Principal finalists for Finn (and Woodward) announced; Vice Principal asks upset supporters to respect committee’s choice (Updated)

by beth on April 6, 2017

This week, the announcement of finalists for Finn and Woodward principals spurred at group of parents to protest. Now the “passed over” candidate they rallied behind is thanking them, but asking them to back down.

The announcement went out Tuesday night, naming two outside candidates. They were chosen by a search commitees, each of which included a parent from the school. 

Since then, word spread that Vice Principal Clayton Ryan was passed over for the Finn spot. Adding to supporters’ distress is the fact that Ryan’s current position is being eliminated.

(That doesn’t necessarily mean he will be out of a district job. More on that later.)

Yesterday, a group of residents created an online petition to protest the decision as a travesty. The petition was quickly spread through social media yesterday. And as of 10:15 this morning, it had 149 signatures.

According to one organizer of the protest, many parents had assumed Ryan would be the “obvious choice” for filling one of the openings. Initially, many who saw the announced candidates assumed he hadn’t applied. When they learned that they had, they were shocked.

I reached out to Ryan. He responded with a statement last night asking parents to respect the search committee and its choice. It included:

My heart-felt gratitude goes out to the many parents who have expressed concern about the principal selection process and my well-being. Moving forward, it is my hope that the entire Southborough parent community will respect the committee’s decision and join me in the support of these highly qualified finalists.

(Scroll down for his full statement.)

I spoke to one of the petition organizers, Lisa Fruhan. She had just learned of Ryan’s wishes earlier this morning and consulted with some others involved.

Out of respect to Ryan’s wishes, she chose not to officially submit the petition to Johnson. But she knows that it had already been shared with Johnson by others. Now she sees the petition as a way that parents were able to demonstrate how many parents strongly value Ryan.

When I communicated with Johnson yesterday, she had already begun to receive phone calls from parents.

I asked how many parents attended the community forums to weigh in on criteria for a new principal. Her answer was two.

This morning Fruhan volunteered that more parents probably should have participated in the search process.* But they had assumed Ryan was the obvious choice for promotion.

When we spoke yesterday afternoon, Johnson was uncomfortable answering some of my questions about the committee’s decision without consulting Ryan. Responding to a follow up email, about Ryan’s future she wrote: 

Clayton will remain in our district but not in the role of assistant principal. His excellence lies in many areas and currently we are in conversations about current positions that match his professional excellence. This decision will remain his and I am confident based on our discussions that we will continue to work collaboratively on behalf of our students.

Last night, she issued the following statement to Southborough parents:

Yesterday the school community received an announcement as to the upcoming Principal Site Visits and the names of the finalists for Finn and Woodward School Principals. The process by which these candidates were selected was shared in a One Call communication. There were two open forums held to gather input from the parent community. This information was shared with the Principal Search Committees for both Finn and Woodward. The Search Committees conducted its search consistent with our past practice of selecting candidates and with a high degree of fidelity and integrity.

I have received a number of phone calls and inquiries regarding the upcoming site visits for the finalists for Finn and Woodward School Principals. Specifically, I have received a number of positive comments and accolades bestowed upon Mr. Clayton Ryan and his positive impact on students. Clayton will continue to play an important role in the lives of our students in the District. I appreciate the outpouring of comments in support of his candidacy for Principal of Finn School and value the recent input received.

The site visit is scheduled for Monday, April 10, 2017. This is an opportunity for the community to engage the finalists in a dialog about topical areas of interest, ask questions and to make a personal connection. After the visit, I will be available for feedback via email, phone call or in-person. I will remain at Finn School at the conclusion of the scheduled site visit until 8 PM.

The parent petition begun yesterday states:

After many years of serving as assistant principal of both the Mary Finn Elementary School and the Woodward School, Clayton Ryan was overlooked when a new principal was chosen for Finn. We believe this is a travesty after all his done for our schools and community. Many of us assumed he would be the obvious choice for filling our beloved Mr. Randell’s shoes when he retires in June. Clayton is a wonderful educator and administrator, beloved by his students and Southborough parents alike. We believe it is in the best interests of our children to have Clayton Ryan be named the principal of the Mary Finn School.

