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Elizabeth Homan supported to be next school superintendent

Elizabeth HomanElizabeth Homan

UPDATED, Nov. 25: Dr. Elizabeth C. Homan, assistant superintendent in Waltham for the past three years, has been chosen to be the next superintendent of the Arlington Public Schools.

'This is not what was promised to us. It is not OK.'

The School Committee voted, 6-1, on Tuesday, Nov. 24, with Paul Schlichtman in opposition, to direct chair Jane Morgan to immediately begin negotiations with Homan for the job to start next July. Dr. Kathleen Bodie, superintendent since 2008, is set to retire in June. 

Member Bill Hayner had initially planned to vote with Schlichtman, saying he also preferred rival candidate Dr. Victoria Greer for her greater experience: “It’s not a learning curve for her. She will hit the ground running from day one,” Hayner said. However, later in the meeting, he changed his mind, saying he wished to provide near-unanimity to the vote.

A clearly disappointed Schlichtman had said that Greer “matches the criteria to a T,” and that the majority vote was “the wrong outcome for the community." He called Greer “the stellar educator we need” with the experience in municipal finance, public governance and public policy crucial to success in the "front-facing, outside, political" position.

The other members said Homan has a wealth of positive attributes. Liz Exton described her as “a strategic planner” and “humble and reflective.” Kirsi Allison-Ampe called Homan “committed to the importance of social-justice work” and said she showed “good use of data.” She was also praised for attention to detail, follow-through, intelligence, knowledge, organization, specificity and world perspective.

In a school news release Nov. 25, Jane Morgan, School Committee chair, wrote that the committee "has been most grateful for the engagement of our community during the process of searching for a new Superintendent. Thank you for your feedback, participation and support." 

The release says, in part, that among Homan's primary achievements are the work to align curriculum and establish professional development to narrow the achievement gap through collaboration and improve outcomes for all students. She is actively involved in leading the district efforts to address Covid and to incorporate student wellness and academic progress during this challenging time.

"Over the last 10 days," it says, "she demonstrated self-awareness during multiple rounds of meetings with stakeholders in Arlington. Her humility around and obvious pride in accomplishments that were achieved when she was leading a team came up repeatedly.

"Her facility with discussing issues around diversity, equity and inclusion as well as her work with curriculum development and implementation will be significant assets and will contribute to making progress on our district goals. Her collaborative data-driven leadership style was mentioned repeatedly by people familiar with her work. I believe that she will be able to communicate a vision for Arlington that is developed to leverage the considerable talents of our existing administration, faculty and staff and move us forward."

Limited hybrid models at AHS proposed

The committee learned that it is not yet possible to have a part-time, on-campus program at the high school identical to that in K-8 because of continuing health-related facilities issues at the building, undergoing reconstruction. AHS will continue all-remote until at least late January.

Younger children, unless their parents have them in the All Remote by Choice Academy, now study on campus two days per week. However, there is no way to make that work at AHS. “The numbers hold true even with all the creative problem-solving,” Principal Matthew Janger said.

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Many Arlingtonians have asked recently whether high-school classes could be held off campus. “We’ve looked into it, and it is not a viable option,” Bodie said, noting that Town Hall is not available, commercial spaces typically are not compliant with the Americans With Disabilities Act, and rooms in churches generally are too small. Moreover, acquiring temporary units would be cost-prohibitive, according to Janger, nor is there space for them on the grounds.

He and Assistant Principal William McCarthy described three options that could bring AHS students to campus on a very limited basis early next year. 

Option one allows for any given teen to be taught on campus for 40 minutes once a week. Option two would mean that a student would be on campus for 60 minutes every one to two weeks. Both options would permit students to take the classes they have already chosen, and no additional staffers would be needed.

Option three allows for the most time on campus of the three but would entail reduced class offerings, require many more employees and would also mean that some students would have to continue completely remotely. Allison-Ampe opposed option three, saying that simply getting kids into the building isn’t necessarily the same as actually educating them.

Len Kardon noted that the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education requires maximizing in-person learning. Hayner said that “DESE is the last group that I’m really going to worry about” and that physical and emotional well-being of students is paramount.

The schedule for decision-making for the high school currently is as follows:

  • Nov. 30: Deadline for parents, students and teachers to return surveys;
  • Dec. 3: Initial findings based on the surveys to be reported to the Curriculum and Instruction Committee, a subset of the School Committee;
  • Dec. 10: Decision anticipated from the School Committee on the Semester 2 plan; and
  • Dec. 11 to Feb. 8: Development/implementation of the Semester 2 plan.

Winter sports gets the nod

The committee voted unanimously to direct Bodie to support a winter sports program for the high school when she attends a meeting of Middlesex League school superintendents later Wednesday, Nov. 25. Sports will include basketball, hockey, gymnastics and skiing Practices for most are to start Dec. 14; skiing in the Blue Hills will begin Jan. 5. 

“It’s a wonderful opportunity for the kids,” Bodie said. We will be monitoring things closely.”

Safety measures because of the continuing pandemic are to include:

  • Masks will be worn continuously, except for rare scheduled breaks;
  • Every participant must bring two masks in case one gets damaged;
  • The school will not provide transportation, and car-pooling is discouraged;
  • Athletes must arrive dressed and ready to play; and
  • No postgame meetings are allowed.

Arlington cable-television outlet ACMi plans to livestream at least the varsity basketball and hockey events. It is not yet clear whether any spectators will be allowed to attend in person.


Nov. 4, 2020: 7-0 vote backs 2 candidates for new school superintendent
 


This news announcement was published Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2020, and updated Nov. 25 to A full summary by freelance journalist Judith Pfeffer.

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