George ClementPrincipal George Clement

Kathleen DawsonSuperintendent-Director Kathleen Dawson

UPDATED May 19: By unanimous vote supported by resounding praise, the Minuteman School Committee on the evening of Thursday, May 18, chose Kevin Mahoney as acting superintendent of Minuteman Regional Technical Vocational School District.

Mahoney as of Friday morning, May 19, is now filling in for the embattled and now-on-administrative-leave superintendent-director, Kathleen Dawson.

Before the 7-0 vote, Committee Chair Pam Nourse noted that Mahoney had been Minuteman's assistant superintendent and had retired in 2019 but as a consultant had remained a familiar presence at the award-winning, trades-oriented, accredited public school in Lexington, directly northwest of Arlington. 

"I'm really flattered that I have this opportunity to come back," Mahoney said after the vote. He said that he would "try and move forward and offer any support I can."

70 attend Zoom session

The meeting, held solely over Zoom, attracted more than 70 participants. Following a closed session, the committee came back into open session, unanimously approved Mahoney's contract and then voted unanimously to adjourn until a week later, to the May 25 in-person meeting. The entire meeting -- first open, then closed and then back to open session -- lasted less than 45 minutes.

The agenda for May 18, published on the district website, had listed a vote for an acting superintendent because of the situation involving Dawson, who began work in July 1, 2022, and was put on administrative leave late May 11 by the School Committee. In a recent interview with The Boston Globe, Dawson said that she has done no intentional wrong and expects to be able to clear her name of the accusations of poor performance that have been leveled at her by many Minuteman students, parents and teachers. Dawson has not responded to emails from YourArlington. 

Continuing his remarks May 18, Mahoney called Minuteman students "active and motivated" and said that he looks forward to engaging with them and with the parent association. He praised the "motivated, creative, professional teaching staff" and also the support staff -- paraprofessionals, food-service employees, custodial workers and so on. 

"I will see what I can do so that resources are provided and support is there" so as to "finish the [school] year strong" next month, Mahoney said. "I want to be approachable." He said he "anticipates many interesting conversations" in his new role and that he would "have those discussions" and "communicate with all the stakeholders." Minuteman serves eight other area communities besides Arlington.

Committee members endorse Mahoney 

Before the vote to approve the hiring, Nourse, of Acton, called Mahoney "intimately knowledgeable of all aspects of Minuteman" as well as respected and exceptional. "We are very lucky to have him step in at this time."

Committee member Ford Spalding, Dover, said that the new acting superintendent is "very calm, thoughtful and respectful," as well as adept with finances and "a real asset."

Committee member Jeffrey Stulin, Needham, said, "I could not be happier. I could not imagine a better person" for the job.

Committee member Alice DeLuca, Stow, called Mahoney "a real pillar of integrity and strength."

Committee member Judith Crocker, Lexington, noting that this is only her third year serving, said, "For [fellow committee members] to be this excited makes me excited" to welcome Mahoney back to active duty.

Committee member Erika Elsey, Bolton, said, "It's really a blessing at this point."

Arlington's representative, Michael Ruderman, did not speak at the meeting except to join the unanimous roll-call votes. The two other committee members -- Steven LeDoux of Concord and Jennifer Leone of Lancaster -- were absent.

 About noon Friday, May 19, Ruderman provided comments via email to YourArlington as follows: "Mahoney previously served as assistant superintendent from January 2013 to August 2019 and served as district treasurer from 2010 to 2012. He will serve [as acting superintendent] while the committee continues to investigate the complaints it has received regarding Superintendent-Director Dr. Kathleen Dawson, who remains on administrative leave.

"Mahoney has an intricate knowledge of the district, its faculty and staff and has continued to serve as a consultant to the committee since his retirement. He also brings significant leadership experience working for other schools, municipal governments and in the private sector. We are pleased to have him lead the school at this time."

A tumultuous month for Minuteman

Dawson was put on administrative leave the night of May 11 following a closed meeting of the School Committee that evening. The committee said at the same time that it had hired legal counsel to begin an independent investigation into the situation that has embroiled the community for the past few weeks.

