ABOUT TOWN: Search is on for New West School Principal
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CONTROVERSY SURROUNDS WEST SCHOOL PRINCIPAL'S EXIT: In a letter to parents on Friday, Brendan Dearborn announced his resignation as principal of the West Elementary School to take a position in Walpole.
Just about six weeks from the start of the 2012-2013 school year (school starts September 5 for students in grades 1-12), Superintendent of Schools Dr. Marguerite Rizzi told About Town that there is already a job posting for the position of West School principal.
"We will be conducting a search. I'm sure we can find a good candidate," she said.
When asked about the possibility of an internal candidate, Dr. Rizzi replied, "we will do an open search."
Dr. Rizzi acknowledged it was late in the summer to be searching for a new principal. "It is late because of the time of [Dearborn's] move," she said. "It's not the first choice when looking for a principal. I'd rather start in February or March."
Dearborn had a controversial reign since becoming principal at the West in July of 2008.
He had followed principal Debbie Levitz, who was embroiled in a controversy about MCAS scores when she retired. Dearborn had been an assistant principal and a teacher at the school for three years prior to his appointment.
About Town learned that Dearborn had run into a buzz saw at the school, with concerned parents requesting a meeting to discuss problems at the school, including issues with student safety, academic performance and communciation.
In a letter dated July 10, School Committee Chairman Deborah Sovinee had denied the request for the group of parents to come before the school committee, and instead had suggested they meet privately with her and Joyce Husseini to discuss the situation, along with school administration.
A survey revealed that the faculty at the West didn't have an effective process for making group decisions to solve problems. They were unable to get the ear of Dearborn, one told me.
A current teacher there, who didn’t want her name mentioned, said that Dearborn’s attitude toward the faculty was, “unless someone’s bleeding, don’t bother me.”
She said that any attempts to discipline students, by faculty or staff, were met with resistance by Dearborn. “He said ‘we don’t believe in punishment.’ By allowing the inmates to run the asylum, he crippled learning for anything. A gym teacher and special ed teacher who wanted discipline was told ‘the West School wasn’t the place for them.’"
She said a Title I reading teacher position was eliminated and there were plans to use that funding to hire a vice principal who would deal with discipline issues. At this point in time that was not instituted.
This teacher said "Mr. Dearborn was clearly a man with no vision.”
West School gym teacher Matt Bernstein, who was an outstanding coach in soccer for the middle school and high school, is leaving to teach in Easton. What a loss this is for our town and our children. Bernstein didn’t want to speak about Dearborn. He would only say, “I’m moving on. A lot of good things are happening for me. I’ve been able to land on my feet. Things have a way of working themselves out. I love coaching and teaching. They are my passions. I’m from Stoughton. It’s a town I love. But, it’s time to move on.”
Dearborn’s farewell to parents on Friday was short, and even shorter on details: "I hope everyone is having a great summer! I write this email with very mixed emotions. I have recently accepted a Principalship in another school district. I have loved my time at the West School both as a teacher and as the principal. I have met so many wonderful families and children here over the last seven years that I will never forget. I wish all of you the best in the future and will miss the West."
Sovinee told About Town, "Brendan Dearborn is a gifted educator who will be missed. He is a truly caring and creative principal and I envy his new school. An example of his innovation is the Multiple Intelligence Camp which is so popular at the West School - over 160 children are enrolled there now, supplementing their school curricula by learning and being exposed to everything from art to science, as well as receiving a free lunch! I wish Mr. Dearborn all the best."
Ann Hopkins wrote in the comments section of a Patch article that the lunch program cited by Sovinee at the West School wasn’t Dearborn’s idea.
“Let it be known that it is Ed Gilbert, the head of food services for the town of Stoughton, who is the person who brought the free lunch program to the school system and who, along with the women who work in the cafeteria there, cook, serve and clean up after the children who take advantage of the program, despite the fact that there is no air conditioning in the school. Last week the temperatures in the building hit 90 degrees and yet this dedicated group of people cheerfully served lunches to many of the town's kids.”
Some parents have told About Town that a parent’s group at the West School is the reason for Dearborn’s exit, and that he was doing a great job there.
One told me that there is no way they will find someone as competent as him in the short time period that a search would take place. "He was just outstanding. Those parents continually complained and gave him a hard time. I don't blame him for moving on. They will never find anyone as dynamic as him."
Debra Cote, of the Concerned Parents of West School Group, denied her group had any responsibility for Dearborn’s exit. “The group never had any intention of attacking any employee or administrator in the school system. The group has clearly outlined its goals and they involve policy and planning requests so that the school can achieve the same standards of education that the other elementary schools in Stoughton provide," she wrote in the comments section on Patch. "The West School is rated a 3 out of 5 by the DOE, scores on MCAS have not risen and the school has not met its Adequate Yearly Progress goals since 2008."
A commenter named Theresa, another parent at the West, defended Dearborn. “They will never find a better person than Mr. Dearborn. Not only was he an awesome principal, but he also cared about the students. Never once did I ever worry about the safety of my children or their education while at the West. When my daughter was being bullied on the school bus in kindergarten by a second grade student, he took care of it by the next day. He will be missed dearly. My daughter is very upset about this.”
We wish him good luck in Walpole, and the same to whoever is recruited to take his place.
HAPPY BELATED BIRTHDAY: To Brian Kaplan, recent Stoughton High graduate, who turned 18 on Sunday. His father, Rick Kaplan, is a former Chairman of the Board at the Stoughton Chamber of Commerce.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY: To Rhonda Vito, Stoughton's version of Farah Fawcett, and now happily engaged; and Happy 23rd birthday to Stoughton boxer Sean Bettencourt, who won his fight at the Brockton Fair earlier this month.