Tag Archives: Cara Murtagh

Schools stuck in the web of typical Peabody politics

16 Nov

peabody

By Bob Croce. EOP Publisher

Since the Peabody School Committee coronated Cara Murtagh as our next superintendent of schools earlier this week, I’ve heard some people say how she’s worthy of the position because she’s an awesomely nice person, and a tremendously hard worker.

It appears that our next super is likeable and popular with the Carroll School crowd, and respected for her “niceness” from the Burke School to the Brown School. And . . . who am I to disagree?

I give. I believe you. I trust that you are correct that Cara Murtagh, who for the past five years has served the district as an assistant super, and before that as principal at the Carroll, is an educational version of Mary Poppins and Mother Teresa, and each day straps on her hard hat and gets to work!

Although those are all admirable traits, it still doesn’t make her qualified to lead a struggling 6,000-student district, where a high school is on the verge of being taken over by the state, and where teacher morale, in the words of JD Clampett, “is lower than a snake’s belly in a wagon rut. Weeeee doggie!”

Since it’s sort of irrelevant at this point, I won’t go into specifics about the CVs of the other four candidates, but I will say that at least two had track records that were far more noteworthy. As we reported in this space back in April after the school committee botched the first search designed to replace the current Interim Superintendent for Life, any future search was going to be a total sham. Murtagh only needed to get a couple more certifications, leap over a few more state education department bureaucratic hurdles, and she was going to be your new superintendent of schools.

This most-recent search was sham, conducted at taxpayer expense. The old joke in politics is that, “after a nationwide search, we found this great candidate right here in our own backyard. Wink, wink.”

murtaghAnd indeed, the hiring of Ms. Murtagh is a living example of that old one-liner: She was born to the Peabody royal blue; daughter of a politically connected long-time (and somewhat legendary) Peabody educator; came up through the system, and along the way always showed her deference to the powers that be. A true, old-school, loyalist “Peeb,” whose family knew how to make the right campaign contributions. Blah, blah, blah, but good for her!

This, BTW, tends to always be the case in Peabody, where we have an insular aversion toward going outside of our fair little burg to find the best and the brightest. We see this behavior continuously across city departments: If you’re not on the “friends and family plan,” and they can’t trace your family’s roots back to your grandpa working the tack room at AC Lawrence, Peabody’s powerful don’t care that you have the right stuff.

Murtagh had the Peabody pedigree, and she played the game. So, “tell her what she’s won, Johnny” How about a taxpayer-funded salary of more than $200k a year after figuring in benefits?

Meanwhile, meet the new boss. Same as the old boss.

The fact is that, even if a candidate with Maria Montessori’s resume applied, Cara Murtagh was still going to get the gig as grand poohbah of our $75M district.

And so, we interrupt this blog post at to evoke a statement that is an oldie but still a goodie. What was it that Einstein said was the definition of insanity?

Well, Peabody’s school committee is indeed doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

Why? Because they wanted to replace their bosom buddy, Herbie Levine, with someone they can continue to control. However, Peabody we have a problem:

There are so many challenges for our school system right now that we can’t afford another “go along to get along” superintendent. We need someone to come in and make the administrators — instead of the teachers — uncomfortable for a change. We need a leader with vision, and not chip off the old Levine “yes man” block. It’s nice to be nice, but this is a time for some Belichickian discipline. After all, the problems in Peabody’s schools “are what they are,” and it might be time to start trading some administrators to Cleveland.

Look, at the end of the day, and even though I view this as a purely political hire, I truly do hope that Ms. Murtagh succeeds, and after years of mediocrity, Peabody’s schools are finally put back on track.

Selfishly, and although my kids are grown, and I have no direct rooting interest, I know that great schools are a tremendous boost to the value of my home. But I also agree with old George, the original Peeb, who said that education is “a debt due from present to future generations.

It’s only too bad that, in Peabody, our motto has become “the current people in power are more important than the fate of future generations.”

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.”

murtagh.jpg

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.

Hand-picked candidate looms; Peabody Super search a sham?

14 Apr

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

It’s a theory now being pushed forward that is both believable and typical of certain politicians in our depressed little burg.

cara

Your next Superintendent of Schools!

You think that the Mayor and most members of Peabody’s School Committee are upset over the recent superintendent search ending in disaster when not a single, qualified candidate was put forth?

Well, think again.

I think the fix is in, and so do several political “spies” I’ve heard from in a covert op I’ll simply call “BiddyLeaks.”

Here’s what I’ll say: I don’t think that School Committee members Rossignol, Carpenter, Amico, and maybe others are upset at all that the recent superintendent search ended in disaster.

Why? Well, first off it gives their good buddy Herbie Levine, who we like to call Interim Super for Life (ISFL), the ability to cash in on another year of his giant salary while going through the motions of the job.

But … it also gives them another year to position Herbie’s protégé as his heir apparent.

That’s right, we hear that the Mayor would be thrilled if current Assistant Superintendent Cara Murtagh got the job in a year. In fact, one BiddyLeaks spy tells me the Mayor might even already have a little “unofficial,” wink, wink, nod, nod agreement here with Cara.

Now, I don’t know anything about Ms. Murtagh, and whether or not she has the right stuff to handle the complex nature of our school system and its $72m-plus budget, so I’m not about to impugn her at this time.

But you should know that this is one reason why the most-recent search for a new superintendent was a total sham. And if there are further searches going forward, they too will be sham exercises at taxpayer expense.

Wait it out a year is their mantra. That way, we can get our mediocre ISFL one more year of fat paychecks, and at the end we can say that he used his “scary great” superintendent talents to mentor Ms. Murtagh into the next generation of super supers.

Of course, in the end, it’s all likely to be a bunch of BS as the Mayor moves another super he can manipulate into the chair, and we all go on as before.

Yaaaay! Mediocre (or worse) schools R Us!

La-dee, freekin’ dah!

So, if you’re laying bets on who the next Peabody super will be … put a bunch on the ISFL’s protégé.