LETTER: Teacher-parent makes case for stability in leadership

To the editor:

Please note that I am submitting this letter as a resident, parent and teacher and not as co-president of the Marblehead Education Association.

As a teacher and a parent, I have found Dr. Buckey to be fair and collaborative. He set a goal to be more present in the schools and followed through with this goal. Dr. Buckey has been the most visible superintendent in our schools during my 17-year tenure as a Marblehead Public School educator.

As the coordinator of the VillageXperience sixth-grade trip to Camp Bournedale, I have extended an invitation to each of the seven different superintendents over the past 15-plus years. Dr. Buckey is the first and only superintendent who joined the sixth-graders for a day at Bournedale.

While at Bournedale, Dr. Buckey visited students in classes, ate meals with students and chaperones, engaged with students during recreation times, and joined our Science Idol panel as a guest judge.

As a parent, I have witnessed Dr. Buckey attend student events at Glover School, like the annual Trunk or Treat, and join community meetings. During COVID, Dr. Buckey even dressed up in costume and greeted students and families as they drove around the high school at the Boo Through.

If the School Committee decides to terminate the contract of the superintendent of schools, it will once again thrust our district into turmoil. We have excellent teachers in our schools who have been the glue that has held our district together through this perpetual cycle of changing school leadership.

As a teacher, I want to see our students get the very best education possible. I want to embrace new programs and initiatives, but this becomes more difficult with each change in leadership.

I’m not sure if the School Committee and community recognize how much time we put into training and planning for each new program and initiative. We utilize our planning blocks and PLCs, attend professional development, and spend additional time at home after-school hours, only to see all that hard work and planning get replaced each time our leadership changes. You can imagine how this impacts a teacher. It is frustrating and demoralizing.

As a teacher, I want to see the impact of our hard work and planning by looking at the cumulative data that we gather each year, allowing me to grow as an educator, drive instruction and provide students with the exemplary education they deserve.

I am concerned, as both a parent and teacher, about how this will impact our schools moving forward. We want to attract and retain the very best educators. I believe that the two main factors that drive a person’s decision to accept and/or remain in a job are salary and work environment.  Marblehead Public Schools are not competitive with surrounding and like communities concerning teacher salaries. We also have a history and reputation of instability with leadership.

It leaves me to wonder what will attract the next generation of educators to Marblehead. It has been stated that there is low turnover in staff in our schools. This may be true, but only because education is the one profession where experience is a detriment in applying for a teaching position.  An experienced teacher typically will cost a district too much money. Experienced teachers typically have no choice but to remain in their current district or take a salary decrease.

With the current teacher shortage, this narrative is changing. We now have MPS teachers looking to teach elsewhere and are getting multiple offers at a salary comparable to or greater than what they earn in Marblehead.

For our children’s sake, we cannot allow this to happen to our district. We need to work together to rally our community, establish a budget supporting our students, provide a salary structure that will attract and retain the best educators, and provide sustained stability by retaining our school leadership.

Massachusetts is an education leader in our nation. If we want Marblehead Public Schools to continue to be an exemplary school district, we must change the narrative and perception within our community and throughout the Commonwealth. Our children’s future depends on it, and our children deserve an exemplary education.

Respectfully submitted,

Jonathan Heller

Ralph Road

Letter to the editor
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