School Superintendents in Lowell

It has been my pleasure to review the tenure of the Lowell School Superintendents and come up with some basic conclusions. The first is, being the head of the School system was a sure way to fail. Most of our superintendents lasted a minimal three years. Some lasted for longer but only two lasted over twenty years. Those two were Hugh J. Molloy and Vincent McCartin. Hugh Molloy lasted twenty years while Vincent McCartin lasted thirty five years. The current Superintendent remarked that he wanted to last as long as McCartin. So did my father but he realized that he had to gain tenure if he wanted a long-term position. He realized that he had to certify thirty one people or fire them. Most got fired, even though they were politically connected.

Let’s go through the list. It starts with Pastor Theodore Edson. He was voted School Committee Chairman for the first years from 1826 to 1858. He also took it upon himself to serve as the first Superintendent. It was a male supremacy situation. He served in it until they hired George W. Shattuck in 1859. Mr. Shattuck lasted for five years. Mr. Greenhalge, who became the Governor of Massachusetts, stated that his most enjoyable elective office was being on the Lowell School Board. They called it a Committee. That sounded more official.

Abner J. Phipps took over the superintendency in 1864. It is needless to say that he saw many of his men go to war, especially in 1864 and 1865, but nowhere does it say that he left the office because of that pressure. He lasted for three years. He was out by 1867. He was replaced by Charles Morill from 1867 to 1885, a formative twelve years. He was replaced by Charles H. Conley who served until 1886. That was a mere year. George F. Lawton served from 1886 to 1891. Arthur F. Whitcomb served from 1891 to 1912. We already discussed Hugh J. Molloy and Vincent McCartin. Combined they served 21 years and 35 years. He was followed by Wayne R. Peters, my father. He had one of the difficult periods. He had to decertify thirty one people. They were all politically connected. Peters spent his time the first year, getting the staff certified. The state oversaw the operation.

Wayne Peters personally built the high school library with a little help from a couple of custodians. He also enlisted the high school PTO’s help. I helped cut boards for stacks of books. I still do that at home. It did not ingratiate him to the unions. He was seen as anti-union. He came from a state that used parental help. I believe that my best friend of over fifty years helped out in efforts in Harvey, Illinois. In his years as Superintendent, it was common to use parental assistance. He did not use these people to spite the others. He was just carrying on a practice. He saw no fault in it. Unions attacked him for certification, and building a big library. It lasted about ten years.

Peters was very popular with the general public. He grabbed his School Committee seat by over 5500 votes over Kay Stoklosa. Kay jokingly told me that my father had beaten her totals in the City Council race. « Jimmy, he constantly beats me by coming in first. » Politics dictated that he would come in fifth the following election. Certain people had slated him for defeat that year.

Peters found the appeal by the teachers for testing. He helped design some of he tests. He regularly went to football games, especially the rivalry between Lowell and Lawrence. He bought me a suit so I would look like the Superintendent’s son. He bought a home/mansion in the Highlands because he could buy it for two-thirds the price of two-thirds of a Belvidere mansion. I had all of my friends living in Belvidere so I was not happy.

I wrote articles and Letters to the Editors of the Lowell Sun.. Most stuck up for my father although I did write about Vietnam which to me was a hell-hole. I remember the Armory, stocked with cannons. I remember taking my sister to the Strand. I loved the chandelier. I shopped at Talbot’s, McQuades, Bon Marcbe, Lull and Hartford, Prince Stationery, I was living the life.

Soon, everything crashed. An errant School Board came in with the intention of firing my father. The people did not seem to be for it but they had voted for these people and my father lost his job. It was the cost of success, My father went to a Superintendency in Holbrook for seventeen years, gloriously. Before he left, he passed me my diploma and got a standing ovation. He remembered that better than anything.

That was my father’s tenure. It was lasting and it was full. I would recommend Lowell to everybody.

Hugh McDonald took over for a year after my father. He was remembered for putting students into the AVCO Building. He had no children in the system. Avco was known for having no walls.

Earl Sharfman took over and did his best, He was here for four years.

Patrick Mogan, the father of the National Park, stayed here for five glorious years, He worked tirelessly on the National Park. He was a living legend.

Henry J. Mroz served for eight years. My brother-in-law was against him. I gave him a full house of supporters when I was the chairman of the Citywide Parent Council. He was so surprised he came back for other visits.

George Tsapatsaris served a healthy nine years. I often saw him walking with a story on his lips, through Belvidere when I had many cliients there for landscaping. George was an open and welcome visitor. Supposedly he used to troll his car outside of the high school and personally report the teachers who didn’t come in on time.

Karla Brooks Baer was no friend of mine. I was of the group who thought she was driven to change only under pressure.

Chris Scott I did not know. I was working on landscaping and I was too busy to be involved with the schools. I regret that Jean Franco served for four years, She served for three years,

Jean Franco served for four years, She oversaw my father’s having a room named for him. It is my understanding that she was very active in that.

I gave John Glenn a view of the high school in the late 1980’s.

Salah Khelfaoui lived here for three years, His tenure is still being determined.

Joel Boyd is currently doing a fine job, in my humble opinion.

So I have concluded that the average Superintendent lasts for about three or four years. That is my assessment. Take away the two long terms and the number shrinks. I think that we push Superintendents out.

One thought on “School Superintendents in Lowell

  1. C R Krieger

    I would suggest that if we are looking for change we will need a Superintent who sticks around for a while. If we are only looking for change around the margins, short tenures are OK. But, if we are looking for bigger change, like the addition of a big Vocational Training, it is going to require a Superintendent who can last from concept to establishment.
    Regards   —  Cliff

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