PVPA’s head of school, George Simpson, resigns

  • George Simpson, who resigned last week as head of the Pioneer Valley Performing Arts Charter Public School. —SUBMITTED PHOTO

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

SOUTH HADLEY — After just seven months on the job, the head of the Pioneer Valley Performing Arts Charter Public School resigned Friday.

George Simpson announced last week that he was leaving the job he had begun on July 3. Brent Nielsen, the school’s director of student services, has been named as the acting head of school. The reason for Simpson’s departure is not clear.

“This is a confidential personnel matter and we are not permitted to comment,” Melinda Winter, president of the school’s board of trustees, said in a statement, adding that the board is working on an interim leadership plan to be finalized by the end of the week. “The Board and staff are committed to moving forward with new leadership, and are confident in the vision and mission of PVPA.”

Simpson and Neilsen did not respond to phone calls on Monday requesting comment, nor did the school's chief financial officer, Marcy Conner. An email sent to Simpson’s school email address returned with the automated message, “I'm no longer at PVPA.”

Simpson took the school’s top job last summer. He succeeded Scott Goldman, who had announced in the fall of 2016 that he would be leaving at the end of the school year after serving head of the school for six years. Goldman was later placed on administrative leave after staff leveled grievances and petitions against him. An independent investigation ultimately found Goldman had engaged in "angry outbursts" out of line with workplace behavior policies. Goldman disputed all of the complaints lodged against him.  In December, the state attorney general’s office ruled that a subcommittee of the South Hadley charter school’s board of trustees violated the state Open Meeting Law by using email to deliberate during the investigation of Goldman.  

In late September, Simpson was arrested by Agawam police and charged with negligent operation of a motor vehicle, failing to stop for police and improper operation of a motor vehicle after reportedly driving north in the southbound lane on Route 5. Westfield District Court Judge Philip Contant continued that case without finding until June 1, and Simpson was put on probation.

However, on Jan. 31 a warrant was issued for Simpson’s arrest for noncompliance with probation. 

Prior to joining PVPA, Simpson worked as chief innovation officer for the arts in the public school system in Newark, New Jersey. Before that, he worked as district coordinator for visual and performing arts in the Cambridge Public Scho   ol system, as well as administrative roles in other school systems in Boston and Los Angeles. He also worked as a music teacher in Calgary, Alberta, and as chairman of the music department at the Boston Arts Academy from 1999 to 2006.

Dusty Christensen can be reached at dchristensen@gazettenet.com.

This story has been updated to clarify when Scott Goldman announced his departure as head of school in the context of George Simpson’s hiring.