A tale of two town school districts

Mashpee, Monomoy schools head in opposite directions

Two towns, same problem, opposite approaches

As similar as the two districts’ challenges are, their approaches are entirely different

Mashpee Public Schools and the new Monomoy Regional School District are two of the most vulnerable school districts on the Cape. Both districts face enrollment challenges, both desire to bolster their declining enrollment with school choice students and both suffer from embarrassing MCAS results at certain grade levels.

Both districts have a new superintendent – Brian Hyde in Mashpee and Scott Carpenter at Monomoy. Both superintendents are replacing administrators in nearly every school. Both superintendents have made improving academics their highest priority. Both superintendents are male and approximately the same age.

But as similar as the two districts’ challenges are, their approaches are entirely different.

The Monomoy experiment

In hiring Scott Carpenter, who previously served as principal at the academically excellent Lincoln-Sudbury High School, the Monomoy school board passed over local candidates and likely hired the candidate they thought could best improve the district’s academics. Carpenter has subsequently replaced almost every principal in Chatham and Harwich, including two long-serving middle school principals, the beloved principal at Harwich High School and is now interviewing finalists for principal of Chatham Elementary School.

Not one of the Monomoy region’s new principals is a local candidate – they’re all from towns near Mr. Carpenter’s former stomping grounds.

The Mashpee experiment

At Mashpee, the school board turned heads by promoting a Mashpee High School teacher, Brian Hyde, directly to the superintendent’s chair. What he lacks in administrative experience, Mr. Hyde makes up for in his deep local knowledge, having devoted most of his adult life to the Mashpee school system. As with Monomoy, Mr. Hyde is reorganizing Mashpee’s administration with several recently-announced hires.

The difference between Monomoy and Mashpee, though, is that Brian Hyde is tapping local talent for his administrative leadership. Just this week, Hyde reached into one of the school buildings to choose his new assistant superintendent. A district assistant principal is candidate for one principal position, the middle school principal position was eliminated and Hyde recently hired departing Harwich High School principal Kevin Turner as dean of the upper school at Mashpee Junior-Senior High School.

Will local knowledge trump off-Cape talent?

Most managers work in their comfort zone. In Mashpee this means Brian Hyde is calling to his side people he has worked with for years, both in town and around the Cape. There is no substitute for local knowledge – of the school culture, of the parents and of the students. Local candidates also “live here” and are often more invested in the community.

On the other hand, if a school district is generally weak it might do better to bring in “outsiders” who can offer a fresh perspective on the district’s challenges. This is what we think Scott Carpenter is doing with his hiring of off-Cape administrators at Monomoy.

Many in the Monomoy region questioned why the much-loved middle school and high school principals were not retained. Certainly parents and students are more comfortable with familiar staff, especially when faced with a school consolidation such as we’re seeing at Monomoy. However it’s entirely possible that the “outsider” superintendent felt more comfortable bringing in his own people to bring swift change to a vulnerable school district.

Is one approach “wrong” and the other more “right”? Probably not - so long as each district’s challenges are met and the kids succeed.

One thing is certain – in a year or two we should have definitive proof whether local knowledge trumps off-Cape talent.

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