By: Tom Duggan – February, 2011
When Lawrence School Superintendent Jim Scully was fired by the School Committee back in 1997, the injustices were numerous. He was accused of misspending public dollars by a School Committee that had approved every single expenditure they fired him for. The press, in particular Boston Globe reporters Kate Zernike and Caroline Louise Cole had written so many inflammatory and inaccurate stories, that they bordered on libel. And their editors, once confronted with the facts of the case, refused to print a retraction or correct the inaccurate information.
Scully had been Superintendent in Lawrence for more than a decade and as the Superintendent he increased test scores, changed the curriculum at the lower grades, increasing the quality of education for Lawrence Children and made a name for himself throughout the State as a no nonsense educator who always put the kids first.
But, by the time the School Committee was taking a vote to fire him Scully’s name and reputation had been completely destroyed. Scores of stories accusing him of stealing and using school department funds for personal gain left him nearly unemployable in the field of education.
Department of Education Commissioner Robert Antonucci and Massachusetts Board of Education Chairman John Silber conducted investigation upon investigation. But, despite the fact that those investigations showed no wrongdoing by Superintendent Scully, they publicly threatened then Mayor Mary Claire Kennedy and the Lawrence School Committee saying that if Scully wasn’t fired the State was poised to take over the Lawrence School System and remove the School Committee.
What was his offense?
At the request of students, Scully purchased bagpipes with a music grant for the Lawrence High School Band. The students had seen bagpipers in the annual Saint Patrick’s Day parade and said they thought it would be a great addition to the band.
But, Education Commissioner Robert Antonucci and the Boston Globe called that expenditure a “waste of taxpayer’s money” because the majority of Lawrence School Children were “Latino”.
Scully was also accused of “wasting taxpayer’s money” when he purchased laptop computers for school board members to use, saving thousands of dollars in printing, copying and delivery costs each week. The expense was called ‘frivolous” and the computers were referred to as “toys”.
All of this was orchestrated by Scully’s political enemies because he refused to play ball when Mayor Kennedy and Commissioner Antonucci tried to get Scully to hire their friends for high priced jobs in the school department.
Now, nearly thirteen years later, Scully has returned to the position as Superintendent of Schools being hired by the Haverhill School Committee to lead their troubled school system riddled with violence, low test scores, and a history of recent departed Superintendents who were anything but honorable.
The Haverhill School Committee hired Scully to be the interim Superintendent last year and upon evaluating his performance in that time decided last month to begin negotiating a three-year contract to hire him as the permanent Superintendent. Only Mayor Jim Fiorentini voted against hiring Scully saying that he objected to the process even though he knew Scully would do a god job. Fiorentini wanted to post the position and conduct a national search, but Committeeman Joe Bevilacqua argued against it.
“Why do we need to conduct a national search when the man for the job is sitting right here?” he asked.
Other board members, including Scott Wood advocated for Scully to be the new permanent Superintendent pointing out the noticeable difference in the school system just since Scully had been tapped to head the schools last year.
Before being tapped for the job as top educator in Haverhill, Scully had spend more than six years as the principal of the Consentino Middle School and according to members of the Committee and parents at the school, had “completely turned that school around.”