District Reassigns J.G. Whittier Principal Condon; Union Calls Move ‘Good First Step’

John Greenleaf Whittier School. (File photograph.)

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Following accusations of creating a “hostile” work environment and failing to address safety concerns, John Greenleaf Whittier School Principal Matthew Condon has been moved to an unspecified position at Haverhill High School.

Effective Monday, May 13, Supervisor of Science and Technology Kevin Higginbottom will become interim principal until the end of the school year, Haverhill Public Schools Superintendent Margaret Marotta told School Committee members last night.

“Myself and the central office staff will continue to have a daily presence at the school as we make further decisions about the bridge to change at J.G. [Whittier],” she said. “We believe that this collaborative approach will allow us to effectively address the challenges we face while maintaining a focus on the success and well-being of our students.”

First hearing of the decision at the meeting, Haverhill Education Association President Barry Davis told WHAV he believes union members support Higginbottom, calling the replacement a “good first step.”

“We’re glad with the work he does as a curriculum director and I believe he will do some good work, so we’re hopeful,” he said. “It’s 22 days, so we’ll see what happens.”

He added, “We wish that this problem was addressed earlier in the year, when it was first brought up, but we are glad something is finally being done.”

According to the union, staff initially reached out to Marotta after a fall 2023 union survey, which WHAV could not verify, revealing most members thought their principals communicated poorly. In a letter read aloud at a Committee meeting last month, the union called the superintendent’s response last fall “extremely disappointing.”

The letter explained why Whittier staff voted “no confidence” in Condon and Assistant Principal Cathy Koch, as WHAV reported.

“Our staff has worked in a hostile environment—ignored, silenced, threatened, retaliated against and dismissed,” Special Education Teacher Barbara Greenwood said, reading a letter from the union. “Most critically, we feel that the safety of our students and staff is not taken seriously.”

Despite praising Condon’s replacement, Davis said he is still concerned about the district having an administrator “not doing their job to standards that gets moved somewhere else in the district rather than addressing the problems and looking for better staff.”

Member Jill Story asked Marotta for data through the end of the year on “discipline” for all middle and high schoolers in the district to keep a “pulse” on the situation.

“A lot of the concerns that were raised by, not only staff members, but also families who send their children to J.G. Whittier, are alarming concerns,” she said.

Calling for a “transparent process” to show parents progress is being made, member Mikaela D. Lalumiere said, “Going forward we need to take care of these situations, or begin on them more aggressively, sooner, to prevent larger issues like this from really festering.”

In other news, the superintendent’s proposed budget for next year, which still awaits final approval, comes in at $126.6 million. Despite receiving less money than last year, the district made only 1.6 layoffs, instead shuffling around 17 employees within the district. A public hearing will be held May 20.

WHAV will publish a detailed report on the budget.

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