The two top administrators responsible for overhauling the long-troubled Madison Park Technical Vocational High School — a centerpiece of Mayor Martin J. Walsh’s high school redesign effort — never secured the necessary state licenses to run a vocational school in Massachusetts, according to state data.
The Roxbury school’s executive director, Kevin McCaskill, and its headmaster, Shawn Shackelford, had been working for the past year under a state waiver from the license requirements. But the waivers expired at the end of June and the two men, who previously worked out of state, have not completed the licensing process.
The School Department said it expects McCaskill to receive his license by the start of the school year and that it plans to request another waiver for Shackelford, noting he doesn’t have enough years of experience yet working at a vocational school to receive a license.
“Boston Public Schools Superintendent Tommy Chang has the utmost confidence in the abilities of Kevin McCaskill and Shawn Shackelford to lead Madison Park Technical Vocational High School,” the department said in a statement. “While the district was fully aware that neither held the specific vocational administrators’ licenses at the time of their hires, they were selected because of their unique experiences and capabilities, and they are currently on track to obtain their licenses.”
McCaskill and Shackelford could not be reached for comment.
For some current and former Madison Park staffers, the fact that the school’s top two leaders lack licenses conjures up an unsettling case of deja vu. Two years ago, the school’s former headmaster, Diane Ross Gary, resigned after school officials discovered that she had been working without a waiver and that her licensing application was incomplete.
Gary was also under fire at the time for a scheduling mixup that left many students and teachers without class schedules at the start of the school year.
The latest licensing issues come at a precarious time for Madison Park, which the state officially declared underperforming in December after years of low MCAS scores and graduation rates. The school has three years to turn around or it could face state receivership.
In response, Shackelford and McCaskill asked the staff to reapply for their jobs a few months ago, leading to the posting of about 75 positions, and hard feelings among dozens of departing teachers.
“How ironic that the two people with no licenses to perform their jobs are deciding the fate of professionally licensed teachers,” said one teacher who did not win his job back but asked not to be identified because he is still employed by the school system.
About 96 percent of all teachers and administrators evaluated during the 2014-15 school year had received proficient or exemplary ratings and about 92 percent of teachers were licensed for their subject area, according to the most recent state data.
There is no guarantee Boston will receive another waiver for Shackelford. Under state rules, it will have to show that Shackelford has been making significant progress in working toward receiving his license.
Those rules will also require Boston to reopen the headmaster search to see whether there are better-qualified licensed candidates than Shackelford. If some apply, then Boston would have to decide if Shackelford should be replaced.
On Friday, Boston posted a generic advertisement on an online job site seeking headmasters for vocational schools, but said candidates would be tapped only if a vacancy occurs. The School Department said on Saturday, in response to Globe questions, that the posting is tied to the waiver requirements.
A dearth of licensed teachers and administrators has long been an issue at Madison Park. Two years ago, a committee appointed by then-interim Superintendent John McDonough and the teachers union recommended getting rid of all teachers without appropriate certification.
That report also called for shutting down Madison Park if it failed to achieve a dramatic turnaround by 2017 and replacing it with a new vocational school that would run independently from the school system, which is how most Massachusetts vocational schools operate.
Charles Lyons, a retired vocational-school superintendent who was part of the committee, said it is uncommon for a Massachusetts vocational school to have an unlicensed headmaster, characterizing the situation as “distressing.”
“It raises a host of different issues about whether the mayor’s office and the superintendent’s office are truly committed to running a first-class vocational-school program for the children of Boston,” Lyons said.
Massachusetts grants waivers from its licensing requirements only in cases of “hardship” when districts cannot find qualified licensed applicants. Consequently, in applying for a waiver a school system must tell the state the names of anyone who applied for the job and explain why it passed over any applicant who was licensed.
Last year, Boston told the state that four other people applied for Shackelford’s position, but only one of them held a principal’s license for a vocational school. Boston rejected that candidate because the person lacked school-turnaround experience, while Shackelford had that background, a state spokeswoman said Monday.
McCaskill’s path to licensure should be easier than Shackelford’s.
Although McCaskill had been working as a school-district administrator in Hartford when Boston hired him, he previously held a vocational-school administrator license in Massachusetts when he served as principal of Putnam Vocational-Technical Academy in Springfield. That license, however, expired in 2009, according to the state.
Shackelford never worked before in Massachusetts. He previously served as principal of middle schools, most recently in Florida.
Under state rules, he must work at least three years at a vocational school in order to receive a principal’s license for such a school.
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