Tag Archives: WPS SUPERINTENDENT search

With new WPS super, Worcester should consider district representation on the Worcester School Committee

By Gordon Davis
photos by Gordon Davis

What is to be done now that Maureen Binienda is the new Worcester Public Schools Superintendent?

The success and education of our children are the only issues now. We have to work together to effectuate these goals. Any division or animosity within the Worcester School District must be put aside.

Dr. Binienda_1
Dr. Binienda

Since the search was internal to the Worcester School District, the candidates for the schools superintendent job still have important jobs to do and must continue to do their good work: Dr. Mulcahy teaching English, Dr. Allen running Norrback Elementary School and Dr. Rodrigues continuing his work as Assistant WPS Superintendent.

Dr. Rodrigues faces a test of character, as he has to teach his replacement the ropes.  I am sure he will pass this test and be of great help to Dr. Binienda.

Dr. Rodrigues_1
Dr. Rodrigues

I think Dr. Rodrigues will eventually be scooped up by some school district which has a better appreciation of his talents, experience and education.

I think Dr. Binienda will do a good job until she retires in a few years.

As I have pointed out before, there seems to be something irrational or illogical regarding this WPS superintendent selection process. The irrationality became more evident when the two progressive Worcester School Committee members – Hilda Ramirez and Tracy Novick – were voted out of office this past November. They were replaced by at least one ideologue.

I also have to say that I was surprised by the votes of some long-time Worcester School Committee members who I thought were more level-headed.

One time, several years ago, then Worcester Mayor Joseph O’Brian suggested that there should be regional or district representation on the Worcester School Committee similar to that found on the Worcester City Council to ensure minority representation, to reflect the diversity of the students/families of the Worcester Public Schools. To ensure their voices, needs and perspectives were heard. I was skeptical at the time, as there is a so called minority majority State Representative district in our area that has never been filled by a minority.

After the recent events, I may have to concede the point to our former mayor.

The Worcester School Committee is entirely white – even though most of the children in the Worcester schools are not.

I do not think that this should last for long, for the good of the city.

For years the Worcester School District has been underfunded. It should be receiving at least $90 million a year more than it is now receiving in accordance with Chapter 70 of State statutes. Yet I have seen no urgency by the Worcester School Committee to fully fund the schools.

There has been no effort to organize parents or teachers or the community in general to demand full funding.  

Compare this to the student walk out in Boston.

The children once again lead the way.

There is a definite need for a change in leadership in Worcester.

It is not clear to me that the Dr. Binienda choice is a symptom of this lack of leadership. I wish her good fortune in running our public schools; our kids’ lives depend upon it. 

Worcester Public Schools Superintendent Search = Shit Sandwich

From the Search Committee for the
Selection of the Next Superintendent of the Worcester Public Schools

The Search Committee for the Selection of the Next Superintendent of Schools, appointed by Mayor Petty, received four applications for the positon of Superintendent of Schools.

Based on our review and evaluation of the applications, and of the supporting materials submitted, we are pleased to advance all of the applicants for further review and consideration by the School Committee.

The candidates all bring to the selection process superlative records of achievement. However, they vary dramatically, one from the other, in areas of expertise, focus, training, experience, and concentration. They provide, collectively, a superb opportunity for the Worcester Public Schools to select, from them, the candidate with the optimal mix of training, talent, and vision which will assist the WPS in addressing the challenges and opportunities which it can reasonably anticipate in the years ahead.
The candidates are as follows:

Karrie J. Allen, Ed.D.

Dr. Allen, the Principal of Norrback Avenue School, brings to the selection process “15 years’ experience transforming school cultures, implementing effective initiatives and systematically building structures vital to student achievement”, as she describes well in her letter of application. During her decade as Principal within the WPS – at Norrback and at May Street School – and in her years of experience as a teacher of children with moderate needs, she has won the respect and allegiance of staff members, students, parents and the community for her focus on student achievement, collaboration, and parent/community involvement. Her former supervisor highlights her “breadth of knowledge, candor, confidence, sense of humor and rapport”, which, combined with her record of achievement in elementary education, would serve her well as Superintendent. As a letter of reference regarding her noted, she “has a deep rooted passion for facilitating learning and positive growth; she would be a positive asset to the Worcester Community as the Superintendent.”

