HAVERHILL — Feeling unappreciated, Darshan Thakker, the district's chief academic officer for elementary grades and Title I coordinator resigned, becoming the eighth school administrator to leave this year, according to school officials. Thakkar has worked in the Haverhill school system for 15 years.
Thakkar said he submitted his resignation letter to Superintendent Margaret Marotta on Tuesday. His resignation becomes effective Sept. 13.
"With all the changes taking place in the district, I feel that my contributions were no longer welcomed and my presence was no longer desired," he said. "Throughout the past year, I felt that my contributions, suggestions and advice were being ignored by the superintendent. Often times, I'd espouse certain things during meetings and was either cut off — as though my presence was no longer desired — or the topic of conversation was changed."
Thakkar said he is paid an annual salary of $130,000, which includes $2,500 in longevity pay.
Marotta said that she's sorry to see Thakkar leave, and that she would have liked to meet with him to discuss his feelings about the way he said he was treated.
"I think it's unfortunate that he feels that way," Marotta said. "We're sorry to lose him and I'm sorry he felt that way. He has to do what he wants but I feel like he was a valued team member."
According to the school human resources office, between Jan. 1 and Sept. 4, a total of seven certified administrators and 83 certified teachers left the district for various reasons. Thakkar is the eighth administrator to leave, officials confirmed.
"The environment is not one of mutual respect," Thakkar said. "People are leaving due to a lack of respect, being slighted, and being spoken to rudely. That applies to me and to other educators who have left the district."
Anthony Parolisi, president of the Haverhill Teachers Association, recently told The Eagle-Tribune that morale among teachers in the district is low and that in many cases, changes taking place in the district have made teachers uncomfortable as they are not being included in any decision making.
Parolisi said his union signed up 72 new teachers at a new teacher orientation, held two weeks ago, and that it was the largest number of new hires in a single year that he could recall.
Thakkar's first job with the district was teaching math at Haverhill High School. In 2013, he was named an assistant principal of the Consentino School.
In September of 2016, then superintendent James Scully promoted Thakkar to the position of director of strategy and accountability.
Scully noted that Thakkar was well versed in state standards and accountability requirements needed to ensure Haverhill complied with myriad state and federal regulations.
Following Scully's retirement at the end of the 2018 school year, Thakkar served as director of strategy and accountability and chief academic officer for grades K-12.
"I worked to ensure we were using the most appropriate teaching materials and the most effective teaching practices, and that it was all aligned with state standards," he said.
When Marotta took over the district to begin the 2018-19 school year, Thakkar said he was told by Marotta that she decided to change his role to chief academic officer for the elementary grades only.
"When I asked her who was going to handle secondary schools, she said she was moving Beth Kitsos from the high school, where she was the principal, to the chief academic officer position for secondary schools," Thakkar said.
Thakkar said the superintendent never explained what his new role would be.
"I approached her several times and she said we would talk about it later," Thakkar said.
Marotta said she split up the duties between Thakkar and Kitsos as she thought the job was "overwhelming and too big for one person."
"Darshan brings a lot of experience and knowledge and is an intelligent man," Marotta said. "We'll be sorry to see him go but he has a new position that he's excited about, and we're excited for him."
Thakkar said that earlier this year, the mayor's office asked him for data on student achievement, which he said he provided to the mayor.
"When the superintendent found out, she told me not to send anything to the mayor's office unless she knows about it first and that she wanted to be the one to respond to any requests," he said. "When Mr. Scully was superintendent, he would tell me to directly reply to any requests by the mayor. That's how much trust and confidence he had in me."
A licensed attorney who specializes in immigration law, Thakkar said he has helped upwards of 30 Haverhill families who were struggling with issues regarding their legal status and that he also helped their children succeed in school.
"It wasn't part of my official duties, but my work helped build strong ties to the immigrant community," he said.
Thakkar continued to work out of an office in City Hall, then in August, the entire curriculum team was relocated to the Crowell School, he said.
"Some of us protested the move, as the conditions at the Crowell were not conducive to our work," Thakkar said.
Scully said the district is losing a very talented administrator.
"I have always known Darshan to be a very bright and ethical person, and his leaving the district is a great loss," Scully said.
Thakkar said he has been offered an administrative position in another public school district in Massachusetts, and that he hopes to finalize his employment paperwork this week.
"I'll be taking a pay cut, but the higher pay in Haverhill is not worth the disrespect and unprofessional treatment I received," he said.