The recent decision by Superintendent Paul Austin to step down is the latest hit in more than a year of pandemic pain points in our schools. The news comes on the heels of the resignations of two of six of our school principals. “It’s certainly a complex job for a lot of different reasons,” says Tom Scott, executive director of the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents. “You spend a great deal on education and so expectations increase, particularly in a place like Hingham.”
Scott says, and data bears out, that the pressures of Covid took a toll on school leaders across the country, with many stepping down. “Social media has made it much more challenging,” he says. “When there’s discord, discontent, it’s easier for people to find one another…and civility has gone out the window.”
Kerry Ni is the head of Hingham’s School Committee. She says the pandemic, “brought out the best and worst of our community.” She says the next superintendent will need to focus on rebuilding relationships, among other priorities. “I think we have a unique opportunity for self reflection on how we dealt with the challenging situation. And we need to be honest with ourselves about what we did well, and how we can improve, especially from a communication standpoint.” She and Middle School Social Studies Teacher June Gustafson, who represents teachers, say finding the right person in a tight pool of candidates is critical. “I’m going into my 18th year, I’ve never seen openings like this at the building level,” said Gustafson. “The leadership in a school can really determine the tone and the atmosphere, the learning atmosphere.”
In this episode we talk about the shrinking pool of candidates, the competition with other South Shore districts and why Ni and Gustafson say equity and supports for special and general education students and teachers must be prioritized in the school year ahead. It’s a thought-provoking conversation. Join us!