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  • Arlington election logo

    Latest in 9 letters for Berwick responds to Globe endorsement

    YourArlington welcomes letters to the editor from Arlington residents for all Massachusetts candidates whose election would have an impact on the town. Email them to sprague.bob at gmail.com. Here are nine supporting Don Berwick, who is seeking to be the Democratic nominee after the Sept. 9 primary. What Globe endorsement misses While making some good points, The Boston Globe’s endorsement of Steven Grossman for governor* is misleading in diminishing Don Berwick’s qualifications. It refers to Berwick as “a medical professor and pediatrician by trade,” glossing over not only his public policy education but also his executive career as founder/leader of a globally impactful nonprofit, Institute for Healthcare Improvement, and leader of an $800 billion federal agency, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. ...

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    New school year -- old educational questions

    Education. We pretend it begins for youngsters in September, when the leaves turn, but it continues through all of our season, every minute of every day, for everyone. Learning persists for two reasons -- human curiosity and technological change (you can't stop either one, but notice which is first). Shouldn't a third factor be classroom teachers? Good ones can have a lifelong effect, but our curiosity is the best guide, as technology draws us, often in too many directions, in the classroom that is everywhere. As Arlington schools open Tuesday, Sept. 2, what happens there is sliver of the educational story, albeit a key one for residents. Still, let's take a quick look at the new school year -- and then peer more broadly beyond it. Opening-day info >> ...

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    Spaced out? Many artists, but resistant owners

    Does Arlington have the imagination to embrace co-working? The town is trying to find out and held a forum in June attended by about 30 people. Read a summary of comments from some of the attendees here >>  See what properties in town may be available here >> Following publication, Eric Love, present at the forum, provided a brief critique. His LARP Adventure Program, aims to spur imaginations. ...

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    Review, ‘Life of Crime’: Leonard’s crew back at shenanigans

    This review by Tom Meek, a writer living in Cambridge, was originally published at Cambridge Day, a YourArlington partner, and is republished with permission. His reviews, essays, short stories and articles have appeared in The Boston Phoenix, The Rumpus, Thieves Jargon, Film Threat and Open Windows. He is a member of the Boston Society of Film Critics and rides his bike everywhere. You can follow Tom on Twitter @TBMeek3 and read more at TBMeek3.wordpress.com. Elmore Leonard, the beloved master crime and western novelist, transcended seamlessly the divide between pulp and celluloid. His career is littered with great novels that became great movies (“Get Shorty,” “Jackie Brown” and “Out of Sight” to name a few), a smattering of original screenplays (“Joe Kidd”) and even took a few turns as producer. Cormac McCarthy might be his only peer. ...

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    Searching for an Arlington poet laureate: YOU?

    Are you a poet -- and you do know it? What have you written? Anything published? Inquiring minds want to know. Rumor has it that Arlington could have its own poet laureate, perhaps next year. Could that be you? ...

  • Domestic-violence logo

    New law curbs domestic-violence reports: What about sexual-assault case?

    A new law, signed Aug. 8 by Governor Patrick, requires law enforcement to keep domestic-violence cases off public police logs initially, and the Arlington police department is complying. That means details about domestic violence reported to police are not immediately available to the media -- or to you. Had the law been in effect June 1, information about a sexual-assault case in East Arlington would have been delayed. Chief Fred Ryan reached out to area media outlets Aug. 12, alerting them about the law and asking for feedback. He explained: ...

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 Wednesday Sept. 3, 2014 |  12:31:34 p.m.
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Thompson School project in October 2012 (Benn Craig photo); Bodie inset.Thompson School project in October (Benn Craig photo); inset Bodie, who has helped guide it.

In its second public evaluation, the School Committee gave Superintendent Kathleen Bodie overall high marks while providing pointed feedback about her performance.

"You're truly learning to be a better superintendent every day," said Judson Pierce in comments about her four-year tenure that echoed the remarks that other committee members made Thursday, Nov. 15.

