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Marblehead School Committee Meeting June 15, 2023

Superintendent Declines Raise or Contract Extension as Election Looms

Early on during last week's School Committee meeting on June 15, 2023, Marblehead Superintendent John Buckey put to rest recent speculation that a salary increase or contract extension would be on the table this year. 


Several times throughout the meeting, School Committee members and public participants commented on recent controversy surrounding Buckey’s contract that has been playing out in the media and local online discussion forums. As Marblehead Beacon reported, the story was launched on June 6th, immediately following the School Committee gathering to discuss Buckey’s performance review, when School Committee member Sarah Gold asked Chair Sarah Fox to add a discussion of Buckey’s contract to the agenda for the June 15th meeting — just five days before the town election, which includes contested School Committee seats. 


While it was expected that the official approval of the evaluation would be discussed at the June 15th meeting, the addition of the contract as a line item on the agenda appeared to indicate that one or several School Committee members were interested in offering Buckey a salary increase or an extension of his contract beyond the summer of 2025. 


However, just prior to the June 15th meeting, Fox told Marblehead Beacon that she had requested Gold withdraw the contract agenda item, which Gold agreed to do. Ultimately Buckey’s contract did not appear on the agenda published to the School Committee website. Last year at this time, as reported by Marblehead Beacon, Buckey was given a 2.5 percent raise during the same meeting in which his evaluation was presented and approved. 


This year, during the June 15th meeting, Buckey noted his regret that his contract has “unnecessarily become a political controversy over the past week.” While he had not previously made public comments suggesting that he would reject a raise or extension, he said, “I want to state unequivocally that all of us….have a far more pressing matter ahead of us than my contract. That is the override vote that will be held next Tuesday June 20.” 


The tax increase that Buckey referenced will appear on the ballot as Question One and includes an additional $2.5 million funding slated for both school and town needs. Buckey concluded, “though I appreciate any efforts on my behalf for a contract extension or pay increase, I say now is not the time…my goal here tonight is to render the question of my contract moot and to keep the focus on the urgent needs of our students and staff.”


Later in the meeting, the School Committee turned to the discussion of Superintendent Buckey’s review, with Fox noting that the process was somewhat different this year than in prior years, with the entire committee gathering to discuss their individual perceptions in advance of the creation of a composite evaluation document. “We really got to hear the information and thought process behind it,” Fox noted, “I think the process as a whole really served us well.” 


School Committee member Tom Mathers also spoke, noting that, “it is unfortunate that the politics of this became public,” and that “this is about performance management for Dr. Buckey, making him the best leader he can be.” 


Other highlights of the evening included several tributes to Dan Bauer, Marblehead High School Principal, who will be leaving at the end of the school year to become the Superintendent of Schools in Danvers, with Gold noting that he is “the only administrator that I’ve come into contact with that everyone loves.”


With this meeting being the final one before the June 20th election, Mathers took the opportunity to make a final statement that would “leave a few parting words of advice for my fellow committee members and the district.” Mathers was appointed to fill the remaining term opened up by the resignation of Emily Barron, and he is not seeking election. Holding up a copy of a local print newspaper, Mathers noted that “this is politics,” and should have no role to play in the conduct of the School Committee. He noted that, “my own personal politics are sometimes dramatically different than how I behaved on this board,” and praised Buckey, saying “I am proud of the job that you’ve done…you’ve taken the coaching and I know you don’t always agree.”


Mathers concluded with some comments directed at Fox, pointing at her and saying, “this one right here, she’s a challenge, let me tell you,” and noting that "I've given her a lot of feedback, non-public feedback," and commending her on working hard “to improve her skills as the chair.” 


Marblehead town elections will be held on Tuesday, June 20, 2023. Polls are open from 7:00 am to 8:00 pm.