Local Government and Politics, News

In a divided vote, Saugus superintendent’s contract is renewed

SAUGUS — The School Committee renewed Superintendent Dr. David DeRuosi’s  contract for two years, but the board was divided on the decision.

“I think we all need to be on the same page, put the past behind us, and get back to business,” said committee member Liz Marchese, who voted against the contract extension along with Lisa Morgante.

The committee was slated to discuss DeRuosi’s evaluation at a meeting late last week. Following the discussion, member Marc Magliozzi made a motion to extend the contract, which is not set to expire until June 30, 2019, for an additional year at the end of his current contract.

School Committee member Linda Gaieski offered a substitute motion to instead extend the contract for an additional two years, leaving him with the district for a total of three more years until 2021.

In a divided vote, three members voted in favor of the extension and two voted against. The terms of the contract will be set in negotiations in an executive session.

A few members have raised questions about communication issues with DeRuosi.

Lisa Morgante said from a parent’s perspective, her personal emails to him about problems with her child went unanswered.

“That I do have an issue with,” she said. “As a parent, that is just concerning to me.”

Marchese echoed her frustration, saying a few of her own emails were ignored.

“There is just certain information that, in order to make educated decisions, that we need,” she said.

But DeRuosi argued he is only following the policy set by the committee.

A policy was set on email and other forms of communication last year that includes the requirement that chairwoman Jeannie Meredith be copied on the message. Having parents on the board is an additional challenge, as he needs to draw a line and differentiate between school committee matters and personal matters.

Meredith said members should not be showing up at the parking lot of the administration building at 6:30 a.m. to ask questions or sending texts at all hours of the night.

“We as a committee established a chain of command to go through an email,” she said. “When we send an email, we have to sometimes wait.”

Marchese questioned whether DeRuosi had been conducting random, unannounced visits to classrooms, which the board previously requested, and whether a staffing change was ever implemented at the high school that would have brought advanced placement teachers into college preparatory level classes.

He said he was not aware of whether the changes took place or not.

“We were trying specifically to raise MCAS scores,” said DeRuosi. “I hear it all the time: ‘we’re level 3, we’re level 3.’ Well, I have news for everybody. Working in (grades) eight, nine, and 10 will get you out of level 3.”

Marchese argued that it would be to the detriment of the 11th- and 12th-graders.

DeRuosi was awarded his current contract, which includes a $175,000 annual salary, in 2016. The year before, Matthew Malone was chosen as interim superintendent in 2015 following the resignation of Michael Tempesta.

Malone resigned suddenly, which led to Saugus High School principal Michael Hashem stepping in to fill his shoes until DeRuosi was hired.

“I want to thank you because I think you’re doing a good job,” said Meredith.

A copy of the evaluation was not immediately made available to The Item.

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