By: Tom Duggan – February, 2004
North Andover Superintendent Harry Harutunian informed the School Committee and the public that North Andover High School has been put on warning of losing its accreditation by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC). But, Harutunian said that the NEASC report was faulty because it was based on an inaccurate report submitted by High School principal Susan Nicholson.
“I can tell you much of what is evaluated comes from the principal,” Harutunian said. “It’s all in the way it is packaged to NEASC. This report, put together in February, was not an accurate portrayal of what is going on at North Andover High School. And those concerns that do need to be addressed have already been taken care of in the ’05 budget.”
School Committeeman Dr. Charles Ormsby said that he was “disappointed” that the high school principal had given information to NEASC that was “simply inaccurate.”
“Only two items that NEASC cited in this have anything to do with educational outcomes,” Ormsby said. “If you look at this report, it’s full of what I call edu-speak. Chairman Muphy’s comment about the yardstick of this report being more about funding and not educational outcomes needs to be stressed. This has nothing to do with actual instructional impact in the classroom.”
School Committeeman Bruce Baker said that the warning, based on the Nicholson report, was “misleading.”
“I have served on 3 accreditation teams myself. They rely heavily on good information from the school. I would feel better about this if I felt it was based on a full and fair representative report. But that’s my problem, it is not representative of the reality in the school. The concluding paragraph is dead wrong and very misleading. They are not getting the full picture in this report and that is what we need to correct.”
Former School Committeeman Diane Huster who was defeated after championing an unneeded $4 million override for the schools, complained about per pupil spending and seemed to indicate that the warning report was accurate. Huster, who is a constant critic of the Superintendent admitted she had not yet read the report.
That prompted Superintendent Harutunian to respond. “If you look at the cuts system wide, the high school received the least number of cuts. If you look at the list, the greatest number of additional staff in the budget is at the high school. Let’s be clear here, there’s another 135 thousand dollars added to high school for textbooks. But when you look at things like a full time person to copy things for teachers at the Xerox machine, that’s a luxury. I would rather put the money into text books.”
Harutunian added, “We did due diligence. We increased money for staff instruction and added money directly to the classroom.”
One member of the audience attacked Dr. Ormsby for saying he was not as concerned about courses in “American Thought” as it relates to the music, woodworking and art components of the course, as he was with educational excellence.
Responding to what has become a regular barrage of attacks by the pro-override group who attend the meetings, Ormsby said, “I want to correct the record, here. I did not say American Thought or music and art are not important. That comment was about American Thought including an art and music influence, it wasn’t about gutting the art or music department.”
“But, what isn’t mentioned here is that we have global thought, which is another one of these programs. Where is that in the evaluation? Where are the advantages of restoring global thought in this report?
Harutunian said that the Board now has to move forward to show the NEASC group that most of the report (submitted by Susan Nicholson) was inaccurate and that those things which need to be addressed have been addressed long before the report was even out.
“We are in good shape here,” he said. “I said from the very beginning that my highest priority is North Andover High School. We have showed that with the budget. We have made substantial gains in getting us off warning. The key now is to move forward and not focus on blame.”