HAVERHILL — City Councilor Joseph Bevilacqua on Thursday called for a review of the school department to learn why so many teachers and administrators have left this year, causing "instability" in the school system.
Bevilacqua said he's been getting calls from parents across the city, asking what's causing an exodus of school staff and unrest in the district.
"There are too many issues happening at the same time and it's beyond coincidence," Bevilacqua said.
According to the school human resources department, 83 certified teachers left the district this year along with eight administrators, the latest — Darshan Thakkar — submitted his resignation on Tuesday.
"We need to find out why experienced teachers are leaving, and why key administrators have left," Bevilacqua said.
Mayor James Fiorentini, who also serves as chairman of the School Committee, said it may be premature to conduct the kind of study Bevilacqua is suggesting, and that he first wants to accumulate data on the district's attrition rate.
"This comes up every few years, people leaving and in the course of contract negotiations they say everyone is leaving and world is coming to an end," Fiorentini said. "What we should be looking at is how our attrition rate compares to the state average. From what I'm told by the superintendent, our attrition rate is higher than last year, but lower than two years ago."
Fiorentini said Haverhill has a big school system where people come and go all the time.
"People retire, people move and people are let go, and you want some turnover, but not too much," Fiorentini said. "I'm not convinced there is anything unusual going on. Let's find out if this is a normal thing or not. It's always good to have data."
Bevilacqua posted a message Thursday on his Facebook page recommending the school department and School Committee undertake an administrative review and determine where there may be a duplication of duties among school administrators.
He said he is not recommending the hiring of a consultant, as he believes the School Committee can oversee an evaluation by the superintendent's office with help from the city's human resources department.
"Something has to be done now to restore parents' confidence and ensure our kids are receiving the education they deserve and taxpayers are paying for with their hard earned tax dollars," Bevilacqua said.
School Committeewoman Maura Ryan Ciardiello said the disruption of schools and students rests on the door step of the School Committee and four of its members who she said "are making political rather than educational decisions with the superintendent."
"There’s an obvious problem within our school system and the changes that are being made are not benefiting the most important group, our students," Ryan Ciardiello said. "I voted against the Right Size Plan, which clearly has caused massive issues regarding redistricting which have negatively impacted so many students."
She said the Right Size Plan, which involved redistricting to reduce class sizes, passed because the majority of the School Committee voted yes, "without understanding the impact it would have on our most treasured group — our students."
"Superintendent Marotta and School Committee members Gail Sullivan, Paul Magliocchetti, Sven Amirian and Rich Rosa put their misguided agenda before our students," Ryan Ciardiello said. "After witnessing the unfortunate disaster that took place the first week of school and the problems that are still happening today, it’s very clear that their plan was a complete failure to our students."
Ryan Ciardiello was referring to a series of busing mishaps on the first two days of school that caused an outcry from parents whose children missed their buses, were late for school, and encountered other busing issues.
"I wholeheartedly believe these issues, coupled with the excessive resignations of valued employees and administrators, definitively indicates that the problems are deep-seated and the School Committee must face reality," she said.