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Officials Stand By Quick Superintendent Choice

The Braintree School Committee selected Assistant Superintendent Dr. Maureen Murray as the next superintendent.

Just two weeks after Superintendent Dr. Peter Kurzberg announced his retirement following 22 years of service, the Braintree School Committee filled the upcoming vacancy, a fast selection not involving a job posting or search committee.

Recent searches for top officials, such as the police and fire chiefs, have involved multi-step processes over the course of weeks and months. The filling of vacancies for mid-level posts such as Assistant Town Clerk have also included bringing in candidates for review, even though the final selection was someone in-house.

Town officials, however, maintain that the choice of Assistant Superintendent Dr. Maureen Murray for the position starting July 1 was the right one, and that they are satisfied with how she was selected.

"Why go through the search when she is the best person for the job?" said School Committee Chair Shannon Hume, who put forward Dr. Murray's name for vote Monday night after checking to make sure she was interested in the job.

"There was no doubt in mind," Hume said.

Dr. Murray joined Braintree Public Schools in July 2007 as the assistant superintendent and earned a doctorate while employed with the district. She previously served as the curriculum director in Walpole and worked for many years in Brockton, starting as a special education teacher in 1979.

"I am humbled that the school committee has the confidence in me to be the next superintendent and I will continue to work my hardest every day to help move the school system forward," Dr. Murray said in a follow-up email.

Hume said that prior to the unanimous approval during Monday's meeting, she checked to make sure the committee was under no obligation to create a formal search process.

According to the Town Charter, when a vacancy happens involving any town employee not covered under civil service law, the appointing authority – in this case the School Committee – must post the job publicly for at least 14 days before making a selection.

But that provision is superceded by state law, Chief of Staff and Operations Peter Morin said. Chapter 71, Section 37 of Massachussetts General Law says each district's school committee "shall have the power to select and to terminate the superintendent."

That power, defined broadly in case law stretching back decades, overrules the town's law, Morin said.

"It's pretty well settled," he said.

Dr. Kurzberg said that it is not unusual for school committees to take such actions when they are confident the in-house candidate can perform the job very well.

School officials, staff and parents have had the opportunity to observe Dr. Murray for six years, and she has shown her ability to work well in a variety of circumstances, the superintendent added.

“People have a pretty good sense of who she is," Dr. Kurzberg said.

Member Tom Devin said he wondered if a search committee would have been able to find a suitable replacement.

"We’re losing a giant in Dr. Kurzberg," Devin said.

Districts around the state look for superintendents every year – typically 40 to 50 – and such administrative postions "are extremely difficult to fill," Dr. Kurzberg said.

The superintendent said there was no pre-arranged plan for the selection. Sometimes school department positions are filled quickly from within, sometimes they are posted and there is a wider search, such as the upcoming need to fill the assistant superintendent position, he said.

"I give the School Committee credit for recognizing the talent that Dr. Murray has and seeing her as somebody who can take the school system from where it is and help to move it forward," Dr. Kurzberg said.

Kathleen DeWitt February 14, 2013 at 01:44 PM
For the person filling Dr. K's position will be no easy task.....I think the school committee made an excellent choice......Kathleen DeWitt

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