DANVERS, MA — Lisa Dana will not return as Danvers superintendent with the district saying that she will retire after 18 years a little more than four months after taking a medical leave of absence.
Dana stepped away from her post temporarily in late December, citing the toll that the public and media uproar over the administration’s handling of homophobic hazing charges within the high school boys hockey program had taken on herself, her family and her staff.
“When the recent media created a firestorm of opinions that we legally aren’t allowed to comment on it became an increasingly difficult situation,” Dana said during a Dec. 13 School Committee meeting. “One that has taken a toll on students, staff and me, as well as a community as a whole.
“As the superintendent, I understand attacks are going to come my way, and — right or wrong — I’ve tried to shield my team from them while also making changes. For the protection of my own mental health, I quickly had to learn not to look at the social media comments, while at the same time take a critical look at how the situation was handled.”
The district said she was taking a medical leave three weeks later.
Assistant Superintendents Keith Taverna and Mary Wermers have served as co-acting superintendents since then with their latest contracts recently extended through May 31.
School Committee Chair Eric Crane had not given updates on Dana’s status in voting on the extensions beyond saying that the district wished her well in her personal health.
The School Committee said in a statement that “after a great deal of reflection” Dana will retire effective Aug. 31.
“Dr. Dana had a long, productive and beneficial relationship with the district and we support her decision,” the School Committee said.
Dana worked in the district for 32 years — the last 18 as superintendent. The district credited her with overseeing the construction of several new school buildings and overseeing the mission of the district.
It also credited her with leading the district through the painful aftermath of teacher Colleen Ritzer’s 2013 murder and the unprecedented challenges of the first two years of the COVID-19 health crisis.
“Dr. Lisa Dana worked to develop a solid administrative team as well as faculty and staff that are focused on educating and supporting the students of Danvers,” the statement said. “We know they remain committed to the district as we begin to search for our next superintendent.”
Attorney General Maura Healey’s office confirmed two weeks ago that it had launched a probe into the district and town’s handling of the hazing accusations and the ensuing investigations before last week issuing a “Call to Action” campaign to combat the hate and bias that has “infected” high school sports in Massachusetts.
(Scott Souza is a Patch field editor covering Beverly, Danvers, Marblehead, Peabody, Salem and Swampscott. He can be reached at [email protected]. Twitter: @Scott_Souza.)