Saugus Union School District officials announced Wednesday a principal was placed on administrative leave after more than a dozen parents spoke out at Tuesday’s board meeting.
“SUSD takes the concerns of parents, staff and students seriously,” Superintendent Colleen Hawkins wrote in a statement shared with The Signal via email. “To ensure that the allegations made by the community are investigated thoroughly and impartially, we have decided to engage an independent outside investigator to meet with complainants. Keeping the focus on students and their education is critical to SUSD. To that end we have placed (Sahar) Moshayedi on administrative leave pending the conclusion of the investigation. As this is now an open and pending investigation, we have no further comment at this time.”
The previous departure of a popular principal and concerns about subsequent changes at the Emblem Academy campus over the last two years prompted a dozen parents to speak out at the Saugus district board meeting.
Some shared testimonials, and others said they were sharing on behalf of members of the teaching staff who feared reprisal or retaliation from the superintendent and the principal if they came forward with their concerns.
The common thread: There’s been a “climate change” on campus since Jon Baker left the top spot there, and plenty of parents are unhappy about it.
Krystina Brezensky, a parent of four who has a son who attends Emblem, said Wednesday she spoke up in front of the board after seeing all of the other concerns shared on Facebook that made her realize she wasn’t the only one who was having these issues.
Brezensky was very happy with her child’s teacher and their program; however, she was horrified when she watched Baker’s replacement, Moshayedi, berate her son’s teacher on one occasion.
Another encounter left her feeling as though her son was going to be removed from a program that really helped him because she was having a scheduling challenge due to having children who attend different schools with conflicting bell schedules.
She came away feeling as though she was being ordered to make her fourth-grader walk to school to get to class on time or he would lose his spot, which she didn’t feel was right.
She was afraid to complain because of her past conversations with Moshayedi, she said.
“I was very scared to come forward and say something, but I realized that there’s so many other parents — and I know especially with my son’s teachers, they were all terrified to speak up — so I felt the need that I had to be a voice for everyone,” Brezensky said.
Moshayedi did not respond to a request for comment. Board President Katherine Cooper said she would not be providing any comment beyond Hawkins’ email.
An email to an address listed for the Emblem Academy PTA on a Facebook page for the group also failed to garner a response.
After the last board meeting in April, the district received an email that shared some of the concerns discussed Tuesday regarding Emblem Academy.
Board member Anna Griese said board members and members of the administration received the email, which led her to reach out to some of the parents to “just try and understand what was going on,” she said Wednesday.
Ahead of Tuesday’s meeting, she met with a group of the parents and said that resulted in her receiving 34 letters and eight emails that were shared with her, some anonymously, some signed.
“I was a little concerned based upon some of the explanations from the individual parents … and I understand personality conflicts, and so I can understand that part,” Griese said. “But I think really hearing what was going on regarding some of the students and the behaviors towards parents, what the teachers were going through … I found it very alarming that that behavior was even happening, especially at an elementary school.”
Griese said she was also concerned by the number of concerned parents and by her understanding that this was not the first time the concerns were brought to the district.
“The climate is fear of retaliation, from at the school-site level and at the district level,” Griese said. “And that is felt between teachers, staff and parents, and this is not the only time that I’ve heard that comment. I’ve heard it from multiple school sites, teachers, parents, so it is just a common theme of fear and retaliation. … And however those parents and teachers feel, that I don’t know, but the sheer fact that they are saying fear and retaliation is just really concerning.”