Maureen F. Binienda.

Mrs. Binienda has devoted her entire professional life to the students of the Worcester Public Schools, first as a teacher of moderate special needs students, then as a special education curriculum specialist, then, for the past two decades, as Assistant Principal and Principal of South High Community School. Her dedication to community service – for her students as well as for herself – has earned her an extraordinary array of awards and commendations from civic and educational organizations. At South High Community School, where she has worked since 1978, she is, as summarized so well by the author of one of her letters of recommendation, “everywhere at once, supporting, nurturing, and coaching the entire community, especially her students.”  Her focus has been equally on setting ambitious standards of academic achievement for her students, epitomized by her Advanced Placement initiatives.

Kerry E. Mulcahy. Ed.D.

Dr. Mulcahy has a rich educational pedigree which is tailor-made for leadership in Worcester. She earned her doctorate from the Leadership in Urban Schools program at the University of Massachusetts Boston, having written her thesis on “An Examination of School Committee Municipal Representation in the City of Worcester.” She is described today by an associate professor who was her thesis advisor as “the finest student of education politics that I have met in my career in higher education.” In Worcester, where she has taught English for more than a decade, currently at Doherty Memorial High School, she is noted for the success of her students on MCAS, for her innovative role with the Engineering Small Learning Community, for her energetic dedication to her school, and for her rapport with her students. As her colleague has emphasized, “[i]n all aspects of her life she has demonstrated the leadership, modesty, passion, determination and integrity that make her an excellent choice for this position.”

Marco C. Rodrigues, Ed.D.

Dr. Rodrigues has truly experienced all instructional levels of public education, beginning as an instructional assistant at Woodward Day School in 1991, ultimately rising to the position of Executive Director a decade later. He served as Executive Director of the Central Massachusetts Special Education Collaborative for three years. Since 2010 he has been an instructional leader within the Central Administration, culminating in his current position as Interim Superintendent. In each of these positions, he has demonstrated a particular sensitivity to the most challenged students of the WPS, while, as Chief Academic Officer and as Interim Superintendent, he has maintained a clear, thoroughly-informed focus on student achievement and on data-informed instruction methodology. As his predecessor as Chief Academic Officer has noted, he “promotes success for all students by nurturing and sustaining a school culture of reflective practice, high expectations, and continuous learning for staff.” As Interim Superintendent, he has shown an ability to formulate, and to consider, novel approaches to school issues, addressing them in a practical, cost-effective manner.

The Committee is delighted that these four talented and dedicated educational leaders have chosen to apply for the position of Superintendent, and we anticipate a lively dialogue on issues of Worcester public education, informed well by their perspectives and insights, as the selection process continues.

The Committee highlights the following as the next stages on this process:

Friday, March 4 – the resumes of the candidates, their letters of application, their reference letters, the application forms, the responses to essay questions, and other pertinent information will be posted on the WPS website.

Monday, March 7 – the School Committee will interview the candidates, in the City Council Chamber, in the following order, as determined by random drawing:

