Tony Blackman, the Gloucester Community Arts Charter School’s chief has pressed on with hiring a new principal at the school – despite not having a renewed contract for the school year that starts less than two months from today, and despite facing a petition from a group of school parents urging the school’s trustees to replace him as executive director.
Blackman’s contract ran out and the end of last month, and the school’s Board of Trustees hasn’t finished negotiating a new one. Board members said they’re just being thorough, and the Department of Elementary and Secondary education took no issue with the contract negotiations.
With the start of school approaching, however, parents have sent a petition asking the board to remove Blackman to Trustees’ Chairman James Caviston on Tuesday.
Charter parent Toni Moses said the petition went to the board a few days ago asking to remove Blackman from his position as the school’s executive director. She said she hasn’t signed onto the petition yet.
“There is one, it was sent in two or three days ago,” Moses said.
Caviston said he received that position, but said the board hasn’t seen it yet. He refused to discuss it until he had presented it to the Board of Trustees. He said he takes it seriously.
“My first obligation is to submit this to the board,” he said, “we are taking all parents concerns very seriously,”
Blackman, meanwhile, said the school has four finalists to fill the seat left by Jody Ziebarth the former head of school who was let go the previous school year. Blackman said he expects to name one of those finalists as the school’s director of education in the next few weeks. He declined to name any of them Thursday.
The school goes into next year with two new grade levels – kindergarten and first grade – filling out the school’s full K-8 configuration as outlined in the charter from the start. The school is currently budgeted with 180 students enrolled for the coming year, up from the 135 that attended last year, said Blackman. The charter graduated its first eighth-grade class last month.
Blackman’s two-year contract ran out on June 30. He says he’s not concerned about that, and has had positive reviews thus far from board members, and Caviston said no one should read too much into Blackman’s contract status.
“This is the board being thorough , we need to have consensus when we do something substantial like the executive director’s contract,” Caviston said.
Meeting minutes show that the Board of Trustees has spent 11 hours in executive session over four months negotiating Blackman’s contract, but Caviston says he expects it have it finalized by the end of the month.
The board, however, abruptly canceled its meetings this week. The next regular meeting is slated for August 1.
Blackman said he’s not concerned about the contract negotiations, and says he’s going to continue working regardless of his contract status.
Under his first contract, signed in 2010 after the school’s 2009 charter approval, Blackman is paid $110,000 as executive director, and the contract gives the board the ability to dismiss it’s executive director for “just cause” at any time. Just cause is defined by failure to do the job, or moral turpitude. The executive director’s entitled to a hearing as part of that process.
The board can dismiss the director without cause, but must give 12 months notice. If he’s dismissed, the school has to pay full compensation for a year or until the director finds full time employment.
Jeff Wulfson, the Associate Commissioner of the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education said he and the department’s charter school office aren’t concerned about Blackman’s contract either – provided the board settles it soon, he added.
The department, Wulfson said, is would only be concerned if the negotiations stretched out long enough to threaten Blackman’s employment. That hasn’t happened yet, Wulfson said – and he doesn’t expect it to, either.
“We have no reason to believe he won’t stay on,” Wulfson said.
Steven Fletcher can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3455, or at email@example.com.