Mayor weighs in on Marlborough superintendent controversy
By Bonnie Adams, Government Editor
Marlborough – As the school year winds down, the ongoing tensions between Dr. Anthony Pope, the superintendent of the Marlborough Public Schools and the Marlborough Educators Association (MEA) continue to brew after the union took a recent vote of “no confidence” in Pope. Now further controversy is building as Mayor Arthur Vigeant publicly stated he was not in support of a recent decision by the School Committee (of which he is chair) on how best to deal with the situation surrounding the beleaguered superintendent.
Strife has been escalating since Adam Bakr, Marlborough High School’s (MHS) assistant principal, was put on leave without public explanation in January. Several MHS students, unhappy with the decision, organized a rally at the school, started a Facebook page in Bakr’s defense and attended School Committee meetings in an attempt to get the popular administrator reinstated.
When Pope visited the school Jan. 27, he allegedly engaged in what the MEA called “intimidating behavior” toward those students.
In April, members of the MEA Executive Board said they sent a letter to Pope outlining their concerns and requested a meeting with him.
“Teachers expressed feelings of distrust and intimidation, and are absolutely fearful of retaliation by you, the instructional leader of the Marlborough Public Schools,” the April 4 letter stated.
The letter also addressed a number of other concerns including an increased needed for special education professionals and services.
Pope did not respond to that letter, MEA officials said.
On May 17, the MEA took a unanimous vote of “no confidence” in Pope. In their statement following that vote, they noted that Pope’s deficiencies included “disregard for the welfare of the students of the Marlborough Public Schools” and unprofessional behavior exhibited by the superintendent that has had a demoralizing effect on the entire school community.”
The School Committee has not spoken publicly about the situation other than to release a statement read at its May 22 meeting.
In that statement, the board noted that the events of Jan. 27 were “unfortunate and “a distraction from learning.”
The committee has requested that Pope read a “mutually agreed upon statement at the June 12 School Committee meeting.”
It is also asking that Pope schedule professional development sessions on conflict resolution over the summer for administrators, staff and School Committee members.
Vigeant released a statement May 24 that noted although he, as chair of the School Committee, was only one vote; he was “in respectful but strong disagreement with the majority of the Marlborough School Committee on how best to move our school system forward.”
“I remain deeply disturbed by the lack of accountability and poor exercise of judgment on the part of Superintendent Pope,” he added. “As elected officials, it is our collective duty to find a solution to the problems before us. We must act to restore the trust in the leadership of our schools and rebuild the integrity from the top down so that we can begin to repair the harm that has been done to our school system.”
Pope, in turn, released a brief response to Vigeant’s statement.
“I’m encouraged that the mayor wants to refocus attention on supporting our teachers in their efforts to nurture the successes of our students,” he said. “My focus always has been and will remain on what’s best for our students, and I look forward to having the mayor be a part of that focus. If we stand together for our students, then great things can be accomplished.”
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