5 PM – Dr. Rodrigues
6 PM – Dr. Mulcahy
7 PM – Mrs. Binienda
8 PM – Dr. Allen
The interviews will each begin with a three-minute introductory statement by the candidate, followed by presentation of twelve questions, in order, each with three minutes as a general time guideline for responses. A closing statement of two to four minutes by the candidate will conclude the interview, which is designed to take no more than one hour. The questions to be asked of the candidates will be released to the candidates, and to the public, to allow the candidates to formulate well-considered and thoughtful responses. We will invite candidates to bring with them, and to share with us, any pertinent documents which support, supplement or elucidate the answers they provide to the questions they are asked as well.
Wednesday, March 9 – the Committee will hold a “meet and greet” reception for the candidates from 5 to 7 PM, at the Cafeteria of Doherty Memorial High School. This reception will allow the members of the community to interact with the candidates in an informal setting, to raise questions of interest to them, and to form their own impressions of the candidates through their conversations.
Monday, March 14 – The Committee will convene at a Special Meeting, at 6:15 PM, in the City Council Chamber, to deliberate on selection of the next Superintendent. The selection of the Superintendent will require a majority vote of the members of the Committee present and voting.
We strongly encourage all interested members of our community, and of the Worcester Public Schools, to participate in this process with us, by attending the interviews, by joining us for the “meet and greet”, and by coming to City Hall for the March 14 meeting. We urge all Worcester residents, and community and educational leaders, to share with us their thoughts as to the candidates, and as to the particular skills and priorities the WPS most needs in its next Superintendent. As noted above, we are most pleased with the caliber and quality of these fine members of our staff, and with the expertise, knowledge, skill, training, talent and energy which they will clearly bring to this position. We are most anxious that our community join us as we work, together, to select the qualities, and the leader, which will prepare us best to address the many varied challenges, and fine opportunities, which await the WPS in the years to come.
The Search Committee for the
Selection of the Next Superintendent of Schools
Brian A. O’Connell, Chair
Jack Foley
John Monfredo

Interview Questions

1.        We read frequently that a leader of an organization must have a vision.  What is your vision for a mid-sized urban school system?  What have you done to achieve that vision in your present situation?  How would you go about achieving that vision in a new setting?

2.        What do you see as the opportunities and challenges facing the Worcester Public Schools at present and in your experience, how has the Worcester Public Schools met the opportunities and challenges facing it during your tenure with the district?

3.      What will you do to solidify a strong relationship and develop a shared strategic direction between the Worcester School Committee and the Superintendent?

4.      Explain how you would build a strong relationship within the community, with our community leaders, higher education officials, legislators, social agencies and other governmental leaders.

5.      What role should the community and parents play in the schools and provide examples of what you might do in your first six months as Superintendent to enhance the role of community and parents in this respect?

6.        How would you create consensus regarding the priorities of the district and develop budget recommendations that reflect those priorities?

7.      Nationwide, we hear about the achievement gap, especially in the urban districts and with English language learning students.  What can we do to move all of our students to the next level in their educational career?

8.       What plans do you have to inform the public of the many positive accomplishments within our district and how will you keep the public informed regarding district initiatives, needs and priorities?

9.      How would you create a welcoming community where parents/families are partners in the academic success of their children and how would you create a staff which reflects and embodies this diversity?

10.    As Superintendent, you will have an opportunity to appoint a number of principals and central office administrators.  What criteria, philosophy and guidelines would you apply when making these decisions?

11.    What is your leadership and management style and what would be your plan to effectively communicate with educators in our schools?

12.    In recent years, the Worcester Public Schools has addressed opportunities and challenges in such areas as:

1.    expanding interest in vocational education on the part of students
2.    special education
3.    arts and music education
4.    gifted student education
5.    technology
6.    student and staff safety and security

Please share with us your thoughts as to topics and considerations we should address in each of these areas.

Worcester Public Schools Superintendent Search in Disarray

SC Super Table 1
The pretend-search for the next superintendent of the Worcester Public Schools begins!

By Gordon Davis

A subcommittee of the Worcester School Committee held a “forum” this week on what qualities Worcester residents want to see in the new Superintendent of the Worcester Public Schools.  

The so-called forum was confusing and to some extent showed how inexperienced or confused the three so-called panelists from the school committee were.

As a rule, the panelists are the speakers. In this forum the panelists said nothing and Worcester residents spoke from the floor.

School Committee woman Molly McCullough ran the “forum” like a school marm.

