The three finalists for the position of superintendent of schools have been on whirlwind tours of the district this week, concluding the day with a community forum at the Williams School.
On Monday, Weston High Principal Anthony Parker visited Chelsea and spoke with teachers/staff, business leaders and at a community forum in the evening. On Tuesday, Ligia Noriega-Murphy, currently the assistant superintendent of secondary schools in Boston Public Schools, went through the same agenda. Finally, today (May 2), Almudena Abeyta, currently the assistant superintendent of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment for the Somerville Public Schools, will visit the city and have a forum at 4:30 p.m.
School Committeewoman Jeannette Velez said the School Committee would start with separate rounds of public interviews with the candidates. They would follow the same order as this week.
All interviews are open to the public. Interviews will be held at City Hall Council Chambers in the evening.
The goal of the Committee is to have a vote on May 9 – after the final interview – to decide who to pick and negotiate a contract with. If all goes well, that person would likely begin on July 1.
At Monday’s community forum, Parker said he was very interested in Chelsea because it was a challenge and a place to learn. Though he has spent most of his career in suburban schools like Newton and Weston, he said he feels like he could be very successful in Chelsea.
“I like what I read about Chelsea and I like the emphasis on building bridges and the pathways,” he said. “I like the diversity of it…It was different enough for me to be interesting. I think any district is a challenge. It’s the opportunity to build on what is here. What you have is Chelsea is you have a great district that wants to be excellent in many ways. I believe I can help you do that.”
He also said he hasn’t applied to any other districts, only Chelsea.
“This is where I want to be,” he said.
The forum was sparsely attended, and likely because it wasn’t well publicized ahead of the beginning of the forums by the Collins Center – which is running the superintendent search process.
However, numerous students from the Chelsea Collaborative and organizers from the Collaborative did show up with many questions.
The conversation went from opinions on expulsion to outside opportunities to gun violence.
At that, Parker said his students – like Chelsea last year – organized a walkout for school safety.
He said he believes in supporting student voices – something that has grown to be very important to students at the high school over the last year. Students at Chelsea High have successfully organized the walk-out, and also successfully advocated to move graduation back outside on the new turf field.
“I walked out with them,” he said. “We knew it was happening and supported it. It was a genuinely student-led effort. We need to support that even if we disagree with that they want to do. I think if a district didn’t support students on that particular situation, I think they missed out.”
When it came to challenges between suburban Weston and urban Chelsea, Parker said he would likely have a learning period with getting community and parent participation – which often lacks in Chelsea but is strong in Weston.
“If our parents cannot make meetings or conferences because they are working multiple jobs or are too busy, then we need to go to them,” he said. “I would spend time finding out where they are and where I need to go to engage them.”
The process with the School Committee next week on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday is open to the public.
Anthony Parker, currently the principal at Weston High, listens intently to a question from students during Monday’s community forum at the Williams School. The three finalists have been in Chelsea this week for whirlwind tours and forums. Next week, all three will meet with the School Committee for public interviews. A decision is expected May 9.