BILLERICA — According to an email from Shawsheen Valley Technical High School Principal Jessica Cook, the school district has decided not to renew her contract for the next school year. The news was spread first on Sunday night on social media before Cook released a statement to students and parents on Monday.
An email from Cook to Shawsheen students and families recognized the district’s decision not to renew her contract for the 2020-2021 school year.
“The district has decided to go in a different direction with the leadership of the building,” Cook wrote in the statement.
She announced, with a heavy heart, that her last day as principal will be June 30.
The principal went on to thank all of the students at the school for the impact that they’ve had on her.
“I love Shawsheen Tech and I have been more proud of being a principal for our talented students than anything else I have done or accomplished,” she continued.
She shared that she believes in the future success of her students and in the commitment of the rest of the staff to support them. Finally, Cook said that she is focused on celebrating seniors and continuing remote learning through the end of the school year.
Cook has been the principal of Shawsheen Tech for five years. She previously taught there as a Social Studies teacher. It came as a shock to many students and parents to receive the news of her non-renewal, who discussed on the Shawsheen Tech Parents Facebook page.
John Bagni, who said he’s been teaching at Shawsheen for 19 years, wrote in a comment, “I do not agree with the termination of Jess Cook. I have worked very closely with her for the past five years. She is very passionate about Vocational Education.”
Members of the community have started a petition in opposition to the non-renewal of Jessica Cook’s contract.
The description of the petition on Change.org reads: “As the leader of our school community, Ms. Cook has shown the dedication and ability to both continue the proud traditions of Shawsheen Tech and provide the forward thinking direction that allows our school to be the preeminent CVTE school in Massachusetts. The removal of Ms. Cook during this unprecedented pandemic and without a full-time, permanent superintendent is both unwise and irresponsible.”
(Eds. note: the Shawsheen Tech School Committee this week voted to offer the superintendent job to Brad Jackson, current superintendent in Holliston.)
The petition, which was created on Monday, has more than 2,400 signatures.
At the School Committee meeting on Tuesday night, a number of callers tried to ask about the decision not to renew the contract. However, the Vice Chairman of the School Committee Robert G. Peterson Sr. told multiple callers that the committee would not be inclined to give specific details on the decision. He also did not confirm whether the decision to renew Cook’s contract was made by the School Committee or by the interim-superintendent, as certain matters are governed by one or the other.
Peterson said that the reasons for the decision shouldn’t have to be explained.
While the Town Crier reached out to School Committee Chairman Robert Gallagher, Interim Superintendent Melanie Hagman and principal Jessica Cook about the situation, none of them returned with a comment in time.