LTE: Who’s in charge here?

Dear Editor, 

This is an open letter to the Marblehead School Committee. 

We’ve lost confidence in your leadership. Your failure to prioritize our schools’ most pressing needs is hurting our students’ education. Your inability to manage increasingly scarce Town resources is hobbling our schools. What happens in our schools impacts all of us, including local businesses and our home values. 

Our report card for this committee is an F, across your most basic areas of responsibility: 

1. Reviewing and approving the School Budget: FAIL 

2. Setting Policy: FAIL 

3. Hiring, Firing, and Managing the Superintendent: FAIL 

4. Leadership Conduct: FAIL 

Failure: Budget Leadership 

● After the 2023 override failed, 33 school staff positions were eliminated. Next year’s school budget will include more staff/program cuts. And yet, instead of focusing resources on classroom instruction, you’ve diverted hundreds of thousands of dollars to administrator severance packages, legal fees, stipends, and searches for new administrators. Why? 

● The Select Board has identified uses for the Coffin School property to bring new revenue to the Town. Despite prior agreements to return this unused, deteriorating property, you have chosen to retain it at substantial cost and risk to taxpayers. Will Eveleth School be added to this list of missed opportunities and continuing costs after it’s vacated by Abbot Library this spring? Why? 

● We don’t have confidence in your ability to negotiate a new contract with Marblehead’s teachers this spring, which will be a major budget driver for years to come. 

Failure: Policy Leadership 

● Your job is to develop district policies, not implement them. Policy implementation is the responsibility of school administrators, not you. 

● You should be conducting basic, comprehensive policy review; instead your policy focus has been around which flags should be displayed in schools and decreeing yourselves the arbiters. 

Failure: Hiring the Next Superintendent 

● You ended Dr. Buckey’s employment in July, but you’re just starting the superintendent search now without hiring an experienced consultant, as is best practice. In this highly competitive market, how will you attract and vet quality candidates? 

● After two months as Interim Superintendent, Dr. Theresa McGuinness has withdrawn her name from consideration for the permanent superintendent position. Why? 

● Four recent departures/resignations of senior administrators (including the Assistant Superintendent of Finance and Operations) have further destabilized the district. What’s your plan? 

Failure: Leadership Conduct 

Unbecoming behavior degrades our school community and tarnishes the town’s reputation. 

Distrust was sown from a failure to disclose conflicts of interest prior to the June 2023 elections. 

Bullying tactics and hostility towards opposing or critical viewpoints is intimidation. 

Unlawful noncompliance with records retention policies, and repeated suspected open meeting law violations. 

Lack of transparency around spending, decision making, and strategic priorities hurts our students, our schools, and our town and further erodes trust.

The clock’s ticking. We’re calling on you to demonstrate to all Marbleheaders how you’ll tackle these issues and improve your performance. 

Community members: If you’re in agreement, please add your name to our petition at https://form.jotform.com/NoConfidence/MHDSC. 

A list of all the signatories to this letter can be seen here.