When Melrose students return to the classroom in a few short months, the superintendent will not be the only new face among the district’s administrators.
Since Superintendent Joseph Casey’s September announcement that he would retire at the end of the school year, six other top-level administrators have left the Melrose school system, including Melrose High School principal Dan Richards, who unexpectedly left to take a job as principal of Belmont High School.
“The only one I have a hard time with is the high school principal,” said Mayor Robert Dolan. “He made a professional decision, but at a cost to the high school.”
Richards was in Melrose for one year. He was previously a longtime assistant principal at Belmont High, and was offered the principal position when former Belmont High principal Mike Harvey was hired as a superintendent in Hamilton-Wenham, Dolan said.
New Melrose superintendent Cyndy Taymore, the former assistant superintendent in Bedford who took over for Casey this month, has named Melrose High assistant principal Marianne Farrell as acting principal until an interim principal is found and hired for the 2012-2013 school year.
Plans include community meetings and surveys to identify the desired qualities in a permanent high school principal.
The stated schedule is to advertise the position by Dec. 1, then go through the interview process and hire a new principal by March 1.
The other administrators who left are Pat Muxie, curriculum director, and principals in four of the five elementary schools: Dennis Sidell, Hoover; Kerry Clery, Roosevelt; Jeff Strasnick, Horace Mann; and Mary Alise Herrera, Winthrop.
“Whenever there is a new superintendent, you get a lot of turnover,” said Dolan. “Another issue is the average life span of a principal in one place is four years, which is not the best."
In addition to Casey, Muxie was the only to retire. The others took positions in different school systems, or changed jobs to be closer to their families, Dolan said.
Dolan dismissed suggestions that the exodus points to underlying difficulties in the district.
“I’m very happy that Cyndy Taymore is hitting the ground running,” the mayor said. “She is not fazed by this. “You have to look at this as a renewal of the Melrose public schools.”
Clery will become the curriculum director in the Groton-Dunstable Schools. Herrera is returning to Tyngsborough, where she was previously a teacher and administrator, to become the principal at Tyngsborough Middle School. Sidell will become the elementary principal at the Carlisle School. Strasnick has been hired as the principal of the K-3 Woburn Street and Wildwood Schools in Wilmington.
A seventh administrator, Jenny Corduck, made an internal move, when she left her position as director of the early childhood center to become principal at the Hoover School. The district has announced three new hires to fill administration positions.
Margaret Adams, formerly director of language and literacy for Malden schools, will take over as curriculum director. Mary Ellen Carideo, formerly an assistant principal of the Eugene Wright Science and Technology Academy in Chelsea, will become principal at the Horace Mann School. Grace Basile, who has served as interim assistant principal at the Shaughnessy Elementary School in Lowell since 2010, was named principal of the Roosevelt School.
Casey said that the departures are not uncommon, and that Taymore’s transition could be eased by the enthusiasm and perspective that new leadership at the five schools brings.
“There are always good things when there is an opportunity for new people to come in with new eyes,” he said.
Kristin Thorp, chairwomen of the Melrose School Committee, said Casey’s retirement likely led some of the principals to begin plans for their transitions, and she was surprised only by Richards’s and Herrera’s announcements.
“Anytime a top position is changing, people start to think whether that would be a logical time to make a change,” Thorp said. “Looking on the bright side, we would say this is an excellent opportunity for our new superintendent to begin to create her own administration.”
The difficulty ahead, she added, will be bringing the new administrators up to speed before classes begin in the fall.
“Certainly, we can do it,” she said. “But it will be a challenge.”