For the past 5 years, Wolf Swamp has been extremely fortunate to have Dr. Gile at the helm. He has brought incredible energy and compassion to the school, and we are all tremendously appreciative of his tireless efforts on behalf of our school community and wish him well in his new endeavor. Dr. Gile's departure is certainly a huge loss for not only Wolf Swamp, but the entire Longmeadow community.
With Dr. Gile’s departure, Superintendent Doyle is responsible for hiring a new principal. The timing of Dr. Gile’s departure and Superintendent Doyle hiring his replacement is complicated by the fact that Superintendent Doyle is retiring on June 30th, and she will be replaced by Martin O’Shea. Therefore, Superintendent Doyle will never actually work with the new principal who is slated to start on August 1st.
On Tuesday, May 3rd, Wolf Swamp parents received an email from Superintendent Doyle outlining a very quick application and vetting process for hiring Dr. Gile's replacement. The position of principal at Wolf Swamp is a very important one and unfortunately, this position has been a bit of a revolving door lately. Just during my own children's time here, we have had Kim Stillwell for a few years, Dr. Gile, and now this new hire will make the third principal in the past 8 years. We want to ensure that the person selected will be happy, stay at the school long term, and have a productive relationship with the superintendent.
Considering that Superintendent Doyle is retiring before this new principal would even start, I think that it is in the best interest of the school community for the entire process of hiring the new principal to be in the hands of incoming Superintendent O'Shea. Although Superintendent Doyle's email refers to having Martin O'Shea involved in the process, I am not confident that he will be allowed to be an independent voice in the process with Superintendent Doyle holding the reins. Also, I am interested to know how much input Superintendent O’Shea has had or will have in this process as he is not officially working for the department yet. Did he help write the job description? Did he create the hurried time line? Will he help review the applications to determine which candidates are promising? Will he conduct site visits to finalists’ current districts? Who holds the final vote: Superintendent Doyle or O’Shea?
Furthermore, the current timeline indicates that a decision will be made on June 13th, which would make this entire process only 6 weeks from posting the position to filling it, and only 3 weeks of screening, vetting, interviews, site visits, and consideration from the time of the application deadline. There are 4 days between the job posting being closed and in person interviews. How are these applications going to be vetted so quickly and interviews arranged in mere hours? This would seem to limit the pool to applicants in a very restricted geographic area and raises concerns about whether the position has already been earmarked for someone. It is hard to believe that a thorough review of candidates can be conducted in such a short amount of time. Curiously, June 13th is the day before town elections when two of the current school committee members' terms will end and two new voices will be elected to the committee. It would be fair and prudent to let these new school committee members have a hand in selecting the principal in conjunction with the superintendent with whom the principal will work.
I am concerned that this process is being unduly rushed so Superintendent Doyle can select the principal and then leave without any accountability to the Wolf Swamp community. Therefore, I am asking Superintendent Doyle to respectfully and professionally step aside and allow incoming Superintendent O'Shea to lead the entire process. With a projected start date of August 1st, there will be time for the process to be conducted entirely under Superintendent O’Shea’s direction. I don't object to starting the process now by advertising the position; however, the review of applications, selection of candidates for interviews, interviews, and hiring decision should be entirely in the hands of Mr. O'Shea and the selection committee that is put together, even though that entails stretching the time-line. We are talking about a delay of a few weeks, which is worth it to get the process right the first time.
I realize that the timing of hiring a principal is delicate and ideally completed prior to the end of a school year to ensure continuity between the outgoing and incoming principals. I understand that principals undertake an enormous amount of work during the summer in terms of including planning, restructuring curriculum, and squaring away budget allocations, and leaving the position unfilled is less than ideal. However, hiring this late in the current school year might handicap the caliber of candidates applying, as it is likely the best qualified candidates have already solidified plans for the upcoming school year. That being said, I feel that the time line for the search and hiring is being unduly rushed to fit into the allotted time left in the current superintendent’s tenure. My understanding is that principals usually receive 3 year contracts, and if this process is rushed to fit into manufactured timed constraints it could result in a less than ideal choice. This would mean Wolf Swamp would have to suffer through that time and then do the whole thing all over again and perpetuate the revolving door of principals. I think it would be better to have an interim person fill in so we can take the time to do it right. I fear that a bad choice in the principal’s office has the potential to poison the whole school. A three-year contract might not seem like a long time if the wrong choice is made, but please consider that is half of a child’s elementary school career.
I understand that hiring principals is at the sole discretion of the superintendent and the selection committee has no real power. I am respectfully asking Superintendent Doyle to slow this process down to ensure that we have a thorough search of qualified candidates rather than a hasty rush to get the first available person who meets the minimum qualifications. Furthermore, I am asking Superintendent Doyle to cede the entire process to her successor, Marty O’Shea, since she will not work with this new principal. I truly think it is important for the new superintendent and the new school committee to have ownership and accountability for their choice. If the new principal turns out to be a disaster, Superintendent O'Shea should own it - he should not be able to blame Superintendent Doyle. And if, as I hope, the principal turns out to be wonderful, then he should get all the credit for it.
I am writing this as not only a concerned parent of 3 children who are progressing through Wolf Swamp and the Longmeadow schools, but as a graduate of Wolf Swamp. For 30 years I have had a connection to Wolf Swamp, and I care very deeply about this wonderful school. It would be disheartening to see a rash process diminish the spirit and quality of the school.
Please remember that we all want what is best for our children at Wolf Swamp. They should not have to suffer because there was a rush to check off a box before time expired. The Wolf Swamp community deserves a thorough process entirely under the direction of the incoming leadership team.
If you support this effort, please join the group of Wolf Swamp parents at the School Committee meeting on Monday, May 9th at 7 PM at Longmeadow HS in room A15 (central office). A strong show of support is vital as we work to ensure that the process of selecting a new principal for our children is handled with the importance and time it deserves. Please also take the time to contact Superintendent Doyle and the members of the School Committee.
Wolf Swamp Parent