Committee Looks to ‘Exit Interviews’ to Stem School Turnover

Haverhill School Committee President Gail M. Sullivan is one of the panelists. (WHAV News photograph.)

Haverhill School Committee Vice President Gail M. Sullivan.

Further discussions are expected from Haverhill school leaders over whether reorganized roles among top management personnel, including a future assistant superintendent, can reduce departmental staff turnover.

No formal action taken by the Haverhill School Committee Thursday. Members, however, discussed various options, ranging from holding exit interviews with departing staff to revising either job responsibilities or the school department’s organizational chart. Discussion was sparked by the impending departure of Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum Julie R. Kukenberger, who, according to Superintendent James F. Scully, is currently in contract negotiations for a reported superintendent job in Maine. He said the situation brings an opportunity to explore the “real role of the assistant superintendent” and whether changing roles would bring the district “significant savings.”

“As organizations evolve, you can’t be stagnant in your thinking and your approach to how problems are solved has to change and evolve. With that in mind, I’ve given a lot of thought to it and we need to look at the real role of the assistant superintendent because the previous assistant superintendent’s function was very different than Julie’s function,” Scully said.

Committeeman Scott W. Wood Jr. noted retention of upper management in schools is a “problem throughout the country” and also called the issue a “fundamental change in generations.” He questioned whether holding exit interviews, as proposed by committee Vice President Gail M. Sullivan, would be held by the committee in public or in closed-door “executive session” as a personnel matter.

“I don’t know how we do it or how we retain somebody in that position but I believe the assistant superintendent, being charged with curriculum, is a vitally important position that can not have the turnover. If there’s something we can do to keep her, if there’s something we’re not doing right or something needs to be done differently I would hope she would pass that information along to the school committee president. The committee can discuss what needs to be done to retain somebody in that position.” Wood said.

Committee Chairman, Mayor James J. Fiorentini, added he would consult with the city solicitor about a venue for exit interviews, including the city’s Human Resources Department.

“I think we should do an exit interview including, by the way, with principals, not just with people in the central office. I am concerned about the turnover. If it happens everywhere then so be it, we should know that. But I am concerned about the turnover rate and retention and maybe an exit interview will tell us something that will help with the retention rate, I really don’t know,” Fiorentini said.

Kukenberger would be the second assistant superintendent in two years to leave the Haverhill school district. Her predecessor, Dr. Mary Malone, left in 2014 to become superintendent in the Ayer-Shirley Regional School District.

5 thoughts on “Committee Looks to ‘Exit Interviews’ to Stem School Turnover

  1. Why is it in Haverhill when someone leaves a position everyone automatically believes there is a problem? Both Kukenberger and Malone left a job in Haverhill where they were assistant to the boss, to go to a job where they will be the boss. That’s a natural career move. The city, especially Jim Scully, should be pleased with the fact they are hiring and grooming professionals who are then are sought out and in demand by other communities. There would be a big problem if they “weren’t” leaving.

    The real problem here is the uneducated school committee members who don’t have any clue how job markets work.

    Good luck Julie Kukenberger! Thank you for your service to the city!

  2. I think exit interviews will help enlighten the school committee since some of them have their head in the sand about what’s really going on. If you’re happy and and your job is rewarding and fulfilling then wouldn’t be looking for another job. If your job is constantly stressful and you don’t have the support to help fix things that are broken your going to feel frustrated. Or having to deal with people that are stuck in their ways and don’t want to change or do not see the errors of their ways. Constantly putting out fires instead of being proactive is tiring.

    • Most of their heads are not in the sand, they up there rear ends ! They have no idea why people are leaving ??? LOOK IN THE MIRROR FOLKS ! These people are tired of you and the Mayor’s meddling into everything.

  3. “I am concerned about the turnover rate and retention” –

    Debtors are not in control of their own destiny. No amount of financial engineering or legislation has the power to usurp math. Math just is. The power to deceive is all that you politicians have left.