Elizabeth Homan, 2022Elizabeth Homan receives first evaluation.

Rod MacNeal Jr.Rod MacNeal Jr. heading to private school.

UPDATED Nov. 20: Personnel was the theme of the Nov. 17 School Committee meeting: The superintendent was rated proficient in her first review, a longtime assistant superintendent is set to depart for a job outside Boston and Arlington Public Schools is still short two school nurses, three special-education teachers, 19 paraprofessionals and more.

At the meeting and in the review, Elizabeth Homan, who became superintendent July 1, 2021, was described as having made “a strong start” in her role and was called “approachable,” “collaborative,” “thoughtful” and “a strong communicator.” The committee voted unanimously to receive the evaluation.

Homan’s overall rating was “proficient,” the second-highest category; the highest possible is “exemplary.” In four major categories among the many addressed in the 15-page document, her ratings were as follows: instructional leadership, 5 proficient, 2 exemplary; management/operations, 5 proficient, 2 exemplary; family/community engagement, 4 proficient, 3 exemplary; and professional culture, 6 proficient, 1 exemplary.

The report does not show committee members' comments. To download the report, click this link >>

Later in the meeting, Homan mentioned briefly that Roderick MacNeal Jr., assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction, was “sadly, leaving.” He has held the position since 2017. No one else at the meeting spoke to the matter. 

Statement from MacNeal

School Committee logo

In a letter written earlier this month, MacNeal said that he plans to take a top administrative position in Chestnut Hill. In part, the letter -- provided by committee Chair Liz Exton on Friday afternoon in response to a YourArlington request -- says the following:

“I have been offered the Head of School position for The Chestnut Hill School. Upon completion of a signed contract, I intend to accept the position, which begins July 1, 2023. 

“This move is bittersweet, as I have enjoyed and valued each experience and relationship I have managed to cultivate across the district over the past six years. I have learned a lot in this community and will continue to pay that knowledge forward both as an educator and a person.

“I am immensely grateful to have served under the leadership of two very talented superintendents and to have been a part of a central office team that is second to none. I would also like to acknowledge and thank the Arlington School Committee for their support. 

“In addition, I have been thoroughly blessed to work with a very skilled and talented curriculum and instruction team that is dedicated to supporting the academic, social and emotional development of our students. Finally, I would like to acknowledge the parents, families and community members I have come in contact with throughout my time in Arlington. It is apparent to me that the entire community is invested in the success of the Arlington Public School District.”

The Chestnut Hill School is a private institution west of Boston teaching grades prekindergarten through sixth grade. 

In response to a request from YourArlington, Homan replied via email Saturday, Nov. 19, to say this about MacNeal: “He was recruited for his new role and was ready for a new challenge, and we are very happy for him and will miss having him on the APS team. We're glad that he will not be departing until June 30, because this gives us plenty of time for a thorough search and transitioning his replacement into the role.”

New position to be created 

Instead of hiring a successor with MacNeal’s current title – assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction – the district will now recruit for a deputy superintendent of teaching and learning, who, as MacNeal in the recent past, would be second-in-command and step in for Homan whenever needed. 

At the meeting, Homan described the new title as “more concise.” Recruitment is to begin this month and continue through December.

In her email to YourArlington, she provided more detail:

  • MacNeal is in his sixth year in the role.
  • The position will be posted soon, likely early next week.
  • It was my decision to propose the designation of this role as “deputy.” Now that we have three assistant superintendents, the title adjustment has no financial impact but denotes that the person in this role will be “second in command,” as MacNeal has been.
  • Five years' administrative experience in a K-12 setting is important to being at this level of the system. MacNeal had this experience when he entered the role. I believe that in order to lead other leaders in our system, one must have this level of experience.
  • Of course, it will be a requirement for MacNeal's successor to keep equity at the forefront of everything the district is doing, especially considering equity is a central pillar of our new vision and our in-progress strategic planning.
Paraprofessionals still sought

The concern about the paucity of paraprofessionals – teachers’ aides and the like – came up a few times throughout the meeting including during routine academic-progress presentations by the leadership teams at three elementary schools: Bishop, Brackett and Hardy.

“The pools [of applicants] are not as great as they used to be,” said Human Resources Director Robert Spiegel. He added that many candidates who do apply don’t necessarily have strong backgrounds working with children.

Spiegel emphasized that, even though two more nurses are still being sought throughout the district, none of the 10 campuses is without a nurse.

Suspension report given

MacNeal gave a brief report about suspensions in the recent past. These consist of both on-campus and off-campus suspensions and are generally trending downward compared to previous years. The slide presentation contained data including the following:

Regardless of grade level, most of those suspended are males.

A notable number – ranging from 17 percent to 80 percent – of those suspended are students with IEPs, or individual education plans, which relate to some sort of disability. 

Suspensions often but not always are more prevalent with African-American and Latinx students relative to their proportion of the total population.

Arlington High School reported 38 total suspensions, Ottoson Middle School 44, Gibbs School five; there was one suspension throughout the seven campuses teaching the elementary grades. 

According to the monthly enrollment report -- a separate document included in the meeting’s background material -- the district's current enrollment is 6,063.

See the link to documents about the suspensions' agenda item >>

In other business: 
  • The annual field trip to Italy for high-school music-performance students – it had occurred for some 15 years pre-pandemic -- is to resume. At the meeting,AHS Principal Matthew Janger advocated for this, calling the longstanding program “wonderful.” The vote to approve was 5-1, with Jane Morgan dissenting; Bill Hayner was absent. In an email Saturday, Nov. 19, to YourArlington, Morgan explained her position: “Typically I vote against trips that are very expensive and are not available to most of our students. In this case it is also a trip that is only available to students in three selective ensembles. I would like to see the high school commit to running trips that can be accessed by more students.”  See the agenda items >> 
  • The much-hoped-for return of a revamped version of the "overnight experience," which was science-focused and for fifth-graders before the pandemic, won't happen this school year but next, Homan reported -- and, when it does, it will be take place at a site that has an on-staff nurse. At previous committee meetings, the revised program, which is still being developed, has been described as now being for sixth-graders and no longer directly tied to science or any other specific curriculum.
  • The committee unanimously approved the job description for assistant superintendent of finance and operations. This is the position to which Michael Mason Jr.,  currently chief financial officer, is to be promoted on Jan. 1. See these documents for job descriptions >>   

Nov. 22, 2019: Bodie evaluated as proficient for second straight year
June 21, 2017: Needham principal voted assistant superintendent

This news summary by YourArlington freelance writer Judith Pfeffer was published Saturday, Nov. 19, 2022. It was updated Nov. 20 to change Superintendent Elizabeth Homan's photograph and to include quotes from committee member Jane Morgan explaining her dissenting vote on the Arlington High School field trip.

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