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Marblehead School Committee chair asks entire board to resign

Posted by Terri Ogan  April 5, 2013 07:23 AM

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At a heated public hearing Thursday night, Marblehead School Committee Chair EuRim Chun asked the town to demand the resignation of the entire board by the end of the school year.

The shocking proposition came in response to the recent and equally surprising resignation of Superintendent Greg Maass.

"I believe there’s only one course of action to take to truly address this situation," Chun said at the hearing. "I think it’s really critical that we provide all of you the opportunity to install a newly constituted group of dedicated citizens, equally as passionate as the ones that are sitting here."

School Committee Secretary Dick Nohelty concurred with Chun’s request and said that he will in fact resign at the end of the year. Another colleague, Jon Lederman, had offered his resignation prior to the hearing.

Committee member Tom Connolly, on the other hand, was not as amenable.

"I will not follow the example of the man from Wisconsin [Maass]," Connolly said. “I am not going to be pressured into resigning because someone has chosen to leave before his contract is up."

School Committee Member Kathy Leonardson stood by her intent to run in the upcoming town election in May, but commended Chun’s initiative.

"I thought it was a brilliant solution to a very difficult problem," Leonardson said. "We have a dysfunctional board and it’s been dysfunctional for a while. I think it’s great."

Prior to Chun suggesting the entire committee resign, Leonardson had crisply asked that Nohelty, Lederman, and Connolly step down, citing their behavior causing Maass to resign.

"I’m charging the three men on this committee with violating their fiduciary responsibilities to this district and town by creating a toxic work environment, which forced the superintendent to resign," Leonardson said. "Thereby wasting the dollars we spent to find exactly the person we wanted who’s achieved everything and more."

Lederman, in response, said Leonardson's statement was fabricated.

"There is zero conflict between the three of us," Lederman said. "Prior to the resignation of Dr. Maass, there was no tension between any of us on the committee. The real question is what's going on and who's telling the truth? Now you gave a great speech Kathy, I have to say, but it was really more a work of fiction."

About 100 people attended the hearing, which was held during a regular School Committee Meeting. It provided residents and members of the committee with a chance to have an open dialog regarding Maass’s resignation.

The superintendent, who has served for two years, announced his departure at a School Committee meeting on March 21, stating that tension among committee members and personal reasons fueled his resignation. He had one year left in his contract.

With Maass leaving his post, 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. “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.”

At the hearing Maass cited specific situations that caused strife between him and committee members, and ultimately pushed him over the edge.

“I struggled with School Committee members who will not call me, will not inform me that they’re going to my staff,” Maass said. “I hear about it secondhand through my staff, as recent as this past Monday … I got files of examples where I can pull them out and I can share them with you definitively that this isn’t just a one scenario event, this is a multiple-scenario event.”

Those that attended the hearing expressed their frustration with the lack of administrative consistency, and distress with Maass’s departure.

Not only have residents and parents struggled with issues in the district, but teachers are suffering as well.

“We’ve been holding this district together for well over a decade,” said Elizabeth Dawes, a teacher at the high school. “We’ve been sick and tired of being sick and tired. We’re willing to hang in there, continue with that vision, continuing to be the professionals we are, but it’s hard. It’s very hard. “

In regards to changing his mind and withdrawing his resignation if the entire board steps down, Maass said he needs time to think.

“Tonight’s not the night for me to talk about the hypothetical related to what I will and won’t do,” Maass said. “I need to have time and space. The next 100 days will determine a lot of what’s going to happen.”

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