By Shawn Regan
---- — HAVERHILL — School Superintendent James Scully is up for a contract extension and possibly a pay raise.
The School Committee voted unanimously last week to begin negotiations to extend his contract, which expires this summer.
A former Lawrence superintendent and Consentino School principal in Haverhill, Scully, 66, came out of retirement in 2010 to serve as Haverhill’s interim superintendent and was given the permanent job six months later. He currently makes $185,000 per year.
In an interview yesterday, Scully said he would like to lead the Haverhill school district for three to five more years and finish his educational career here. Either way, he said he has no plans to retire soon.
“I retired a few years ago and I didn’t enjoy it at all,” he said. “I have a lot of energy and I want to be working. If the committee wants me to stay, I’ll stay here. If not, I’ll look to go somewhere else.”
Scully is the city’s second highest paid employee to Public Safety Commissioner Alan DeNaro, who was paid $215,000 last year and recently received a 10.25 percent pay raise to his base $165,000 police chief salary. DeNaro receives additional pay to oversee the fire department and as emergency management director. Mayor James Fiorentini, by comparison, makes $90,000 per year.
Scully declined to talk numbers, but said he wants to be paid a salary that is “comparable to school superintendents in similar cities” if he agrees to an extension.
“I know we get criticized for high salaries, but this school district is a massive operation with practically endless responsibilities and crisises that come up on a daily basis,” Scully said.
The Haverhill district includes roughly 8,000 students, 1,200 employees,12 school buildings and a budget of around $90 million. The central office also oversees Trinity Stadium, a busing program for about 6,000 students and serving about 8,200 meals per day, Scully said.
“I really want to continue the momentum we’ve created in improving student test scores and the athletic program and raising accountability among teachers,” Scully said of his desire for a contract extension. “A lot of kids and parents in other districts don’t know who their superintendent is. But my goal has always been to be visible and accessible, and I think I’ve done that.”
School Committee Scott Wood, who made the motion at Thursday’s meeting to begin contract talks with Scully, said he expects the committee to offer the superintendent no more than a three-year extension.
“He’s done a good job with test scores, with keeping buildings clean and with making improvements to the athletic and band programs,” Wood said. “And he’s brought a lot more accountability to teachers and other staff.”
The committee voted 6-0 to support Wood’s motion to begin negotiations with the superintendent. Fiorentini, the committee chairman, was not at the meeting and did not respond to an email requesting his comment for this story.
Scully said his top priority going forward is to educate the community on the importance of replacing the deteriorated Hunking Middle School with a new K-8 building in the city’s Bradford section.
City Council recently scheduled an election June 10 to ask voters to temporarily increase their property taxes to raise the city’s approximately $24 million share of the $61.5 million project. The state is paying the balance.
“We’ve got two years to get the students out of that building and take advantage of the state reimbursement,” Scully said. “If not, we’re going to have a big problem with where to put 500 kids. ...When my time is done, I’d like to leave the city Haverhill with a new Hunking for 50 to 100 years.”
Another top priority, Scully said, is to continue and increase expectations for teachers and students.
“We need to continue to improve educational programs and expectations for both our most talented students and those students who are less talented,” he said.
Scully received a glowing assessment in his most recent School Committee performance review in March 2013. The members credited him for a wide variety of changes and improvements, including improved MCAS scores, the district’s expanded full-day kindergarten program and for revitalizing the high school athletic program.