By Alan Burke Staff writer
The Salem News
---- — PEABODY — Sometimes one head is better than two.
That’s the theory behind the city’s adventurous decision to combine the school and city human resources directors into one job.
Karen Budrow has been named the new director. She previously worked in Chelsea, Methuen, Everett and Gloucester.
By combining the jobs, Mayor Ted Bettencourt told the City Council at a recent meeting, “It’s going to be a savings for the city of Peabody. ... We’re going to be saving $70,000 to $85,000.”
Given Budrow’s experience, he added, “I do believe she will hit the ground running for us.”
Further, he hopes the change brings some consistency to the city’s approach to its workforce.
“It will make the office more efficient and save on duplication,” he said.
A Gloucester resident, Budrow pointed out in an interview that not too many cities have tried this before. She hasn’t, either.
“If we can do it, it will be an accomplishment,” she said. She expects to get a lot of help from good people already in the city office and the schools.
“Impressive staffing,” she said, was one reason she made the decision to come to Peabody, where she has lived in years past. A graduate of Gloucester High School and Salem State, she is the mother of two grown sons and spent her early career working for a union. This time, she acknowledges, she’ll be facing the unions at the bargaining table.
“It’s helpful to know both sides,” she said, adding, “You should never expect (bargaining) to be easy.”
Much of her time will be spent on issues like workers’ compensation, unemployment, benefits and background checks for hiring.
On the school side, combining the two jobs could mean freeing up enough money for a new hire, perhaps a teacher. Outgoing school personnel head Louise Genualdo, who departed for a job in Marblehead, was earning $70,000 plus benefits, according to Superintendent Joe Mastrocola.
“I support the mayor,” Mastrocola said. “We’re always looking for ways in the School Department to maintain services.”
Hiring at the schools, he stressed, will remain in the hands of principals.
“That’s really where you want it to happen,” he said.
The human resources director, however, still plays an important role. For example, she will confirm the various credentials listed on résumés given to the schools.
The change was adopted by the council unanimously. On the other hand, the council, the School Committee and Budrow all understand the arrangement to be, so far, something of an experiment. If adjustments are needed, she said, “We’ll tweak it and try very hard to make it work.”
“If it does lead to some trouble,” Bettencourt told the council, “we will be looking to revisit it.”
School Committee member Dave McGeney said he expects to see the new arrangement evaluated in the near term.
If it all goes smoothly, there could be even more savings in the future. City Councilor Anne Manning-Martin raised the possibility that Budrow might pick up responsibilities at the Municipal Light Plant, as well.