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Letter to the Editor: Elizabeth Baron

Dear Community,
 


As you know, the school committee recently decided not to renew the superintendent’s contract. I know some members of our community are confused about this decision. As a member of the Longmeadow School Committee, I write to provide you with helpful information and reassurance. I also ask for your trust, faith and respect during this transition.
 


I want to thank those of you who came forward respectfully with positive feedback about the superintendent. It is true that the superintendent has strength in the area of public engagement and public relations, as noted in the school committee’s professional evaluation last year. He has been consistently visible, friendly and available at public events. It goes without saying, however, that public relations and social skills are only one component to the very complex and critical job of superintendent of schools. It is for this reason that Massachusetts law requires school committees to monitor and review the performance of superintendents in all critical areas.
 


I want to assure you that everything I do as a school committee member is done in the best interest of our students and the entire school district. I came to my decision not to support renewal of the superintendent’s contract based on many events, meetings, reviews and extraordinary hard work. I have been fair and diligent, and I have often given the superintendent credit and the benefit of the doubt. I supported the hiring of an experienced mentor to work with the superintendent to help him make critical improvements. I believe that I did everything I could do as a school committee member to assist the superintendent in being successful in the areas where improvement was needed.
 


The superintendent was evaluated in public and received a rating of “Needs Improvement” on his most recent summative evaluation last spring. Specific areas requiring improvement were identified. Concerns and issues were discussed in both open meetings and in many, many meetings between individual school committee members and the superintendent. Concerns included, but were not limited to: 1) a pattern of providing inaccurate or incomplete information and withholding of information from school committee members; 2) open displays of anger toward school committee members; 3) lack of follow-through on clear directives from the school committee and from the school committee chair; 4) promoting and/or doing little to diffuse a divisive working environment between the administration, staff and school committee; 5) lack of initiative in the creation of and follow-through with educational district goals and visions; 6) the need for school committee members to do work the superintendent should have been doing.
 


There have been too many concerns and issues with the superintendent’s overall performance and working relationship with the school committee for me to support a continuation of his employment. Our district and our students deserve better. I believe that is why the senior, majority of the school committee could not vote to renew the superintendent’s contract.



Unfortunately, the decision not to support a renewal has resulted in me, my family and other school committee members being targeted with a campaign from supporters of the superintendent which has been extremely difficult for us personally, our families and our children. We have endured multiple veiled threats that our children have been or will be bullied or harassed at school and we have received what can only be described as hate emails, texts and phone calls, nasty social media posts, and personal and professional attacks by some angry members of the community, as well as from others outside of our community. However, we know that these sentiments do not represent the majority of residents in Longmeadow and I have appreciated the many messages and calls of support for the school committee’s decision. 



As publicly elected volunteers we devote great amounts of time, work thoughtfulness and professionalism to our positions. I appreciate and understand that not everyone will agree with the decision of the school committee, and I respect and encourage positive participation, input and criticism of our work and decisions. However, personal attacks and veiled threats against our children are not persuasive or productive.


I look forward to working with the school committee and our community to find a new superintendent who will best meet the needs of our students and who will work to create harmonious and productive working relationships between all of the stakeholders in the community.
 
I am grateful for the many calls and communications of support for my decision from members of our community.
 
Have a beautiful Thanksgiving with your friends, family and loved ones.
 


Sincerely,

Elizabeth Baron

Member of the Longmeadow School Committee