FRAMINGHAM - The Framingham School Committee unanimously voted in favor of the hiring of Dr. Anthony Pope as the school district’s Assistant Superintendent for Equity, Belonging, and Community Engagement on Wednesday, January 17.
School Superintendent Dr. Robert Tremblay made the recommendation following a search conducted by the New England School Development Council, an independent party in the process. City officials wanted the process to be as unbiased as possible, as Pope was one of three finalists for the role.
Pope’s tenure began on Thursday, January 18. He took over following the departure of Tiffany Lillie, who left the school district after beginning her tenure as the CEO of Girls Inc. of Worcester back in October.
While the School Committee unanimously voted in favor of Pope’s hiring, community comments during their most recent meeting were not as receptive to Tremblay's recommendation. Public comments from Dunning Elementary School first grade teacher Sarah McKeon—who also serves as the Equity Champion at Dunning—as well as Framingham Teachers Association President Christine Mulroney called on the School Committee to delay the process of choosing a candidate for the role. They expressed concerns related to Pope’s history as well as insufficient time to review the matter.
“In most of Dr. Tremblay’s appointments following interviews, there has been time for community forums for the community to meet the finalists prior to a candidate being recommended,” Mulroney told School Committee members.
“This did not happen. In a position which has ‘Community Engagement’ in its title, it seems odd that this type of forum was not made available.”
Pope resigned as the Superintendent of Marlborough’s school district back in 2012 following his decision to fire Adam Bakr, a popular assistant principal at Marlborough High School. Shortly after Pope’s departure, Bakr returned to his job. That same year, Pope was also accused of shoving a guidance counselor in Marlborough, though he was never charged with any crime. An online petition from 2012 calling for Pope’s removal from the Marlborough job had over 200 supporters.
“Our district, unfortunately, has seen a handful of unsuccessful administrators…Staff tried to communicate concerns and went unheard,” McKeon said during the public comment period on January 17.
“At worst, staff left this district because these other people remained, largely unchecked. Sadly, I hear the same things about Dr. Pope and his approach with staff and students, especially if he was questioned or challenged.”
Tremblay and other local officials explained the process which led to the recommendation of Pope, as 37 candidates were narrowed down to a field of eight who were interviewed. Those who conducted the interviews did their own research, but Pope was reportedly candid and open during the process. Tremblay added his belief that Pope’s “lived experience” made him an ideal fit for the role.
After being given a chance to speak during the meeting, Pope defended his decision over a decade ago to dismiss Bakr, as he claimed that it was in protection of a child. He explained that he had learned a number of lessons since then that has led to his improvement as a leader. Pope expressed his eagerness to reach out to the school committee in an effort to ensure that all of the district’s needs are being met.
“One thing that I can guarantee you: you will get my best every single day,” Pope continued.
“I look forward to the journey and working with the superintendent and his team to make sure we make all students feel like they belong.”
Members of the School Committee noted a desire to ensure a transparent process amid similar processes with residents going forward. The term of Pope’s contract was revised from three years down to one following public comments that were received by the group, though they were optimistic that Pope will be able to prove himself as a valuable asset to the city.
“Once you get to know the story, everything changes,” School Committee Clerk Ricardo Robles of District 1 said.
“Dr. Pope: thank you for being here, thank you for going through this process with a lot of courage, with a lot of transparency, and with a lot of humility. Those things are going to serve you so well in this role.”
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