To the editor:
Due to the immediate adjournment of the School Committee meeting last night (July 26), neither the community nor the committee had the opportunity to share their thoughts on the possible early termination of the superintendent. Therefore, I am sharing the statement I had planned to make during the meeting.
I am deeply disappointed by this committee’s consideration to invoke the early termination provision in Dr. Buckey’s contract. For the record, I fundamentally disagree with this committee’s plan to remove Dr. Buckey from his position as superintendent. To start, as it is the most obvious, this action has considerable financial implications at a time when our town and school district are already experiencing economic challenges. We have a contract with this superintendent that stipulates a financial penalty for terminating without cause — not to mention the significant legal fees we have incurred, and the likely cost associated with a search for a permanent successor.
Members of this committee have campaigned on — and pride themselves on — transparency, public participation and strong governance. However, this process has shown a complete lack of these principles. This has all transpired in the middle of the summer, when teachers and parents are away and (hopefully) enjoying a well-deserved break. Meetings have been hastily scheduled and held on Zoom. Information has been withheld from the full committee. The reason for executive session has changed without any additional information provided to the committee, the public or Dr. Buckey. Members of this committee have also disregarded operating protocols, best practices and their word. These conversations are happening behind closed doors, without authority from the full committee or opportunity for public input.
In addition, this committee has not fulfilled its responsibility to effectively manage the superintendent. If there were concerns about the superintendent’s ability to carry out his duties, committee members should have brought these concerns forward sooner — certainly during the evaluation process — to ensure they were addressed and mitigated before they got to this point. In addition, this committee has not set effective and measurable goals, nor has it implemented a comprehensive and consistent evaluation process.
The School Committee has a set of protocols, best practices and policies to ensure a productive working relationship amongst ourselves and with the superintendent. These have been developed in accordance with MASC recommendations and in the best interest of this district. Unfortunately, by not abiding to these guidelines, this committee has created a hostile working environment for the superintendent and put the district at significant risk.
No matter the end result, this process has been incredibly divisive to the community. The actions of this committee have affected staff morale, disrupted the stability of our schools, detracted from the positive work of the district, and will negatively impact our budget and ability to hire a successor superintendent.
Even if this committee is resolute in their decision to remove Dr. Buckey from his position, consideration should have been given to a more productive, transparent and respectful approach.
Our community deserves better than this. Dr. Buckey deserves better than this. Most importantly, our children deserve better.