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School chief plans review of top staff

Amid questions about leadership, new steps

Johnson said that the review of her staff would probably lead to a major shakeup and possibly some departures. Johnson said that the review of her staff would probably lead to a major shakeup and possibly some departures. (John Tlumacki/Globe Staff)
By James Vaznis
Globe Staff / July 21, 2012
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Superintendent Carol R. Johnson ­announced Friday night that she is planning to conduct a full review of her leadership team, following recent questions over her leadership. She also took disciplinary action against two employees who are ­under investigation.

Johnson said the review of her executive staff would probably lead to a major shakeup that will include a redefining of roles and duties and possibly some departures or new hires. She stressed that the reorganization would be cost neutral.

“It’s important to acknowledge we are in a new era of accountability,” Johnson said. “We have to look at every aspect of the organ­ization to ensure we have systems and structures in place to address the ­academic needs of students and their well-being.”

The actions came as Johnson faces calls for her resignation by a city councilor and nearly 200 parents, after the Globe reported last Sunday that she had failed to discipline Rodney Peterson, the headmaster of the O’Bryant School of Math and Science, who was charged with assaulting his wife last year and later admitted to facts for a guilty finding in court.

Johnson, who wrote a letter of support to a judge overseeing Peterson’s case, apologized a day after the story was published, saying she should have handled the case differently. She continues to enjoy strong support from a broad spectrum of city and community leaders, including Mayor Thomas M. Menino and a group of black ministers.

Peterson subsequently resigned from his job last month, as he was preparing to take a job out of state.

Johnson said the Peterson case factored into her decision to rethink the structuring of her leadership team, as well as the development of two other ­investigations this week that prompted her to take administrative action.

At the Kilmer K-8 School, Johnson began proceedings on Friday to fire a teacher who stands accused of inappropriate contact with students, and at the Frederick Pilot Middle School in Dorchester, Johnson placed the principal, DaQuall Graham, on paid administrative leave after receiving a complaint from staff on Thursday about questionable use of technology and funds.

Johnson offered few details about those two cases, saying she did not want to jeopardize investigations underway.

She said the state Department of Children and Families was notified about the Kilmer School teacher, whose name was not released, in late May or early June. She said the school’s principal, Jerome Doherty, made the notification. Police and the School Department are also investigating.

“I can tell you it is not anything of an egregious sexual ­nature, but it is serious enough to take action,” said Matthew Wilder, a School Department spokesman.

The School Department has also removed Doherty from his job and is in the process of finding a new position for him. Johnson and Wilder declined to disclose the reason for the re­assignment, characterizing it as “protected personnel information.” Kilmer parents and teachers could not be reached for comment.

The Frederick Middle School incident is also subject to probes by police and the School Department. Graham, the principal, could not be reached for comment Friday night.

“We are extremely troubled when anything of this nature happens,” Johnson said of the Frederick and Kilmer school ­incidents. “These incidents that have come to forefront in last couple of days require us to step up our accountability.”

The review of her executive team is the second action Johnson has taken in light of the ­Peterson case. Last week, she had her staff develop a new policy to address situations in which employees are arrested in incidents of a serious nature that are not school-related. In such cases, staff will be placed on administrative leave, a common practice among school districts across the state. Johnson said the School Department previously lacked a clear policy on what to do in cases such as Peterson’s arrest.

“This is an important ­moment that requires us to take steps so people are in the right places to deliver on a quality education for every student,” Johnson said. “It requires me to work conscientiously to re­direct senior staff to work effectively. . . . If we receive a report, we need to follow up on what steps should be taken.”

James Vaznis can be reached at jvaznis@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeVaznis.

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