English High School headmaster replaced

June 26, 2009
By

DAVID TABER

English High School headmaster Jose Duarte will be replaced by Sito Narcisse, an educator most recently working in the Pittsburgh Public School system, the Gazette has learned.

Boston Public Schools (BPS) Superintendent Carol Johnson introduced Narcisse at English on Monday, BPS spokesperson Chris Horan said.

Duarte, who has led the city’s oldest high school since 2000, has had a tumultuous tenure.

His replacement comes as the school’s second year as a Commonwealth Pilot school comes to a close. Under the Commonwealth Pilot program, English and a handful of other underperforming schools across Massachusetts that were in danger of state takeover were given two years to turn themselves around.

The Commonwealth Pilot status has given Duarte and the faculty and staff at the school increased autonomy on budgeting, curriculum, student policy, hiring, and the length of the school day, among other things.

“I think the new headmaster will benefit from Jose’s leadership over the last two years,” said English’s Family Outreach Coordinator Sandra McIntosh.

McIntosh and others collected six pages of signatures supporting Duarte, which they presented at a BPS School Committee meeting earlier this month.

“We were trying to keep him, but the superintendent made her decision,” she said.

Narcisse, who will officially take over in July, comes from Pittsburgh where he spent a year as principal the Milliones School. That school, for students grades 6 to 12, is a collaboration between the Pittsburgh Public School system and the University of Pittburgh, with a specific focus on college prep.

Especially prior to English’s transition to a Commonwealth Pilot schools, Duarte was a controversial figure.

In Fall 2006, Duarte was sued by substitute teacher and JP resident Jeffrey Herman, who claimed the headmaster violated his consti-tutional right to free speech. Herman claimed Duarte banned him from teaching after Herman spoke out against school military programs at a Boston City Council Hearing.

That lawsuit was settled out of court in 2007. Herman was awarded $15,000, and there was no admission of wrongdoing by Duarte or BPS.

Herman agreed as part of the settlement that he would not teach at English as long as Duarte was headmaster.

Prior to English’s transition to a pilot school, other teachers complained to the Gazette that Duarte was an incompetent manager who harassed teachers he did not get along with.

Duarte will be offered another position within the Boston Public Schools system, according to a letter from Johnson about his replacement. Horan said it has not yet been decided what that position will be.

According to the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (ESE) web site, after two years of Commonwealth Pilot status, “Each school will undergo a school quality review” with findings to be reported to “the district, teacher union, and Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.”

But, according to ESE spokesperson J.C. Considine, that review has not yet taken place. ESE only met with BPS officials to discuss new leadership at English for the first time last week, Considine told the Gazette in an e-mail, indicating that the leadership change was the district’s decision.

“We’ve scheduled two more meetings with [BPS] to talk more in-depth about the district’s transition plan for staff over the summer and plans to move the co-pilot model forward over the next year,” he said.

Considine said an external evaluation of the school from UMass Boston’s Donahue Institute is expected in September, and a self-evaluation from English on its progress launching a governing board and a new curriculum by the end of July, Considine said.

“We expect the schools will provide evidence that they are making progress,” he said.

The print version of this article incorrectly stated English High School’s new headmaster’s previous position in the Pittsurgh Public School System.

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