As expected, fix was in for Peabody schools super job

14 Nov

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

Let me begin by saying that I don’t know Cara Murtagh, and she could very end up being such a great superintendent of schools that our fair burg will someday name new schools after her and erect a statue of her in the Square.

Then again, and in the immortal words of Wayne Campbell . . . “yeah, that might happen, and maybe monkeys might fly out of my butt.”


Meet the new boss … same as the old boss?

In case you missed it, our “illustrious” school committee tonight voted unanimously to enter into contract negotiations with Ms. Murtagh to have her replace Interim Superintendent for Life, the double-dipper himself, Herbie Levine. After yet another bogus search process, the gang that can’t see straight on anything — who for years have done nothing while their buddy Herbie allowed our schools to fall into the same territory as Lawrence and Chelsea – are hiring the interim super’s protégé.

That’s right, and even though the recent search produced several noteworthy candidates, the assistant super — who has learned at the knee of a man responsible for the overall mediocrity of our schools, and for Peabody High being put on Level 3 status by the state (one level above the state coming in and taking over) — will get the more-than $200K a year gig.

All of this just happened, so I’m sure we’ll have more to come.

But as we predicted several months ago in this space, the “fix” was in.

And along with the “fix,” guess what?

We’re likely not totally done with Herbie. Rumor on the street is that the double-dipper could soon become a triple-dipper. Adding to two lucrative public sector pensions, the Herbster might be retained for one year at $80K to continue to teach Ms. Murtagh everything he knows. Wonder if she’ll learn the fine art of chewing gum like a madman, and telling hacky jokes at the St. Patrick’s Day hackfest at city hall. After all, that’s really all the Herbster was good at.

Well, this is what we get when we invite people to a city election and nobody comes. The elected officials don’t fear you, Peabody citizens. And why should they when less than 30% show up at the polls?

For a salary and benefits package of well over $200K, you get someone who has been part of the same gang that put our high school on the verge of state receivership, and has done nothing about a workplace bullying epidemic at that school.

Two years from now, maybe we’ll finally learn our lesson, and vote the bums out, including  the worst member of the school committee,  who tonight said she was “highly impressed with the resumes of all the candidates, they blew me away. But that said, Cara does have a little something extra.” Really? What would that something extra be? That she learned everything she knows from your pal, Herbie the Hack?

All I can say is . . . Level 4 status here we come.

35 Responses to “As expected, fix was in for Peabody schools super job”

  1. Mark Titelbaum November 14, 2017 at 11:29 pm #

    “Let me begin by saying that I don’t know Cara Murtagh, and she could very end up being such a great superintendent of schools”… until you know her capabilities perhaps you should keep your opinions about her silent.

    • Anonymous November 14, 2017 at 11:40 pm #

      This is a really stupid comment by this Mark. She learned everything she knows from Levine and the other 5 candidates were way more qualified. This was a set up all along. They were just waiting until after the election so they were all safe. Stop being naive.

  2. Peabody teacher November 14, 2017 at 11:35 pm #

    100% agree Bob! The schools are a mess, and it’s because of Levine’s and the mayor’s poor leadership and now they are hiring someone who learned from Levine. That is a disaster waiting to happen. I work in the system and with Ms. Murtagh as the assistant super staff morale is lower than I have ever seen it in my 20 years as an educator.

    • Mark Titelbaum November 15, 2017 at 5:18 am #

      The problems in the city did not materialize overnight. The current mess stems from prior administration’s and their lack of viewing education as a priority.

  3. Shan November 15, 2017 at 7:26 am #

    I had reserved from making comments until the decision was made. Privately I said that Ms. Murtagh would get the job.
    Going back perhaps almost 2 years the talk was that Cara would get the job.
    She needed to finish the appropriate education and training. That’s why in my opinion the last selection process for Super yielded no result.
    That being said Cara doesn’t have the experience at an administration level.
    Lovely person, yes but that is not a Superintendent make.