She seemed a little nervous and unsure as she told speaker after speaker “your time is up”, “please only talk about skills”, and “hold your applause.”

The irony here is that the first speaker from the audience asked what are the objective requirements for selecting a new school superintendent and whether direct experience as a superintendent was required.

The same speaker asked if speaking a second language other than English is a requirement. 

The three school committee women on stage, Donna Colorio, Dianne Briancharia and Molly McCullough, could not answer the questions. Ms. McCullough said she would refer the question to the school committee.

After the so called “forum,” Ms. McCullough and Ms. Briancharia took the time to share their personal criteria for a new superintendent; the successful candidate they said would be effective, communicative and a problem solver.

Ms. Colorio went out of her way not to give a statement on the qualities that she thinks a new superintendent should have. I suppose that she might have worried about a question regarding her vote to take money away from the Worcester Public schools and give it to charter schools.

School Committee members John Monfredo and Brian O’Connell, although not on the stage, gave more coherent answers as what are the preferred requirements for a superintendent. Mr. O’Connell said previous experience as a superintendent was preferred and the ability to speak a second language was a plus. Mr. Monfredo said that a Certificate of Superintendency was a must but a doctorate was a preference.

The president of the teachers union spoke and asked that a member of his union be on the search committee.

A representative from the Worcester Educational Cooperative said a superintendent should be able to fight for full funding from the state. The Worcester Public Schools are underfunded per the State of Massachusetts’ educational formula. This is especially true for special needs students.

A parent said a school superintendent should also be able to get funding for gifted students.
Worcester resident, Ken Person, said the Worcester schools were actually good schools when compared to other schools in the country. He wanted a superintendent that could continue and hopefully improve what is good about the Worcester Public Schools.

A couple of teachers felt that there is a need for a superintendent to be able to communicate well with all principal parties: students, parents, teachers and staff.

School safety was brought up by one speaker who thought that the decision to limit the search for a superintendent to within the Worcester School District was a mistake. He felt that a superintendent from a larger urban area with experience in school safety was needed.

Although the speaker on school safety was one of only a few who described an objective requirement, the school committee had previously decided against it.

Some speakers mentioned diversity and the fact that more than 90 languages are spoken by students in the Worcester Public schools. They suggested that the new superintendent should be able to relate to this diversity, not only educationally, but in terms of personal experience.

It was pretty clear that some of the school committee members could not or did not want to state objective criteria for a superintendent.

To some extent, this so called forum was a charade, masking a subjective choice that seems already made.

The Worcester School Committee will likely choose Maureen Bienienda, principal of South High School, as the the WPS Superintendent because she grew up in Worcester and worked her whole career in the Worcester Schools.

The Worcester School Committee will ignore the facts that WPS Interim School Superintendent Marco Rodriques has run an urban school district – ours – and has the same experiences of many in the Worcester Public Schools who have recently come to Worcester, as the Worcester school have become more diverse – a majority-minority school district.

How the Old Worcester Network will hire Maureen Binienda as the next WPS Superintendent

By Gordon Davis

The Old Worcester Network will hire Dr. Maureen Binienda for Superintendent of the Worcester Public Schools, instead of interim WPS Superintendent Dr. Marco Rodrigues.  All of the signs and elements are in place.

Some of the people backing Dr. Marco Rodriques have been voted out of office – which is the sign that the fix is in.

This does not come as a surprise: the Old Worcester Network never really accepted the outsider, former WPS Superintendent  Dr. Melinda Boone. She was undermined most of her superintendency here in Worcester. She and Dr. Rodriques never got the credit they deserved for the improvements in the Worcester Public Schools. Some of the criticism of her and the students of the Worcester schools was race-based, as the Worcester School District has become a so called Majority-Minority school district.

Dr. Rodriques will fail to get a contract for the Superintendency of the Worcester School District partially because of race but more for the reason that the Old Worcester Network feels comfortable with a person whom they understand and who understands the exclusionary qualities  of Worcester politics.

