Weston, a town that prides itself on its excellent schools, safe community and engaged population, discovered the hard way that leadership and unwanted attention sometimes go hand in hand.
The spotlight first shone hard on our picturesque town hall following a Board of Selectmen proposal to strengthen a local gun control ordinance in response to the Newtown tragedy. Next came the Mike Hvizdo coaching kerfuffle, an embarrassment for everyone involved. Finally, just this past week, Weston High School kicked into lockdown mode after a staff member found a threatening note in the hallway.
The price of leadership in Weston? Quite simply, you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t.
Take, for example, the Board of Selectmen’s proposed firearms ordinance, which will come up for public discussion once again on March 11 at the town Police Commission meeting.
The measure, which prohibits the use of automatic and machine-gun-style weapons within town limits, also places restrictions on home-based target practice and sets age requirements for lawful local use. The measure does not require Weston gun owners to amp up their storage, nor does it require stricter background checks or levy harsh penalties on those whose unlocked weapons are stolen and used in a crime.
Quite frankly, it isn’t immediately clear to me what this measure accomplishes in terms of improved safety. Ask yourself: does a toothless automatic weapons restriction do more for safety than stricter storage requirements and tougher ownership penalties?
The answer, of course, is no. And this, no doubt, explains why the measure passed the Board with nary a peep from Weston townfolk.
Compare this reaction to the outcry heard by Superintendent of Schools Dr. Colleen Palmer, Weston High School Principal Lisa Wolak and others after WHS’s enormously popular basketball coach, Mike Hvizdo, resigned under pressure after admitting he appeared in a short film of questionable taste a decade ago.
Last week’s Weston Board of Education meeting saw a packed house with supporter after supporter voicing frustration and anger over the resignation. Parents were furious because they felt they had no input. Coach Hvizdo went on "Good Morning America" to talk about it. Columnists all over wrote about the "Great Weston Witch Hunt." And local fingers pointed sharp blame at one parent who allegedly complained about the coach’s participation in the film, which, supporters note, contains no nudity or illegal activity.
Soon after, Weston rehired Coach Hvizdo.
As a Weston resident and mom with three kids in the school system I’ve enjoyed hundreds of opportunities to participate in classroom activities, sporting and charitable events and more. My husband is also an active volunteer. These experiences have allowed me full view of our community's diverse array of leadership styles and perspectives
As a result, I can state two things with absolute certainty: the first is that Weston High School is blessed with the finest administrative team I have ever seen. And we are equally blessed to have recently hired Colleen Palmer, a gifted education professional who has demonstrated an unwavering commitment to providing our kids with the innovative, high quality education people move here for.
Weston, like many affluent communities, is filled with a high-maintenance parent population who are difficult to predict and even more difficult to please. Imagine, for example, if it was later revealed that the administration knew about the coach’s history all along but did nothing. Can you imagine the outcry? If you live in Weston, then chances are you can. In all likelihood, someone would be out of a job.
Perhaps the administration did act too hastily, seeing as how we all have parts of our past we’d like to forget. Let us remember, however, that our administrators’ first and most important collective priority is ensuring a safe educational environment for our students. Period.
Do administrators sometimes make mistakes? Of course. Did they make a mistake in the Hvizdo case? Probably; I neither know the coach nor have seen the film. But I do believe that administrators are privy to far more information than is available for public consumption.
I would still rather they err on the side of caution—as they did when they followed police recommendations to shut the school down last week—and keep the protection and education of our students first in mind. I am certain that Palmer, Wolak and the rest felt they had the kids' best interests at heart.
I congratulate our school leaders for not only looking out for what is best for our kids but also for acknowledging they made a mistake in letting Coach Hvizdo go. If only our elected officials could show such courage!
Now, about that gun ordinance …