Letter: How to replace fine educators

To the Editor:
For the 35 years I taught at Foran High, Mike Cummings was the best principal that the school ever had. Despite his short tenure there, the connections he forged with students and staff were impressive.
Mike had only been at Foran a few months when I walked into a school sponsored bloodmobile with him, heard him call a student by name (not a star athlete or class officer or honor student) and ask him if he could donate due to his recent tattoo. “What?” I thought, “this principal knows this kid and knows enough about him to express concern for his personal well-being.”
Mike established his administration at Foran as people-friendly; and students, teachers, parents and the staff experienced the all-important supportive environment where true education flourishes.
Now I read that Mike Cummings is leaving the Milford school system, and like many in this town, I am filled with regret.
So what do we do to honor this exemplary educator? The answer to that is simple. Hire and promote teachers, administrators, as well as a replacement for Mike, who care more about kids than they do about data. So much of what made Mike effective and beloved as a principal was his deep concern for the needs and aspirations of the individual; both the students and the teachers.
Initially he was unafraid to flaunt the bureaucrats and focus on what was best for kids via their teachers. Though I’ve been out of the system for more than five years now, I hope that Mike still represents what is best in education now and always.
So the challenge for Milford’s superintendent, Board of Education members and central office administrators is this — hire and encourage educators who are smart, creative and care deeply about kids and then allow these individuals to flourish. Don’t devalue them with the yokes of bureaucratic mandates and paper-shuffling. Those who view students as sources of data which needs to be tweaked and measured should be eschewed. This may sound shocking to some — encourage people who promote love of learning over higher test scores. All the ‘fixes’ of the past several years haven’t seemed that effective and now is the time to really go back to basics — let’s get students engaged in a want-to-learn environment. The test scores will follow. And this would be the highest tribute we can make to a fine educator like Mike Cummings.
Anne Greenstone