Harbor Middle School principal removed

By 
Gintautas Dumcius, News Editor
Dec. 3, 2010

Five months after he was installed as principal of Harbor Middle School, Dr. Robert Martin was removed by the city’s school department, parents learned in a letter from Superintendent Carol Johnson.

Johnson’s letter, which parents received last week on the day before Thanksgiving, said the change in leadership was effective that day, Nov. 24.

“We know how critical leadership is to our overall student improvement efforts, and we acknowledge that this decision has implications for you, your children, and the dedicated faculty and staff of the Harbor,” she wrote. “We expect to appoint a permanent principal to the Harbor by no later than mid-January.”

The letter came after the Reporter article noting that Martin had been put on administrative leave for two and a half weeks. Boston Public School officials had declined to say if the leave was related to a defensive e-mail exchange with the parent of a special education student at the middle school, in which he chided the parent as “out of line” for saying the school does not have a plan for a “one-to-one” replacement for her son. His email, which was sent the day before he was put on leave, ran over 1,000 words.

Martin had worked at four local middle schools before taking over the Harbor Middle School over the summer. He received praise for his work at the O’Donnell Elementary School for improving standardized test scores, and Harbor Middle School officials said he was quickly turning around Harbor Middle School as well.

Designated as a “turnaround school” earlier this year in order to close student achievement gaps, the Harbor was established in 1998 as a pilot school in the Harbor Point Community Center. According to BPS documents, the school had “fairly acceptable” MCAS scores for the first six years, but struggled with facility issues, high faculty turnover, and administrative changes that caused a “dramatic decline” in the scores starting in 2005.

“It is our intent to make the Harbor a full inclusion middle school that serves as a place of learning and academic excellence for all students,” Johnson wrote in her letter. “The future principal of the Harbor will build on the strong foundation in place and sustain partnerships that have been established to achieve this goal. In the days to come we will create opportunities for families to inform the profile of the Harbor’s next leader.”

During the interim period, Boston Public Schools’ assistant academic superintendent Albert Taylor will become acting principal. He has led the Murphy K-8 School and the Mozart Elementary School. “He will work with staff and families at the Harbor to make this transition period as seamless as possible so that the education of your children remains our primary focus and priority,” Johnson wrote.

Johnson’s letter is below in its entirety.

November 24, 2010

Dear Harbor Parents,

Our aim in the Boston Public Schools is to offer families schools that provide students with an enriching learning environment that is safe, welcoming, and focused on preparing all students for success. This is something we endeavor to make available for every student regardless of his or her income, race, native language, or disability status. The Harbor Middle School is an example of our efforts to marshal our resources and collective will to deliver on this. Already the Harbor has begun the process of turning itself around, and your support and investment in the school, as well as the education of your children, are vital to our success.

I’m writing today to inform you that we have decided to make a change in leadership at the Harbor Middle School effective Wednesday, November 24. We know how critical leadership is to our overall student improvement efforts, and we acknowledge that this decision has implications for you, your children, and the dedicated faculty and staff of the Harbor. We expect to appoint a permanent principal to the Harbor by no later than mid-January.

In the interim, I have asked Assistant Academic Superintendent Albert Taylor to temporarily assume the role of Acting Principal, until a suitable replacement for Dr. Robert Martin is selected. Mr. Taylor brings a wealth of experience leading successful schools in Boston, most recently leading the Murphy K-8 School and the Mozart Elementary School. In both instances, he mobilized staff and worked with families to create a high quality learning environment for all students. He will work with staff and families at the Harbor to make this transition period as seamless as possible so that the education of your children remains our primary focus and priority.

It is our intent to make the Harbor a full inclusion middle school that serves as a place of learning and academic excellence for all students. The future principal of the Harbor will build on the strong foundation in place and sustain partnerships that have been established to achieve this goal. In the days to come we will create opportunities for families to inform the profile of the Harbor’s next leader. Should you have any questions or concerns during the coming weeks, you may reach out to Mr. Taylor at the school or to our Chief Accountability Officer, Frank Barnes, who leads our school turnaround efforts.

Thank you for entrusting us with the education of your children. We humbly accept this privilege and will continue to work so that your child continues on track to be college ready and success bound.

Sincerely,

Carol R. Johnson
Superintendent