We had the opportunity this week to sit down with Wellesley’s new Superintendent of Schools, Dr. David Lussier, who comes to town following a six-year stint as executive director for the Office of Educator Quality in the Austin, Texas Independent School District. His move to Massachusetts is a homecoming of sorts: Lussier boasts some serious local chops, having grown up in Dracut. From there he attended UMass-Lowell, Boston University, and Harvard, where he collected various degrees befitting a top-dog educator.
With the first day of school around the corner on Sept. 4, Lussier plans to spend it at the various schools, observing the goings-on while trying not to get in the way. In the near-term, Lussier says he will simply be working out his own schedule while continuing to familiarize himself with the community. As the year progresses, he plans to devote more time to big-picture issues such as the state-mandated implementation of a new teacher evaluation system. Lussier notes that the new guidelines around teacher evaluations is “a fairly provocative topic any time you consider how you’re going to be evaluating your employees. You want to make sure it’s fair and equitable.” That’s what he strived for in Austin while working on a similar project and he intends to transfer to Wellesley “the importance of doing it with teachers and not to teachers” while putting an emphasis on transparency of process.
After a year in which the town’s appearance of a tidy and organized world was rocked by the turnover of six principals, the discovery of financial problems in the business offices, general dissatisfaction with the now-ousted Chartwells lunch service, and inside-job thefts of valuables such as jewelry and iPads from the middle school during last summer’s renovations, Lussier says that the business and operations side must be attended to and pointed to new staff in place.
“How we do things is going to be as important as what we do.” He says as a team, school personnel must work on the erosion of confidence on the business and operations end by attending to the matters and he feels that problems have not extended to the teaching and learning side of the school system. That said, Lussier points out that restoring confidence is going to be a system-wide theme we hear all year.
As far as losing so many principals, Lussier says that he simply must approach it as an opportunity and value the environment of inquiry into which he has stepped. He acknowledged that sometimes he looks around to ask the experienced administrators for guidance and they are just not there.
In terms of the role of technology in the schools, he says that “There’s no question technology can be a game-changer in education. I think simply providing people with tools without additional training is a flawed strategy.” However, “I think the days of these huge textbook investments that are very expensive…” are over. He foresees a reallocation of funds where the town will use different tools to deliver education.
And hot-button issues such as an override, debt exclusion and redistricting are all on the table, with changes encompassing at least some of these topics as likely.
From a lifestyle point of view, Lussier has been surprised at the amount of traffic during the summer at certain times of day on some of the main streets. (Oh, Dr. Lussier, you ain’t seen nothing yet.) And what about picking a dream home from among the many fine market listings? Well, house prices being what they are around here — a median of about $850,000 — who knows if we’ll score Dr. Lussier as a permanent sWellesley resident? For now, he, his wife, and their brood of three rent in town while they ponder the pros and cons of fishbowl living vs. a commute.
Welcome to town, Superintendent Lussier.