To-ing, fro-ing Edgartown principal resigns
Named Marblehead superintendent this week
Capping a tumultuous two weeks for students and staff at the Edgartown School, last Thursday morning Martha's Vineyard Public Schools superintendent James Weiss announced that he had asked for and received principal Paul Dulac's resignation.
On Monday this week, the Marblehead school committee voted to hire Mr. Dulac as its new superintendent. Chairman Amy Drinker said they hope to finish negotiations for his three-year contract with him this week.
Mr. Dulac said he accepted the superintendent's position "because I think very seldom in life are you approached with an employment decision that makes all the sense in the world for you and your family."
Outgoing Edgartown principal Paul Dulac.
Mr. Weiss's decision to fire the new Edgartown School principal last week came despite Mr. Dulac's impassioned declarations about how much he wanted to remain at the Edgartown School and his public assurances that he had removed himself as a candidate to be superintendent of a mainland school system. Despite these assurances, Mr. Dulac was in fact still in the running for the Marblehead job.
"I asked for and received Paul Dulac's resignation effective at a time to be determined by myself because he is still involved in the Marblehead search for superintendent," Mr. Weiss told The Times Thursday morning, "and I was looking for a commitment at Edgartown, and he was not offering that, so I think it is time for us to move on."
Mr. Weiss said he learned Nov. 14 that Mr. Dulac had not removed his name from consideration and after talking to the principal on Nov. 15, the superintendent asked for the principal's resignation.
Mr. Weiss met with the school committee late on Wednesday afternoon, Nov. 15, to tell the committee members of his decision to ask for Mr. Dulac's resignation.
"I really have wonderful things to say about the school committee and Jim Weiss," Mr. Dulac said yesterday. "When they asked me to resign on Wednesday, I thought that was the appropriate thing to do. They had to make a decision. I'm just so sorry for the problems it has created for people here at Edgartown School."
For Edgartown's teachers, it was the latest twist in a strange sequence of events that began on Monday Nov. 6, when, approximately four months after he began work as the principal of the Edgartown School, Mr. Dulac announced to a surprised school staff that he would resign his job effective at the end of the school year.
Parents learned of the resignation in separate letters sent home with Edgartown students Tuesday, one written by Mr. Dulac and the other by superintendent James Weiss.
Mr. Dulac insisted he did not want to leave the job he accepted last February, but he said he had been unable to find a means of protecting his future retirement health benefits because Edgartown is not part of the Massachusetts Teachers' Retirement System, in which he has invested 17 and a half years.
Mr. Dulac's announcement set off a flurry of activity among school and town officials and his supporters. On Wednesday, the news had changed. He said he was staying, much to the relief of his supporters.
The timing of the Nov. 6 announcement was linked to his candidacy for the job of superintendent in Marblehead.
In the letter he sent home to parents, Mr. Dulac said he and his wife Becky, a third grade teacher in the Edgartown School, had expected to live and retire on the Vineyard. He said he only became aware of the insurance issue after he took the job and happened to inquire about retirement benefits not related to health insurance.
In an internal e-mail sent to faculty and staff last Wednesday, Mr. Dulac wrote, "Last night, new information was made available regarding Becky and my retirement health insurance situation. This information brought out by several town people has proven correct; therefore, I will stay in Edgartown as your principal. Becky and I are happy to be able to tell you all that all is well. I apologize for any discomfort this whole situation may have caused anyone. Let's move on together. I look forward to that."
When asked whether he had used the insurance issue to provide him with a way out of the principal's job, Mr. Dulac said no. "The health insurance was a valid issue, and it spurred me on to look for another job. The bottom line is, I had engaged in a search as a result of that, and when that was resolved, I was far enough in the search that I wanted to continue that process."
Resignation, round two
When it appeared that a solution had been reached, Mr. Dulac expressed his appreciation to town and school officials. He gave many people, including the chairman of the school committee, Dave Rossi, the distinct impression that he had withdrawn his name from consideration in Marblehead.
At that time, Mr. Rossi expressed his admiration for Mr. Dulac's integrity in making a quick decision to stay on as principal at Edgartown School. This week, he labeled Mr. Dulac's actions a disappointment.
"You have to take people at face value until you get burned," Mr. Rossi said. "The part that really upsets me is what it's done to the staff, the kids, the parents, and the community, him saying he was going to stay and telling everyone everything's okay, when he never really followed through on it."
Mr. Dulac insisted yesterday he did withdraw his name last Wednesday, but then started talking to the Marblehead school committee again on Thursday. "It was not a lie," he said. "I made a decision on Wednesday for a lot of good reasons. It was a decision made from the heart, and I really reconsidered everything. I actually withdrew my name from the Marblehead position the same day, as I said I would."
