With the head of Marlborough’s school system, Anthony Pope, resigning effective Monday, the district is left searching for its fourth superintendent in six years, and some School Committee members say they hope that track record won’t discourage potential applicants for the position.
“We have a documented horrible experience with superintendents,” said Jennifer Hardy, a member of the School Committee.
Hardy said she wasn’t sure whether prospective hires would view the district as unattractive given its history.
“You’d have to leave that up to candidates themselves, if they saw how superintendents have been treated,” Hardy said. “I think it doesn’t bode well at all. Those are conclusions that people will have to make moving forward based on what they can see and read. I think it would be fair to say it hasn’t always been friendly to outsiders.”
Pope’s resignation, announced by Mayor Arthur Vigeant during the School Committee’s meeting Tuesday, comes after a tumultuous school year that ended with some residents, teachers, and School Committee members calling for the superintendent to step down or be fired.
Before Pope was hired in 2010, former Marlborough High School principal Mary Carlson served as superintendent for 2½ years. She took over for Barbara McGann, who cited her frustration with the School Committee when she resigned after less than two years on the job.
The last superintendent to serve for more than 2½ years was Rose Marie Boniface, who retired in 2006.
School Committee member Michelle Bodin-Hettinger said she hopes the recent turnover in the top position won’t be a sticking point for potential applicants.
“Marlborough has a lot of amazing things going on,” Bodin-Hettinger said. “It’s true I can’t minimize what’s happened in the past. But I also don’t want to dwell on the past.”
“It shouldn’t prevent anybody from looking at the district,” said Heidi Matthews, another member of the School Committee. “From what I’m hearing already, resumes are already showing up.”
Bodin-Hettinger said the School Committee will look for someone who can continue to push the district on its current track, rather than someone who wants to change course.
“Dr. Pope was a big change agent,” Bodin-Hettinger said. “There was a lot we asked him to do to turn the district around, and that happened. We have a pathway that we as a committee are interested in continuing on.”
Maureen Greulich, an instructional leadership director with the district, will serve as acting superintendent until the fall, when School Committee members hope to appoint an interim superintendent who will serve until a permanent replacement can be found, which might take all of next school year.
School Committee members will meet this month to discuss the search.
Greulich said she will work closely with Gabrielle Abrams, an instructional leadership director with the district, to continue curriculum development and other work this summer.
“The plan is really no different than the plan has been, and that is for us to focus on the work,” she said.
Pope, two years into a five-year contract, came under fire on multiple fronts in recent months. Students protested when he first placed on leave and then fired Adam Bakr, a popular high school administrator. Students also said Pope was disrespectful to them during a Jan. 27 protest, and a guidance counselor accused Pope of shoving her during the event. The guidance counselor sought to press criminal charges, but a court clerk-magistrate determined there was no probable cause to issue a charge.
In May, the city’s teachers’ union took a vote of no confidence in Pope. He has also been criticized by School Committee members who said he missed an important deadline related to the high school’s accreditation.
Pope did not return a call seeking comment.
Cairo Mendes, who graduated from Marlborough High School this spring and has been a vocal critic of Pope, said he was “very happy” that Pope stepped down.
“I think he did the right thing by resigning,” Mendes said. “We would not have been able to move forward with him as superintendent, because the environment was toxic.”
Brendan St. George, outgoing president of the teachers union, said the city’s educators want to focus on the future.
“The distraction of [the last few months] was disruptive, but what we do is, we’re professional and we teach our kids, and that’s what we’ve been doing,” St. George said. “The ability to do that in a respectful environment will be welcome.”