By Shawn Regan
---- — HAVERHILL — The city’s only K-8 school is looking for a new leader.
Stephen Sierpina, in his third year as principal of Consentino School, has submitted his resignation and will leave at the end of the school year to take a job as principal of a K-8 school in Methuen, Haverhill School Superintendent James Scully said.
Scully said the district will start looking for Sierpina’s replacement right away with the idea of having that person in place by early summer. The superintendent said the Consentino job is one of the district’s most important because the school’s pilot K-8 program is only in its second year.
“Consentino has a reputation as being a tough school, but it’s also a school with great students and caring teachers,” said Scully, who was principal there for five years in the early 2000s before retiring and then returning to become the district’s superintendent in 2010.
“Stephen has done a tremendous job shepherding the K to 8 program and making it flourish and we hate to see him go,” Scully said. “But the reality is there are a lot of districts that pay a lot more than us that are looking for experienced principals from urban districts.”
Scully said it is his understanding that Sierpina will receive a raise of around $20,000 from Methuen and that higher pay was a major factor in his decision to leave Haverhill.
“Haverhill loses many principals who do well and then go to a community that pays more,” Scully said, adding that principals salaries here are about $12,000 below the regional average.
Scully said he did not know what Methuen school Sierpina has been hired at, and Sierpina could not be reached for this story.
School Committee member Scott Wood said Scully informed the committee of Sierpina’s resignation last week.
Wood said losing good principals to other districts is the price of being fiscally responsible. He noted that former Haverhill principals James Giuca and Timothy Miller left Haverhill in recent years to become principals in Methuen, where both still work.
“Mr. Sierpina has been a very good principal, and it’s too bad we’re losing him. He’s young and energetic and has good ideas, but we need to be fiscally responsible due to the city’s financial constraints,” Wood said. “That may cause us to lose a principal to a district that pays more from time to time. But by being conservative with our salaries, we can spend more on programs and keeping class sizes down, which is the School Committee’s priority.”
Wood said Haverhill principals are paid between $90,000 and $100,00 a year.
“A $100,000 salary is not uncompetitive when combined with a good benefit package, but I understand some districts pay more,” Wood said, adding that Methuen principals generally make in the $120,000 to $125,00 a year range.
Prior to Consentino, Sierpina was principal of Hunking Middle School for a year. Before that, he was assistant principal of the Math, Science and Technology Academy at Lawrence High School. He also taught eighth-grade social studies at Parthum School in Lawrence for five years and worked as a history teacher at Haverhill High for a year.
Sierpina, who is the son of Haverhill School Committee member Raymond Sierpina, earned his bachelor’s degree at St. Anselm College and a Master of Education at Fitchburg State College.