When former principal, Patricia Allen, accepted an out-of-state position, last year, Medfield Superintendent of Schools Robert Maguire had a decision to make.
Would it be in the town’s best interest to accelerate the search and hiring process for a full-time replacement? Or would it be more practical to hire an interim principal for the coming school year? Maguire chose the latter, reaching out to retired administrator, Edward Quigley.
“When I first retired,” he said, “I did one year of not doing anything and it was pretty boring.”
Following his assignment in Natick, the former Norwood School Superintendent shifted his attention to consulting, spending time in the Tampa Bay, Fla. area to train administrators on how to do effective teacher observations. Then came the call from Maguire.
“Earlier in my career, I had been an elementary principal ... there’s a special place in my heart for elementary schools,” he said.
Another reason to Quigley accepting the offer to become interim principal of Wheelock was the “very unique experience,” which the school offers – serving just two grade levels; grades two and three.
Quigley, whose one-year contract expires July 1, expects the search for a permanent replacement will begin in December or January, similar to what occurred in Natick.
“The person [in Natick] was appointed at the end of May, so they had an opportunity to come and visit the school, meet the staff ahead of time and sit down with me. I would see [the process] progressing the same way here.”
When asked to define the role of an interim principal, Quigley offered an analogy.
“[It’s] like being regent for the king … in a sense you’re in charge [of] maintaining and moving forward,” he said. "As an interim principal, you can’t think long-term. As full-time principal, you’d be thinking three, four, five years down the road.
"I’m conscious of the fact that it’s not my role … to establish something that’s going to take multiple years to come to fruition. This school is in a very good place [with] a very strong staff [and] very good programs, so part of my responsibility is to keep a very good school moving forward.”
Quigley plans to accomplish that goal through “working with the staff in the areas that they already know or areas that need further development” to allow for “turning over a very strong school to the person who’s going to be here long-term.”
In a career spanning nearly four decades, Quigley has seen many changes in the educational system, the biggest of which, in his estimation, revolves around an apparent “obsession with testing.”
While admitting that the “frameworks, that Massachusetts has, are terrific, as [far] as laying out guidelines of what you want every student to know and be able to do by the time they graduate from high school,” Quigley feels that the MCAS tests “don’t serve the purpose for which they’re being used.”
“The original purpose of the test was to indicate how strong you’re curriculum was,” he said. “It wasn’t a measure of an individual student.”
When used to help determine “the things we do very well and the things that we need to work on, [then it becomes] a valuable tool,” he said.
Quigley also feels that MCAS results have been misinterpreted by the media, who focus on ranking the various schools, based on test results.
“The state puts a disclaimer there, every year,” he said. “We do not rank-order schools because there are so many factors that play into those test results.”
Another source of irritation for Quigley is the media’s constant call to “get rid of bad teachers.”
“For those on the outside, looking in,” he said, “we need to stop bashing the teachers. Overall, teachers do a phenomenal job. Let’s support those people that are good at what they do … people who do an effective job day-in and day-out.”
Although Quigley is still in the process of getting to know the Wheelock staff, his initial observation is that “they’re not just good people, they’re good educators.”
“Even though I’ve been in Medfield for just a short time, [I see that] it’s a very lucky community [in terms of] the people working here. Everyone that interacts with the children; the teachers, teacher aides, custodians, kitchen staff … they care about the kids.”