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Braintree

School head announces retirement

Even though he’s announced his retirement, Peter Kurzberg is looking ahead to a busy agenda in his last six months as Braintree’s superintendent of schools.

The 22-year veteran of Braintree public schools made the announcement at last week’s School Committee meeting, breaking the news to dozens of town officials that his last day will be June 30.

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“I’m not kidding myself that everything will be easy. He’s been there for 22 years,” said School Committee chairwoman Shannon Hume. “It’s a huge loss for the school system, and we all knew that day was coming, but hearing the words is a shock . . . and it will be a huge void.”

According to Hume, Kurzberg has overseen the development of an ever-changing curriculum and helped usher in growth of a full-day kindergarten program, all with a passion and dedication to his job that is second to none, she said.

During his tenure, Kurzberg has presided over tight budgets, a growing student population, and aging facilities. He has also seen a decrease in the dropout rate and increases in MCAS scores and the percentage of Braintree High graduates going on to further schooling (93 percent last year). All this while building new athletic fields at the high school and making way for infrastructure improvements throughout the system.

Even with those successes, the 64-year-old Kurzberg points to the day-to-day work of educators as his biggest accomplishment.

“My goal has always been to work with the staff and do everything I could to inspire them to bring out the best that they have to offer to our students,” he said.

Despite his extensive time in the position, Kurzberg said he will leave some work to be done by whoever replaces him, including what to do about projections of rising enrollment.

“We’ve faced the challenge of increased enrollment along with the need for additional space, and I think that is going to be an ongoing project that is going to continue beyond my time here in Braintree,“ Kurzberg said.

Yet even there, Kurzberg had begun searching for solutions, and Braintree Mayor Joseph Sullivan noted that Kurzberg can still accomplish much in the next few months.

“We’re talking as if he’s gone,’’ the mayor said. “He’s here another six months. And I don’t want to talk that way. He still has a lot of gas in the tank and he’s focused on finishing strong.”

Discussion of implementing modular classrooms are already in the works to address space problems, Sullivan said, and Kurzberg has already begun conversations with the Massachusetts School Building Authority on space solutions.

“I know he’s focused on the next six months as opposed to looking back over the last 20-plus years,” Sullivan said.

With that in mind, talk of who may step into the position has yet to even begin, Sullivan said, and most likely wouldn’t start for several weeks.

Sullivan did say the town has to have a new superintendent in place before Kurzberg leaves. Kurzberg said he would help with the transition, whatever the timetable.

Hume agreed that though there would be a transition, and though there would be a lot of turnover within the schools — the town is actively searching for a new School Committee member, will begin looking for replacements for two retiring principals, and has brought on new administrative roles at the high school — the town would pull through.

“It will be a transition period and there will be some adjustment, but I’m confident, I’m not concerned,” Hume said.

Jessica Bartlett can be reached at jessica.may.bartlett@ gmail.com.
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