Thursday, May 7, 2015

Do You Needham to Know This?

"Needham High principal resigns amid investigation" by Zolan Kanno-Youngs Globe Correspondent  May 02, 2015

The principal of Needham High School resigned Saturday morning while on administrative leave after he was targeted in a complaint regarding workplace conduct, according to a statement by Needham Superintendent Daniel E. Gutekanst.

Jonathan Pizzi was placed on leave on April 29 and was to be interviewed for an internal investigation this Wednesday, the statement said.

Gutekanst emphasized that no students were involved in the allegation, but did not provide details.

“I want to emphasize that there is nothing more important to me than the well-being of our students and staff and the families in this community,” Gutekanst said in the statement. “To that end, please be assured that the faculty and staff will ensure that the school day on Monday and throughout the week will continue to run smoothly and know we will support students and families.”

In an e-mail, Gutekanst said he had no further comment. School Committee chairwoman Connie Barr did not return requests for comment.


"Police join inquiry into former Needham principal" by Jeremy C. Fox and Steve Annear Globe Staff  May 04, 2015

NEEDHAM — Parents and students expressed surprise Monday about the fate of Needham High School’s well-regarded former principal even as police launched an investigation into a “workplace conduct complaint” involving the educator.

Jonathan Pizzi had been principal of the school since 2009, following an eight-year career in the Boston public schools. His tenure came to an abrupt end over the weekend when he resigned, and the schoolhouse complaint has become the focus of a police review.

“The Needham Police Department is investigating the alleged conduct and will have no further comment, except to confirm that it did not involve any students,” police said in a statement Monday.

A spokesman for Norfolk District Attorney Michael W. Morrissey said Monday there were no criminal charges against Pizzi.

Pizzi was placed on administrative leave, pending an internal investigation, three days before his resignation, school officials said. He was to face an interview Wednesday as part of that investigation.

Tricia, a mother waiting to pick up her child outside Needham High on Monday, said she believed Pizzi resigned to sidestep the School Department inquiry.

“For whatever reason, he decided not to go through the investigation process and the interview,” said Tricia, who declined to give her last name.

The 42-year-old mother, who has two children in Needham schools, said she was reassured by assertions that the incident under investigation did not involve a student. “For me, that was the big thing,” she said.

She said Pizzi was “well-respected” and that his resignation came as a surprise.

“I’ve never heard anything bad said about him,” she said.

George O’Connell, a student, said assistant principal Jonathan Bourn, who became acting principal upon Pizzi’s resignation, announced the change over the public address system Monday morning.

“I wouldn’t have expected it from him,” the 15-year-old said about the former principal. “He was just all about acceptance and caring.”

Jake Alpert, 17, said Pizzi is “a great guy” and that he learned of the complaint against the former principal and of his resignation over the weekend.

“I literally came home from SATs on Saturday afternoon about 12, and my dad said he got an e-mail from the superintendent that he resigned,” he said.

He said teachers in the school had not told students anything about the allegation against Pizzi.

No one answered the door at Pizzi’s Braintree home Monday, and calls to two phone numbers listed for him were not answered. Needham’s town manager and selectmen referred inquiries to the School Department.

Pizzi earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Providence College in Rhode Island, and a doctorate in educational administration from Boston College.

According to Globe archives, he began his career as an English teacher in Springfield.

He was an assistant headmaster at Boston’s Excel High School from 2001 to 2004, then headmaster at Monument High School until 2008, according to Boston Public Schools records.

Both schools were headquartered in the same South Boston building. He then spent a year as assistant academic superintendent for Boston before accepting the job in Needham.

Pizzi faced tough competition during the hiring process to replace Needham High’s principal.

There were 29 candidates, a pool that shrank to 11 semifinalists before Pizzi broke through as a finalist and accepted an offer.

He was hailed by school officials at the time of his hiring as an enthusiastic, reflective leader who relied on student achievement as a key motivator for his career.

Pizzi faced a crisis in 2010 when allegations of hazing led to the suspension of several students on the girls’ varsity soccer team, a day before a crucial state tournament game.

The decision led to tension between Pizzi and parents, who sought a court injunction to allow the athletes to play.

A judge refused to intervene, the players were sidelined, and the team lost to Brockton, 7-1.

During Pizzi’s tenure, the SAT I scores in 2010 for that year’s senior class were higher than the national average, with 94 percent of students participating in the test.


RelatedNeedham school panel mum on principal’s resignation