Superintendent quits over inability to control elected officials

March 22, 2013

bcd31f434b37059f137483f7bbc105e8NEWS and ANALYSIS: “Due to personal circumstances, I can no longer commit the time and energy to be successful at the job.” Superintendent Gregory Maass went on, as reported on wicked, to elaborate: “I step away from a tense environment. In my opinion, the majority of the school committee has recently moved away from a collaborative environment to a fractured environment, one I’m not compatible with.”

But the fact that Maass is just giving up in the middle of his first contract term as Marblehead Public Schools’ superintendent means that all of the new programs he has itroduced, the systems he has changed, the curriculum shifts he has pushed through, are all interrupted as well. He is without doubt leaving the system in a lurch with his collapse of resolve and commitment. Certainly, in all that he promised during the hiring process, there was not a single word about quitting if he didn’t get 100 percent support from the school committee. Our history would quickly prove that that would be way too much to ask in a town like Marblehead. Collaboration has two meanings: (1) to work together with disparate groups, and (2) to cooperate with an enemy. Clearly compromise is part of any definition of collaboration. “My way or the highway” is a transparent and self-referential misdirection of the word’s essential meanings. Apparently “collaboration,” in Maass’ style of leadership, has a third definition.

In conversations with elected officials, who requested anonymity due to the volatile nature of the situation, they expressed surprise at this sudden surrender in the face of minor resistance to his leadership. In an essentially volunteer political environment, which Marblehead has always had, people expect disagreements and policy debates, sometimes very, very lively debates, shall we say. This was also true in Maass’ last  state of Wisconsin, which received nightly national news reporting for its school demonstrations and explosive political environment. So it should come as no surprise that, in politics, universal agreement is an illusive objective. And there have been no demonstrations, no building occupations, and no recall petitions here in Marblehead. For most Marbleheaders, this is the first they have heard of the situation: a school committee member walked out of a meeting; another asked tough questions. But the fact is that pretty much everything Dr. Maass has asked of the school committee has been approved. The Marblehead process was open, for the mostpart,  all issues were vigorously discussed and debated and, in the end, the School Committee gave the superintendent everything he wanted, except for one thing, apparently: complete fealty.

The 100-days clause of his contract should be waived and Greg Maass removed immediately. The system should accept its mistake in choosing him as superintendent and call a spade a spade. He has no real commitment, and he has shown Marblehead the back of his hand instead of the loyalty and unselfishness required of all officials who serve the Town. Ask Selectmen what it takes. Ask the department heads. Ask the teachers. When Maass was making his decision, by his own statement he consulted only his wife and his administrative assistant. He didn’t even consult with EuRim Chun who has actually shown Maass the unquestioning deference that he seems to require from everyone. Apparently, no contact was sought with the Chairman of the Board of Selectmen, Jackie Belf-Becker, whose history as a hardworking school committee member and highly successful committee chairperson included years of almost internecine polemics and political struggles, which should have put her first on the list of people to look to for advice and direction. Not to mention neighboring superintendent Phil Devaux in Nahant who actually led Marblehead through the toughest years of financial challenges it has faced since the Great Depression. But apparently no call to Phil, who lives in Marblehead and who follows the Town’s day-to-day history closely. Not to mention Tony Sasso, Marblehead’s first Town Administrator and who continues to live and work in Marblehead and who has always with generous assistance and with good advice whenever asked.

Just as he led off his self-referential retreat with the first phrase, “I can no longer …” he apparently also puts himself first in reaching town-shaking decisions that affect us all.

Perhaps we should look at this as a blessing, a truth uncovered. Perhaps we should be thanking those members of our town government who questioned Greg Maass. In the end, he has proven them right. He could not be trusted to fulfill his promises. Still waters may run deep, but sometimes they are just shallow. Greg Maass’ promises were a mile wide and a quarter of an inch deep, apparently.

Hopefully, the school committee will quickly admit its mistake in hiring him and learn from it. Imagine our next superintendent will be a vast and substantial improvement. Look forward to that. Insist on that.

Let’s avoid the Einstein insanity protocol and try something different this time.

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