Letter: Niles school board president defends superintendentPublished 4:29pm Wednesday, April 3, 2013
To the editor:
In the March 28 issue of the Star was a letter to the editor from Susan Anderson, who attacked Supt. Richard Weigel Ed.D. and entreated the board to replace him. She offered three arguments: falling test scores, replacement of effective administrators with administrators with less than successful track records and low morale. Ordinarily, unsupported criticism should be ignored; however, the unfairness of her criticism merits a reply.
I interpreted that her letter pertained mainly to the high school and Niles New Technology Entrepreneurial Academy (NNTEA) because she didn’t mention any of the other buildings. Focusing on the high school gives a false impression of the entire school system because the high school is only a part of the school district. Nevertheless, staying with Ms. Anderson’s focus, there are some teachers who aren’t happy at the high school. On the other hand, there are teachers who are supportive of the district’s new programs. Low morale is subjective and may reflect the attitude of a small group of teachers in the high school. The high school has recently experienced lower test scores, which is one reason that we have a new principal there. By the way, the new principal, Robin Hadrick, is doing a great job and has an outstanding track record. The charge of favoritism toward the NNTEA has a special meaning for me. I was skeptical of NNTEA when it began. However, when the first standardized scores were reported and showed a greater gain among students in NNTEA than in our traditional high school, I was convinced of its value.
A second reason to reply is that now is a good time to report to the people of the Niles Community School district some of the accomplishments of Dr. Weigel. Space considerations in this letter force me to only give the sparsest descriptions of Dr. Weigel’s accomplishments. If anybody has questions, please contact me. Dr. Weigel:
• Eliminated the district’s structural budget deficit, which means Niles no longer loses money every year and must eliminate programs to stay out of debt.
• Reversed recent enrollment losses to enrollment gains. From year 05-06 to year 10-11, Niles’ student enrollment dropped every year except for 09-10 when there was no change. The last two years have produced gains in enrollment of 140 students. This gain is attributable to Dr. Weigel’s new programs.
• Established the NNTEA, which was chosen to be a demonstration site after its first year of operation—a unique honor.
• Established W-A-Y (Widening Advancement for Youth), which is a huge advancement over the previous method of educating students who aren’t able to perform in a classroom.
• Reopened Eastside elementary school.
• Established the Saturday Academy. Approximately 120 students who are struggling in school receive about five hours of free extra classroom work each Saturday.
• Revitalized the CTE program with close cooperation with Lake Michigan College.
• Established close cooperation with area foundations, which has increased foundation contributions to the Niles Community School district in the past two years.
• Introduced merit pay for teachers.
Susan Anderson ended her letter by asking the school board to replace Richard Weigel. I guess it was her hope that a new superintendent would restore the situation to what existed before Dr. Weigel arrived. I must dash those hopes. I support every one of Dr. Weigel’s personnel changes. They were well considered and have all proven to be the right thing to do.
When Dr. Weigel began his work in Niles almost exactly three years ago, Niles was an average school district by every measure. If we are satisfied with average, then Dr. Weigel is not the right superintendent for us. As the accomplishments above demonstrate, he has pushed us to be better with the goal of being great. We’re not there yet, but with Dr. Weigel’s leadership, I’m confident that Niles will soon be great.
Michael L. Waldron
Pres. Niles School Board