A majority of committee members urged progress in deciding three key permanent hires -- the director for special education as well as the principals for Arlington High and Dallin. All three now are interim leaders. Bodie said searches for all would be underway in January.

Comments by Bill Hayner illustrate the balanced approach that member took. Acknowledging that he and Bodie had not seen eye to eye on a number of issues, Hayner nonetheless said the superintendent had done a "superb job."

Key pluses of evaluation

High points of the one-hour and 45-minute evaluation of leadership under her current contract, which took effect in June 2010, include:

   -- The successful, yearlong redistricting process, completed just that night;

   -- Hiring talented people, including Laura Chesson, assistant superintendent; Matthew Coleman, the K-12 math director; and Stratton Principal Michael Hanna.

   -- Her role in guiding the Thompson School project, which is reported to be on time and on budget;

   -- Seeing to completion two successful union-contract negotiations, with the AEA (teachers) and AAA (administrators).

Other pluses noted were improved communication, active participatory leadership and high-tech upgrades, including wireless access in many locations.

Ways to improve

The points School Committee members asserted noting paths to further growth is not a simple checklist.

For example, while saying communication was stronger, at least three members said they wish they had learned about issues directly from Bodie first before parents had told them.

Others praised her adding communication outreach via a cable-TV show on ACMi as well as publishing a newsletter. Cindy Starks found the newsletter too wordy, while Jeff Thielman didn't. A number said the newsletter should appear more often.

Thielman lauded Bodie for obtaining her Ph.D. during her current contract. He said this kind of striving filters down to the staff and shows professional development in action.

One the other hand, he expressed concern, as did a number of others, at the weak math testing results for sixth and seventh graders.

Kirsi Allison-Ampe, the committee chairwoman, who praised Bodie's role in encouraging the mentoring of teachers, said that the superintendent should better delineate her vision of what the Arlington public schools should become. "We need a clear message," she said.

Some key concerns

Other committee members noted two key concerns -- the $1.5 million shortfall in 2010, which had been addressed by two audits and a Special Town Meeting, and the disclosure of locations of families of special-education children on a map the district released.

Pierce wanted an update about recommendations made by the audits and suggested that Diane Johnson, the chief financial officer, provide that.

A number of committee members raised the issue of devising a long-term plan to address maintaining school facilities.

Leba Heigham gave credit to Bodie for moving the district to a broader acceptance of minority religions as reflected in the school calendar. She also urged wider use of translation services so those who don't speak English understand messages about the schools.

Bodie responds to scrutiny

In response to the evaluation, Bodie noted that 55 languages are spoken among Arlington public school families, "rivaling our urban neighbors."

She also said that members would be hearing soon about progress toward a long-range maintenance plan.

Cindy Starks, who gave the superintendent an A-, asked her: "What do we need to do to go from good to great?"

Paul Schlichtman, who left the committee in 2007, when numerous school issues had riled the town, said Bodie had been "unexpectedly thrown into her role," but had "returned [the district] to a calm approach to school governance."

At Allison-Ampe's direction, all members passed their written notes to Karen Fitzgerald, the committee secretary, as they must following a public evaluation under the revised state Open Meeting Law.

Further search comments

As for the three searches, advertising for them is underway, and there will be focus groups involving parents for each. Chesson is chair of the special-education search; Bodie that of the AHS principal.

Bodie acknowledged that the candidate pool for both remains thin.

"What are we doing differently?" Starks asked, suggesting that both searches are following the paths of last year's failed attempts. She said she thought a search firm might be used.

Bodie did not answer the question directly but pointed to the extensive networking the administration uses to find candidates.

Hayner asked about salary, saying the School Committee needs to be involved.

"We're not perceived as being ...," he paused.

Schlichtman finished his sentence: "... competitive."

Bodie countered: "It's a great place to work."


Advance story about evaluation that includes links to key dates in Bodie's tenure

First public evaluation in November 2011

This story was published Sunday, Nov. 18, 2012.

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