Methuen School Committee Moves on Residency, Licenses, Superintendent Search

B: DJ Deeb – Oct. 2018

At its September 10th and September 25th meetings, members of the Methuen School Committee wasted no time in voting to adopt policies to address student residency and educator licensure concerns. The latest moves are intended to increase transparency and accountability following revelations in August that the former Superintendent did not obtain her educator license and resident concerns that the influx of new students into Methuen may include some non-residents.

There are over 7,000 students in Methuen Public Schools and the district conducts random residency checks of students across grade levels regularly, but it has been about 7 years since a complete audit was done. The last time the full audit was done, only a handful of students were found to be non-residents. These full audits are very time consuming and expensive since they take resources and the focus away from other things. Nevertheless, the Methuen School Committee voted unanimously to be pro-active and conduct a full audit across all grade levels over the next 2 years.

On September 10th, members of the Methuen School Committee also voted unanimously to adopt for a First Reading a new School Committee Policy mandating “Verification of Staff Licensure Procedure.” This new policy requires that all professional staff keep their licenses up-to-date and provide regular copies of the same to the Human Resources Department. This new policy is designed to proactively ensure that all professional employees obtain and regularly renew their required licenses/certifications. The policy itself reads:

“The main goal of putting a procedure in place to verify staff licensure is to ensure that every staff member is abiding by Methuen School Committee Policy ensuring proper DESE and State Agency Licenses are held by all staff members.”

Furthermore the policy clearly states that “actions may lead to termination of employment” if the “proper license is not secured.”

Also, at the September 10th meeting, the School Committee voted to instruct yours truly as Secretary to contact the Massachusetts Association of School Committees [MASC] to seek out professional advice and options in the District’s search for both a permanent and interim Superintendent.

I did this right away and MASC Field Agent Mike Gilbert addressed members of the Methuen School Committee at the televised September 24th workshop meeting. The School Committee is expected to take votes moving forward with these searches at the regular October 8th Meeting.

As I wrote last month, moving forward though it is my personal belief that we need to begin the search process for a new superintendent as soon as possible, I think that it is best to seek out professional assistance from the Massachusetts Association of School Committees or a similar outside organization to manage this search.

I also support bringing in someone from outside Methuen to fill this role in order to restore confidence and to evaluate current practices. I will report more on what happens with these in a future column.

Finally, on another note, the Methuen School Committee agreed to research the feasibility of putting together a Redistricting Subcommittee to address the growth in student population and class sizes due to overall population growth in the city over the past 15 years. This is sure to be controversial politically as it may lead to a change in some neighborhood schools, but it is necessary to address overcrowding at the elementary level. More on this to come.

D.J. Deeb is a Methuen resident and Secretary of the Methuen School Committee. Deeb is an Adjunct Professor of History/Government at Bunker Hill Community College and an Adjunct Political Science Instructor at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. Deeb also serves as Social Studies Department Chair at Notre Dame High School in Lawrence, Massachusetts. He is the author of Israel, Palestine, and the Quest for Middle East Peace (University Press, 2013) and The Collapse of Middle East Peace (IUniverse, 2003).