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Education head maps way out of Level 4 for G-M

School Committee must formally adopt plan, hire a supt.

The head of the Massachusetts education department has said he is considering lifting the Gill-Montague Regional School District from Level 4 status and laid out the criteria the district must meet.

In a letter to the district’s interim superintendent dated Jan. 18, Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education Mitchell D. Chester wrote he intends to signal to the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education at their next meeting Jan. 29 that he is considering removing the district from the Level 4, or underperforming, status it has held since 2007.

The letter solidifies the criteria, if not the time line, for the move.

Chester wrote he will consider a decision to remove the district from Level 4 status when a permanent superintendent is in place and the School Committee has adopted a plan establishing how the district will continue improvement, a plan to be developed after the permanent superintendent is in place.

The search for a permanent superintendent is under way, with a search committee tasked with selecting finalists in March and the job posting specifying an April appointment and a starting date of “July 1, 2013, or as soon as possible.”

Chester wrote the district has met the first of two conditions necessary for him to remove the district from Level 4: satisfactory achievement of the goals and benchmarks in the district’s turnaround plan.

The second condition, that the district have the “capacity to continue making progress without the accountability and assistance provided by Level 4” has not yet been demonstrated, according to the letter.

“I continue to have concerns about the district’s capacity to continue making progress in the absence of stable leadership at all levels, including the superintendent, central office, school and school committee levels,” Chester wrote.

The new operational plan required of the district is intended to complement rather than replace the existing turnaround plan and must include how the district intends to collect and analyze data, establish priorities and monitor implementation of its efforts, according to the letter.

“The GMRSD School Committee must formally adopt this plan as a first step toward holding itself and the superintendent accountable for results,” Chester wrote.

The state labeled the district as underperfoming in 2007 based on a report more critical of district leadership and administration than student achievement. The “underperforming” label later became Level 4 on a five-level scale. Individually, none of the district’s four schools is in Level 4.

The letter comes on the heels of Chester’s December visit to the district, a visit pushed for by local legislators on behalf of teachers.

Chester said at the time he can recommend a change in level to the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, which must vote a decision.

You can reach Chris Curtis at:
ccurtis@recorder.com
or 413-772-0261, ext. 257

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