Haverhill School Committee Gives Superintendent Mostly High Marks, Particularly in Light of Health Crisis

Haverhill School Superintendent Margaret Marotta. (WHAV News file photograph.)

The Haverhill School Committee gave mostly high marks to School Superintendent Margaret Marotta at last Thursday night’s regular meeting.

An annual evaluation of the superintendent, required by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, gave the superintendent an average rating of “proficient”—or second highest ranking. Mayor James J. Fiorentini began by acknowledging this year was a particularly difficult one that the superintendent handled well.

“I think overall, the superintendent has done an outstanding job and really, what we were thrown into was something that nobody could have ever anticipated, which is crisis management of a crisis that hasn’t happened since 1918. I think the superintendent did a marvelous job and I give her exceptional grades,” the mayor said.

The evaluation largely broke down along historical School Committee divisions. Besides Fiorentini, Vice Chairman Richard J. Rosa and School Committee member Gail M. Sullivan ranked Marotta’s performance as “exemplary”—the highest level. School Committee member Paul A. Magliocchetti fashioned his own ranking, “Proficient plus,” while Scott W. Wood Jr. gave an assessment of “proficient.” Members Maura L. Ryan-Ciardiello and Toni Sapienza-Donais both said the superintendent’s work “needs improvement”—the second lowest ranking.

In his evaluation, Rosa wrote, “Dr. Marotta has fostered a student-first culture with high expectations for staff and all students, carefully considering the needs of a diverse student population. She does not tolerate practices that are divisive, disrespectful, or hurtful to any students or employees.”

Sullivan concluded, “There is no road map for leading a large, urban district during a pandemic. The superintendent has led by example-putting in long hours and sacrificing her family time in favor of her professional life. No matter how tired she is or what calamity she has had to deal with during the day, she is always polite, kind and professional.”

Magliocchetti noted challenges dealing with a new bus company as well as those in the classroom. He said, “Through it all, she stayed focused on solving the problems she faced and handled herself at all times with dignity and grace.”

Ryan-Ciardiello did not make individual remarks, but Wood and Sapienza-Donais focused on weaknesses in the “Family and Community Engagement” area of the evaluation. Wood said, “She has made improvements from last year, but there is still more to do in this area.” Sapienza-Donais called Marotta’s ability to communicate “substandard.” She wrote, “This was evidenced by the numerous rumors, fears, and concerns that erupted when not enough details were shared nor explained during the shift to hybrid and remote learning. Parents were confused and rightfully so when they could not get answers to what cohort their child would be attending, how attendance would be marked, how their child would be graded, how their child would be bused and the like.”

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