Posted by Marcia Dick March 22, 2013 04:46 PM
“I’m definitely disappointed. I think that this represents a loss to the district,” said Jonathan Lederman, the School Committee vice chairman who helped recruit Maass two years ago when he left his superintendent’s position in Green Bay, Wis., to come to Marblehead.
Just two minutes into Thursday’s School Committee meeting, Maass asked for permission to make what he called an “important announcement.” His voice trembling, Maass announced his plan to resign, effective June 30.
“I understood the work to be transformative and the methodology that the School Committee and I agreed upon to get the work accomplished would be collaborative,” he told the School Committee. “In other words, there would be a need for change and we would do the needed change in a team-based, mutual way. Recently, in my opinion, the culture within the majority of the School Committee has moved away from this methodology. In my opinion, it has turned into a transactional and somewhat fractured environment, one, quite frankly, I’m not compatible with.”
In an interview on Friday, Maass reiterated that tension influenced his decision to resign.
“Recently School Committee members, not all, but a majority, I think have started to step into areas normally where the superintendent would be responsible,” Maass said. “I’m not by nature a power player person, I’m a collaborator and I’ve been put in the position where I’ve been challenged. I feel more like a referee than a superintendent.”
Maass had one year left in his contract, but he made the decision to leave his post as superintendent last Friday. His base salary is $179,000 a year, plus bonuses based on School Committee evaluations.
He said he had been thinking about leaving since his most recent evaluation, which was two weeks ago.
“Leading up to that midyear evaluation, there have been times where School Committee members have disregarded my request and chosen to do what they wanted to do operationally, and I’ve had conversations with one of those School Committee members and there was no regard for my role as a superintendent,” Maass said. “It’s a tough job and you have to have a School Committee that’s with you, and I just feel there’s too much tension there related to roles and responsibilities.”
Over the last decade, Marblehead — like neighboring Swampscott — has had trouble retaining its top educators. With the resignation of Maass , the town will seek to hire its sixth superintendent since 2005.
The high school principal’s post has also served as a revolving door. In the last four years, four people have held that job, and recently Maass hired Swampscott High School principal Layne Millington, who will begin the job July 1.
Debra Heaton, acting principal of the high school, noted questioned the high turnover. “I think that there may be some deep-seated ly seeded issues with the School Committee that are causing these problems,” Heaton said.
Maass said that he is executing a clause in his contract that allows him to leave if he gives the town 100 days’ notice. He added that he is not seeking any severance or additional compensation.
Marblehead School Committee chairwoman EuRim Chun could not be reached for comment.
Lederman said it was too early to begin a search for a new superintendent, and added that he hoped to persuade Maass to remain in his position. He said the School Committee would discuss the matter at its next meeting on April 4.
Lederman lauded Maass’ efforts to implement change in the district. He said Maass had focused on boosting content-based classroom instruction, staff recruitment, and developing a strong evaluation system for educators.
“I think he resigned because he felt that a majority of the committee was not supportive of his collaborative approach to education, and I don’t agree that that’s the case,” Lederman said. “I think that the majority of the committee, myself included, is supportive of his collaborative approach to education and recognizes the enormous value he’s brought to the district.”
Around town, residents seemed surprised to hear about another school resignation. “He came with a lot of experience and he seemed very competent,” said resident Dana Denault.
Marie Picone, who has a child in the district, said she was disappointed. “It was a very short term and I do not know the exact reason of his decision, but I find it quite negative on this whole community,” she said.
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