Who should be the new Monomoy School District superintendent?

Some Monomoy candidates are competitors, others non-starters
Monomoy is surrounded by ruthless competitors, including school choice champion Nauset and awakening giant Dennis-Yarmouth. It also competes against in-town charter and tech schools as well as Sturgis Charter, one of the best high schools in the nation.

Mastery of school competition will determine Monomoy School District's fate

The new Monomoy Regional School District will live or die by its mastery of school choice competition. Nothing will matter more than their choice of a new superintendent to pilot them through what promise to be some very rough waters.

From the days when Chatham kept its district alive and independent as a school choice destination to 2013 when Monomoy receives 245 incoming school choice students (at a profit of $526,000, school competition has never been more important in Harwich and Chatham.

A demonstrated history of success in school competition is an absolutely essential attribute in Monomoy’s next superintendent. Between FY2012 and FY2013 the district lost 68 students, perhaps due to population shift and perhaps due to concerns over the merger of the two school districts.

With that view in mind, we decided to have a look at school competition in the districts where Monomoy’s four superintendent of school finalists currently work. All data below was obtained from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

The Monomoy Benchmark

As a benchmark, let us first get a snapshot of the Monomoy Regional School District.

Monomoy hosts 1,880 students with 83.6% white, 6.8% African American and 9.6% other race/ethnicity. District-wide MCAS scores are not available but last year Harwich had 70% of its students score proficient or better in English Language Arts (ELA), 58% in Math and 67% in Science/Tech/Engineering (STE). Chatham ranked 73%, 64% and 64% respectively.

Monomoy lost 61 students to charter schools at a gross cost of $806,973. The district receives 245 incoming school choice students at a net profit of $526,000,

The “Non-Starters”

Finalist Joy A. Blackwood is assistant superintendent at Silver Lake Regional School District in Kingston. Silver Lake accepted no school choice students this year and lost four students, a net loss of $20,000. Her 1,946 student district lost 20 students to charter schools at a cost of $208,941. Silver Lake is a 97.1% white school district where 87% of students score proficient or better in ELA, 71% in Math and 64% in STE.

Scott Carpenter is superintendent/principal of the 1,580 Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School, a single-school district. His district accepted no school choice students this year and lost only two for a net loss of $10,000. Lincoln-Sudbury lost no students to charter schools. The district is 82.5% white, 5.8% African American, 5.9% Asian and 5.8% other. Its students were 98% proficient or better on ELA, 95% in Math and 84% in STE.

Neither Silver Lake nor Lincoln-Sudbury appears to be players in school competition. Consequently, we have doubts about the ability of a sitting superintendent from a non-competitive district’s suitability to lead Monomoy at this critical time in its history. Even greater concern surrounds a first-time superintendent from a non-competitive district being ready to lead Monomoy. Unless something truly incredible surfaces about Blackwood and Carpenter, these two non-starters should be euthanized in the gate.

The “Competitors”

The Dudley-Charlton Regional School District, under the leadership of Superintendent Sean M. Gilrein, turned a profit of $424,526 on 119 incoming school choice students versus 38 outbound. The 4,030 student district lost only two students to charter schools this year at a total cost of $17,734. Dudley-Charlton is 90.6% white 5.2% Hispanic and 4.2% other. In ELA 79% of the students scored proficient or better, 66% in Math and 61% in STE.

Elise M. 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.

As players in school competition, the scales tip towards Sean Gilrein based upon the size and complexity of his K-12 school district, versus Frangos’ small middle/high school district. Another factor favoring Gilrein is that he is superintendent of his district and may be entitled to more credit for the district’s successful school choice competition than a second-tier administrator in a less complex district.

A Cautionary Tale

Monomoy sits next door to the Cape’s school competition powerhouse Nauset Regional Schools. On the other side, the “waking giant” of Dennis-Yarmouth Regional is beginning to stretch its arms and slow its deficit of school choice students. In its own back yard, Monomoy competes with a resurgent Cape Cod Lighthouse Charter School and Cape Cod Regional Technical High School. Just down the road in Hyannis sits Sturgis Charter Public School, one of the nation’s very best high schools.

This is hardly a time for Monomoy to hire a “green” superintendent. The district’s next superintendent must have a demonstrated record of success in school competition and the practice of what we call “retail education”. Chatham, especially, mastered this practice in the years it remained independent through school choice recruitment. Monomoy is not an appropriate incubator for a first-time superintendent nor is it a training ground for a superintendent unpracticed in school competition.

Every Cape school district that is hiring a superintendent this year must look carefully at the competitive skills of their candidates. With an ever decreasing population of students and competition escalating, no school district on the Cape can afford to fumble this ball.

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