By ANDREW C. MACDONALD
As a longtime observer of New London Public Schools and a former New London resident, I felt compelled to respond to the guest commentary from William White, which I believe was well intentioned but way off the mark ("New London's misguided decision to dump Dr. Fischer," Feb. 16).
Superintendent Nicholas Fischer has been anything but a savior and Renaissance man for New London schools. His Machiavellian rule by fear and keep the teachers back on their heels management style, which many of his administrators adopted, has driven good teachers out and created a hostile work environment.
The literacy graduation requirement is a mirage. To date there is no evidence that graduation has been denied due to not achieving the so called "literacy requirement." With regard to the GPA requirement, again, another mirage. At the start of this academic year, there were so many long-term substitutes at New London High that it was almost impossible to record graded work let alone track student progress or lack thereof. Those two initiatives were nothing more than window dressing designed to make Dr. Fischer look like he was making headway in solving New London's problems.
The teacher evaluation program seems more designed to harass and intimidate teachers than to help them improve the quality of their trade, as evaluations should. It is a disservice to the school districts that piloted the state's SEED evaluation to claim that Dr. Fischer's evaluation is one of the best and most respected, because it is not.
In regard to "reducing the achievement gap," it is most often used to describe the troubling performance gaps between African-American and Hispanic students, at the lower end of the performance scale, and their non-Hispanic white peers, specifically academic disparity between students from low-income socio-economic group families and those who are better off. Any claim that the gap in New London schools has improved under Dr. Fischer's watch is statistical hocus-pocus. The dramatic increase in the CAPT scores at New London High School had more to do with the manipulation of the number of eligible students who actually took the test, many of whom were Science and Technology Magnet School students from out of district, than it had to do with actual improvement.
The teachers in New London are not the problem as Mr. White infers, nor is it the inferred apathy of the public or politicians at large, the problem is a poor choice of leadership that permeates the entire school system. Hopefully, the new Board of Education can change that for the better when they bring in a new superintendent.
Andrew C. McDonald lives in Waterford and counts a number of New London teachers as among his friends.