July 27, 2021 by Carol Britton Meyer
Dr. Gary Maestas, Ed.D., who served as Superintendent of Plymouth Public Schools from 2008 until September 2020, was named interim superintendent for the Hingham Public Schools in a unanimous vote by the School Committee Monday night. He will replace Supt. of Schools Paul Austin, who is resigning effective July 30, under a one-year contract.
Prior to taking the vote, various School Committee members expressed certainty that he would be effective in rebuilding relationships and trust, which is needed following the past year and a half during which there was controversy centering around when the schools should re-open and related issues and other challenges posed by COVID.
Maestas' ability to mentor, knowledge of the budget process, and his leadership in the Plymouth Public Schools in "bringing technology to the forefront," as well as the foreign exchange program he developed were noted by School Committee members.
Member Liza O'Reilly was particularly impressed when Maestas said during his interview that he "wanted to come here to help us find a permanent superintendent. He's the only candidate who said that," she stated.
Member Michelle Ayer said what impressed her most about Maestas was how often he used the word "students," who she feels should be the main focus. She also noted that he had "done his homework before his interview. He knew we have two Massachusetts School Building Authority projects coming up [related to Foster School and Plymouth River School] and he was familiar with our budget."
For Committee Chair Kerry Ni, it all comes down to experience and relationships. "We have a lot going on in the HPS, with the necessary academic and social/emotional recovery from COVID, with our budget and the need for an override, with the Foster and PRS Massachusetts School Building Authority projects, with our equity work, and we still have to find a permanent superintendent," she said. "I think it is crucial that we hire someone with experience in a district our size or larger who can help us navigate all of these challenges and stay focused. We also need someone with the experience and ability to set our district and next superintendent up for success."
Ni noted that Maestas did an "excellent job" as superintendent of the Plymouth Public Schools for 12 years, which is a larger school district than Hingham. "I was struck by a comment by one member of the screening committee last Friday about how he built programs in Plymouth and left the district stronger than he found it," she said. "He has navigated the MSBA process as a Superintendent and has built budgets. Plymouth also started their equity work years ago. Gary is extremely well respected among his peers and that will be helpful in our search for a permanent superintendent."
In addition to all of the challenges Ni mentioned earlier in her remarks, probably the most important one is "rebuilding relationships," she said. "The fear and uncertainty of this past year brought out the best and worst in our whole school community, and unfortunately, did some damage. We are going to need to repair those relationships and rebuild trust between all of our stakeholders -- students, teachers, staff, administrators, parents, the community, and School Committee - because that is what it will take to get everyone rowing in the right direction to accomplish any of those other tasks. We heard from three excellent superintendents last week, but Dr. Maestas really stood out for me."
The other two finalists, who along with Maestas were interviewed in public session last week, were Dr. Andrew Keough, Ed.D. and Dr. Kristine Nash, Ed.D. Keough recently retired as superintendent of Dover Sherborn Regional Schools. Nash retired as superintendent of Hanover Public Schools in 2012, serving as interim superintendent in multiple school districts since then.
During Maestas' tenure in Plymouth, he was responsible for fiscal oversight, policy development, and staffing to ensure that students were educated in a setting conducive to modern demands of accountability and society.
He also oversaw a number of school building projects and served as Commissioner of the New England Association of Schools and Colleges and as chair of the New England Association of Schools and Colleges Visiting Committee that accredited Hingham High School in 2018.
Prior to serving as Superintendent of Plymouth Public Schools, Maestas served as Assistant Superintendent of Administration and Instruction for PPS, as Interim Principal of Plymouth South Middle School, and in several other leadership and teaching positions across Massachusetts.
School committee members agreed that all three were excellent candidates, and that HPS would be "in good hands" under any of their guidance.