  4. anonymous November 15, 2017 at 8:03 am #

    Wow, this gig pays over $200k now…and she still needs to “learn” from Levine? So it actually pays $280k then. And to Mark above, the problem isn’t necessarily her, although I don’t know the woman. The problem is with the process. If you’re ok with the process then you are part of the problem. This school committee are a bunch of morons. I’m embarrassed to say I know some of them personally.

  5. Anonymous November 15, 2017 at 8:12 am #

    This city makes me so angry and this School Committee is a joke. You had experienced candidates that have very strong credentials and you pick Cara??? She is part of the larger problem within this school district. NOTHING is going to change for the better!!! These schools are only going to get worse. The little game of the district played with not having the state scores count isn’t going to buy them time to fix how in trouble this district is. They wont acknowledge the actual problems so they wont solve for them. Now they are going to pay Herb to mentor her?!?! So is he going to be the asst? or will that get filled by another cronie? If we need to pay someone else on top of the 200K to show her the way then she ISNT the right person for the position. Good luck to Peabody when they are going to have let her go and finally take an out of district Superintendent. Think about it. Joe was originallyin Peabody and Herb lives and here. He has been a parasite on this city long enough. Now you hire someone that wasn’t even qualified as and asst. to now become the Superintendent who also has been an insider and part of the problem. Wasn’t her dad a principal here too? Wake up PEABODY. You need to stop living with the open quote “born and raised in Peabody” . it a BS line that offers no value what so ever!!! If anything it should be seen as a negative because you have a very narrow view. If this district is going to get better its time to bring in some outside blood!!!

  6. Anonymous November 15, 2017 at 8:25 am #

    By the way did anyone else see this quote in the Salem News from Herbie? “I can think of no one more qualified and more deserving,” Levine said. “And I’m still in charge.” They said he was joking. Yeah right!

  7. Tired of the crap November 15, 2017 at 9:04 am #

    Peabody is not going to change. It has become a disaster area not only with the schools but with everything else. I am sure this woman is a nice person, but we need a strong leader here and not someone who got the job because she is a nice person. Ridiculous.

  8. anonymous November 15, 2017 at 2:11 pm #

    The school system needed an outsider to solve the problems it has. Does anyone actually think that the bullying at the high school and the low moral there will go away with this hire? She’s been there the last 4 years and did nothing to stop the situation. Shame on the school committee for putting on this dog and pony show. They had no intention of hiring anybody else. You wasted the time of four professionals for a job that was already in the bag. Why not advertise on craigs list so you didn’t waste taxpayer money hiring somebody else do the screening process. What did that cost the city?

  9. Anonymous November 15, 2017 at 4:02 pm #

    I knew this was coming but, somehow I still feel very defeated by this announcement. I think there was a little part of all of us that thought, “hey, maybe they’ll do things right this time. Between the level 3 status and bullying accusations, maybe they’ll change their master plan.” But alas, more of the same old same old in Peabody. I couldn’t be more disappointed that we were right all along, and that things played out exactly as “they” planned when Herbie signed on for yet another year.

  10. PVMHS Educator November 15, 2017 at 5:22 pm #

    Find out about a person’s past record and accomplishments and you can pretty much predict future success.
    The record indicates that the next Superintendent has not been able to turn around a system (Peabody) in her capacity as Assistant Superintendent, neither has her mentor.

    If someone bothers to ask her follow up questions would be elucidating: “if you think the students are great and the teachers are great…what accounts for the 18% ranking by DESE at PVMHS?”. “Do you believe the morale at PVMHS is low due to a level 3 ranking, or are there other factors?” “What are your plans to change a PVMHS Administration that has been incapable to make effective improvements to bring about change and is charged with bullying by some of the staff?” “Currently students at the Higgins do not need to pass any courses in order to graduate to PVMHS, do you believe this is conducive to higher achievement at the next and future levels of education?”

    It saddens me to see that the School Committee made a farce of a selection process and selected an individual, although hard working, is incapable of leading us during a full generation of future PVMHS graduates. The solution does not lie in chrome books and shiny TVs’ at every corner of our building. Google alone will not improve our education standards and level. Cordial and respectful interaction between Administration, faculty and students needs to be done at the personal level. Staring at screens alone will not lead us out of the swamp that this Administration has created.

