Novice Mashpee School Superintendent Receives Three-Year Contract Extension
By: Geoff Spillane, January 9, 2014
After six months on the job and in the midst of working on a “plan for a plan” to improve performance of a troubled Mashpee school district struggling with low MCAS scores, school superintendent Brian A. Hyde has received a contract extension.
The Mashpee School Committee on Wednesday evening voted 4-1 to extend Mr. Hyde’s current two-year contract by three years. Mr. Hyde was appointed superintendent last May, and assumed the position on July 1.
“I’m very grateful and humbled that the school committee and the community has confidence in my leadership and look forward to leading the Mashpee Public School system as it becomes a high-performing district,” Mr. Hyde said.
Don D. Myers was the only committee member to vote against the extension. Committee member David Bloomfield, who, along with Mr. Myers, initially voted against the hiring of Mr. Hyde in May, voted in favor of the contract extension.
An increase in Mr. Hyde’s $145,000 per year salary was not discussed, but will be reviewed in the spring, Mashpee School Committee Chairman Scott P. McGee said.
Reached yesterday morning, Mashpee Town Manager Joyce M. Mason expressed concern with the contract extension.
“I’m not a believer in five-year contracts. A two-year contract should have been the yardstick for him to improve performance. What’s the rush? The school committee may have backed itself into a corner with this move,” she said. Ms. Mason made it clear that she wishes Mr. Hyde well and that her position on the contract terms is not a reflection of her confidence that he has the ability to do the job.
Ms. Mason also said that the school committee should have considered what the neighboring town of Sandwich is going through with its former superintendent, Mary Ellen Johnson. Ms. Johnson is suing the town for breach of contract after a school committee with newly elected members decided not to
honor her long-term extended contract.
“Public education takes a long time to turn around. He’s the fix-it man, and if he doesn’t fix it, I’ll stand accountable,” Mr. McGee said, adding that he would have voted to extend Mr. Hyde’s contract to the maximum six years if a motion were made.
“But that can be done later,” he said.
Mr. McGee, arguably Mr. Hyde’s biggest supporter, said that the decision to extend the contract was based on allowing ample time to implement changes and initiatives that will ultimately improve the performance of the school system. He also noted that the extended contract would provide leadership stability to the team of education professionals that will be working on the turnaround.
“It takes time to see improvement. When Tom Brady was drafted nobody knew what was going to happen with him, but three years later he was winning the Super Bowl,” Mr. McGee said.
Mr. Myers explained that his vote was based on the lack of tangible results that are available to gauge Mr. Hyde’s performance at this early juncture in his tenure as superintendent. “Everyone has their own agenda, but my agenda is to reach every child in the school system to give them the best education possible and to maximize their potential. We either made a very good decision or a very bad decision, but right now we all need to rally behind the superintendent,” Mr. Myers said.
Mr. Hyde’s ascension to the top post in the Mashpee Public Schools has not been an easy one, and at times has been controversial.
His inclusion as a finalist in the superintendent candidate pool last winter was met with intense opposition from the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe. He was initially passed over for the position in favor of Steven A. Hiersche, former superintendent of schools in Framingham and Hopkinton. In May 2013, Mr. Hyde experienced a reversal of fortune and was made two offers on the same night—one for one year, and then minutes later for two years—from the Mashpee School Committee after it broke off contract negotiations with Dr. Hiersche. The committee did not explain why.
Adding additional pressure to a first-time superintendent who was already working with a “superintendent coach” mentor, in September the spring 2013 MCAS results were released. The results were not good news for Mashpee. Math scores at the Mashpee Middle School, particularly in the 8th grade, placed it in the lowest 20 percent of all schools in Massachusetts, giving it a Level 3 designation, triggering automatic state intervention. As a school district is only rated as high as its lowest-performing school, the entire district was classified as Level 3, even though students at Mashpee High School and the Quashnet School tested at a higher Level 2 status.
The controversy with the Mashpee tribe appears to have abated and a productive working relationship has been established, but Morgan S. Peters, a founding member of the tribe’s education committee, questioned the political motivation behind the extension.
“I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the job he’s been doing as superintendent, but in terms of protocol, extending the contract was a bit premature and I think it would have been better to wait at least a year or year-and-a-half. This move by the school committee looks like fast track railroading and given the political and social climate of the town, I think from a PR standpoint it was a bad move. I think he will do a good job in five years, but there were already certain questions about the politics surrounding his appointment, and this does nothing to take away from that perception,” Mr. Peters said, adding that Mr. Hyde is one of the more dynamic and positive superintendents the town has ever had.