By Barbara Taormina
Families with students at Linden STEAM Academy were surprised to learn this week that Principal Richard Bransfield will not be back in September. “It is with a heavy heart that I inform you that after 35 years in Malden, 15 as an administrator, Superintendent Oteri has decided to not renew my contract here in Malden, and as of June 30th, I will no longer be your principal,” Bransfield wrote in a letter to staff and colleagues this week.
Bransfield did not offer any explanations about the decision not to renew his contract, and Oteri is not able to publicly discuss any personnel decisions. And that has left many current and former students and parents with questions about the change in Linden’s administration.
For many parents who have known Bransfield throughout his career, the decision to let him go made no sense. Bransfield taught at Beebe Elementary School before becoming an assistant principal there in 2006. He has served as the principal of Linden since 2012.
Former substitute teacher Diane Ignacio, who knows Bransfield from his days at Beebe, said the decision not to renew his contract is a loss for Malden schools. “He is wonderful,” she said. “He always worked hard for the kids.” Ignacio recalled how Bransfield was always outside with the kids at Beebe, making sure that everyone was behaving and that there was no bullying in the schoolyard.
“He was strict, but he really cared,” she said. “He only did good for the school.”
Ward 8 Councillor Jadeane Sica, who served as Linden’s PTO president for 11 years, said the school will not be the same without Bransfield. “In my opinion, Mr. Bransfield has gone above and beyond for the students of Malden over the past 35 years,” said Sica. “Based on my experiences with him at Linden, I saw him to be an outstanding leader and educator who was reasonable and fair. He was an exceptional listener who had a great ability to solve problems.”
Like others, Sica was surprised by the decision particularly because of Bransfield’s role in establishing Linden as the city’s first Innovation School with a focus on science, technology engineering, arts and math. “It was because of his dedication and persistence that Linden was able to become Malden’s first Innovation School which has continued to flourish,” said Sica, adding that Bransfield’s willingness to collaborate with teachers, staff, parents and students helped make Linden an amazing learning environment.
“I, for one, am glad my children got to look up to him and experience his leadership during their elementary years,” said Sica.
Some parents have vowed to write letters supporting Bransfield to Oteri and School Committee Chairman Mayor Gary Christenson. But others feel that Oteri made a personnel decision that he felt was in the best interest of the district.
In addition to finding a new principal for Linden, the school district is also searching for candidates to serve ae the principals of Malden High School and Beebe Elementary School.
[Editor’s note: Bransfield announced the decision not to renew his contract in the following email, which was sent to Linden teachers and staff this week.]
Dear Staff and Colleagues:
It is with a heavy heart that I inform you that after 35 years in Malden, 15 as an administrator, Superintendent Oteri has decided to not renew my contract here in Malden and as of June 30th I will no longer be your principal. Malden has meant the world to me and I have dedicated a career to the students, families and the district as a whole but as you know Linden has always been my home. From teacher to coach to Golden Tornado Club president to assistant principal and principal, I have had the luxury of working with some of the finest educators and administrators anyone could wish for. I had the pleasure of working for five superintendents … Dr Holland who was the consummate gentleman and mentor, Joan Connelly who told me that someday I would be a principal here, Sid Smith who taught me so much about curriculum, working in our “grit group” together showing inner city kids that life can change if you want it, Dave DeRuosi who helped and urged me to open the city’s first and only innovation school with open dialogue and relationship building and him always there when you needed an ear to listen and finally Dr. Grandson who always believed in LSA and how kids engaged in learning was the cornerstone for high academic achievement. It has been quite a ride and there are so many of you that I learned from across the district the list would be endless.
Finally … the Linden STEAM Academy family has been my home for the last 7 years. You have done amazing work, twice in my tenure succeeding as a Level 1 school and most importantly always getting kids to achieve, especially our students on IEP’s that showed a 10% improvement on high takes state testing the last few years. Linden, as you know, is THE place to educate your kids in Malden! You all are the epitome of teachers that can “coach students” to love learning and achieve … you have given students life through literacy and will surely make all who enter your doors “learners for life”. To the Pathways group … our program has done so much in shaping and changing the lives of young people … I marvel at your expertise and am proud to have been able to be your leader; the city should be especially proud and thankful of the students you keep in district giving them hope and a future.
As I have said before … and now it applies to me “we are on to Cincinnati” … Your professional lives will go on and the students in Malden will be lucky to have you. It would only be fitting that I leave you with a quote; Colin Powell once said, “Leadership is solving problems. The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help or concluded you do not care. Either case is a failure of leadership”. I hope you know how much I cared about all of you and the students and families that came through our doors … your job is important … you can make a difference in someone’s life, don’t take that power for granted!