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Buchanan Out as Superintendent - School Committee Reaches 'Mutual Agreement'

The Hamilton-Wenham Regional School Committee reached a "mutual agreement" with School Superintendent Dr. Raleigh Buchanan on Thursday night that ends his tenure after less than a year.

The School Committee and Superintendent Dr. Raleigh Buchanan reached a “mutual agreement” in executive session Thursday night that marks the end of Buchanan’s tenure as superintendent after less than a year.

The exact circumstances surrounding Buchanan’s departure are unclear and School Committee Chairman Alexa McCloughan said it might be as long as 14 days until the details of the agreement are released.

Buchanan and makes $169,500 in his first year. The School Committee and were scheduled to discuss his evaluation on Thursday night - Buchanan left before that ever happened.

The board met with Buchanan, along with its attorney Naomi Stonberg and Buchanan’s attorney, Michael Long, in executive session for about one hour and 45 minutes on Thursday night.

The executive session came before the committee was scheduled to discuss the superintendent’s evaluation, but after the unspecified agreement was reached between the committee and Buchanan, the committee voted to remove the evaluation from the agenda.

The committee emerged from executive and Stonberg read a brief statement explaining that the School Committee and Buchanan had reached a mutual agreement that Buchanan's "employement relationship comes to an end" and McCloughan said the committee would have no further comment.

“We’re not taking comments or questions,” McCloughan said.

Buchanan was not sitting in his usual spot – behind his nametag – after the executive session.

Outside the meeting, Long deferred comment to Stonberg’s short statement, which he said "accurately characterized the situation.”

When asked if Buchanan would show up for work on Friday, Long said: “I think he may.”

Initially, the Boards of Selectmen from both towns planned to meet at 9 a.m. at Wenham Town Hall for an emergency joint meeting to discuss the action. Attorneys later concluded that the meeting did not constitute an emergency under the law so, instead, Hamilton Town Manager Michael Lombardo, Hamilton Board of Selectmen Chairman Jennifer Scuteri, Wenham Town Administrator Jeff Chelgren and Wenham Board of Selectmen Chairman Molly Martins will meet instead, according to Scuteri.

A few more details emerged several minutes after Stonberg’s statement; Hamilton Selectman Marc Johnson stepped before the committee to inquire about Buchanan.

“We’re completely in the dark,” Johnson said, latter adding, “We’re just confused on this side of the table.”

Committee members added few more details. Nobody said which committee members were in support of the mutual agreement and which ones were opposed. Committee member Don Gallant said attorneys are drawing up the agreement and that Buchanan has seven days to back out of it.