  11. Anonymous November 15, 2017 at 6:38 pm #

    I am just glad that when I got my job with the City, I did because of my education and experience. I NEVER HAD TO BUY MY JOB! My father didn’t have to make a hefty contribution to the Mayor’s campaign to get me in and then of course I didn’t have to have my father’s very good friend’s wife run the Mayor’s campaign!

  12. PVMHS Educator November 15, 2017 at 6:43 pm #

    Happiest person in Peabody Public Schools with the new Superintendent… would be Eric Buckley… his job is safe regardless of performance, Peabody takes care of their own. We have two home grown individuals leading our system for the next 20 years and their results appear to impress everyone that matters.

    Did we even have the courtesy of notifying the other candidates that their kind are not welcome in Peabody?

  13. Anonymous November 15, 2017 at 6:59 pm #

    What an embarrassment for the city of Peabody! She may be a nice person, but take into account the following: She could not handle the rigors of teaching at the elementary level. And that job was handed to her by the fact that her father was an outstanding educator.
    She was somehow promoted to Assistant Principal at an elementary school, which she also could not handle. Thanks to dad’s reputation, she was promoted to Principal of the same elementary school, where she could not handle confrontation and would always sweep it under the rug so no one would talk about it.
    After low moral at that school and being forced out, she gets the job of Assistant Superintendent. That job had been vacant because the city deemed it a superfluous position. They created it to take care of one of their own who couldn’t handle basic duties and was living off dad’s reputation. Sad. Absolutely sad.
    And now, the people of Peabody that deserve a leader are getting a follower who doesn’t know who to follow. And they expect our kids to do better??
    I am ashamed and disgusted that the school committee and the search committee could not come to a better conclusion.
    What is really disgusting is that the city put out a notice that they were opening the search for a 3rd time, and listed the salary at ~$180,000. How did this waste of time end up with over $200,000? I bet it’s not for voice lessons or how to deal with conflict.
    Peabody, you just sunk to a new low!

    • Anonymous November 15, 2017 at 9:58 pm #

      Her father was not exactly an Einstein! He was POLITICAL! Got his job because it his day it was “who you know”!

  14. Super Voter November 15, 2017 at 9:20 pm #

    Here is a good question.
    If our schools dip to level 4 and start to be run by the state, do we still need a “school committee “? We could save some money there I think!

  15. Clarence Darrow November 15, 2017 at 11:34 pm #

    The school committee has members that have been there many years. Dunne, Hochman, Carpenter all are responsible for this mess. You can throw in Ed Charest who just spent eight years doing nothing but driving Mastrocola out of the district.They all rubber stamped Levine as super and now look at we’re we are.. Ultimately let’s not forget who at the end of the day is responsible..Mayor Bettencourt. He owns it, he supported extending Levine’s contract so Murtagh could take her time getting certified. We are in a mess and nobody there has the brains and will to solve the problem. Brand new Higgins and still substandard mcas scores. That tells you everything you need to know.

  16. JF November 16, 2017 at 7:21 am #

    I️ am stunned and don’t know what to say.

  17. Peabody Voter November 16, 2017 at 8:06 am #

    The simple fact that we are a Level 3 district and yet the School Committee chose to play politics vs. selecting a well qualified leader that is clearly needed is really eye opening. Why were these SC incumbents voted back in? Are people not paying attention? The fact that Levine is sticking around for his triple dip salary of 80k+ is simply mind boggling…

    • anon November 16, 2017 at 10:47 am #

      Yes it is mind boggling. There is zero accountability from the voters in this city. Most voters are so tuned out to any of this that they don’t even know about it. Combine that with the remaining 70 percent that don’t vote and you get business as usual.They just keep re-electing the same old faces because it’s easier than thinking for themselves…and make no mistake, these incumbents are very much aware of this so they keep doing it.

