Following a tepid review two weeks ago of Falmouth superintendent of schools Bonny L. Gifford’s first year on the job, a crowd of around a dozen people showed up at this week’s school committee meeting to voice their support of Dr. Gifford.
Several staff members and parents spoke during the meeting’s opening public comment period.
New president of the Falmouth Educator’s Association, Maureen Dwyer, said she appreciated Dr. Gifford’s conduct during union negotiations. “We hammered out some serious issues,” Ms. Dwyer said. Even though Ms. Dwyer said she does not always “get her way” on particular issues, “I feel heard and I feel we’ve worked on them.” Both Dr. Gifford and the school’s director of pupil personnel services, Nancy R. Taylor, listen well, are open-minded, take notes, and get back to her, Ms. Dwyer said.
Paula E. Kapulka, the grandmother of a Teaticket Elementary School student, said it was a very trying year at the school. (The Teaticket principal left mid-year on medical leave, and then retired.) Referring to Dr. Gifford, Ms. Kapulka said, “This woman never left our side. I have a lot of respect for what she’s done.”
Lawrence School principal Mary W. Gans said that some of the school committee members based their evaluation on “off-the-record” comments made to them by staff members. “If you’re not willing to identify yourself, and go on the record ... it’s dangerous to make evaluations on off-the-record comments,” Ms. Gans said.
Ms. Gans said Dr. Gifford’s review was “unduly harsh” and did not take proper account of the fact that Dr. Gifford came to the district “under a dark budget shadow” and handled the situation “with grace.”
During Dr. Gifford’s first months on the job, it became apparent that the school had grossly underbudgeted for the cost of sending high-needs students to specialized “out-of-district” schools. The school went into a budget freeze in October; 11 staff positions have been cut to balance next year’s budget.
In her annual review, five Falmouth School Committee members rated Dr. Gifford as proficient, and four gave her a “needs improvement” rating. According to the evaluation rubric, “needs improvement” for a new staff members means that person is developing and on track to be proficient in three years.