SCHOOL COMMITTEE RACE: Bryson Discusses DeLai Departure, Next Superintendent

WILMINGTON, MA — Wilmington Apple recently asked all six Wilmington School Committee candidates to describe their ideal superintendent candidate. Candidates were also asked to share their feelings about the School Committee’s handling of former Superintendent Mary DeLai’s resignation.

This week’s response schedule is as follows: Rhonda Musikar-Rosner (Monday), Amy Largenton (Tuesday), Sabrina Hewitt (Wednesday), Jennifer Bryson (Thursday), Steve Bjork (Friday), Kathleen O’Donoghue (Saturday), and a recap (Sunday).

Below is the response from candidate Jennifer Bryson.

Jennifer Bryson

QUESTION: One of the School Committee’s most important roles — arguably its most important — is hiring and evaluating the Superintendent. (1) Looking back, to address the elephant in the room, how do you feel the School Committee handled the resignation of former Superintendent Mary DeLai? (2) Looking forward, what qualities are you looking for in the next Superintendent? Describe your ideal candidate.

ANSWER: Hiring and evaluating the superintendent is viewed by many as the most important role of the School Committee. In October of 2016, the School Committee accepted the resignation of our former Superintendent Mary DeLai. Residents of Wilmington were confused by the lack of transparency and angered when we learned that she would receive her salary until the end of June, although she had been hired in a new district.

This incident showed us the importance of having an out clause written into the superintendent’s contract. This clause could have stated that the town would not be liable for her salary once she secured another position.  I am confident that under the circumstances, our committee, our elected officials, made decisions based on professional legal advice. Yet, there was a need for more transparency and clarity regarding the rationale behind the decisions. We can all agree that it was a difficult time for those of us who had students in the school system, but I was grateful for the talented teachers and school leaders who continued to provide strong instruction and maintain a sense of community in the schools. Now is the time to look forward to the future while ensuring that nothing like this happens again. We are at a crossroads and I am hopeful that the next superintendent will embody the following qualifications, which will ensure our district continues to make progress toward a bright future.

I would expect this candidate to have a strong background in teaching and school leadership. After engaging in a series of meetings with Wilmington residents, it was clear to me that this candidate should understand the complexities of teaching, respect the work and preparation of teachers, and remain committed to maintaining consistency and strong leadership in all of our schools. Additionally, the superintendent should demonstrate an ability to develop frameworks and systems to support continual growth and learning of our school leaders and teachers.

The next Wilmington superintendent should have a deep expertise in curriculum development. I would expect that they present an action plan with specific steps in regard to equipping the district with materials to support the new curriculum being implemented. The superintendent should also have experience with school finance and budget. Moreover, they will be attuned to the professional development needs of our school leaders and teachers, and have a demonstrated excellence in thoughtful budgeting of materials needed to support new curriculum or programs. I am very interested in hiring a superintendent who knows how to maximize resources in a period where state and educational funding has been inconsistent and at times, declining.

A major theme that emerged as residents’ top priority is hiring a superintendent who displays a deep commitment to serving all students. My ideal candidate will highlight the need for equity, diversity and inclusion, and access to the curriculum for all students. Our future superintendent should be knowledgeable and supportive of special education, social and emotional development including knowledge of anti-bullying curriculum, and substance abuse prevention programs. While we have made great strides in our commitment to emotional and behavioral needs with the adoption of programs such as Responsive Classroom and Positive Behavior Intervention Supports (PBIS), our new superintendent will be instrumental in our continued growth and advancement in this area. It is absolutely essential that the future superintendent be open to parent/caregiver communication, dedicated to building strong family-school partnerships, and engaged with the community as a whole. Furthermore, as we continue to create safe and supportive schools, I would expect our superintendent to build a strong relationship with Wilmington police.

Finally, the next superintendent should be familiar with the Department of Education initiatives and involved with education on a state level. I would expect that the superintendent displays a deep knowledge of Next Generation MCAS and state-wide assessments as well as experience in interpreting the data to inform curriculum and instruction.

I am hopeful that I will be elected to represent you as the School Committee engages in the important work of supporting our new superintendent as well as addressing the town’s educational goals and policies, the school budget and school improvement plans. Please consider me for one of your school committee votes on April 22, 2017. I would appreciate your vote and would be honored to serve on the Wilmington School Committee.

To learn more about me, please visit https://www.facebook.com/JennBrysonForWilmingtonSchoolCommittee/

Very truly yours,

Jennifer (Jenn) Bryson

Jennifer Bryson
Jennifer Bryson

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