When the politicians deal with Maureen Binienda they will know what she will do before hand. When the politicians deal with Dr. Rodriques there will be an anxiety, as Dr. Rodriques has experience outside of Worcester that some in Worcester have yet to grasp.

Given the racial transformation of the Worcester Schools, the Old Worcester Network has nostalgia for the nearly all-White Worcester school system of the 1950s and 1960s – a time when many in the Old Worcester Network went to school. Maureen Binienda will be a return to those times of yesteryear, pleasant for some White people and not so pleasant for some Black people.

I have worked in Discrimination Law for a decade.

I have seen how old boys’ networks discriminate in hiring while skirting the law. It is likely that something similar will happen in the awarding of the contract to the new Worcester Public Schools Superintendent.

The first thing that I have seen in discrimination in hiring of the next WPS Superintendent is to reduce the pool of qualified applicants. In a truly open search there would  be several applicants as or more qualified than the Old Worcester Network candidate. The Worcester School Committee has already reduced the candidate pool by declaring an “internal” search.

Another example of discriminatory hiring practices in Worcester: I remember recently a City of Worcester job was posted as “part-time.” When the person the former City Manager wanted was chosen for the job, the position quietly became “full-time.”

Another thing that will be done to mask the hiring of the Old Worcester Network’s chosen WPS Superintendent candidate is to tailor the requirements of the job to fit the resume of the group’s anointed candidate. Already there is talk of how well Dr. Binienda “motivates” students, which is not a real requirement of School Superintendency. The Old Worcester network is not talking about how Mr. Rodriques has worked in Worcester as an Assistant Superintendent and now as the Interim Superintendent. How he has experience DOING THE JOB. A more objective requirement is hands-on experience.

What will also be a part of the decision are the connections to the Worcester community. Dr. Binienda, being a Worcester native, being Catholic and Irish-American, (not so coincidently?) just being named the Grand Master of Worcester’s hugely politically important St. Patrick Day Parade will all be felt as positives. This has nothing to do with the Worcester School Superintendency.

Many of the students in the Worcester Public Schools are native to Worcester and they or their parents speak Spanish. This seems to be a more objective consideration for the superintendency and strengths of Dr. Rodriques.

Please do not get the wrong idea. Dr. Binienda is a very good candidate and well qualified. However, Dr. Rodriques is better qualified when using objective standards.

Hopefully, the people making this important decision can overcome their biases and make their choice objectively.

In fashion! … Worcester Public Schools – IMPORTANT EVENTS!

Be there, if you care about our kids!

This Wednesday!


Considerations for the Next Superintendent of Schools in Worcester
Wednesday, January 13

7:45 AM

MCPHS University, Fuller Conference Center

25 Foster St., Worcester

The Worcester Education Collaborative (WEC) and Worcester Regional Research Bureau are pleased to announce the upcoming release of their first joint report, The Urgency of Excellence: Considerations for the Next Superintendent of Schools in Worcester, Massachusetts.

The report will be released at a community briefing and panel discussion on Wednesday, January 13, co-hosted by WEC and The Research Bureau, together with Clark University’s Adam Institute for Urban Teaching and School Practice, Greater Worcester Community Foundation, and United Way of Central Massachusetts.

The report and the panel will focus on the opportunities facing the Worcester Public Schools as they prepare for new leadership. Public education is critical to the success of the modern city.

As the Worcester School Committee begins its 2016-2017 term with the challenge of appointing a new superintendent, the report and panel will review the critical needs of urban education and offer insights into best practices for moving forward.

Hardin Coleman, Dean, Boston University School of Education and Vice-Chair, Boston School Committee
Michael Contompasis, Executive Chairman, MA & Senior Field Consultant at The School Turnaround Group at Mass Insight; Former Superintendent of the Boston Public Schools

George H. Edwards, Director, Commission on Public Education, New England Association of Schools & Colleges

George W. Tetler III, Partner, Bowditch & Dewey, LLP