Dr. Hiersche out, Mr. Hyde in: Mashpee Changes Course on Superintendent Choice

Brian HydeELSA H. PARTAN/ENTERPRISE - Brian Hyde

Popular Mashpee High School history teacher Brian A. Hyde was selected as the next superintendent of the school district following a surprising series of votes by the Mashpee School Committee Wednesday. The committee earlier in the meeting dropped its previous choice for the position, Steven A. Hiersche.

By phone, Mr. Hyde accepted a verbal offer of a two-year position, pending contract negotiations. Mr. Hyde, one of four original finalists for the position, had been passed over as superintendent in a 2-3 vote of the committee on March 21.

On Wednesday, Phyllis A. Sprout was the key vote change in favor of Mr. Hyde. The motion to install Mr. Hyde as superintendent for a two-year term passed 3-2.

“He knows every screw, nut, bolt, and pencil in this school system,” said Scott P. McGee, who had just been selected as the new committee chairman. Mr. McGee voted for Mr. Hyde in March and again on Wednesday. School committee member Joan N. Oliver made the motion to select Mr. Hyde.

“He has a good relationship with the residents of the town,” Mr. McGee said. “There won’t be a great learning curve. He knows how to talk to people and get things done.”

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Mr. Hyde has not been universally applauded. The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe issued a scathing letter in March criticizing his interactions with tribe members over the years. He met with tribe members shortly after the letter came out.

He has worked for the Mashpee School District since 1989, mostly as a high school social studies teacher. Praised by some of his students as a dynamic educator, he has gained the devotional support of others in the community as well, some of whom served on the superintendent screening committee. During his March interview with the school committee, both his supporters and detractors crowded into the Quashnet School library to get their points across.

During his interview, Mr. Hyde touched on his experience managing the restaurant and bartending at the Popponesset Inn, a position he has held since 1986. He holds a master’s degree in education from Cambridge College and is working on a doctorate  at Grand Canyon University.

Mr. Hyde spent one year as the interim assistant principal at Mashpee High School in 2010 and was chosen to fill the position permanently in 2011. A controversial breakdown in contract negotiations caused him to return to the classroom instead. Supporters rallied around him during that episode, pressuring now-outgoing Superintendent Ann M. Bradshaw to explain what happened. She never did, citing privacy of personnel matters.

In an e-mail message to the Enterprise yesterday, Mr. Hyde said his goals as superintendent will be to foster a positive, productive, and rewarding experience for all Mashpee students and stakeholders. His immediate goals include creating a culture of recognition, communication, reflection and accountability, he wrote.

“I am excited to follow Mrs. Bradshaw’s leadership and facilitate the continued advancement of Mashpee Public Schools. I love Mashpee’s rich past and look forward to its bright future and am very grateful for this opportunity to lead!”

Dr. Hiersche’s Departure
Before the committee selected Mr. Hyde, Mr. McGee read a one-sentence statement regarding the committee’s previous choice of superintendent.

“The committee has decided not to pursue further contract negotiations with Dr. Hiersche,” he said.

Committee members declined to say why Dr. Hiersche was sent packing. After the meeting, they indicated that the decision had been made over the course of several executive session meetings in the last few weeks.

Dr. Hiersche did not return an e-mail yesterday requesting comment.

In April, some school committee members expressed concern about Dr. Hiersche after Framingham media outlets alleged that school officials had mishandled sexual assault cases while Dr. Hiersche led the district.

The case revolves around an 18-year-old football player who is alleged to have sexually assaulted two different female students in the spring of 2012. Police and the local district attorney declined to pursue the case. The football player was suspended for the last five days of school in June 2012.

About six weeks ago, a Framingham High School social worker resigned in protest over the cases, arguing that more should have been done. That social worker, Kevin L. Fox, told the Enterprise in April he never brought the cases to Dr. Hiersche’s attention, but spoke with the principal of the high school about his concerns. The U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil rights has opened an investigation into the matter, according to media reports.

First One Year, Then Two
After the committee announced its decision to drop Dr. Hiersche, the move to install Mr. Hyde began. The vote to select the new superintendent was chaotic.

The first motion made by Ms. Oliver for a three-year contract with Mr. Hyde failed, with only Ms. Oliver and Mr. McGee voting in favor of it.

A second motion to offer Mr. Hyde a one-year contract passed with the support of Mr. McGee, David P. Bloomfield, and Don D. Myers, who was elected to the school committee on April 30. Mr. Myers and Mr. Bloomfield spoke in favor of the motion, saying that a one-year contract would allow the relatively lightly-credentialed candidate a chance to prove himself.

“The reason for a one-year contract is to stop a catastrophe,” Mr. Bloomfield said.

Mr. McGee seemed to be confused briefly about whether the motion passed or failed. When that was straightened out, he called Mr. Hyde to offer him the one-year contract.

When Mr. McGee returned, he invited any further motions, and Ms. Oliver took him up with a motion for a two-year contract for Mr. Hyde. Ms. Oliver, Ms. Sprout, and Mr. McGee voted in favor of the motion and also voted to retract their previous offer of a one-year contract. Ms. Sprout noted that the composition of the school committee is not likely to change next year. The committee could vote to extend the contract, she said.

As Mr. McGee stepped away to call Mr. Hyde again, Mr. Bloomfield shook his head, seemingly in disbelief.

“Apparently, Brian’s watching TV, and he accepts the two years,” Mr. McGee said upon his return. The meeting was televised.

After the meeting, Mr. Bloomfield said he was disappointed with the outcome. He had taken a strong stand against dropping Dr. Hiersche, but he was outnumbered, he said.

“It’s going to be a very difficult period,” Mr. Bloomfield said. “I wish [Brian Hyde] all the best and I will do everything I can to support him. But I have a lot of reservations about the committee’s actions tonight.”

Ms. Oliver said after the meeting she was pleased with the committee’s choice.

“He was legitimately a finalist,” she said. “He made it. He was the alternate. I think he’ll do a great job.”

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