DESE Report Criticizes Waltham Schools for Poor Training and Micromanagement

The Waltham Patch just published a very interesting online article.  It states that the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) has reviewed the Waltham schools, and drafted a report very critical of the school system.  The article states:

A new state report, which will be formally presented at the Oct. 17 Waltham School Committee meeting, harshly criticizes the committee itself as well as the district.

The report will unveil the findings of the state’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s review of the district, which it began in January. The report will be presented at 7:30 p.m. at Waltham High School.


The report criticizes the School Committee for “micromanaging” the district and recommends that Superintendent Susan Nicholson and the committee join the District Governance Support Project that is intended improve members’ understanding of their roles in the district.

The report also says that some school committee members told the review board that there should be no “micromanagement” of the district and that they should mostly be creating the budget setting district goals. Other members said that “most school committee members do not recognize their proper roles in that they tend to micromanage or ‘want to manage more than support.’” Other district staff, not school committee members, agreed that some members have a tendency to micromanage.

Others interviewed cited a lack of trust between the committee and staff.

“Many interviewees expressed concern about a perceived tendency of some school committee members not to trust and support the superintendent and her staff and not to work with school leaders to support higher levels of student achievement. They described a ‘disconnect’ between the school committee and the administration and said that committee members ‘minimize reports from the district about student performance,’ the report reads.

The report also chastises the district for not having a comprehensive and coordinated professional development system for teachers, which ultimately results in teachers missing a lot of classroom time. The current system has teachers missing many hours of crucial classroom time when they are given school days off for professional development time, according to the report. Also, the current program is not properly coordinated with the district’s goals, according to the report.

“The team found limited evidence to suggest that the district uses student achievement data, program evaluations, or information about staff needs from personnel evaluations to plan professional development,” the report reads.

In total, the district has around 80 initiatives to help teachers improve their performance, but they have not been adequate.

“Interviewees told the team that professional development has been unfocused and superficial, initiatives have been scattered, and there has been no accountability for sharing or using professional development information to improve instructional practice,” the report reads.

The report recommends that district better align teaching priorities with professional development efforts.

The Law Office of James M. Baron represents students and parents in special education and other school-related legal matters throughout Massachusetts and New Hampshire.  Please visit, or call 781-209-1166 for more information.

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