Elaine Appel May 20, 2011 at 12:28 PM
I find Dr. Buchanan to be a refreshing, honest and optimistic voice in an otherwise contentious operation. His efforts to garner goodwill between the administration, parents and taxpayers were greatly appreciated and it is an extreme disappointment that the school committee has not only neglected to take advantage of those efforts (for which he was hired) but seemingly have handled a routine performance evaluation very badly. So badly, in fact, as to end up with an abrupt, secretive, disruptive and expensive result. The citizens of Hamilton and Wenham deserve an immediate and complete explanation for an action that clearly is a huge setback for the successful operation of our school district.
Margo Killoran May 20, 2011 at 01:22 PM
Mmmmm.... wasn't this the same school committee that just a year ago insisted on hiring someone within a few weeks, despite pleas from the public to take their time and make the right hire? Once again, we're getting bad decisions shoved down our throat by soon-to-be-outgoing committee members who want to push through their personal agendas and have their last egomanical hurrah before they are voted out of their positions. And once again yet, thanks so much for (NOT) listening to your constituency! Parents, teachers, administrators and the public alike find Dr. Buchanan to be breath of fresh air after years of dealing with a controlling, secretive, condenscending, unapproachable superintendant who this writer personally caught in several lies. Word on the street is that he was fired because the SC didn't like how he talked (he has that dispicable midwestern accent after all!), didn't "present" well, and "told people too much." Oh, that transparency thing. I can see now why he was fired. Be warned school committee: if you're paying this guy's golden parachute or buying out his contract, DO NOT come looking to the taxpayers to pay for it!
Kim May 20, 2011 at 01:25 PM
I, too, will be very interested to hear the details of Dr. Buchanan's exit. But honestly, I can't imagine who would WANT this job. To be a school superintendent in a district that is consistently low on funding and bursting with community contention, with little hope of improvement on either front--we'll be lucky to find someone qualified to fill his shoes. What a shame--and it's our children who will suffer for it.
_________________________ May 20, 2011 at 02:10 PM
"Thus grief still treads upon the heels of pleasure: Married in haste, we may repent at leisure." -William Congreve
Anne May 20, 2011 at 02:25 PM
I am so very disappointed to hear that this has come to pass. As one who has had the honor to be a member of Dr. Buchanan's Parent Advisory Committee, I have had the opportunity to see beyond the surface to learn that, in my opinion, he is a gifted educator with wonderful ideas for our district. He has been open to our comments and responsive to our concerns. I fear that the rancorous politics of our town have led to this situation and that we are much worse off than we were a year ago now that it has happened. It would have been nice if Raleigh had been able to implement some of the many wonderful educational policies he had planned. I am truly saddened by this turn of events.
Bob Gray May 20, 2011 at 02:26 PM
This is a sad time for Hamilton and Wenham. This attitude that the School Committee has complete atonomy and can just do as they please, has to end. This decesion they have made affects both towns financially and affects our schools effectiveness and affects our childen educationally. Personally, I think the real reason the School Committee wanted Dr. Buchanan kicked out is because He and Peter Gray discovered gobs of unused monies in the school budget(can you say "overfunded") and proposed to give it back to the taxpayers in thier original budget that the School Committee kept refering to as the "Superintendents Budget". We knew things were all downhill for Dr. Buchanan after that!
Nick May 20, 2011 at 02:51 PM
Margo, you hit the nail on the head. The school committee which is more concerned about the appearance of wielding power than anything else is a disgrace. Were there a means to have a recall vote I strongly believe that should be pursued. Were they to spend more time worrying about the quality of the education the system provides and spend less time teacher and administration bashing the community would be far better off. From committee members who text during their meetings to the total lack appreciation of anything done by the faculty they are a very poor excuse for a school committee; this community deserves far better representation. Because of all the shenanigans of the prior superintendent, the group Enough is Enough were able to get an audit done on the school system - an audit the school district had to pay for, to the tune of $100,000 - and what was the outcome? Absolutely nothing. If the community wants to save money on education they should just look at the administration. We had a superintendent who proved to be a miserable failure, we have an assistant superintendent, a curriculum director who is beyond useless, lives somewhere on the South Shore and only comes to the office a couple to times a week. That is where our tax dollars are going. The schools themselves desperately need more teachers, updated textbooks and leadership with a vision, not a philosophy of "oh everything's okay" when in fact the system is a house of cards.
Lorraine Miller May 20, 2011 at 04:42 PM
Personally, I am not surprised in the least bit. We have hardly seen the supt. in the past 6 months. At a meeting with parents, he seemed to be an expert at saying nothing while using a lot of words. I don't think he has the vision required to lead our district.
Jack McKenzie May 20, 2011 at 09:52 PM
As a student at Hamilton-Wenham Regional High School, I am shocked and saddened by this news. In my countless interactions with Dr. Buchanan, I saw him as an extremely warm, sociable and positive man. I was involved in all of the school's dramatic productions this year, and I saw Dr. Buchanan at every one. He is a passionate supporter of the arts, and a wonderful example of how an administrative figure should act. I know my classmates and I would like to know the reasoning for this unexpected departure, because any flaws in his performance were certainly not evident. I know we'll miss him.
Mary May 20, 2011 at 10:25 PM
We need to stop making unfounded comments, as any superintendent should want to come to H-W, as we have one of the top performing schools (just look at SAT and MCAS scores and graduation rates) - and we are actually very well funded (read the facts - not the spin from the school committee). Out of 299 schools in the state report - we are better funded than 240 of them, and those that spend "above us" include the likes of Boston (much different cost drivers and State subsidies), as well as dozens of small 250-700 student schools (like the Cape and Islands) who suffer from small size cost issues. In fact if we exclude these small size districts and Boston, we come in at #26 out of about 260 schools - so a top 10% funded school. Instead of crying poor - we should actually promote how well we perform - and how well we are actually funded - and then maybe we can actually attract the top talent we want.
Jay Burnham May 21, 2011 at 12:49 AM
I guess we now know what the School Committee meant when they said they wanted to keep the overfunded, excess $500,000 from last year for "UNEXPECTED" expenses in their reserve E&D fund. It may cost close to that to buy out the remainder of Dr. Buchanan's three year contract. Time for a recall petition for the entire School Committee?
William Harris May 23, 2011 at 11:24 PM
Jay: I would love to add my "John Henry" to that recall petition. Time to vote this committe out of office.
Dick Hewett May 24, 2011 at 01:34 PM
And what would you replace it with?
Heidi Chisholm May 24, 2011 at 05:02 PM
Novel thought, how about we place the inmates in charge of the asylum, our very astute Juniors and Seniors would be quite capable School Committee members. They will just need one adult to sign legally binding contracts and off they will go.

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