In his email last night, Ryan asked me to share the following:

At the start of the principal search process, Superintendent Johnson established a volunteer-based hiring committee representing a broad cross-section of the school community. I have served on these committees in the past, so I know firsthand how difficult and challenging their job can be. In the search for a Finn School principal, the committee had to recommend the finalists to Superintendent Johnson who best represented their collective vision.

I know each of these committee members personally and respect their decision. I will finish the year as Assistant Principal with a continued commitment to supporting students, staff, and parents of both the Finn and Woodward communities.

My heart-felt gratitude goes out to the many parents who have expressed concern about the principal selection process and my well-being. Moving forward, it is my hope that the entire Southborough parent community will respect the committee’s decision and join me in the support of these highly qualified finalists.
Thanks again for all the support.

Each search committee included one parent from the school. At this time, Johnson isn’t sharing more details on the position criteria or the reasons for the committees’ decisions.

Editor’s Note: I’ll share more news on the finalists that were selected and their visit day in a separate post. 

Until then, click here to read the announcement.

*Editor’s Note: When I spoke to Fruhan, I had yet to see Johnson’s answer that there were only two attendees at the forums. (I don’t want to imply she was responding to that information.)

Updated (4/6/17 12:35 pm): Fruhan reached out to me. I originally posted that she still planned to submit the petition, without asking for a decision reversal. She clarified that’s not what she meant to indicate when we spoke. Because of Ryan’s request, she is not submitting it.

1 Betsy Colby Davie April 6, 2017 at 1:46 PM

Clayton Ryan’s gracious response speaks volumes about his integrity and professionalism. I am grateful for his example to our community but still sorry and disappointed that this happened to him.

2 Diane Romm April 6, 2017 at 2:17 PM

Through his own words and actions, Clayton Ryan just inadvertently revealed another reason why the Committee should reconsider him for the position of Principal of the Mary Finn School.

3 Southviller April 6, 2017 at 3:48 PM

While not trying to form a witch hunt, it is a bit concerning when the very first result for our new Finn candidate through Google is an article about her leaving her first principle job after less than a year because she didn’t like the commute…

4 Southviller April 6, 2017 at 3:52 PM


my mistake

5 Kate April 6, 2017 at 7:02 PM

Well, looks like she’s in Grafton, so it shouldn’t be an issue. She probably didn’t realize how tough the North Andover commute would be when she took that position. Don’t blame her a bit.

6 Sam April 7, 2017 at 10:40 AM

Really? You don’t think maybe figuring out your commute before taking a job is a good idea? Leaving after less than 10 months on the job is concerning. Especially since we are losing a wonderful principal as it is for two schools. I would like someone who I know will stick around and won’t leave after less than a year because they don’t like the long drive. Something that she obviously knew when she took the job. Kind of speaks to character and how little she must have thought of her school and students to leave them in the lurch like that. Our students deserve better.

7 Frank Crowell April 6, 2017 at 5:15 PM

What was the make up of the search committee? One parent, two school board, two administrators? Shocked that some parents are upset with current selection – not me. The cards were stacked in favor of whoever the Super wanted or in one case did not want.

In the mean time we all need to keep in mind who hired an embezzler, how long that person embezzled and what the consequences were for the hiring management (that would be zero).

8 Diane Romm April 7, 2017 at 6:38 AM

At the same time Betsy wrote her post, I wrote the following which is in the same spirit. I tried to post it but it may have gotten caught in a spam filter or some other technological glitch. Since this is an important topic, I will try to remember what I wrote and submit another post:

Through his actions and words Clayton Ryan inadvertently revealed why the school committee should reconsider hiring him as Principal of the Mary Finn School.

And, Frank, you are right: “The cards were stacked in favor of whoever the Super wanted or in one case did not want.” And that’s part of the issue here and this decision casts, shall I say, a shadow over her leadership.

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