Supt. David Ryan, SAU 16 school board agree not to extend contract

·3 min read

Jun. 13—Members of the SAU 16 Joint School Board and Superintendent David Ryan have "mutually agreed" not to extend his current contract, which ends on June 30, 2023.

Ryan has served as superintendent since 2018 and will continue in this role through the 2022-23 school year, school officials said in a statement.

"The Joint Board appreciates the leadership and dedication of Superintendent Ryan during several challenging years that included a global pandemic," said SAU 16 Joint Board Chair Patrick O'Day. "The Board wishes Dr. Ryan all the best in his future endeavors."

In a news release, district officials credited Ryan with being responsible for the educational growth of over 5,000 students in seven school districts across the SAU, and for building strong community partnerships.

"I am grateful for the time that I have been blessed to serve the students and families in this community," said Ryan in a statement. "Over the next year I will work closely with the SAU Joint Board on a smooth transition to new leadership."

In June of 2021, Ryan faced calls from the community to resign over the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, including a controversial decision to write numbers on the hands of unvaccinated students to track them at Exeter High School's prom.

After the Attorney General's Office and the Department of Education received emails raising concerns about the handling of the prom and other "unique issues" in SAU 16, officials in both departments began an official review.

In June, many argued the hand-numbering procedure singled out and shamed students. The practice was sharply criticized and made headlines around the country, with some complaining the students were treated like "prisoners in Nazi Germany" by having their hands marked.

According to the report, vaccination status was recorded in a spreadsheet and a process was used for marking students' hands. The hands of unvaccinated students were marked with a number. The hands of vaccinated students were marked with an "X."

In its report, the Attorney General's Office said it didn't find any violation of New Hampshire law regarding discrimination in connection with this incident.

"However, both the (Attorney General's Office) and (Department of Education) are deeply concerned regarding the public marking of students' hands and the lack of protection for students' vaccination information," the report says.

"The fact that supervising SAU 16 staff did not stop the contact tracing procedure, despite having acknowledged receiving the email from the superintendent informing all staff that they were not to ask students about their vaccine status, is a very disturbing failure to protect students."

Prior to coming to SAU 16 in 2018, Ryan served as superintendent in SAU 53 for a year, after spending four years as the assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction in Manchester.

He also served as principal of Nashua High School North from 2006 to 2013, and assistant principal at Manchester High School Central, starting there in 2000.

The SAU 16 Joint Board will convene a search committee this summer to determine the process for selecting its next superintendent.

SAU 16 includes 11 schools from pre-kindergarten to adult education serving the towns of Exeter, Brentwood, Kensington, East Kingston, Newfields and Stratham.

pfeely@unionleader.com