As though the resignation that shocked the town didn’t really happen, Chairman EuRim Chun and member Kathy Leonardson made emotional pleas in a MHTV interview (both reading carefully prepared statements) for Marbleheaders to join in their support of the superintendent who resigned with no one calling for his resignation and, to the town at large, with no visible opposition to his policies.
The committee has approved everything the superintendent requested.
Dr. Maass’ rather shocking letter of resignation, presented at the School Committee meeting, Thursday, March 28, outlined three offending incidents: (1) a member leaving a meeting suddenly, (2) a member giving the superintendent advise about town lawyers that he apparently didn’t like (in executive session), and (3) a member speaking with other school officials without the superintendent’s prior approval.
Chairman Chun went so far as to offer to move the committee’s scheduled meeting to the PAC to accommodate the crowds she is hoping to stir up. Kathy Leonardson appeared to be holding back tears in the interview when she attempted to discuss her sorrow at the way “some committee members” have treated Dr. Maass. The superintendent is, after all, a seasoned, experienced, mature, career school official with more than 20 years of experience in local government.
The School Committee actually has only one thing to do in this matter: vote to accept or not accept the “surprise” resignation. The situation has given rise to a series of questions now pertinent to that resignation. (1) Having resigned and shocked the town, can the superintendent simply “take it back” or have his own actions undermined his credibility and indicted his promise of commitment? (2) Having insulted the town by suddenly breaking his promise to serve for a minimum of three years — many of his changes and policies will require at least five years to implement by his own statements — can he quit amid such high emotions with clear divisions among his employing and overseeing board and then say “Never mind”? (3) The people he hired to assist him in his “vision” and who were required for him to “do his job” … are they still needed? (4) It seems that the majority of the committee (Connolly, Lederman, and Nohelty) may hold the votes to accept the resignation and move on, regardless of what Chun and Leonardson do. So what is this all about? (5) Is it wise leadership to stir up the school population before all of the facts are laid out for all to see? (6) Some of the accusations of misbehavior raised by Chun, Maass and Leonardson occurred in executive session — as mentioned by officials — so is even mentioning these shielded events an ethics violation? And if not, then shouldn’t the actual executive session facts now be made public to be fair to all involved? (7) The inappropriate involvement of the Massachusetts Teachers Association’s local president in this effort to support the superintendent — she sent out an email giving her membership the user-friendly, Internet path to “click and support” the resigned superintendent (apparently under the MTA’s auspices) — many may have thought it was a union directive or, at a minimum, supported by the popular union president even though she did indicate it was up to each member — raises all sorts of issues of confusion and conflict.
So, here we are: the superintendent quixotically resigns with no consultation with the committee or other high school or town officials. The majority of the School Committee is in disagreement with the Chairman’s actions and sentiments, and the Town has been put in the middle of this mess with lots of sound and fury but very few significant and substantiated facts by which to judge. There are potential executive session violations — describing events that occurred in secret, protected sessions –there are accusations of mistreatment of Maass, vehemently denied by those involved; and now the committee’s minority chairman, who may well have lost the confidence of the majority, is whipping up the town and school populations to support her views. There are multiple ways to view this situation, but everyone would have to agree that it’s a mess that really didn’t have to happen to Marblehead.
With a damaged-goods superintendent and a rudderless school committee, how can we put Humpty Dumpty back together again?