Kathleen DawsonSuperintendent-Director Kathleen Dawson

George ClementPrincipal George Clement

UPDATED June 2: Arlington residents and others the evening of May 25 extolled Minuteman High School Principal George Clement, excoriated district Superintendent-Director Kathleen Dawson and blasted the Minuteman School Committee for allowing the fraught situation to occur. 

The immensely popular Clement has been absent from his office in recent days, his employment status currently unclear. Dawson’s refusal to renew his contract, set to expire June 30, triggered a student walkout covered by three television stations, a unanimous faculty vote of no confidence in Dawson and two ongoing online petition drives on Change.org demanding, respectively, that officials keep Clement and dump Dawson, with total signatures exceeding 2,000.

At the May 25 meeting, in comments on the petition drives and in other ways, many people have suggested that Dawson’s consistently off-putting approach with her subordinates had motivated at least four other high-level managers to resign so far.

Clement, Dawson have not commented

Neither Clement nor Dawson has responded to repeated YourArlington inquiries for comment.

The committee, in closed session, put Dawson on administrative leave late the night of May 11 and hired an independent entity to investigate the situation, the committee announced later. The next week the committee appointed former assistant superintendent Kevin Mahoney, a consultant to the district after his 2019 retirement, as acting superintendent of the Minuteman Regional Technical Vocational School District. Mahoney took up his new post May 19.

“I am going to tell you that we are angry with you. We deserve better from you. We are here to ask you to do better,” said longtime faculty president Diane Dempsey at the May 25 committee meeting. 

She said that the committee’s background check on Dawson, who was hired in January 2022 and began work last July, was clearly, in retrospect, deeply flawed -- and that red flags likely would have been evident had it been more thorough. 

Later in her remarks, she said that teacher concerns about Dawson were brushed off. “You have ignored us, and we are insulted,” Dempsey said.

See May 25 Minuteman meeting:

The committee, which draws students from nine area communities, by longstanding practice did not respond to any of the remarks made during public comment. Committee Chair Pam Nourse allowed the speakers more than 40 minutes total. At the previous committee meeting, May 18, she had stated her intention to confine comment to the traditional half-hour. “The School Committee does have certain rules that we need to follow,” Nourse said May 25.

Some 200 Arlington teens are finishing the school year at the vocationally oriented, Lexington-based public-school campus, with the expected Arlington contingent of the incoming freshman class bigger than that of any of the other eight municipalities served. Graduation is set for 2 p.m. Friday, June 2; seniors had their last day of classes the same day as the committee meeting. The last day of classes for others is to be June 12. The new school year is set to start Aug. 29.

The term of Arlington’s current representative on the committee, J. Michael Ruderman, is to end June 30; the new term of office is set to start July 1. Anyone seeking appointment has until June 12 to approach the town’s Select Board as per the town website >> 

The public added their comments about this appointment at the May 22 Arlington Select Board meeting. Ruderman has told the board he wants to be reappointed.

The qualifications, per Minuteman, are here >> 

4 of 10 speakers tied to Arlington

 Four of the 10 speakers during public comment May 25 said they were Arlington parents of current students.

ACMi covers controversy:

“I want to understand how [Dawson] was chosen,” said Stephanie Ettinger de Cuba. “Clearly, that was a failed process.”

She added, “We need transparency on those findings [from the recently commenced investigation].”

She was among two Arlington parents to express concern about the racial climate at the school and to advocate for increased diversity, equity and inclusion.

Ellen Lawton said she was the immediate outgoing president of the Minuteman Parent Association, having served throughout the pandemic. She also mentioned the need for diversity, equity and inclusion.

She said that Dawson had once been “vicious with me” and that “she did not treat me with respect.”

Lawton was the only speaker to describe Clement in other than exclusively superlatives. “Clement was not perfect; there were areas for improvement, clearly,” Lawton said, without being specific. But, she said, he was “a visible, dedicated leader. He was open, skilled, transparent -- and committed to the school, the mission and the students.”

Sylvia Stevens accused Dawson of making teachers work outside of the scope of their contract, which was “not good leadership” and that Dawson needed to “treat them like the professionals they are.” Stevens added that Dawson also “failed to effectively communicate ” and that Clement’s contract should be renewed. “I stand with the staff and students.”

Katherine Reisz-Hanson said she was taken aback and became concerned when, after spring break in April, suddenly Dawson’s “vision rolled out without any explanation or discussion.” Reisz-Hanson urged the committee members going forward to convene meetings in each member community at least once every couple of months.

At the end of public comment, Nourse said, “We do appreciate [the comments]. We’re here to listen. We will incorporate [the information shared] in our planning as we move forward.”

In other business, the committee:
  • Heard that only six students remain on a waiting list for Minuteman admission and that this number might well drop to zero by August. A graph showed that Arlington is projected to have the most incoming freshmen, at 47 -- far above the two communities tied for second place, Acton and Lexington, with 29 each. Orientation for students and families took place May 6.
  • Learned from Mahoney that Minuteman’s 2023-2024 budget was approved by all member municipalities. “We appreciate the support we received through this budget season,” he said. In the evening’s only voiced compliment about Dawson, Ruderman thanked her publicly, though she was not present, for “extensive efforts on preparation” and for working with all nine towns on the budget.
  • Voted unanimously not to allow “school choice,” meaning to not permit any out-of-district students to attend Minuteman -- an annual decision, required by the state, by June 1.
  • Unanimously reappointed Dr. J. Samuel Andonian, whose primary practice is in Lexington, as district physician.
  • Unanimously adopted the academic school calendar for 2023-2024.
  • Went briefly into closed session, then came back into open session to announce unanimous votes for three-year employment contracts for the district’s business manager and director of special education, each to run from July 1, 2023, to June 30, 2026.

May 19, 2023: Minuteman School Committee approves appointment, contract of acting superintendent


This news summary by YourArlington Assistant Editor Judith Pfeffer was published Wednesday, May 31, 2023. It was updated June 2, to add ACMi video window.