In a 4-1 vote, the School Committee named former Village School principal and Swampscott resident Theresa McGuinness as interim superintendent. Member Meagan Taylor was the dissenting vote.
“She’s really smart,” said School Committee member Brian Ota, who worked as vice principal under McGuinness at the Village School. “She developed really strong teams. Her communication skills were excellent. I spoke to one parent who called her one of the most dynamic leaders they’ve ever had. Her teachers adored her.”
McGuinness is the current assistant superintendent in Watertown and said in her interview that, if hired in Marblehead, she would like to become the permanent superintendent.
School Committee member Jenn Schaeffner, who visited Watertown schools to learn more about the candidate, said McGuinness’ colleagues called her “totally data-focused, working towards collecting data and applying information to improve student achievement… She does not micromanage, but is what they called a ‘warm demander.’ She pulls the best out of her people, but in a kind way.”
The School Committee had kind things to say about the other candidate, Jannell Pearson-Campbell, but felt McGuinness was the better choice.
Meagan Taylor made a motion to keep acting Superintendent Michelle Cresta in place until the committee hires a permanent super later this year.
“Michelle has been doing a really great job,” Taylor said. “She brings a breadth of experience, just as much experience as the other candidates. She has built trust.”
While the other School Committee members praised Cresta, they said the right step was to hire McGuinness. Cresta said she appreciated the support and would serve if asked, but that her preference was to go back to her job as assistant superintendent of finance and operations.
McGuinness led the Village School from 2012-2016. In 2020, she was a finalist for the Marblehead superintendent’s job that eventually went to John Buckey. Last August, the School Committee ousted Buckey without saying why and paid him $175,000 in a controversial separation agreement, angering many residents. Cresta, Schaeffner, School Committee Chair Sarah Fox and member Alison Taylor were ordered by the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s Office to retrieve deleted texts related to Buckey, but they said they could not.
“My concern, to be perfectly honest, is the vitriol in our community right now,” Fox said. “Whoever comes in, if our community does not give them a chance to do their jobs and prove thesmselves… that’s not setting them up for success.”
It is not clear when McGuinness will start in Marblehead. The committee said Fox will be hammering out the details of her contract.