FRAMINGHAM — The lone finalist for principal for Fuller Middle School told parents Monday night he has spent most of his career improving underperforming schools, and he would do the same at Framingham’s only level 3 middle school.
However, Jose Duarte, principal at the John W. McCormack Middle School in Dorchester, is at a level 4 school (the state ranks school from level 1 to level 5, with level 1 the best), currently that is not improving, according to the state.
And in 2014, Duarte was removed from another Boston level 4 school that was not “demonstrating sufficient academic improvement,” according to a Boston Public Schools memo by then-Superintendent of Schools, obtained by Framingham Source.
In March, Fuller Middle School Principal Sharon Seyller announced she would be leaving the Framingham district.
However, the position for principal was not advertised until June.
The district’s human resources department advertised the position for just 10 days. There were less than 30 applicants.
A search committee comprised of staff and parents, that many staff and parents said they did not know even existed, invited four candidates to be interviews. One declined and the committee interviewed three.
Of the three interviewed, one was announced as the lone finalist on June 16.
Duarte, who has been with the Boston Pulic Schools for almost three decades, was then scheduled for meetings to meet staff and parents on Monday, June 20.
He spent time in the Framingham School District on Friday, June 17, including Fuller Middle.
“The entire process feels rushed. No, it is rushed,” said Fuller parent Gina Fishman, who also serves on the PTO.
“It appears to the parents that this is a done deal,” said Fishman.
Fishman, whose oldest daughter is leaving Fuller for Framingham High in the fall, has a second daughter starting in sixth grade at the middle school. She said with a candidate, who did not impress many parents Monday night, that the district should consider the principal search a failed one.
She suggested perhaps Duarte could be named an interim principal for the 2016-17 school year, with another search launched next year for a permanent replacement.
She is not the only one calling for a failed search.
Newly-elected Town-Wide PTO President Scott Wadland, whose twins daughters completed Fuller Middle this year and will move on to Framingham High, wrote a letter to Framingham Superintendent of Schools Stacy Scott and the School Committee calling for a failed search, too.
“Given the current situation and climate at Fuller, I’m concerned that you are rushing to fill a position that requires a more comprehensive and deliberate search process. I suggest that you terminate the current search and start anew with more time allocated for selecting the right person to lead Fuller, and with more transparency into the process,” wrote Wadland. “Many parents last night were equally anxious about the process as they were about the candidate – strikingly similar to the reaction that (Assistant Superintendent) Dr. Tiano got last year when you introduced him.”
Wadland wrote “I strongly urge to you end the current search and begin a new one, even if that means appointing an interim principal for next year. The students, parents and staff at Fuller need and deserve a leader that they can rally behind, not just for next year but for years to come.”
There is no deadline set to notify the lone candidate of when a decision will be reached on the principal post, according to the assistant human resources director for the district.
The final say on who will be hired is up to Superintendent Scott, who is a finalist to become Superintenent of Schools in Fall River. That district will make its decision tomorrow night, June 22.
Many of the almost 50 parents Monday night, were not “wowed” but Duarte on Monday night, who answered parents and staff questions for more than an hour.
“I don’t feel he really answered a lot of the questions. Just talked about them,” said incoming Fuller parent Heidi McIndoo, who will have a sixth grader at the grade 6-7-8 middle school in August.
McIndoo questioned why parents were not provided with Duarte’s resume.
“If he left schools better than when he came why was he “removed” from at least 2 of them?,” asked McIndoo.
Fuller Middle School is a level 3 middle school. Students take PARCC for language arts and math, but still take MCAS exams for science.
The latest test scores available from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) show Fuller’s scores better than Duarte’s current middle school in Boston.
And prior to arriving at the Dorchester middle school, Duarte was at the Dearborn Middle School in Roxbury.
Then Boston Superintendent of Schools removed him from that principal post in 2014, after the school was on the verge of dropping to level 5.
See the memo from the Boston Public Schools obtained by Framingham Source.
This was not the first time Duarte had been removed, as the head of a school, within the Boston Public Schools.
In 2009, Duarte was removed as headmaster of English High School.
Then Boston Superintendent of Schools Carol R. Johnson removed Duarte, but in that instance some staff and many parents argued he should have stayed.
The Boston Globe, who had done a year-long series on the high school, reported that parents started a petition to keep Duarte. It did not work.
Hired in 2000 to improve English High, seven years later the state had identified the school as one of the worst in the Commonwealth, theatening to close it, if test scores did not improve.
Supt. Johnson gave Duarte a year to improve the school.
A report by the Donahue Institute at the University of Massachusetts, which was monitoring the the high school, found after the first year that 72 percent of staff members believed English High was moving in the right direction. But the report also said staff was burnt out, with teachers working an average of 11.2 hours more a week.
English High, as part of a state program for failing schools was allowed to become a Commonwealth Pilot School. The program allows principals to have greater freedoms, with fewer restrictions from district regulations and teachers unions, to avoid the state taking over the school.
Duarte under the Pilot program, required teachers to reapply for their positions. He hired about two out of every three educators who re-applied, according to Globe reports.
He also extended the classroom time by four hours a week.
He introduced a new language arts/English program too.
If Duarte is hired here in Framingham, he would not have that ability to make decisions at Fuller, like he did at English High in Boston.
But one plus for Duarte. is that unlike Seyller, he comes from a school with similiar demographics to Fuller Middle.
Seyller’s previous school in Maynard was a level 2 school, with few English language learners and far fewer special education students than Fuller.
- At McCormack Middle, 85 percent of the students are high needs compared to 67 percent at Fuller Middle.
- Sixty-four percent are economically disadvantaged at McCormack compared to 32 percent at Fuller.
- Fifty-four percent of the students English is not their first language compared to 50 percent at Fuller.
- And 25 percent are considered enrolled in a special education program compared at McCormack compared to 26.5 at Fuller.