To the editor:
The Marblehead Current’s editorial is correct that Marblehead residents deserve to know why the School Committee is taking strong actions to remove our superintendent.
A recent article from the Marblehead Beacon does seem to lay out a set of charges. The article stated that Dr. “Buckey was a vocal advocate for the tax increase, and he was responsible for developing a list of cuts — including to a number of staff positions as well as the high school freshman sports program — that he said would be implemented if the override were to fail.”
According to our Massachusetts guidelines, the School Committee is responsible for developing the district budget, approving and adopting the budget, as well as proposing any tax overrides to increase the budget. What the Marblehead Beacon failed to clarify is that being a “vocal advocate” of the tax increase and following the directive of the School Committee to identify ways to balance the fiscal year 2024 budget was simply doing his job.
More specifically, once the School Committee voted on a balanced budget that included the list of proposed cuts, including freshman sports, it was Dr. Buckey’s responsibility — his job — as superintendent to support the School Committee by advocating for the tax increase.
In the same article, the Marblehead Beacon stated that Dr. “Buckey has also faced uphill battles with several initiatives he has championed during his tenure in the community… including a six-figure salary for a director of diversity, equity and inclusion.”
As a member of the strategic planning team, I witnessed strong support for improving our district’s commitment to DEI. These sentiments were reflected across a wide range of listening sessions and a well-organized and structured planning process that was led by Dr. Buckey.
As a result of these efforts, there was a strong consensus among students, staff and families that improving DEI efforts was necessary for us to become a stronger and more welcoming community.
As a point of clarification: It was the School Committee — not Dr. Buckey — who proposed and voted on creating the DEI position. Dr. Buckey, in his role as superintendent, advocated for this position in support of the will of the School Committee and, in this case, the will of the Marblehead community. This is another example of the Marblehead Beacon casting a negative aspersion on our superintendent, who was simply doing his job.
The Marblehead Beacon has also failed to clarify whether the School Committee’s interest in the findings of “unintentional” bullying on behalf of a wonderful, caring and now former varsity soccer coach was to assess whether the superintendent may have failed to act on a bullying allegation, which they could have used as a just cause for his removal.
By not offering an explanation as to why they have decided to remove Dr. Buckey so quickly following the election, one could conclude that voters were misled about their true intentions for serving on our School Committee.
While there are certainly strong feelings on both sides of this decision to keep or remove Dr. Buckey, our new School Committee members were elected by our community and do have the power to remove him. What is also true is that these actions by our School Committee will severely cost our community money we do not have and add more evidence to support our national reputation as a community that is hostile to superintendents.
I have no doubt the lawyers living in our Marblehead community can verify the range of compensation that Dr. Buckey may be entitled to, including legal fees, reputational damages and full salary until another superintendent position is secured. It seems that the School Committee’s decision to seek early termination may cost our town much more than $94,350 plus 100 days of full salary.
There are a lot of emotions and strong opinions about this issue. As a community, let us strive to maintain the highest respect for one another and the members of our School Committee who volunteer countless hours on our behalf. As ‘Headers, we must strive to not let our strong opinions tear down the safety and security of the town we all love.
As a School Committee, we need your help to understand the basis for your decision to remove our superintendent. We elected you to serve as the stewards of our district. You promised open discussions that are transparent and collaborative so that we could understand how your decisions serve the best interests of our students, educators and families. We will not always agree. But we do need to understand.
Right now, we need to understand how removing a superintendent who was doing his job in supporting the School Committee’s budget decisions best serves the interests of our students, educators and families. We need to understand how this action, which will incur a tremendous financial loss to our town and add to our national reputation as a hostile community for superintendents, is in the best interests of our Marblehead community.