Marblehead Superintendent John Buckey has agreed to resign, the district’s School Committee said in a news release Wednesday. The announcement comes a week after the committee abruptly called off a vote on the early termination of his contract.
The School Committee and Buckey “have come to an acceptable agreement resulting in his resignation … after several days of contract negotiations,” according to the release.
According to the agreement provided to the Globe, Buckey will be on paid leave until Dec. 31, at which point he will resign. He will receive a lump sum payment of $94,350 on Jan. 2, 2024.
In exchange, Buckey released the School Committee from any legal claims he might have against them, including for alleged violations of state and federal civil rights and employment laws. Both sides agreed to a non-disparagement clause.
The agreement was signed Wednesday by Buckey and School Committee Chair Sarah Fox.
“Dr. Buckey deeply appreciates the opportunity to have served his community, and the Marblehead Public School Committee thanks Dr Buckey for his three plus years of service,” the news release continues. “The Committee wishes him the best as he pursues other opportunities in the field of Education.”
Buckey’s initial three-year contract said the committee can dismiss the superintendent “at any time on or prior to August 31, 2022 without cause” as long as he is given 100 days’ notice and a $92,500 payout. He was hired as superintendent of Marblehead Public Schools, a coastal suburban district of about 2,600 students, in February 2020, with a first-year salary of $185,000. In July 2021, the School Committee voted 4 to 1 to extend his contract for another two years. Only Fox, the current chair, opposed the extension.
The July 26 meeting with the planned vote lasted less than a minute, with Fox announcing the meeting would no longer move forward. In a statement to the Globe the next day, Fox said she was advised by legal counsel minutes prior to the scheduled start of the meeting to immediately adjourn and schedule a closed-door executive session.
Marblehead Police Chief Dennis King said last Thursday that a “suspicious” balloon was found at a committee member’s home Wednesday night. The balloon had markings resembling eyes and a mustache and was tied to the home.
“Some people have inferred the residence was targeted as a result of the meeting,” King said. “We have nothing at this time to confirm or deny that.”
Michael Long, Buckey’s attorney, said last Thursday that his client “has never been told what the cause of [the School Committee’s] proposed action is.” Early termination provisions in Massachusetts superintendent contracts, he added, are also very rare.
In June, the School Committee approved a “proficient” performance evaluation for Buckey, praising his “dedication to the district” and transparency involving the budget. However, the committee dinged Buckey for his “engagement with critics.”
Later that month, Marblehead residents elected two new School Committee members — Jennifer Schaeffner, founder of the local news website Marblehead Beacon, and Brian Ota, former principal of the district’s Glover Elementary School. Voters also rejected a $2.5 million tax override, resulting in 33 cuts to school programs and personnel, including freshmen sports and middle school language programs.
Ota had previously filed a complaint against Buckey with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, according the Marblehead Current, after his contract as Glover’s principal was not renewed. Ota himself from last Friday’s executive session discussing Buckey’s employment, the Current said.