhappy about the change, which came without notice.

    I also forgot that Jay Lang pushed out the former director of the Parent Information and took control of student assignment in 2009, so he knew all about the 11th and 12th grade students who were moved out of the alternative school. All the things that the school committee was mad at Dr. Scott, it was Jay Lang who was in the middle of this and I bet he didn’t tell Dr. Scott who got in trouble for telling the school committee things that weren’t true. It’s a real shame that Dr. Scott is fired. She really supports the teachers, but Jay Lang doesn’t know anything about teaching. I wonder if Jay Lang wanted to be superintendent and passed on bad information so Dr. Scott got in trouble.

  7. Mill Girl Says:

    You’re right about the christmas checks. That was a blunder for sure but…

    I’m guessing you’re either Dr. Scott or Paul Georges. I can’t think of anyone else who would concoct such a scenario. Jay Lang as a villian and criminal mastermind? Hilarious!

  8. Insider Says:

    I’m not Miss Chris or Paul the Union Guy, but I like them both.

    Mill Girl, now that you have seen the five finalists, isn’t it obvious they had much greater depth and breadth than someone who has no teaching experience and no experience in curriculum?

    My challenge to you, however, is why did Jimmy Leary, the Sun, and their GOB buddies raise such a ruckus when Jay Lang didn’t make the cut as a finalist? You don’t see front page headlines when you paint your porch and the paint is drying, and you shouldn’t see a media storm when an unqualified (but politically connected) applicant gets bounced in the search. On second thought, this is Lowell and this is news.

  9. Mill Girl Says:

    My comment above wasn’t that Jay Lang should be the superintendent, I just said that the unions have issue with him. That is a commonly known fact. Sounds like there are some great candidates in the mix so as a less experienced person, Jay wouldn’t have likely been the final choice this time around. Your comment that he would mislead the committee and the superintendent to try to oust her and get the job for himself seems pretty outlandish to me (and very like Paul Georges).

    You and I do agree that SC members shouldn’t have commented on the outcome of the commission. Poor Jimmy Leary just can’t seem to keep himself quiet!

  10. Insider Says:

    Mill Girl’s first comment about Jay lang was, “He’s a hard negotiator and they didn’t like that they couldn’t push him around.” That’s what I objected to.

    I know that the animosity between Jay Lang and the employees of the district are not a result of being a “hard negotiator,” but a result of the way he interacts with people in the district. He has an imperial style, and that is made worse by the fact he has been marginally qualified, at best, for every job he has received in the school department.

    Yes, I am also highly suspicious of the drama surrounding Lang’s rejection by the Blue Ribbon group. It sure looks like the Blue Ribbon group was the only thing that stood in the way of the Lang Anointment, and the would-be anointers are angry.

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