Much is at stake when the Wareham School Committee interviews its three finalists for the superintendent’s chair Wednesday night.
Wareham’s three finalists are:
Wareham is one of the weakest MCAS performers in the area. Only 61% of Wareham students test Proficient or Advanced on the MCAS English Language Arts test and only 46% test Advanced/Proficient on the Math exam. In 2009 those percentages were 63% and 43%, respectively. Clearly the district is not advancing academically and continues to rank slightly below Mashpee and Dennis-Yarmouth.
Like most area school districts, Wareham has lost 19% of its student population since 2003.
Remarkably, Wareham has not suffered too badly in the rampant competition between school districts. Last year it received 33 incoming school choice students and lost 43. A net loss of only ten students to school choice is rather excellent in our part of the state. Wareham lost only 20 students to charter schools for the upcoming school year. The district currently enrolls 2,822 students according to the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.
A Look at the Candidates
Dr. Elise Frangos is no doubt familiar to Cape Cod Today’s readers. She was a finalist in superintendent races at both Mashpee and Monomoy Regional Schools. In previous stories we have reported:
Dr. Frangos is director of curriculum and instruction at the 1,183 student, two-campus Old Rochester Regional School District. This district attracted 71 school choice students and lost only 2, returning a net profit of $379,667 on school choice. Old Rochester lost no students to charters. Old Rochester is 92.9% white, 2.7% African American and 4.5% other race/ethnicity. 89% of Old Rochester’s students are proficient or better in ELA, 70% in Math and 67% in STE.
We hope that Wareham is seeking a superintendent to improve their embarrassing academic standing, If so, Dr. Frangos is an excellent choice. Her district scores higher than Wareham on the MCAS and has been attractive as a school choice destination. Coming from a district that has demonstrated success in school choice competition, perhaps Dr. Frangos could eventually build an academic program that might attract students from other Upper Cape and South Coast districts.
No hope for Pope - Ten jobs in fifteen years
Dr. Anthony Pope was superintendent at Marlborough Public Schools for two years. During that time he apparently earned the ire of the local media with many allegations swirling around his tenure in that district. Both those who supported him at Marlborough and those who opposed him were chronicled in a rather devastating manner in an April 3, 2013 story in Marlborough’s Main Street Journal.
According to that article, “Since 1998, Pope has held ten jobs, most for about a year or less.” The MSJ article further reports that “While the details about his transition from earlier jobs is unknown, he left under a cloud of controversy from both of his two most recent jobs, as principal of Weymouth High School and superintendent of Marlborough schools.”
On the other hand, Pope’s Marlborough supporters heralded his accomplishments in school realignment and rebuilding an outdated curriculum. However the article goes on to say “During is [sic] second and final year on the job, Pope stood accused of grossly unprofessional behavior and conduct, unjust termination of staff, provoking a conflict with students, dishonesty and insubordination with the School Committee, poor handling of the budget, and negligence in his oversight of an important high school accreditation report.”
No Doctor, Shaver-Hood's been looking for two years
Kimberly Shaver-Hood is the only finalist who does not hold a doctorate. She comes from a school district of 1,882 students. Blackstone-Millville’s students scored 74% advanced/proficient on the 2012 MCAS ELA exam and 63% on the MCAS Math exam. As with Wareham, Blackstone-Millville’s overall MCAS scores have remained relatively static for the past few years.
Shaver-Hood has been seeking a job since at least 2011, where we found her a finalist for the superintendent position in Cohasset. She has served at Blackstone-Millville since 2006.
With weak academic performance, Wareham remains vulnerable to school choice migration. Thus far the district has succeeded in retaining its students. Academic performance is certainly not the glue that’s holding the district together but the current superintendent clearly has succeeded in convincing parents there is value in their kids remaining at Wareham.
If the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe is successful in launching a charter school, Wareham could face a loss of up to $406,000 in tuition assessments if all Native American children in Wareham’s schools won seats at the charter school.
Without question, Wareham’s next superintendent must change course on academics whilst facing down a declining enrollment and potential challenges from school choice and charter choice.