School Committee member Sarah Gold tells the Current she has rescinded her request to add a discussion about Superintendent John Buckey’s contract to the June 15 School Committee meeting — the final meeting before the town votes on a $2.5 million override to fund the schools and other town departments.
Gold, who is up for re-election, declined to comment about her decision. School Committtee Chair Sarah Fox ignited a controversy last week when she said that Gold has asked for a contract discussion. The request came the same night the committee discussed Buckey’s performance review. Last year, the committee voted to give Buckey a 2.5% raise right after his evaluation.
The report card
On June 6, the School Committee settled on a preliminary “proficient” review for Buckey, according to Fox. The agenda for the June 15 meeting says there will be a discussion about the “superintendent review process” and “annual review approval.”
In their individual evaluations, committee members split, with Gold, Mathers and Meagan Taylor giving Buckey higher marks, and Fox and Alison Taylor delivering a less-rosy review.
Mathers gave Buckey several “exemplary” and “exceeded goals” marks in his evaluation.
“MPS is in need of stability,” Mathers wrote. “We have had seven superintendents in the last 15 years. This is an untenable period of instability and detrimental to MPS. Dr. Buckey should be proud of having navigated a very difficult first three years at MPS in the face of criticism from some stakeholders. Some of this criticism includes ad hominem attacks, which are unwarranted.”
Meagan Taylor gave Buckey “significant progress” marks for Student Learning and District Improvement goals.
“Dr. Buckey is a fierce advocate for, and works diligently to provide, a safe and supportive environment for all students,” she wrote. “Dr. Buckey is also an active and engaged member of the school community, often seen in classrooms, cafeterias, playgrounds and at after-school events. Additionally, Dr. Buckey has developed positive, collaborative working relationships with town officials and community groups such as the Rotary and Sustainable Marblehead.
Gold wrote in her evaluation: “Overall, I rate Dr. Buckey’s performance as solidly proficient. There are many places where I believe his leadership skills are exemplary and of course there are areas for continued improvement as well. Although many challenges lay ahead for the Marblehead Public Schools, there is much to celebrate as well.”
Fox gave Buckey several “needs improvement” marks in the areas of Instructional Leadership, Management Operations, Family and Community Engagement and Professional Culture.
“I have seen Dr. Buckey improve this year and commend him on that. I also see areas of growth potential that remain,” Fox wrote. “Moving forward I would like to see Dr. Buckey develop his communication skills further so he is communicating independently more and relying on outside communications support only when required due to unforeseen circumstances. In regards to two-way communication, I would like to see a greater focus on the message being conveyed rather than who is conveying the message.”
Alison Taylor also gave Buckey many “needs improvement” marks in goals including Communication and Fiscal Systems.
“I feel that district-wide there needs to be more done to foster a trusting, two-way relationship with the superintendent,” she wrote. “A relationship where everyone hears the same thing and that the message or tone doesn’t change based on the participants. Every individual, even those with dissenting views, should feel comfortable participating in the conversation. This should happen with zero regard or fear of retribution or retaliation.”
Responding to the evaluations, Buckey said, “I appreciate the time that each member took individually to provide feedback and for the composite evaluation that they compiled. I’m grateful for the acknowledgement of our many accomplishments this year, and I also see value in identifying areas where there are opportunities for continued growth and improvement.”
Leigh Blander is an experienced TV, radio and print journalist who has written hundreds of stories for local newspapers, including the Marblehead Reporter. She also works as a PR specialist.