NEW: Police speak about report of balloon at School Committee member’s home

Thursday afternoon, Marblehead Police released new information about the report of a balloon tied to the residence of a School Committee member late yesterday.

“The ballon had markings resembling two eyes and a mustache, and no writing,” the release reads.

“This incident coincided with the day a School Committee meeting was being held, which people had strong feelings about. Some people have inferred the residence was targeted as a result of the meeting.
We have nothing at this time to confirm or deny that,” said Police Chief Dennis King.

“However, we have made contact with the School Committee member, and they were encouraged to report any additional suspicious activity they observe,” he added. Messages to the School Committee members have not been returned.

King told the Current Wednesday night that police responded to a report of “suspicious activity involving a balloon” at the residence at 8:05 p.m.

Anyone with information about this specific incident, is asked to call Detective Sergeant Sean Brady at 781-631-1212, EXT 25.

One-minute meeting

Wednesday night’s highly anticipated School Committee meeting to vote on the early termination of Superintendent John Buckey’s contract lasted less than one minute. The next time the School Committee meets, it will be in executive session with no public access.

“We are no longer going forward with this meeting tonight due to last-minute communication between counsel, and I have been advised to adjourn the meeting immediately at 7:31,” said School Committee Chair Sarah Fox. At least 235 people had tuned in.

A few minutes later, Fox told the Current, “I received a call from our attorney minutes before the meeting instructing me to make that statement. She had just heard from Dr. Buckey’s counsel. We will be posting an executive session as soon as the clerk’s office opens tomorrow.” By law, the soonest that executive session can happen is Monday.

That meeting has now been posted for 9:30 a.m. Monday, July 31.

Buckey’s attorney said the School Committee never responded to a proposal he had sent Monday, July 24.

“We spoke again this morning [Wednesday, July 26] with no progress,” Long continued. “I called committee counsel tonight at 7 p.m. to ask if the committee intended to counter to my Monday proposal. She related the committee would not counter. We then discussed potential options to resolve this matter, leading to the cancellation of tonight’s meeting to provide the committee with a chance to consider those options.”

Long did not provide further details.

“It would not be appropriate at this time to disclose the specifics of potential options,” he said.

Hours earlier, Long said Buckey still doesn’t know why he might be fired.

“He has had no opportunity to defend himself against unstated reasons for this proposed action, despite a clear history of proficient performance evaluations by several School Committees over several years,” Long said. “This action will apparently occur without a public hearing on ‘charges,’ without meaningful and issue-specific input from the community and without an opportunity for Dr. Buckey to defend himself and his professional reputation.”

Long went on to say: “We have not been told the basis for this action. It may be that experienced committee members have harbored ill will for COVID-related practice in the district. If this is the case, their rational fails to consider the public health directives imposed by state health and education officials on Marblehead and every other district in Massachusetts. Blaming Dr. Buckey for COVID is convenient, but not fair or rational. 

“Perhaps some members are angry about the failed override, and the program cuts, particularly freshman athletics, which followed. In his position as superintendent, Dr. Buckey’s duty is to make policy and programmatic recommendations to the Committee,” Long added. “The failed override meant identification of policy options for program cuts would inevitably include unpopular choices. Even in Marblehead, limited resources means difficult choices must be made between equally desirable programs. As to newer members, in service on the committee for only a few weeks, and in the absence of publicly stating their concerns, Dr. Buckey and the community may never know their true motivations.”

Fox has declined to answer questions about what the committee is discussing or why they may want to fire Buckey.

Long also addressed the Current’s report on a bullying investigation involving a MHS coach and any concerns that Buckey did not act promptly in response to a parent’s complaint. Read that story HERE.

Read more reaction from students, teachers and town leaders to the School Committee’s actions HERE and HERE. Follow a timeline of events HERE.

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Editor Leigh Blander is an experienced TV, radio and print journalist who has written hundreds of stories for local newspapers, including the Marblehead Reporter.

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