EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

October 14, 2012

School officials spar over $85K position

Is latest school pay issue to spark debate

By Shawn Regan sregan@eagletribune.com
The Eagle-Tribune

---- — HAVERHILL — The mayor, School Committee and superintendent are at odds over a new position that will oversee the school district’s human resources department and a program that serves about 800 students with learning disabilities.

The new hire comes three years after the schools and city agreed to consolidate their human resources operations under City Personnel Director Mary Carrington and decided not to replace former Assistant School Superintendent Richard Langlois, who was in charge of school personnel matters.

Superintendent James Scully said two administrators were doing the human resources and student resources jobs a few years ago, receiving salaries totalling close to $180,000. Both of those administrators are gone now, leaving a clerk and other unqualified workers to cover those duties, Scully said.

The new administrator will oversee both departments in the school system for between $75,000 and $85,000 a year, he said.

The School Committee approved the hire with a 4-3 vote at its last meeting. The position is set to be advertised this week, Scully said.

In light of Haverhill’s financial problems and mounting debt, several recent school administrator pay raises have sparked controversy. In one instance earlier this year, the School Committee hiked Assistant Superintendent Mary Malone’s annual pay by $22,000 to $120,000. In another, Scully was given a $35,000 pay raise last year to 180,000. Each of those raises was approved by a split vote of the School Committee, with Mayor James Fiorentini voting against Scully’s raise and absent for the vote to increase Malone’s pay. The mayor is chairman of the School Committee.

Fiorentini said he would have supported hiring a human resources professional to help the schools, but he opposed spending up to $85,000 for a new, full-time administrator.

Fiorentini said the position is in this year’s school budget, but it was not funded. He said he expects the district will use some of the $4.5 million in additional school aid it received this year from the state to fund the position.

“I thought we could spend the money better elsewhere,” the mayor said.

Scully said a School Department clerk has been performing the human resources job, but that has led to many mistakes and problems.

“This person was helping out, but we need a professional with human resources expertise,” Scully said.

Scully said he considered adding a full-time position to over school personnel issues, but decided the district can get by with part-time help instead. The new person will also be responsible for a program for students with learning disabilities, making him or her a full-time administrator. This program is for students whose learning deficiencies aren’t severe enough for them to qualify for special education services, Scully said. He said there are about 800 of those students.

The superintendent said the new administrator will be the first one added to the Central School Department Office since he took over almost three years ago. During that span, three Central Office administrative positions have been cut — two assistant superintendents and a technology director, Scully said.

Over the same period, however, two more assistant principals have been added — one at the high school and one at Consentino School, in addition to a supervisor of the English language learners program that was added at the direction of the state, Scully said.

Joining the mayor in voting against the new position were School Committee members Scott Wood and Shaun Toohey. Voting in favor were members Paul Magliocchetti, Raymond Sierpina, Joseph Bevilacqua and Susan Danehy.

Bevilacqua said he supported the position, in part, because it was recommended by City Solicitor William Cox.

“The schools have by far the most employees of any department and deal with increasingly complex legal issues on a daily basis,” Bevilacqua said. “We need someone with expertise in human resources.”

Bevilacqua said he would have likely opposed the position had Scully not been thorough in researching whether it was needed.

“The superintendent took his time to review the system and see what is really needed,” Bevilacqua said. “He’s been doing a great job turning the district around and, after almost three years, he came to us with this request. He made a compelling case why it’s needed and why it’s a good deal.”

Wood said he voted against the position because he believes now is not the time to be hiring highly-paid administrators when so many people are unemployed. He also said he doesn’t like the idea of adding an administrator when the schools are still paying a stipend to Carrington to deal with school personnel matters.

“The superintendent made a good case, I just don’t like the timing and the fact we’re still paying the city to do it,” Wood said of school-side human resources.