EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

July 3, 2013

School, municipal business is a little slower in summer

By Alex Lippa
alippa@eagletribune.com

---- — Londonderry school superintendent Nate Greenberg said the perception of what he does in the summer may not meet the reality.

“Well, we start off with brunch in the morning, take a nap in the afternoon and are gone by 3,” he joked yesterday.

Unfortunately for Greenberg, summer just isn’t that easy.

“It’s still busy for us,” he said. “We are already planning for next year.”

Greenberg is one of many public officials who maintain that things are still busy, even though vacation absences are plentiful and public meetings are less frequent.

“It’s different for sure,” Plaistow Town Manager Sean Fitzgerald said. “It gives us a chance to roll up our sleeves and get to things that we weren’t able to get into focus during the budget season.”

Windham Town Administrator David Sullivan said he doesn’t see any difference when the hot weather arrives.

“We meet every other week, just like we always do,” he said of the town selectmen. “I don’t think July is any different in how we operate than any other month.”

But others admit things move a little slower at this time of year.

“There aren’t a lot of things going on in town,” Atkinson Town Administrator Bill Innes said. “It’s pretty quiet.”

In Londonderry, Acting Town Manager and police Chief William Hart said the Town Council will only meet twice over a two-month period.

“Things have a tendency to slow down slightly,” Hart said. “There are some things that perhaps could be done more effectively, but the reality is people need a break and in New England that only comes once a year.”

Hart said he keeps himself busy as he continues to learn the ropes of the town manager’s position in addition to his full-time gig as police chief.

“For someone with a low intellect like me, the learning curve keeps me very busy,” he joked.

Salem Town Manager Keith Hickey said the summer is a crucial time to get started on issues which occur in the fall.

“This is when we really need to get started on budgets,” he said. “We also are starting to implement programs and projects which were approved in last year’s budget.

But summer gives local officials time to do things they ordinarily wouldn’t have time for.

“I hope to go out and play kickball with our recreation counselors,” Fitzgerald said. “There’s summer concerts on the green to attend.”

Innes said he hopes to get ahead on projects. They might not be the most exciting summer plans, but a slowdown in town business can mean more time for tasks that have been on the back burner.

“We’re still busy, but we’re able to concentrate on a lot of other things,” Innes said. “Something like reviewing a grant for a generator in Town Hall is something I’ve been really hoping to get to.”

Greenberg said the summer gives him a chance to conduct teacher workshops — without interruption.

“It’s a different kind of busy,” he said. “We can spend a good three hours with principals and not have them worry if there’s an emergency situation and they need to get called back to their schools.”

It’s inevitable that many town officials use their vacation days during the summer, but they say it doesn’t get in the way of running the town.

“We have policies in place to make sure there’s always a certain percentage of people on at a time,” said Sullivan of Windham employees. “We work to make sure people have time off and enjoy summer vacation, but that we don’t have any conflicts.”

Some school district officials already are enjoying their vacations. Both Timberlane and Sanborn Regional School Districts did not have administrators available to comment on the story yesterday — they were on vacation

For Greenberg, summer is a chance to take a step back.

“It’s definitely less stressful,” he said. “It’s an opportunity to reflect on last year, as we begin to start planning for next year.”