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Embattled Danvers school superintendent takes medical leave of absence

Lisa Dana has been superintendent of Danvers public schools for 17 years.Matthew J Lee/Globe staff

Embattled Danvers school Superintendent Lisa Dana is taking a leave of absence from her duties for unspecified medical reasons, the school district said Tuesday.

“The district supports Dr. Dana and wishes her the best during the period of her leave,” school officials said in a statement to the community.

Dana has repeatedly rebuffed calls for her resignation since the Globe reported in November that Danvers school and police officials concealed for more than 16 months alleged violent racist, homophobic, and antisemitic misconduct by members of the 2019-20 high school boys’ hockey team.

It remains to be seen whether Dana returns from her leave, after 17 years serving as the superintendent. The district’s statement said, “The length of Dr. Dana’s medical leave is undetermined at this time.”


The Danvers school board will meet in executive session Thursday, and “it is anticipated that the school committee will follow that session with a public vote as to any temporary changes to our administrative team necessitated by Dr. Dana’s absence,” Tuesday’s statement said.

The district’s assistant superintendents are Keith Taverna, who is responsible for finance and personnel, and Mary Wermers, who oversees teaching and learning.

A special investigator commissioned by the School Committee had recently completed a report on the hockey allegations when the board chose in March to extend Dana’s contract by a year, through 2026, at a salary of nearly $197,000.

The School Committee supported Dana’s decision to withhold details of the allegations, citing student and staff privacy laws. But the board’s composition has since changed, with the election in May of new members Robin Doherty and Alice Campbell.

After the Globe report, Doherty and Campbell called for Dana to be placed on administrative leave over her handling of the hockey allegations, but they were unable to garner enough support on the five-member committee.


Instead, school leaders issued a statement praising the alleged victim for coming forward, admitting they mishandled the episode, and pledging to improve the district’s culture.

Dana did not speak at length publicly about her handling of the allegations for more than five weeks until she read from a statement at a school board meeting Dec. 13. She complained that a media “firestorm” over the episode had caused her and others emotional distress.

“For the protection of my own mental health, I had to quickly learn not to look at the social media comments while at the same time take a critical look at how the situation was handled,” Dana said.

The district, meanwhile, has experienced several more troubling events since the Globe report. In three separate incidents, swastikas were found in bathrooms at the high school and middle school. And a fight broke out when a high school student confronted a member of the wrestling team over his alleged use of racial language.

The fight led to the discovery of a team group chat that contained hateful and biased language, according to principal Adam Federico, who suspended the wrestling team during an investigation and disciplined those involved.

Amid calls for her resignation, Dana also was criticized by civil rights groups, elected officials, and the Danvers Teachers’ Association for her handling of the hockey allegations.

Dana’s contract calls for her to receive 15 sick days a year, which she may accumulate year to year up to 175 days, according to a copy the district provided the Globe. The district may terminate her contract if she is unable to perform her duties for a continuous period of 90 days beyond her accrued sick days, the document states.


Dana has worked for the Danvers schools for 27 years. She previously served two years as an assistant superintendent and eight years as the district’s math and science curriculum director.

Bob Hohler can be reached at