Minuteman parents -- including families of some 200 Arlington teens who attend Minuteman -- received two emails May 12. The first one stated Dawson's on-leave status and mentioned the investigation, while the other said that the previously long-scheduled May 16 committee meeting has been called off and that the committee planned to meet at its next-scheduled regular meeting date, May 25.

That meeting schedule changed, however, in recent days; the May 16 meeting was closed-door only, and the open May 18 meeting was short. There is to be an in-person May 25 meeting at 6:30 p.m., Committee Chair Pam Nourse said Thursday evening, and it will include a public-comment portion, to be limited to 30 minutes total; the May 18 meeting did not have one.

Dawson was hired at the end of January 2022 and began work in July 2022. In recent weeks, she has come under harsh criticism by some Arlingtonians and others for allegedly having declined to renew the contract of widely admired Minuteman High School Principal George Clement, set to end June 30. Dawson also has been accused by community activists, some named and some whose identities are unknown, of driving away or demoting up to half-a-dozen other managerial-level Minuteman employees in less than 10 months.

No responses from Dawson, Clement

YourArlington has twice sought comment from Dawson since late April but has received no response. The Boston Globe reported May 12 having recently received a written statement from Dawson in which she says that she expects to clear her name. In the article, Dawson is quoted as saying, in part, “I look forward to working with the investigator assigned, as I have always put the interests of students first, and I have not intentionally engaged in any misconduct.” 

As it had with Dawson,YourArlington has twice sought comment from Clement over the past four weeks but has received no response.

Since the beginning of May, more than 100 students staged a walkout from classes in protest over Clement's precarious professional future. Several Arlington parents complained via letter to Arlington Town Meeting about the situation. Moreover, the Minuteman teachers' union overwhelmingly voted no confidence in Dawson recently. And two ongoing petition drives on -- one seeking retention of Clement, the other demanding removal of Dawson -- have, combined, garnered far more than 2,000 signatures to date.

Minuteman High School, at 758 Marrett Road, Lexington, continues to operate as usual, with an assistant principal currently in charge in Clement's temporary absence.

Minuteman parent Claudia Donnet told YourArlington that she was among those who had received the emails from the School Committee late May 12. School Committee Chair Pam Nourse the evening of May 12 confirmed to YourArlington the authenticity of the statement below. 

The text of the primary email is as follows: 

"May 12, 2023

"Minuteman Regional Vocational Technical High School

 "On Thursday, the School Committee of`Minuteman Regional Vocational Technical High School placed Superintendent-Director Dr. Kathleen Dawson on administrative leave pending an investigation into complaints received by the School Committee.

"The School Committee has retained independent legal counsel to conduct an investigation into these allegations. We are committed to ensuring that all parties involved receive a fair, thorough and unbiased examination of the facts.

"The School Committee will be appointing an acting Superintendent-Director in the coming days.

"As this is a personnel issue, we will have no further comment on this matter at this time, said Pamela Nourse, School Committee Chairperson, Minuteman Regional Vocational Technical High School."

May 1, 2023: Minuteman students walk out; union votes no confidence in superintendent


 This article was published Friday, May 12, 2023, based on information provided by Minuteman School Committee Chair Pam Nourse, by Minuteman parents and from previous YourArlington stories. It was updated Saturday, May 13, to correctly state that Dawson's administrative leave began late Thursday, May 11, rather than early Friday, May 12; to note that YourArlington has twice since late April emailed Dawson in an attempt to get her side of the story but has heard nothing back; and to include a link to a Boston Globe account of the situation and a quote from that article, in which Dawson says that she has done no intentional wrong. This article was updated May 14, 2023, to note that Clement, like Dawson, so far also has not responded to two YourArlington requests for comment in recent weeks, and also to state that Clement's contract, if not extended or renewed, would end on June 30. It was updated May 17, 2023, to say that the School Committee may select a stand-in for Dawson at its May 18 open meeting, which was believed to be intended to take the place of the previously scheduled May 25 meeting. It was updated May 18, 2023, to say that a May 25 meeting now is expected to occur and to report on the May 18 meeting, at which the committee unanimously voted to hire Kevin Mahoney as acting superintendent and to approve his contract. It was updated May 19, 2023, to add comments submitted by Michael Ruderman, Arlington's representative on the School Committee.