It’s a tale of two boards this week with the Board of Selectmen setting goals for Town Manager Andrew Flanagan and the School Committee praising (mostly) Superintendent Sheldon Berman for reaching his goals. 

Last Wednesday night, selectmen met with Flanagan for a “goal-setting workshop.” They discussed “strategic priorities” on a variety of subjects, ranging from finances and operations to energy and sustainability.

For the most part, Flanagan spoke about each item, where it was and where it was going, as selectmen chimed in, offering support or comments. For example, under Capital Projects and Planning, Flanagan talked about whether the town should expand its sewer system. A study is underway and will be completed by this fall, he said. Recommendations will be forthcoming.

Under Organization and Human Resources Management, he discussed a number of items, including establishing a permanent town building committee, slated to be appointed in July. Such a committee is needed due to the lengthy list of municipal building renovation projects required around town. The group, made up of 5 regular members and two project-specific members, will meet over the course of the next year or so and discuss how to tackle some of the bigger projects in town.

One such project likely to be considered is the future use of the Shawsheen School, another subject on the town manager’s list. A recommendation will be coming in next year’s Capital Improvements budget. 

Other subjects the discussed included: improving the town’s web site, a possible charter review, and, the date of a “fall” town meeting, now tentatively scheduled for January 2017, to vote on funding for the new town yard.

In short, these goals and objectives are all part of the town manager’s very full plate. Selectmen, the policy board for the town, are helping guide Flanagan on these items, setting priorities and parameters for him. Using these goals and objectives, the Board of Selectmen should then be able to make a solid assessment of Flanagan’s performance either later this year or early next year, which helps to determine whether he gets a raise. 

It seems like a logical and well-thought-out plan. The goals and objectives are realistic. They have high expectations of the town manager, and they should. 

On the schools’ side, meanwhile, things took a somewhat different turn.

Last Thursday, the School Committee met to give Supt. Berman his performance review. Somewhat predictably, they showered him with complements, saying on a 4-1 vote that he should get an “exemplary” rating despite at least two members giving him ratings of “proficient.” Other members’ reviews didn’t even use the suggested ratings language - unsatisfactory, needs improvement, proficient, and exemplary.

On Dec. 4, 2015, the School Committee set a series of 8 goals for the new superintendent, including such items as “closure of the long-term strategic plan,” ensuring a “smooth and effective transition” to the new high school schedule, improving special education, enhancing morale, filling open administrative positions, and working collaboratively with the town manager.

According to four members, Berman has done all of that and more. Despite the state’s recommendation that the word “exemplary” be saved for all but the very highest performers in any setting, the School Committee gave Berman that grade. In fact, one School Committee member went so far as to say his performance was “beyond exemplary.” 

We’re not so sure about that. It would seem sufficient to say proficient, especially when Berman was in the midst of a crisis with the middle school math curriculum, the high school schedule, a graphic college survey run amok in the high school cafeteria and other issues. The high school schedule was not implemented. The math curriculum problem has only been partially resolved. The jury is still very much out on how well he can fix the special education department, which is said by some to be a complete disaster.

Time will tell if Berman is truly “exemplary,” just as time will tell if Flanagan is up to the Gargantuan tasks set for him by the Board of Selectmen.

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