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Marblehead School Committee heads into annual retreat; prepares for road ahead

Posted by Terri Ogan  July 30, 2013 02:10 PM

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After a year of controversy and strife, the Marblehead School Committee heads into its annual retreat focusing on a fresh start and the year ahead.

The one-day retreat will take place Wednesday at the Veterans Middle School from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., and entails a training session with a member from the Massachusetts Association of School Committees (MASC), voting on residual agenda items and simply getting to know each other.

The board has two new members, and has begun working with a new superintendent.

Newly appointed committee member William Ackerman was elected to the board just last week in a special joint meeting with the School Committee and Board of Selectmen.

Vice Chair Meredith Tedford was elected in May during the town election and MaryAnn Perry, the town’s assistant school superintendent of curriculum, instruction, and assessment, was appointed as superintendent to replace Greg Maass in June.

Maass announced his resignation at a March 21 meeting citing tension among board members as a reason to leave his post.

"Our main challenge is to find a way to become a really good team and I think that's what broke down before that got us into some trouble," said Kathleen Leonardson, chairwoman of the committee. "That team includes not just the School Committee, but the superintendent as well."

The training session, led by MASC Field Director Michael Gilbert, will involve reviewing roles and responsibilities of the board, norms and protocols and specific scenarios to work through.

Examining rules and protocols will enable the board to present some general outlines about how it can become a high-performing school committee, Leonardson said.

"We're going to put together an agreeable structure so we'll understand the ways we interact no matter what comes up," Leonardson said. "We'll talk about the possibility of having more extensive training and that will be really good because some of us got into some bad habits in the past that we need to unlearn. I think more education is always for the better."

The training entails both hands-on activities, as well as discussions, and have proved successful in focusing school committees on student achievement work and the things they can affect in their governance role, according to Gilbert.

"What I hope they will get out of it is a path to a set of operating protocols that will help the board and superintendent as a team to work together better and to better communicate with each other and to be able to self-manage the board's activities," Gilbert said. "Part of the issue often times is that the community has a certain set of expectations of their elected officials, which is not necessarily in line with what the law allows the School Committee to do."

In addition, new high school principal, Layne Millington, will be introduced at the retreat. Members of the committee, as well as the superintendent, will close out the current fiscal year 2013 budget and discuss next year's budget.

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

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