By Shawn Regan
---- — HAVERHILL — The School Department’s longtime finance chief is leaving for a new job and a big pay raise.
Kara Kosmes, long-time assistant superintendent for finance and operations for Haverhill public schools, will become the new business manager at Whittier Regional Vocational Technical High School.
Whittier Superintendent William DeRosa said he recommended Kosmes to the regional School Committee at its meeting Wednesday night. The committee voted unanimously to give Kosmes the job, Whittier officials said.
Kosmes will replace Kevin Mahoney, who left earlier in the year to become an assistant superintendent at Minuteman Tech in Lexington, DeRosa said.
The Whittier finance position was advertised with a salary in the $100,000 to $130,000 range, subject to negotiations. Mahoney was making $130,000 a year.
DeRosa said Kosmes’ salary will be negotiated with Whittier’s salary and negotiations committee — a subcommittee of the School Committee.
Kosmes, who has been overseeing the Haverhill district’s finances since 1997, receives $95,000 per year from her current job, according to the Haverhill school budget.
DeRosa said 14 people applied for the Whittier job, but that only four of them, including Kosmes, were licensed school business administrators. He said being a licensed school business administrator was a requirement for the position.
“There’s a shortage of people who hold licenses in leadership positions,” DeRosa said. “We didn’t expect to have a lot of candidates as there’s a shortage of business managers, superintendents and principals, and you don’t get the applicant pool we used to.”
State law requires school committees to hire business managers based on the superintendent’s recommendation, DeRosa said.
“She’s extremely professional, extremely bright, very organized, very knowledgeable and we’re thrilled to have her,” DeRosa said of Kosmes.
DeRosa said he expects Kosmes to finish the school year in Haverhill and join the Whittier district this summer. He said the school’s interim business manager David Jack has agreed to stay until then.
At Whittier, Kosmes will oversee an approximately $20 million annual budget for 11 member communities, compared to the Haverhill district’s $60 million spending plan.
Kosmes did not return a phone call seeking her comment for this story.
Haverhill Superintendent James Scully said Kosmes told him she will finish out the school year in the Haverhill job.
But he said he will immediately begin looking for an interim replacement, until a permanent replacement can be found. He said he will look outside the district to fill the interim and permanent positions.
“It’s a win for Kara and Whittier, and an opportunity for us to rethink the design of that department,” Scully said of the Haverhill School Department’s business office.
As for what those changes might look like, Scully said he would not support consolidating school finances with the city’s finance operation — something Mayor James Fiorentini has advocated in the past.
“We need to retain control of school finances in the central office because there are so many grants and varied funding sources,” Scully said. “We need an education finance professional.”
Kosmes’ pending departure comes on the heels of recent news that Consentino School Principal Stephen Sierpina is leaving at the end of the school year for another principalship — and a pay raise — with Methuen public schools.
“There’s a lot of that going around lately,” Scully said, referring to Haverhill school administrators leaving for school districts which pay more.
Although Whittier has about one-sixth of the number of students in Haverhill school, it has almost twice as many administrators who make more than $100,000 per year.
According to the Whittier budget, there are nine administrators with annual salaries in excess of $116,000 this year, topped by DeRosa at $174,000 and the business manager position at $130,000. In the Haverhill district, there are five administrators with salaries of more than $100,000. Scully tops the list at $185,000 annually.
The Haverhill district has almost 7,000 students in 16 schools, while Whittier Regional High has 1,234 students, according to the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.
Staff writer Mike LaBella contributed to this report.