The school district's proposed budget for next year includes salaries for a superintendent and two assistant superintendents.
The issue is drawing criticism from some town leaders in Hamilton and Wenham because it is one more person who will be working in the central office next year.
"It's not such a change," School Committee Chairwoman Alexa McCloughan said. "I understand the perception that if everyone does the math, we'll be top-heavy. If you look at the past players, we had senior people in those roles anyway (with different titles). It's not quite so radical."
The central office structure is one of several items that selectmen and finance committee members from Hamilton and Wenham may mention to the School Committee tonight in a meeting on the fiscal year 2013 budget at Buker Elementary, 1 School St., Wenham. The multi-board meeting begins at 6:30 p.m., followed by a meeting of the Hamilton-Wenham Regional School Committee.
McCloughan said the School Committee probably won't vote to take a position on the budget until its next meeting on March 21.
The Hamilton-Wenham schools are in the middle of a search for a new superintendent, with a goal to have someone hired by July 1.
"When we find a new superintendent, undoubtedly that person is going to have some recommendation on what the (central) office structure should be," McCloughan said. "At the end of the day, we need to get our work done, efficiently and cost-effectively. It would be irresponsible for us to terminate contracts for no apparent reason to make the work chart look better."
Peter Gray, who was hired as assistant superintendent in the summer of 2010, was named interim superintendent in June after the abrupt departure of Superintendent Raleigh Buchanan. Gray's employment contract with the district lasts through the 2012-13 year.
Also under a three-year contract is Celeste Bowler, who was hired Aug. 25 to fill the assistant superintendent role after Gray switched positions. Bowler's position, a curriculum-focused role, was created in a central office restructure last summer that also added a business manager to the district.
Although there hasn't been two assistant superintendents and a superintendent working in the central office this year, the district has been paying three people — Gray, Bowler and severance payments to Buchanan — for most of the year, McCloughan said.
In a severance negotiated by Buchanan and the School Committee, Buchanan received health insurance through the district and was paid $115,000 between June 30 and Feb. 3.
Gray was considered for the superintendent job this winter, but the search committee voted not to hire him for the position on Feb. 13. Gray's role as interim superintendent is open-ended, McCloughan said. When a new superintendent takes office, Gray will return to his position as assistant superintendent for finance and administration.
"The only circumstance under which we would have no financial obligation would be if Peter (Gray) left the district voluntarily for another job (and terminated his contract)," McCloughan said. "He has said nothing to the effect. I have every indication that Peter is committed and expects to continue to work for our district for another year."
Gray could not be reached for comment yesterday.
With the district looking to attract superintendent candidates, McCloughan bristled at the back-and-forth over the school budget this spring.
"Some of the stuff that is going around is crazy talk," she said. "We're in the process of trying to portray to people outside of the district (superintendent candidates) that we're not crazy."
Staff writer Bethany Bray can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @SalemNewsBB.
BY THE NUMBERS
Hamilton-Wenham's proposed central office staffing, as of July 1, 2012
Superintendent salary: $171,700
Assistant superintendent for learning: $126,492
Assistant superintendent for finance and administration: $128,390
Director of student services: $117,311
Director of information technology: $112,211
Director of food services: $63,182
Director of facilities: $79,353
Business manager: $91,809
* Does not include secretary positions, school principals or business office staff
For details on the proposed FY2013 school budget and other salaries, go to www.hwschools.net.