Principal of troubled Boston Mission Hill school resigned as problems mounted — only to get rehired as part-time teacher

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The erstwhile principal of the Mission Hill Pilot K-8 School during the many of the years in which a devastating new report alleged poor responses to bullying and sexual misconduct was able to be rehired by the district after resigning as issues mounted, according to reports.

Ayla Gavins served as principal at the school for 15 years through 2019, earning $138,000 in her final full year. She resigned that post at the end of the 2019 school year — only to return later as a part-time teacher, according to a report on the troubled school and city payroll records.

A bombshell independent report commissioned by the Boston Public Schools system and released Wednesday describes the school during the time she ran it as a place that “cultivated and tolerated a culture of pervasive indifference to sexual misconduct, bullying and bias-based conduct and toward rules, regulations and policies, and created a climate of hostility and intimidation toward parents and staff who questioned or disagreed with that culture.”

The report, from the law firm Hinckley Allen, painted “a picture of a failed school” and suggested its closure, which Superintendent Brenda Cassellius quickly endorsed at Wednesday’s School Committee meeting.

The Hinckley Allen report doesn’t reference Gavins by name. Instead, it repeatedly — 678 times — refers to an “Admin 3” that ran the school during the years she was in charge, resigning in 2019 and then getting rehired. It does lean heavily on previous reports made on the school at the request of BPS by attorney Joe Coffey that focused on Gavins, and it goes on to echo several of Coffey’s findings about Gavins, but says they’re regarding “Admin 3.”

It also mentions some trepidation among parents over rehiring “Admin 3” as a part-time teacher.

Attempts to reach Gavins for comment were unsuccessful. William Sinnott, the lead author of the Hinckley Allen report, couldn’t be reached for comment, and the Boston Public Schools didn’t answer questions about rehiring Gavins.

Coffey had issued a series of reports starting in 2015, alleging mishandling of sexual assault allegations and other troubles at the school under Gavins, per the Hinckley Allen report. She resigned well before Coffey’s most recent report came out in June 2021.

Coffey’s 2021 report, made public by the school district, says she headed for the door in July 2019 — and sent her resume back in just three weeks later, reapplying for a job. Coffey wrote that she was rehired as a part-time teacher for the 2020-2021 school year, well after the 2015 report had landed on the administration’s desks.

The 2021 report found that that she exhibited “conduct unbecoming of a principal” and that she showed “negligence” and “indifference” relating to bullying and allegations of sexual misconduct, that evidence surrounding her behavior constitutes “just cause to warrant discipline.”

The recommended discipline, though, is all hidden behind five lines of redaction bars with the label “personnel information” over them.

Gavins made $138,118 in salary as principal in 2018, her last full year, plus an additional $1,500 in “other” cash from the city. In 2019, when she resigned halfway through, she took home $72,785 in salary plus “other” pay of $39,304. She’s back on the book classified as “teacher” rather than her previous “Principal Middle” making in salary $13,414 — but yet again $39,304 in “other.” And then last year, the most recent available, she brought home $30,181 in pay, with no “other” income from the city.

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