Shrewsbury schools superintendent’s contract extended

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By Laura Hayes, Contributing Writer

Superintendent Joseph Sawyer speaks during the June 23 School Committee meeting. (Photo/Laura Hayes)

SHREWSBURY — Shrewsbury Public School Superintendent Joseph Sawyer will continue to lead the district through June 2026, according to adjustments to his contract approved by the School Committee June 23. 

Additionally, his salary will now be $206,176.

Last year and before the COVID-19 pandemic, Sawyer recommended that his compensation be frozen, according to Chair Jon Wensky. That was due to the then ongoing budget crisis facing the Shrewsbury Public Schools prior to the pandemic.

The School Committee adjusted Sawyer’s salary as if it had been increased last year, too, for a total increase of four percent, which Wensky said was consistent with action taken for other non-union represented employees whose compensation was frozen.

In addition to receiving Juneteenth as a paid holiday, Sawyer requested a market study to see if his compensation needed to be further adjusted.

The School Committee also unanimously approved Sawyer’s evaluation.

“From my perspective, I think your leadership is the reason why we survived the year in a professional and successful manner,” said Wensky.

Overall, Sawyer received an “exemplary” rating from the School Committee during performance reviews. 

Vice Chair Sandra Fryc, who was School Committee Chair last year, presented a summary of the committee’s evaluation and Sawyer’s self-evaluation.

In the summary, Fryc said, his work “laid the groundwork for the district’s successful response to the pandemic.”

“I have worked with Dr. Sawyer for many years in various capacities and have always felt he was a strong and capable leader,” she said. “This past year, his work and his response to the COVID pandemic exceeded my opinion of him as an excellent public servant.” 

He was rated on a number of topics, including his leadership in helping SPS during COVID-19, advancing equity and anti-racism, instructional leadership, management, family and community engagement and professional culture.

Fryc noted that Sawyer had to manage Shrewsbury’s other goals in addition to the pandemic. She called it a “game-changing year” with projects like the new Beal school project, redistricting and the fiscal year 2022 budget.

School Committee member Lynsey Heffernan remarked that parents said they were happy Sawyer was at the helm during the pandemic. 

He became an expert in public health and provided information in a way people could understand, added committee member Dale Magee.

“Difficult times highlight effective leaders. It is a challenge to imagine a more difficult time for a K-12 public school district,” said School Committee member Jason Palitsch, referring to the pandemic, budget, redistricting and the debate if Shrewsbury should keep its “Colonials” mascot. 

He said he was impressed with Sawyer’s calmness and effective communication. 

Palitsch pointed to the amount of information provided to the community, staff and families, which he said was at first perceived with “alarm.”

“I think the superintendent made the right call, that, in a crisis,” Palitsch said, “it’s best to provide the community with as much information as possible.”

Sawyer said he appreciated the School Committee’s comments, noting that they were also dealing with the same projects and the pandemic. 

“It’s a team effort,” he said, calling the leadership team “extraordinary.” Sawyer also credited staff, who he said went above and beyond for the students. 

He recognized families and thanked the community as well as his own family. 

“It’s been a ride, and I wholeheartedly don’t want to take it again. I don’t want to get back in line. Let’s hope that it doesn’t happen,” Sawyer joked.