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December 1, 2012

School leaders clear air

Officials look to move on from controversy

NEWBURYPORT — School leaders are looking to move on from the controversy that erupted several weeks ago when Mayor Donna Holaday publicly rebuked Superintendent Marc Kerble following his second-in-command’s resignation.

But from the tense words exchanged this week at a School Committee retreat aimed at quieting the discord, some members are still looking for an explanation from Holaday for her critique that they feel plunged the board into chaos.

“The things that were said by us, and by you Mayor Holaday, are out there forever,” School Committee member Bruce Menin. “Anybody who ever wants to work here has only to type in the word Newburyport and see it all.”

Menin was referring to Holaday’s comments following Assistant Superintendent Deirdre Farrell’s announcement in October that she will be leaving the district at the end of the year to accept a job in Amesbury.

In response to Farrell’s resignation, officially tendered to the mayor and copied to Kerble, Holaday told The Daily News that she had concerns about the leadership of the city’s schools. She leveled a similar critique of Kerble in a letter to city councilors that same day.

Saying the School Committee knew nothing about the Holaday’s letter to the City Council, Menin said the mayor’s actions were out of bounds for a personnel matter that should have been looked on from afar by the school board.

“To me, it was a personnel issue that we shouldn’t have gotten involved in,” Menin said. “We brought in somebody who was going to make some changes. People have to make a decision whether they want to be part of it.”

But Holaday, who as mayor serves as chairwoman of the School Committee, said she had the right to voice concern over the loss of Farrell and others in the district recently. While she offered that stress in her personal life may have played into her reaction, she said was not going to apologize for her comments.

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