Photo courtesy of the SUN newspaper
I think Jean Franco was the “Safe” pick by the Lowell School Committee to succeed Dr. Chris Scott for the following reasons:
A)She was an In-House candidate
B)She is familiar with the district and issue
C)She is well liked by her fellow Administrators, Teachers , Parents and Community Leaders
D)She knows the School Committee and knows how she needs to respond to them and their needs
E)The last two Superintendents the committee hired from outside the district had their tenure ended not in positive ways.
I wish Jean Franco well. I have never met her but from what I hear from teachers and others, she is a well qualified and a well liked individual who given the chance to be the Supt. and run the system with a school board that follows the education reform guidelines,( Hire a Supt. Set Policy and pass a budget ) she will do good things for Lowell and Lowell students.
If she can get the committee to leave the day to day activity of the school system with the people who are most qualified to run it, she may excel. If they continue to act in the manner they treated the last two Superintendents then she will have only a few years left to her employment in Lowell.
Was she the best qualified candidate? Probably not, Dr. Pia Durkin the current Attleboro Supt. probably was the most qualified. She’s held a number of leadership positions in urban education systems: superintendent in Narragansett, Rhode Island, assistant superintendent in Boston Public Schools for five years, where she led the reorganization of district services and the realignment of resources; director of special education for six years in Providence; and teacher, professional development coordinator, and supervisor over nineteen years with the New York City Board of Education. She holds a master’s degree and Ph.D. from New York University
If you watched her interview you could not help but being impressed but you could also tell if you have followed the Lowell School Committee that her style of being a no nonsense,independent and realistic leader who would not put up with nonsense and silly issues didn’t sit well with some of them.
Aside from Alison Laraba who first voted for Pia Durkin then switched to Jean Franco to show unity, Dr. Durkin did not receive any votes. I think many committee members didn’t want to hire an independent leader. Rather they wanted a strong leader who they were comfortable with and who would be well received by the public. It was a smart public relations and political move.
When Dr. Durkin said that many committees’ have too many goals and that the number of goals needs to be reduced to manageable and achievable, you could see that some members didn’t like that. Her response to Jim Leary’s question on collective bargaining didn’t win her many points with this committee either. When she stated “Collective bargaining is a critical piece of what a good manager does and as a superintendent the first step is communication. I believe the issue of respect in collective bargaining begins with a good relationship with your bargaining units.
This committee doesn’t have a good relationship with their bargaining units and when Supt. Durkin mentioned that she took over a program that the teachers union was told cuts had to be made because there was no funds and at the end of the year they found over a million five in excess she felt that the Unions had lost trust in the information they were given. Again the committee didn’t like this analogy because it hit them directly.
That is exactly what happened this year here in Lowell. The school committee asked the City Manager for more money and they received an extra million. Then they cut all the media/library aides’ city wide, funded the athletics for the few and then “found” $1.2 million in the payroll budget and $400,000 in the unemployment account. Then they tell us and the unions to be happy with that. How can they be trusted to know what they can or can’t afford when they have 1.6 million left over?
They have been unable to settle the teacher’s contract and a case can be made that they blew the contract of Supt. Scott who is now a finalist for a school district 3 times larger than Lowell’s. Obviously more people see value in Supt. Scott than the 5-6 members of the Lowell School Committee that didn’t even respond to her with a formal offer.
Jean Franco has been in the system and has seen the committee in action and knew what she was getting into. She was impressive and strong in her interview and showed great political skills in her Thank You speech last night. Let’s hope the Lowell School Committee will let her do the job they hired her to do and lead the Lowell School System.