Thursday, December 26, 2002

Cape model for school leadership

Published in the Current

Cape Elizabeth is one of eight communities chosen in New England – and the only one in Maine – as a model for attracting strong leaders to its board of education.

The town now will be part of a study done by the New England School Development Council on how towns can attract excellent school board members.

“When you have an outstanding school board and superintendent working as a team,” students do very well at learning and on independent testing, said researcher Richard Goodman.

The study is being funded by a $40,000 grant from the Wallace Reader’s Digest Foundation.

After seven years of studying leadership in public school systems around the region, Goodman and his colleagues decided that one question had never
been asked: “What does it take for a community to attract and retain” school board members “who care about children and know or learn quickly the role of the school board,” Goodman said.

“Cape Elizabeth is one of those in Maine that’s been considered to be a top school system for a number of years,” he said.

Superintendent Tom Forcella said the study will provide a look at “how we are able to encourage people in the community to get involved with the School Board.”

Goodman said he and his colleagues will interview school board members and superintendents, as well as other community members, in each of the
eight towns chosen for the study. Among the other towns are Wayland, Mass., Farmington, Conn., and Hollis-Brookline cooperative school district
in New Hampshire.

Goodman said a school district in Vermont has not yet been chosen, and neither have two urban school districts in New England, but he expects those
decisions to be made within the next couple of weeks.

He said strong school boards tend to let superintendents run the schools, and make sure the superintendent is a good one and has the necessary support to do the job.

“It takes a community,” Goodman said, to get strong schools.