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School Committee to Discuss Early Termination Clause in Superintendent Contract

Update 7:30 pm 7/24/23: Superintendent Buckey replied to Marblehead Beacon's request for comment on Wednesday's scheduled School Committee meeting as follows: "Thank you for letting me know. I had not been advised there was a meeting scheduled; therefore, I have no comment at this time."


The Marblehead School Committee recently announced a zoom meeting scheduled for this coming Wednesday, July 26, 2023 at 7:30 pm. The agenda, posted on the town website, includes a discussion item listed as “Superintendent Contract – Early Termination Clause.” 


This newly scheduled School Committee meeting – which will be open to the public – follows in the wake of the executive session held this past Friday, July 21st. According to the Massachusetts open meeting law, committee members can vote to meet privately in certain circumstances, including for the purposes of discussing contract negotiations or other confidential matters. The Friday meeting agenda indicated that the purpose of the meeting was to “conduct strategy sessions in preparation for negotiations with nonunion personnel (Superintendent).” 


School Committee member Brian Ota – who was elected this past June – chose to recuse himself from the executive session held on Friday. He spoke with Marblehead Beacon in early July and explained that he had filed a complaint with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination related to Superintendent John Buckey’s decision not to renew his contract as principal of the Glover School last year. Ota noted that he had consulted the Massachusetts State Ethics Commission in advance of his decision to run for School Committee and was advised that – while there was no conflict of interest inherent in his decision to run – he should not participate in issues associated with evaluating Buckey’s performance while the complaint was still active. Ota filed the complaint over a year ago and says he is expecting a ruling at any time.


The early termination provision in Buckey’s contract specifies that “the Committee may terminate this Employment AGREEMENT and the Superintendent’s employment at any time on or prior to December 31, 2024 without cause by providing the Superintendent with at least one hundred (100) calendar days written notice and paying the Superintendent an early termination payment of Ninety-Four Thousand Three Hundred Fifty dollars ($94,350.00).” The contract goes on to specify that “the Committee shall not be required to pay, and the Superintendent shall not be entitled to receive salary payments and benefits payable after the effective date of termination.” 


Buckey’s current contract with the Marblehead public schools extends until the summer of 2025. While he was initially hired in 2020 with a three-year contract, the School Committee voted in June 2021 to add an additional two years. The contract extension vote was four-to-one, with current School Committee chair Sarah Fox voting in opposition, noting that she would prefer to give the Superintendent additional time on the job before extending his contract. 


Wednesday’s School Committee meeting will be held on zoom, and the link is available here


School Committee chair Sarah Fox told Marblehead Beacon that, on the advice of counsel, she would not be able to offer a comment. Marblehead Beacon has reached out to Superintendent Buckey for comment, as well as to School Committee member Ota. We will continue to update this story as more information becomes available. 


Editor’s note: School Committee member Jenn Schaeffner is a Marblehead Beacon founder and editor. She is recusing herself from any issues surrounding School Committee coverage.