The School Committee may decide this Thursday on the district’s next interim superintendent, after interviewing two finalists Monday evening.
Although it was a public meeting, parents, teachers and community members in attendance were not permitted to ask questions. School Committee Chair Sarah Fox said the same rules were in effect in 2019 during the last interim superintendent interviews.
Candidate Theresa McGuinness, former principal at the Village School, said if hired she would like to eventually become the permanent superintendent.
The other candidate, Jannell Pearson-Campbell, has worked 23 years in education, most recently as interim superintendent in Northampton. She did not mention wanting to stay on as a permanent district leader.
School Committee members will now reach out to references for both women and meet with school leaders in Watertown, where McGuinness is currently assistant superintendent.
McGuinness served as Village principal from 2012 to 2016 and was a finalist for Marblehead superintendent in 2020, losing out to John Buckey. Buckey stepped down two months ago, after School Committee efforts to oust him. School Committee member Brian Ota worked under McGuinness, as Village School vice principal.
A Swampscott resident, McGuinness shared three core values she said would guide her in Marblehead: excellence, community building and equity.
“What I see equity looking like in the district is a place where all students feel like they are included… a joyous environment where students are engaged in learning.”
In her first 90 days, McGuinness said she’d create a “transparent communication plan” and send out a quantitative survey with “just three questions for students, staff, parents and caregivers.” She emphasized wanting to be visible in the schools and at community events.
She also spoke about her experience in writing grants to support programs and supplement school funding.
Pearson-Campbell emphasized her “approachability” and focus on engaging with students, staff and community members.
A confessed “math nerd,” she also talked a lot about the importance of data.
“The first part of my 90-day plan would be visiting schools, visiting buildings and visiting community members,” she said. “The second part of my 90-day plan would be looking at data analysis” and reviewing programs.
Another early focus? The budget process.
“October is the month you start to prepare the budget, looking over the previous budget and working with building principals,” she said.
Pearson-Campbell, who was a special education director in Waltham, answered a question about what inclusion looks like to her.
“It looks like general ed teachers and special education teachers working together — not the gen ed teacher in the front and the special ed teacher in the back, but them working together.”
She was also asked about DEI in the district.
“We need to learn how to see each other,” answered Pearson-Campbell, who has served on the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents’ Racial Equity Diversity and Inclusion Committee. “Sometimes we don’t know what to say. We need to sit down and have honest dialogue so that people are supported on that journey.”
Pearson-Campbell referred to Marblehead’s reputation for having a revolving door of superintendents.
“You’ve had so many superintendents, let’s be honest,” she said. “But your staff is strong. Ask your staff: ‘What do you need?’”
‘You’re being disruptive to the process’
The meeting started with some tense exchanges, when Fox declined to let people — about 20 in person and another 60 online — ask questions.
“The fact that we’re here and we can’t even express anything… is not transparent,” said Cindy Tower-Loewen. “And Sarah, you know I’ve been sitting at these tables for a long time. Personally, I’m questioning whether this is even authentic.”
Mimi LeMay added, “I would love to ask a sincere question about our students.”
Fox did not respond.
When people in the audience repeatedly asked the committee to speak louder because it was hard to hear in the Marblehead High School library, Fox chastised them.
“I have to ask that you all stop being disruptive to the process,” Fox said.
The School Committee meeting on Thursday will begin at 7 p.m. at Marblehead High School and on Zoom.