Haverhill’s school superintendent is standing behind her hiring of a former Watertown principal who was accused in some quarters of not cracking down enough on a former teacher there who strayed from the approved curriculum.
Superintendent Margaret Marotta last week appointed Donna K. Martin as the new principal of Silver Hill Elementary School, succeeding interim Principal Scott Gray.
“Mrs. Martin comes to us with over 16 years of knowledge as an administrator and leader, currently working for Watertown Public Schools as the principal of Watertown Middle School,” Marotta said in an email. “At Watertown Middle School, Mrs. Martin was instrumental in creating and leading an Instructional Leadership Team to make the necessary and successful changes due to Watertown Middle School being placed in Turnaround Status.”
However, one Haverhill parent attracted a following on social media Sunday when inviting private messages from those who “care about what your children are about to be taught!” The issue appears to center on whether Martin punished strongly enough a middle school teacher who used a seven-minute MTV video, “The Racist Origins of Police,” in March of 2021 without school department permission.
Haverhill School Committee member Scott W. Wood Jr. told WHAV a public meeting would allay concerns.
“Some of the events that happened while Ms. Martin has been principal in Watertown are concerning. To ease the concerns of parents, I would suggest to the superintendent a question-and-answer session for parents with the new principal so she can address any concerns they may have.”
Watertown Superintendent Dede Galdston issued a statement at the time, suggesting she—and not Principal Martin—was in charge of the matter, according to the independent Watertown News.
“While personnel matters cannot be shared publicly, please know that District leadership will address this incident directly in a way that is consistent with School Committee policies and procedures,” the Watertown News quoted Galdston as saying.
Marotta, in an email to School Committee members Sunday, wrote she is aware of the concern, but “The situation was carefully reviewed during the vetting process.” Marotta added, “The superintendent in Watertown felt the principal was appropriate in this situation and excellent overall. The staff member was disciplined, but as we all know, union involvement and privacy laws make these things tricky.”
The teacher who showed the video later resigned, according to a letter she wrote to the Watertown News editor that was timed with Martin Luther King Day this year. Her letter said she seeks to “work towards some healing and rebuilding of the fractured relationships that last year’s incidents engendered.”