Officials Start Planning for Dakin’s Departure

December 8, 2014
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The School Committee and Supt. Paul Dakin have worked out a succession plan that would have the popular superintendent of schools retiring next December.

A new superintendent would likely be picked and put in place next fall, prior to Dakin’s departure.

The School Committee has been working on the plan since last April to come up with an idea of how they would go about making the transition from Dakin to a new superintendent. Dakin came into the position more than 10 years ago and before that was Assistant Superintendent under Carol Tye.

“We have worked out a plan that would have me gone at the end of next December,” said Dakin this week. “We’ll be putting a new person in place a few months before that so I can teach them, mentor them and finish off the McKinley School. I’d also like to kick off a Statement of Interest on the new high school before I leave. They’ve given due diligence to that transition plan since last April. They still have to discuss the possibilities of how much to search for a new person.”

Dakin, 64, said he has been in the Revere Schools for 19 years, and before that he was at East Boston’s Savio Prep. All of those years, he said, have not lent themselves to a lot of personal time. That said, he has been looking forward to a retirement and slowing down with his wife, former English teacher MaryEllen Dakin.

“Even back at my days at Savio, I never had summers off and worked 60-hour weeks and went to school nights for my master’s and doctorate,” he said. “I always had a second job and was a coach too. Now, 50 hours a week is a minimum, but I’m usually working 60 a week. I’ll be 64 and I’d like to have years where I get to do things I never got to do. I’ve never had time to travel…I have many more vacation days than I’ve ever taken.

“It’s something you do with a heavy heart, but you have to do it,” he continued. “I need to do it before I get too old to do the things I want to do.”

He said he and his wife plan to continue living in Revere and hope that they can live out a normal life in their hometown as a retired couple.

Tye, now a School Committeewoman, said the district has been lucky to have Dakin and to have kept Dakin all these years. She noted that he has had larger, state appointment opportunities that he has turned down in the past.

“He is such an extraordinary person with the talent to see the forest and the trees,” she said. “He has a work ethic beyond everything we should have a right to hope for…It will be extraordinarily difficult to replace him.”

Over the years, Dakin has been the person to take the district from a diamond in the rough to a model urban district for the entire country to look towards. In recent years, the district’s students – especially at the high school – have distinguished themselves on standardized tests by constantly improving. Teachers and administrators have also been continuously challenged to innovate and get better as well. For that, last year the high school won the Gold Medal award from the National Center for Urban School Transformation (NCUST) – a top award nationwide among urban school districts.

Additionally, Dakin has shown an adept ability, observers said, at being able to handle the ever-more complex social issues that have faced the district, including drug/alcohol abuse, social media and transiency.

To date, the Committee has reached a decision on succession, but hasn’t made it extremely public yet. That said, the idea of how to find a new superintendent hasn’t been heavily discussed.

It has only been in recent weeks that a decision has been made to have Dakin retire by next December. Other plans would have had him stay on until the end of next school year, or the fall of 2015.

Tye said she would, personally, not be advocating for any nationwide search. She said she sees plenty of talent within the district.

“I can think of eight people right now within the school system who have the skills and courage to do the job,” she said. “I probably, because I see all this talent, do not want to do a nationwide search. When we know there are people here that are successful, there is no need to do that…Cultural and historical knowledge of the system is really critical to being a superintendent. It’s not the only critical piece, but when you can walk into a job and know all the people and hit the ground running, that’s a big plus.”

Stacy Rizzo, vice chair of the School Committee, said the Committee hasn’t codified it, but they have agreed to stay in-house with their choice. She said so many districts – such as Somerville, Peabody, Lexington and Salem – are looking for superintendents and having a hard time in that search.

“We’ve been mulling it over a long time,” she said. “There are really no great candidates out there and that is scary. We have a lot of cities and towns struggling with their searches. However, with Dr. Dakin’s mentoring and leadership, we have great candidates inside the schools. We believe we have people within and we want to stay within, but we don’t know how to go about that just yet…We are definitely in agreement that we want to stay inside the district with our choice.

The School Committee is likely to begin discussions about the process of searching for a new superintendent after the new year. The School Committee is expected to talk about the subject at its Dec. 15 meeting.

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