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Mastrocola Says Peabody Schools Need Clear Vision, Leadership for Future

The School Committee unanimously approved the contract for new Superintendent Joseph Mastrocola, giving him four years in Peabody and a $165,000 salary.

Joseph Mastrocola definitely appears prepared to stay for the long haul in Peabody.

Even though the new Peabody schools' chief has already , he says he's "not the retiring type"; the consideration isn't even on his horizon.

The School Committee unanimously approved a contract for Mastrocola as the district's new superintendent on March 13, signing him to four years at a $165,000 salary.

Mayor Ted Bettencourt said the agreement came from a strong mutual interest in securing the future of the Peabody school district.

“We have a situation where the candidate felt it [was the right match] and the School Committee felt [it] found the right man for the job,” said Bettencourt.

All agreed that a salary bump from what previous superintendents have made was needed to attract quality candidates.

The new contract gives Mastrocola:

  • An annual salary of $165,000.
  • A four-year contract starting July 1, 2012 and, “unless extended in writing, to end June 2016.”
  • An annual performance-based review by the School Committee based on the new Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education standards, which will be in place in the next few weeks.

Bettencourt said the salary was based on a survey conducted with 50 similar communities who had similar populations, including Malden, Medford, Somerville, Salem, Revere and Waltham, to name a few. (You can see what .)

Typically, contractual relationships can span three to four years and the School Committee and the mayor felt comfortable with the salary and the length of relationship.

“Joe’s a known quantity,” said Bettencourt.

Mastrocola worked as the assistant superintendent in Peabody from 2007 to 2010 before leaving to become superintendent of the Groton-Dunstable Regional School District.

Mastrocola, an Ipswich resident, says Peabody is also a and certainly an environment he is familiar with, having also worked in a handful of larger school districts in the past, prior to Peabody. Nevertheless, leading a district the size of Peabody is not an easy task, he admits.

He said he sees the community as "thirsty for leadership" in the schools and wanting a "true listener" in his post, along with free-flowing communication between all sides. He added that from his vantage point, he agrees with city and school officials that Dr. Herb Levine has done a fine job for the past several months in an interim capacity.

While Peabody typically finds itself in the middle of the pack when compared to other school districts North of Boston, Mastrocola does see a lot of positive elements within the district that just need the right guidance to complement each other.

"What might be missing is someone to pull it all together," he said.

Mastrocola said Peabody does have talented and dedicated teachers and administrators, for instance, and the special education department stands out from others in the area -- a "hidden strength" for Peabody, in fact.

"People perform better when they have a clear vision," he said -- where the district is headed and how to accomplish those goals. "A superintendent is only as good as the people around him."

Mastrocola's immediate goals come July 1 are working to create fiscal stability for the School Department while fighting for teachers and students. Another important for Mastrocola is educating taxpayers who don't have children in school that they will see a return on their investment by supporting the schools.

Mastrocola said he does support and agrees with Levine on to the district.

Peabody has more than 6,000 students enrolled and eight elementary school buildings, not to mention a sizeable and the largest in the state -- many smaller districts still employ an assistant superintendent and more district administrators than Peabody does.

"I thought we were moving in the right direction," Mastrocola said, in regard to and at the time he left Peabody in 2010, acknowledging there is more work to do.

He said will also stay in contact with Levine in the coming months in regards to hiring new high school principal -- .

"This situation was a blessing," Mastrocola said of his job at Groton-Dunstable. "Coming here really allowed me to learn how to be a superintendent."

The situation certainly required quick action and solutions as soon as he stepped in the door.

He said he came in three days after a failed override attempt with the school system in the red by $1.7 million -- add on to that 14 administrators who he had to replace over the past two years. But in just a short amount of time, he was able to turn the budget around to where the district actually came in $225,000 under budget and hired 25 new teachers.

Mastrocola said the most significant takeaways for him were valuable experience crafting and implementing school budgets, realizing the job required quick solutions to all sorts of problems, shared decision-making and being a better listener (at times "taking a small step back" first).

"The schools belong to the community," he said, adding that it's important to take input from all sides.

Mastrocola said he was not job-hunting when he applied to Peabody, rather he just acted on an opportunity. He noticed when the job posting in Peabody was advertised the first time a year ago, but it was too early into his new job and he had just left the year before. But when the job was advertised a second time, he discussed it with his family and applied.

"Life's opportunities often come unanticipated," he said.

Bob Croce March 21, 2012 at 05:44 PM
If you'd like to give your thoughts about our new superintendent, feel free to call Dick and I tonight on the "You Make The Call" show, 8-9 p.m. on PAT Channel 10. You can also find out more info on the show by liking our Facebook page at: http://www.facebook.com/calldickandbob Thanks!
Bruce Williams March 21, 2012 at 05:46 PM
I was a strong supporter of Bettencourt but I am unforturnately very dissappointed not only with the selection but what the agreed compensation plan is. He is almost making 2x the amount of the Mayor. That coupled with the fact that he has VERY little experience as a superintendent. His big fame for his current employer was that he renegotiated some debt to free up some cash. He will not be able to do that here. Also, He has no longterm track record with improving student performance and you just locked him into a four year contract with an automatic boost in salary irregardless of his performance. I have a feeling this will be an epic failure for the future of Peabody Schools. BTW who every gets $1500 for a new personal computer? Are you telling me he cant afford it on this salary? Fund him a school laptop and feel free to take it home with you. He makes comments that Peabody needs a leader in the schools...So what you are saying is that you think the last two superintendents did a horrible job? They might have but you dont say that publically. You want to hire an asst. with the salary you are making? Waste of money in this admin office. I'd rather see the money get into the classrooms. He has basically set himself up to fail. I am not sure I will keep our children in these schools going forward. I expect much better talent for the money that city wants to pay out and I feel like we got scammed... Does anyone agree?
Linda Raymond March 22, 2012 at 03:13 AM
I agree with you Bruce. Mr. Mastrocola is probably a very nice man, but I also feel he is not what Peabody needs right now. He literally has only two years of experience as a superintendent. He left Peabody to go to Groton-Dunstable and admits that after only a year on that job he was considering leaving when the Peabody job was first advertised. This really makes me question his commitment to any district. To say that Peabody generally runs 'middle of the pack' when compared to other districts on the North Shore is an overstatement of the facts. The MCAS results and SAT results show otherwise. I wish him good luck but I definitely have my reservations about this decision. I see it as a reflection on the committee that hired him. And to me, it is not a very good reflection. Many of the current school committee members have been sitting on the committee for years; some close to two decades. Many of these committee members were also charged with the decision to hire our last superintendent. Let's not forget that these same committee members gave our last superintendent only mediocre reviews in both 2007 and 2010. Maybe the focus needs to shift to the school committee. Voters should think about this the next time they go to the polls. Personally, I wish that Dr. Levine could stay on for a few more years. He has much more experience and I think he has the vision that Peabody needs.

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