SCHOOL COMMITTEE RACE Q&A: Samaha, Newhouse & Fennelly Evaluate Superintendent’s First 9 Months

WILMINGTON, MA — Jesse Fennelly, Jay Samaha, and incumbent Jo Newhouse are running for the three seats up for grabs in this year’s School Committee race.

Despite running unopposed, Wilmington Apple felt it was important for readers to get to know the candidates a bit more. Wilmington Apple is asking the candidates weekly questions leading up to the April 27 Town Election.

This week’s question: Arguably the biggest responsibility of the School Committee is the hiring of the Superintendent. Dr. Glenn Brand was selected last February, hired last March, and officially began his tenure as Superintendent here in July. He is approaching the end of his first year with the district and will receive his first evaluation from the School Committee next month. What letter grade would you give Dr. Brand’s performance thus far? Why? Name one area he’s particularly impressed you in. Name one area you believe he can improve in.

Below are the candidates’ responses, in their own words:

Jesse Fennelly

Among the many responsibilities of the school committee, one of the biggest and most impactful is the hiring of a superintendent. Wilmington was fortunate to have the steady leadership of Joanne Benton for many years, but recently, there has been a noticeable lack of continuity at the helm of the administration. I was present for the school committee interviews of the superintendent candidates, and was immediately impressed with Dr. Brand. I said last year, and will say again, the school committee made the right choice in hiring Dr. Brand to lead our school system.

Up to this point, I would give Dr. Brand an A-. Something he has done particularly well, which I indicated in my campaign last year was an area I would like to see improved, is the communication from the administration. Dr. Brand has done an excellent job, in my opinion, of keeping parents and the community updated on what is happening with the schools and the district as a whole. He has also done well with involving the community in the decision making process. From multiple surveys that have been sent out, to community representation on search committees, to involvement in strategic planning, Dr. Brand has included the community at every turn, something I believe is vitally important to the continued success of our school district.

On the flipside, I don’t believe there is necessarily an area that he is lacking in. That said, one of the main issues of the school district as a whole has been a lack of continuity in leadership. I would encourage Dr. Brand to continue building his leadership team with individuals who are not only dedicated to the education of our students and improvement of our schools, but are invested in the LONG TERM success of the Wilmington School District. My hope would be, as Dr. Brand continues to build his team and replace those leaving, that he does so with an eye towards continuity. That he hires individuals who are committed to Wilmington for the long term.

I know Dr. Brand can’t force people to stay here. However, if he can build a strong team that stays together for the foreseeable future, I have no doubt that we can improve our schools, and he can improve his A- to an A or A+.

To learn more or get in touch, visit http://www.facebook.com/JesseFennellyforWilmingtonSchoolCommittee.

Jesse Fennelly
Jesse Fennelly

Jo Newhouse (Incumbent)

I am pleased with Dr. Brand’s work to date, but it is too soon to give him a letter grade.  He appropriately spent the better part of this past year familiarizing himself with the school department and the Wilmington community as part of his entry plan, addressing the Coordinated Program Review findings and working on a strategic plan for the district.    His entry plan was very comprehensive, and he has provided detailed findings regarding areas of strength within the district and areas needing improvement. I am excited to work with Dr. Brand to address all of our areas of concern, but I am particularly interested in supporting his efforts to improve instructional support interventions, social emotional learning across all student demographics, and consistent communication protocols and systems within the district.

Jo Newhouse
Jo Newhouse

Jay Samaha

I agree that one of the biggest responsibilities of the School Committee is to evaluate the Superintendent. Over the past few years we have struggled with inconsistent leadership in Wilmington. I believe that the hiring of Dr. Glenn Brand was a move towards more consistent leadership at the highest administrative level.

If I were to assign a letter grade to Dr. Brand it would be a solid “B+”. As a teacher I would assign this grade to a student who has a strong grasp of the important principles. This student would put forth a consistently strong effort and would be a benefit to the class as a whole. This student would also have areas were he/she could improve to get that grade up to an “A”.

I am confident that Dr. Brand knows the ins and outs of the job of Superintendent. He is competent and this shows in his reports to the School Committee and in feedback from both parents and staff that work with him. He is conscientious and confident. He is also humble enough to admit when he does not know something but will work hard to get you the answer.

One area where he has truly impressed me is his ability to lead. One great example of this is his work with the Strategic Planning Committee. He has shown great transparency with the process. I have spoken with people on this committee and they are energized and excited to do the work. This, I believe, demonstrates Dr. Brand’s ability to lead. Another area of commendation for Dr. Brand is his work with the Special Education Program Evaluation. He has acknowledged that this is not something that Wilmington is obligated to do. However, he believes that it will ultimately benefit our students so he is going forward with it. That, to me, is the type of leadership I am looking for in a Superintendent.

One of the areas that I believe Dr. Brand could improve upon is his community outreach and communication. When the final three principal candidates came to visit the Middle School and hold a forum there were very few parents present. I have spoken with numerous middle school parents who had no idea the forums were happening. I’d like to know what Dr. Brand’s plan is going forward to engage parents and families.

I am looking forward to working closely with Dr. Brand and his leadership team in order to build even better schools in Wilmington.

Jay Samaha
Jay Samaha

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