Poor leadership all around


To the Editor:

In response to last week’s Times article on the West Tisbury School committee meeting on October 18, the article was generally fair but missed some important points. If you were a fly on the wall you would have witnessed teacher Karl Nelson present a series of facts over his disappointment in being passed over for administrative jobs given to less qualified individuals not even possessing administrative certifications in Massachusetts or anywhere else for that matter.

Mr. Nelson, who consistently wins praises with high MCAS scores — whose science class is rated highest in the state, is credited by students, parents, and the teachers in his school for his hard work, and evidently is considered by superintendent James Weiss to be an adequate reason to claim a hardship in finding certified candidates for administrative jobs, ipso facto “allowing” (if true) Dr. Weiss a legal loophole to hire uncertified individuals for administrative positions, as was the case this August at the West Tisbury School.

The school committee claims there were no ”procedural inaccuracies.” However, I contacted the legal department of the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary education, and they said uncertified teachers can be hired only in cases of hardship in which qualified people were not able to be found. In this instance, not only was the person hired uncertified in Colorado or Massachusetts for principal or assistant principal, but his sole certifications are in special needs. No principal or assistant principal experience, as the Times’ incomplete reporting indirectly leads us to believe.

Administrative experience? Three years as a high school counselor at Valor Christian High School. Equal or greater experience and education to Mr. Nelson? Don’t think so. If one wants to, one can look things up and play detective. Ask to see for yourself.

Mr. Nelson proactively shares his education qualifications yearly with parents and any community member interested to check up on him. Mr. Nelson is certified in Massachusetts to be a principal for grades K-12, holds degrees in mathematics, science, a master’s degree in education, and a certificate of advanced graduate studies in administration, not to mention having been asked by principal Michael Halt to take over the running of the West Tisbury School on no less than 20 occasions.

The school committee sat like bumps on a log and made no remarks as to the equity of the situation; never told Nelson why he was disqualified and showed little if any interest in finding out indeed why Nelson has been passed over by superintendent Weiss. Mr. Weiss made little comment except to say Nelson was told. This after Mr. Nelson had written two letters to the committee asking for clarification. Something amiss?

One wonders what mandate the school committee has if it will not weigh in to try to find a rationale for the missed appointment. The committee indicated that they have no role in personnel matters, even though state law requires certified candidates for these positions unless the superintendent cannot find a certified candidate. Mr. Nelson has repeatedly asked for a reason, after 18 years of teaching, that Weiss passes him over, but there was none other than that given him in an earlier communiqué, and it appears the school committee has no interest in checking on the validity of those reasons.

This is an example of indifference, lack of oversight, lack of caring for the administrative well-being of the school system, what’s best for students, and a clear disincentive to excellent teachers who seek promotion. The school committee will intervene to overrule principals when it comes to school dress at graduations, but for something really serious they are placid.

Does the superintendent have a boss? Even a street sweeper has a boss, but for this appointment there is no oversight. Intellectual honesty would at least have Mr. Weiss say, ”I need no reason, and my decision is based upon chemistry or compatibility.” No one asked, no one replied, and the October 18 meeting was manifestly dishonest, amply displaying poor leadership all around.

Andrew Engelman

Vineyard Haven