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Concord

Amid conflict, Rigby rated ‘proficient’ leader

Concord’s school superintendent, Diana Rigby, who has faced criticism from some parents and teachers in recent months, was rated a “proficient” leader in her annual evaluation, which praised her dedication to students but said she needed to work on communication and conflict resolution.

Rigby received the evaluation Thursday from a joint session of the Concord School Committee and the Concord-Carlisle Regional School District’s board.

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The evaluation was delivered two months after Concord Town Meeting turned down a nonbinding petition, signed by about 100 residents, asking the school boards to review Rigby’s management and financial practices.

The state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education “is very clear that they consider proficient a very high standard,” said Concord School Committee chairwoman Pamela Gannon. The other options are unsatisfactory, needs improvement, and exemplary.

“Exemplary would really be for exceptional, exceptional teachers, and they expect teachers and administrators to be rated as proficient,” Gannon said.

At a meeting that stretched late into the night Thursday, some parents thanked Rigby for her work and spoke glowingly of their children’s high test scores and close relationships with staff. Others, however, said the evaluation did not make sense in light of a statewide survey last year, called TELL Mass., that showed unrest among many local teachers.

“I’m a little bit confused — Pam had mentioned that a rating of proficient was a really high rating,” said Carla Macy, a Concord resident. “With simply looking at the Mass. TELL report . . . I feel that is really disconnected from a rating of proficient.”

Concerns about the state-commissioned Teaching, Empowering, Leading & Learning Mass. survey, which showed teacher dissatisfaction with Concord’s school leadership, have dogged the district.

“People in this town are obsessed with TELL,” said Gannon. The survey, she said, is not supposed to be used to chastise specific educators but to identify areas of concern and develop goals, which the district is doing.

The survey was not administered this year, she said, and schools have been working to make improvements.

“I think the important thing is that next year, they’ll be able to readminister the survey,” Gannon said.

It has been a rocky stretch for the district in other respects, too.

Last Sunday, the Globe published a help-wanted ad for an interim elementary school principal in Concord that Rigby said was never supposed to have been submitted to the paper in the first place.

Ellen Clegg, executive director of communications for the Globe, said the ad ran by mistake.

“Because of a production error, The Boston Globe mistakenly published an ad for an interim elementary school principal in Concord on Sunday, June 23,” Clegg stated in an announcement on the issue. “The ad, which was submitted earlier in the week by the Concord public schools, was canceled by the school system on Friday, June 21, prior to publication.”

Rigby said the school district was not looking for a new principal when the ad ran.

Three days later, Thoreau Elementary School principal Kelly Clough resigned “to pursue other career opportunities,” effective last week.

“I deeply regret I unavoidably did not have the opportunity to say goodbye to students and parents before now,” Clough wrote in a letter to the community. “If any students or parents would like to visit with me, I welcome that opportunity on or before Friday, June 28,’’ her last day.

Clough did not respond to a request for comment. She was recently at the center of a controversy over her recommendation not to renew the contract of Merrie Najimy, a veteran third-grade teacher and president of the teachers union. Najimy said that she is instead being involuntarily transferred to the Willard School, where she will teach kindergarten.

Najimy said her transfer is retaliation for her protected union activities, and she filed a complaint with the state Department of Labor Relations, which held a preliminary hearing Wednesday.

Some comments at Thursday’s meeting related to Najimy, and one woman had a sign that read “We want Merrie at Thoreau.” Several people wore “Teachers Matter” pins.

In the past, Rigby has denied that the district would ever retaliate against a teacher for union activities. She could not be reached for comment about Najimy’s charge.

Of Clough, Rigby said that the district thanks her and wishes her well.

Overall, Rigby’s evaluation was positive. School Committee members noted that she had steered the district through major problems with the high school building project, which at one point last year had its funding pulled by the state for going over budget and off schedule. The project has since had its funding restored, and is within budget and on schedule, according to school officials.

The evaluation said that Rigby puts students first, and excels at initiating and supporting programs that support student achievement as well as mental health and social development. Committee members cited the Rivers & Revolutions program, which focuses on students with nontraditional learning styles, and has been popular with students and teachers, as a standout achievement.

“The take-home on our superintendent is she’s all about students,” said Gannon.

Rigby was also lauded as a strong financial manager.

The committee members said Rigby has made some progress in communication, resolving conflict, and consensus building, areas that citizens have complained about, but that more work is needed.

In the school year just ending, Rigby received $206,000; she is in the second year of a three-year contract, according to Matt Wells, senior business analyst for the Concord-Carlisle Regional and Concord school districts.

“In summary, Ms. Rigby is a strong, energetic leader who is dedicated to the districts’ core values,” the evaluation read. “She has a forward-looking and inclusive vision for the education of Concord, Carlisle, and Boston students. Ms. Rigby is committed to preparing all students to be active participants in the 21st century world.”

Globe correspondent Betsy Levinson contributed to this report.
Evan Allen can be reached at evan.allen@ globe.com.
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