Marblehead school committee and search committee chairman Amy Drinker said she had no comment on whether Mr. Dulac withdrew his name or not. "By the letter of the law which governs the preliminary stages of the superintendent search in the screening phase, the deliberations and process are confidential," she said, "so I would not speak to anything that happened during that process out of respect for the candidates."
While Mr. Weiss confirmed that Mr. Dulac said he would pull out of the superintendent competition, he stopped short of characterizing Mr. Dulac's statement as a lie. "I am not sure if he withdrew and went back in, but all I know is he is still involved in that search, and that is an unacceptable situation," he said.
Mr. Weiss did say Mr. Dulac had certainly not been completely truthful and forthright with the school committee.
Ultimately, Mr. Weiss said he simply was not confident Mr. Dulac meant what he said about wanting to stay on Martha's Vineyard, and the time had come to take charge of the situation rather than keep reacting to it.
"I wanted a commitment, a commitment to the Edgartown School, and I wasn't getting that," he said. "And that's important."
On Nov. 16, when Mr. Dulac was meeting with Marblehead officials, Mr. Weiss told The Times he believed that regardless of what Mr. Dulac was saying, if offered the job of Marblehead superintendent he would take it.
"No question, it would have been too good an offer to turn down, and knowing that, I said to him, 'you either have to withdraw from that search and commit to Edgartown or you have to resign from Edgartown, it is that simple.'"
Mr. Rossi, who participated in Edgartown School's principal search last year, said at the time he was skeptical about Mr. Dulac. "Frankly, it never made sense to me that a superintendent would take a principal's job, and I said that during the interview process," Mr. Rossi recalled.
"Looking at it objectively, he's going to take a job and make much more money," Mr. Rossi added, speaking of the Marblehead job. "But that was part of the thought process when he went into the principal's job. He knew he wasn't going to get superintendent's wages."
Mr. Dulac's salary as Edgartown School principal, effective July 1, 2006, is $108,000. The annual salary of the Marblehead superintendent position has been advertised at $160,000.
The school community reacts
Mr. Weiss said that he decided to act decisively, because he did not want the uncertainty to drag on. Asked if Mr. Dulac let him down, Mr. Weiss said, "I'm disappointed, I am. I take people at their word."
Mr. Rossi commended Mr. Weiss's decision to ask for Mr. Dulac's resignation. "I applaud what he has done and think he was very responsive," he said. "I don't think Paul gave him any choice. It was an integrity issue."
Debra Yapp, a longtime teacher at Edgartown School, said her fifth grade students' reactions, expressed in writing assignments, varied from sadness, anger, and confusion to acceptance.
"It's a confusing time for teachers, too," Ms. Yapp said. "People are going about their jobs, but there is an underlying feeling of unrest. You wonder where we're going and what's happening."
Vice principal Anne Fligor e-mailed teachers this week inviting them to attend the Edgartown school committee's meeting on Nov. 29 at 8:30 am, where the principal situation will be discussed.
"We haven't had a full faculty meeting since this happened, so I think the staff is kind of hopeful on the 29th we'll know the direction we're heading in," Ms. Yapp said. "People are looking forward to hearing something more definitive. It's unnerving for us, so it has got to be so for the students, too."
In his letter of resignation, Mr. Dulac indicated he would resign "at a date to be mutually determined, but no later than June 30, 2007." The Marblehead school committee approved his appointment as superintendent effective July 1, 2007.
However, both Mr. Weiss and Mr. Rossi indicated Mr. Dulac may be leaving sooner than later.
"The exact date is to be worked out," Mr. Weiss said. "It could be before the end of the school year."
Mr. Rossi said he thought the school committee would want to move quickly in starting a search. "We don't know who we're going to get in, and when they will be available," he said. "We don't know whether Marblehead will want him to start earlier. As far as I'm concerned, we need to take care of Edgartown School, and that's our priority. It's not about an individual."
Mr. Dulac said his wife Becky, who started teaching third grade this year at Edgartown School, plans to finish out the school year. "I've told the people in Marblehead that my first responsibility is here for the balance of the year," he said. "If my situation here changes, I will renegotiate with them, but I am not anticipating moving to Marblehead before July first."
Click the following links to view copies of Mr. Dulac's resignation letter, Mr. Weiss's letter about his resignation, and Ms. Drinker's report on his appointment as superintendent.
News editor Nelson Sigelman contributed to this article.