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Amid Marblehead School Committee controversy, member withdraws from upcoming election

Posted by Terri Ogan  April 9, 2013 01:35 PM

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After 12 years of serving on the Marblehead School Committee, incumbent Jon Lederman has withdrawn his bid from the upcoming May election.

Lederman's decision not to run for reelection comes at a time of great strife for the School Committee.

At a fiery public hearing last week, School Committee Chair EuRim Chun proposed the resignation of the entire board by the end of the school year in order to resolve conflicts within the group.

The proposition came after Superintendent Greg Maass's shocking resignation due to tension on the committee and personal reasons.

The lack of unity and collaboration, among other things, Lederman said, was at the root of his decision to withdraw from the election.

"The perception that superintendent put out made it sound like we were impossible to work with, but we weren't impossible to work with," Lederman said. "It was his way or the highway. It was a big lie."

Lederman added that there were disagreements in regards to moving forward with future initiatives.

Lederman said Maass rarely wanted to talk about some of the issues in public meetings.

"When it comes down to it, there were substantive issues, many of which he said 'If you have something that you disagree with me on, I want to talk about it offline,'" Lederman said. "We could never make progress because these conversations were happening behind closed doors. He simply loved people to be collaborative when it went with his ideas, but when it went against what he wanted, it wasn't collaborative."

Maass announced his resignation at a School Committee meeting on March 21.

The Wisconsin native served on the board for two years and with his resignation, the town will seek to hire its sixth superintendent since 2005.

“It’s very, very hard when I don’t feel like I have the support from School Committee members,” Maass said at the hearing. “Therefore I made the decision to resign. I’m accountable for that and I take responsibility for that. I wish, I hope, and I pray that whatever needs to be fixed, can be fixed, because relationships matter.”

Chun, who also announced her resignation last week, supports Lederman's decision and feels as though the committee is moving in the right direction.

"I think it's a positive step for the town," Chun said. "I made myself really clear on what i thought was a bold recommendation. Mr. Lederman's decision fits that."

Chun added that the committee's turmoil has been a catalyst for long-needed change, and the town's discourse has played a large part in forcing that change.

"What's exciting is that the public is engaged, the public wants to use this as a way to energize and renew and catalyze a better situation," Chun said. "A better way for volunteers to serve at a School Committee level."

Kathy Leonardson, the sole incumbent seeking reelection, was surprised by Lederman's withdrawal.

"I was definitely surprised to see that he did withdraw," Leonardson said. "In the past he's always run an excellent campaign. I do have to applaud him because he's been on the School Committee for 12 years. Anyone that devotes that amount of time deserves a 'thanks' from the community."

The incumbent will be opposed by potential candidates Meredith Tedford, Eyal Oren and Jennifer Williams.

The town election will be held on Monday May 13 and will fill two out of the three vacant School Committee spots.

The remaining seat will be filled by an interim committee member chosen by the town after the last committee meeting in June.

Terri Ogan can be reached at oganglobe@gmail.com, or follow her on Twitter.

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