Deadlines set in interim super search, discord among School Committee

The position of interim superintendent has been posted to several education job sites, including SchoolSpring, School Committee Chair Sarah Fox said at a Aug. 24 meeting. Fox also announced several deadlines in the search, beginning with September 4 as the date by which parents and teachers should submit letters of interest if they want to serve on the screening committee that will recommend final candidates to the full School Committee.  

(To read more about the School Committee’s controversial separation agreement with former superintendent John Buckey, click HERE.)

Parents should email letters of interest to Chair Sarah Fox at One parent will be chosen to sit on the screening committee. A teacher will also be named. Teachers should submit their letters by September 4 to Marblehead Teacher Education Co-chairs Jonathan Heller or Sally Shevory.

 The School Committee met Aug. 24 to announce updates in the interim superintendent search.

The School Committee voted unanimously to appoint Acting Superintendent and Assistant Superintendent of Finance and Operations Michelle Cresta to the screening committee. They also chose Fox and member Alison Taylor. Members Jenn Schaeffner and Brian Ota both expressed interest but stepped back so Fox and Taylor could serve.

“I’m happy that we all want to be on this,” Fox said. “Quite frankly, if we didn’t, I’d have concerns.”

Other upcoming deadlines include:

Monday, Sept. 18 – All applications for the interim superintendent job are due, and the screening committee will meet for the first time. 

Wednesday, Sept. 20 – The second meeting of the screening committee will be held, when members will decide whom to interview and will finalize their questions.

Sept. 27, 28, 29 – Interviews with interim superintendent candidates will happen.

Fox said she’d like to have the interim superintendent named by mid-October. The search for a permanent superintendent may begin in February.

Audit suggestion

Fox mentioned that she went to hear State Auditor Diane DiZoglio speak recently and plans to talk with the Select Board about inviting DiZoglio in to conduct an audit of school department finances and programs.

“One of the hurdles we’ve heard when trying to pass an override is questions about transparency, questions about efficiency,” Fox said. “I am confident that the information yielded [from an audit] will match our practices. I think the voters would respond to that in a positive way which would probably benefit our children. If they found something that could be improved, I would welcome that, too.”

Alison Taylor also asked her colleagues if she could write a letter to the Select Board asking for more information about COVID relief funds and how they’re being dispersed in town. Taylor has complained many times that the schools should be receiving more of these funds. The committee agreed that Taylor will write the letter and share it with the committee before presenting it to the Select Board.

Committee discord

At the end of the meeting, Fox read a letter from fellow member Meagan Taylor, who was not present.

I have an odd piece of correspondence,” Fox said. “I don’t know if this is an open meeting violation. It’s gray. I apologize ahead of time if it is.”

Meagan Taylor’s letter complained that the School Committee has not been cooperative enough when setting meeting times.

“Unfortunately, tonight’s meeting marks 60% of open meetings that have not included full participation since this committee was seated in June,” Fox read from Meagan Taylor’s letter. “During these meetings there have been deliberations and votes on major decisions such as committee leadership, budget and the interim superintendent search. Yet they have all been ad hoc with many scheduled on short notice. These meetings have also occurred with the chair’s knowledge that I would not be able to attend. In prior committees, every member’s availability was considered to ensure full participation.

“By not allowing for full committee participation, the community is also not fully represented,” the letter continued.

Fox, clearly frustrated, responded. 

“I do think it’s really important to point out at this point that I reviewed today, in all my spare time, our policies and our votes. We have at all times followed our policies and protocols. 

“We have reached out at all times as best we can to schedule meetings when they work for everybody,” Fox continued. “Members who are not available for weeks at a time during a period when we absolutely have to have these meetings, we can not stop the business of the School Committee. To have a member of this committee release a statement saying we have not been collaborative is disappointing.”

She then went on to criticize Meagan Taylor for a letter to the editor Taylor sent to the Current. Meagan Taylor had wanted to read the letter at a public meeting on former Superintendent John Buckey’s termination. That meeting was adjourned after less than a minute and Meagan Taylor sent her comments in a letter to the Current. Fox said Taylor’s letter violated the Open Meeting Law.

“When a member of this committee chose to write a letter to the editor and have it published in a publication that is delivered to all homes in Marblehead saying ‘These are all of my opinions,’ that is willfully breaking Open Meeting Law and deliberating outside of a public meeting law,” Fox said.

Alison Taylor also criticized Meagan Taylor’s recent correspondence, calling it “very divisive” and saying members make all kinds of sacrifices to show up for meetings.

“Giving up shifts at work, Zooming in from our children’s sporting events. It’s most often a thankless job. We represent this town…  sometimes those priorities have to be made.”

Ota encouraged the group to focus on the future.

“We should move forward now, now that we’ve brought these concerns forward in an open forum,” he said.

The School Committee meets next on September 7. To learn more about back-to-school plans and schedules, read 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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