Saugus Union School District governing board members extended the contracts for the district’s executive leadership team Tuesday with a 4-1 vote at their regularly scheduled board meeting, with board member Anna Griese dissenting.
The approval came after a pair of attempts during the meeting to table the discussion a third time, which the board ultimately decided against.
Griese became emotional as she asked her fellow board members at the beginning if the talk could be tabled, which, she added, had nothing to do with the performance of the executive leaders, who are doing “an amazing job.”
“It is about the policy and procedures of not having the appropriate conversations as a five-member board, and that is why I’m not approving that item,” said Griese, who, at past meetings, has been a vocal critic of the superintendent’s office.
Board member Cassandra Love said it was “a bit perplexed” by the insinuation that board members didn’t have enough time to discuss the information, which they received a month ago.
Love, who attended the meeting via Zoom, said it was the third time it was on the agenda because the previous two delays were caused by absences by herself and Griese.
Griese praised Superintendent Colleen Hawkins on Tuesday, as well as the team’s results. She said the contracts were a sensitive topic and there could be questions involving potential confidential personnel matters, so she wanted the opportunity to discuss in closed session before the vote.
The board voted not to change the agenda at the beginning of the meeting, and after board member Matthew Watson asked for more time for the board to consider the contracts when the item came up about three hours into the meeting.
“Given that these five items are not urgent in nature, we’re not delaying anybody’s access to child care or anything like that by tabling these items, I’d like to move that the (items pertaining to executive contracts) be tabled at this point, so that all the board members can have access to the information that they need, so that we can all make a better informed vote on these items,” Watson said.
Board member Chris Trunkey questioned why the board needed to have a second talk, and then said if there are addenda or changes to the contracts, they should be discussed in open session, which is why they were on the agenda.
Watson’s motion to table the item failed on a 3-2 vote.
Trunkey mentioned the importance of valuing the contributions of the district’s leaders before voting to approve the contracts, as well as the importance of providing leadership.
Board President Katherine Cooper also described Hawkins as amazing in a phone interview prior to the board meeting, adding the renewal was a standard one in her opinion. The contract extends Hawkins’ time at the helm through at least June 30, 2026.
Cooper, a CPA, acknowledged a sort of “balancing act” that exists between offering a salary that gets the best person possible with being fiscally prudent with the district’s money.
Hawkins’ current contract is on step 4 of six steps on the superintendent salary schedule, which calls for an annual salary of $261,368.92.
The rest of the district’s executive team was also approved for contract renewals.
Cooper praised Edwin Clement, the district’s assistant superintendent of educational services, for creating educational opportunities for students, mentioning the popular summer STEAM camp as an example. She credited Michelle Barries in student services with instituting the district’s Multitiered Systems of Support to better program mental health resources for students,
Jennifer Stevenson and Nick Heinlein were vital in handling labor relations and the budget, respectively, among their other roles, Cooper added. All their contracts were renewed by the board.