New Portsmouth Supt. Lynn Krizic displays poise and vision in first school committee meeting

July 21, 2011 School Committee
Mark Dunham, Supt. Lynn Krizic, Asst. Supt. Colleen Jermain.

From the moment Dr. Lynn Krizic began her Superintendent's report at this evening's Portsmouth School Committee meeting, attendees could see her begin to articulate and defend a vision for the district, and got some clues to how she intended to engage the community in the process.

Her very first agenda item was a request for the SC to consider a new web-based governance system for disseminating agendas and backup material typically held in the meeting packet to support committee discussion.

"We have a great opportunity to improve communication with stakeholders by making all board meeting information available on-line 24/7," said Krizic. "There are both tangible and intangible benefits," she said, citing reductions in paper costs and administrative time, as well as the less easy to quantify positive effect of transparency and community engagement.

As someone who has occasionally had to go spelunking to find the materials for a meeting, I'm going to plus-1 on that. The committee seemed generally supportive, and the sense of the group was that she should go off and do the research to draft an RFP.

She had a little more pushback on her second item, a proposal to shift school committee meetings to the 4th Tuesday of the month, with the 2nd Tuesday held for subcommittee meetings, which are currently scheduled pretty much all over the place.

Krizic had her ducks in a row and offered a crisp rationale: "Since it's a single monthly meeting, the actionable business of the district would be acted on at a consistent meeting. The coordination and scheduling of subcommittee meetings could be improved." Krizic also recommend scheduling all meetings in the PHS library, "To increase predictability of time and location," and avoid the situations where Monday holidays force the Council to bump them out of the Town Hall. And in another supporting point (and anyone with ears attuned to business presentations might have heard it as I did, a very crisp set of bullets supporting her main assertion) being in the wireless environment of the library would be highly advantageous for meetings where the materials are on laptops.

There was some grumbling from the Committee. Chair Cynthia Perrotti "liked the Chamber better than here" and Jonathan Harris wanted to make a deal with the Council to add wifi there. "We should approach them, and split the cost." Personally, I think some people just like sitting up on a dais.

In the first major decision from Krizic, related to the "late start" proposal that had been floated by Dr. Lusi for beginning classes 90-minutes late to accommodate professional development (PD), she walked a careful line that respected the interests of all stakeholders. Especially parents, who might have been concerned about an imminent change to start times. Not going to happen at this time.

Kriziz was clear about the importance of PD. "It's important for all of us to realize that great teachers create great students, and an inspired and informed teacher is most important factor in learning," and that "the best PD is ongoing, experiential, collaborative, and connected to the curriculum." But after meeting with all building leadership, she decided defer action on the recommendation, and proposed "we spend time taking a look at what we're currently doing and how to optimize time we have." A future iteration of the plan, she said, might not be for all levels, and might be based on need.

In other business, there was an budget article flowed through from the state which will allow cities and towns to transition retirees to Medicare when eligible, and the committee agreed to develop a plan.

There was a brief tussle over the staff hires on the consent agenda when one of the PCC gadflies got up to argue that the two elementary psychologist/guidance people had no place in elementary schools. "I don't think psychologists should be able to practice willy nilly without consent of parents." Honestly, does the PCC send people out with these talking points just to make the people on the School Committee look reasonable?

The rest of the appointees sailed through, as did setting tuition at $13,154 for the school year.

The committee also welcomed non-voting member Joe Quinn who will be sitting in as part of the new arrangement with the Little Compton school committee.

And then...and then... just when the they were about to reconvene in executive session, two members of the committee started falling all over themselves to talk about how much fun they had testifying against binding arbitration at the State House, and how thankful they were that Speaker Fox didn't allow a vote.

Look, I have as much delight in random political ranting jammed into a session in violation of Roberts Rules and Open Meetings Law as the next person. But seriously folks.

Put a sock in it.