  18. Anonymous November 16, 2017 at 1:18 pm #

    What more do you people want? She has the Education and is experienced in the system. Just because she worked for someone who you feel caused all this does not mean she is a clone of that person. She will find her way, but with out support she will fail like the rest. Maybe this is not a SC/Mayor issue, maybe this is a non supportive public issue! The real one common group through all of our Superintendent issues has been the general public in Peabody. How about getting behind this one and showing a tiny bit of class and support and see what happens.

    Emmanuel College Degree Master in the Art of Teaching Field Of Study Educational Leadership and Administration Dates attended or expected graduation 1997 – 2000

    Emmanuel College Degree Bachelor of Arts Field Of Study Education/History
    Dates attended or expected graduation 1993 – 1997

    Emmanuel College
    Degree Master of Arts in Teaching, Educational Leadership & Administration Field Of Study Educational Leadership/Administration

    • PVMHS Educator November 16, 2017 at 2:39 pm #

      Degrees about as impressive as those from Phoenix University or Cambridge College. Big Jack was a political hack and so isn’t the lady who thinks it’s normal to pull her phone out of her bra to answer a call.

      • Anonymous November 16, 2017 at 3:50 pm #


      • Anon November 17, 2017 at 12:04 am #

        Last I checked the assistant superintendent is second-in-command for ALL schools….not just the elementary schools. So yes, of course she should be responsible for her part in this mess!

        Sure sounds like you think she deserves a “free pass” on the high school problems..nope. She is just under qualified for the job we are paying her lots of money to do. Our focus needs to be on the level 3 pvmhs, and Cara is woefully disconnected from that world…a world that NEEDS strong leadership. The only “special thinking” that I can see here was exhibited by the school committee.

    • Anon November 16, 2017 at 3:52 pm #

      Maybe “experience in Peabody” isn’t a good thing in this case! We need fresh ideas, and we need experience TURNING A DISTRICT AROUND. The fact is that she doesn’t have that experience, and some of the other candidates did. Not to mention she had ZERO experience at the high school level (which is the level 3 school, right?) Therefore she wasn’t most qualified for the job. Period.

      If you like the job the current administration has done (of which, she was an intergtal part), then she’s your pick. Personally, I do hold her accountable for level 3 under her watch. The kids of Peabody deserve better.

      • Anonymous November 16, 2017 at 7:20 pm #

        Let me get this straight she has ZERO experience at the high school level but you hold her accountable for the high school problems? That’s a special way of thinking!

  19. Anonymous November 17, 2017 at 7:56 am #

    What is the story behind Mastrocola’s departure, and the settlement he was paid to leave before the end of his contract?

  20. anonymous November 17, 2017 at 12:35 pm #

    more bullying except this time from school committee members….

  21. Just Waiting to See November 17, 2017 at 1:04 pm #

    My questions are: If she didn’t get this job, where would she go? Would she have been a qualified candidate anywhere else in the North Shore?

    I hope Mr. Levine prepared her well for her ascension to the top job. The buck STOPS there. No excuses, she has the “all important” insider experience. Looking forward to her new ideas. That is why she is NOW getting the big bucks.

    Cara, Good Luck! Hopefully,your entire professional work experience has prepared you for the challenges ahead.

    • Yeah Right November 18, 2017 at 9:02 am #

      “If she didn’t get this job, where would she go? Would she have been a qualified candidate anywhere else in the North Shore?”….that is an INCREDIBLE question!

      I would even add, if everything about Cara was exactly the same (education, personality, experience) EXCEPT her experience was in say, Chelsea…..would WE even consider her for the job?

  22. anonymous November 18, 2017 at 9:15 am #

    I think the real story behind Mastrocola leavng should be made public. Certain elected officials might be out of a job. The mayor knows what some of the school committee and now city council members did and they should step down from elected office

    • Just Waiting to See November 18, 2017 at 11:44 am #

      In u win dough, aka innuendo. (I had to check my spelling)

      Give us a hint. What? Inquiring minds want to know!

  23. anonymous November 20, 2017 at 1:00 pm #

    Had to do with the after school program (FKO) fiasco and back door deals with family members getting jobs. The superintendent said no and that’s when it got ugly.

    • anon November 20, 2017 at 3:43 pm #

      So are you saying he got fired basically because he wouldn’t play ball?

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