BY PAUL LEIGHTON
---- — BEVERLY — The School Committee yesterday named retired Somerville Superintendent Albert Argenziano as interim superintendent.
Argenziano, a Salem resident, will take over on a temporary basis from Superintendent Marie Galinski, who will retire on June 30.
The School Committee voted 6-1 in favor of hiring Argenziano, an educator with nearly 50 years of experience as a teacher and administrator.
“The impression I got is that he’s very accomplished and a strong leader,” said committee member Matthew Kavanagh. “He’s also a compassionate type of guy.”
The vote was not without controversy, however. Two committee members, Annemarie Cesa and Kris Silverstein, favored hiring Assistant Superintendent Maryellen Duffy as interim superintendent.
Duffy did not apply for the job, but Cesa said she should not have been required to go through the interview process. Several school administrators called her expressing support for Duffy, Cesa said.
“She can step into the job seamlessly,” Cesa said. “I think it’s being silly inviting someone we interviewed for three minutes when she’s been doing it for three years.”
Mayor Bill Scanlon, who is a member of the School Committee, said the committee wanted an interim superintendent who can help with the search for a permanent superintendent.
“It didn’t appear that (Duffy) could help us (in the search),” Scanlon said.
Cesa voted against Argenziano’s appointment, although she said she has no doubt that he can do the job.
“I certainly feel he’s a qualified candidate, 100 percent,” Cesa said. “I am disappointed about the way this all played out.”
Duffy is also planning to retire, leaving the district without its top two administrators at the end of the school year. Kavanagh said members of the community have expressed concern about that vacancy and he made a motion to give the interim superintendent the authority to appoint an interim assistant superintendent.
Kavanagh withdrew the motion, however, when other committee members said they didn’t want to give the impression they were creating a new position.
Kavanagh made another motion to direct the interim superintendent to meet with Galinski and form a transition plan. He said that would send a message to the community that any concerns about a potential gap in the day-to-day operations of the district would be addressed immediately.
Some members felt the motion wasn’t necessary because a plan would be formulated anyway, but the measure passed, 4-3.
Committee members said they found themselves in a difficult situation when Galinski announced her retirement last month, despite the fact that she had been given a one-year contract extension last year. Members felt they did not have time to launch a search for a permanent superintendent.
“None of us wanted to be in this position, and I don’t think any of us expected to be in this position,” David Manzi said.
Argenziano was selected over two other candidates, former Rockport Superintendent Joseph Lisi and former Swampscott Assistant Superintendent Maureen Bingham.
The three candidates were interviewed by the School Committee on Tuesday. They did not attend last night’s meeting, which was held in the high school library.
Reached by phone after the meeting, Argenziano said he was enticed to apply for the interim job in Beverly because the School Committee was seeking someone who could help in the search for a permanent superintendent.
Argenziano said he has worked for a company for the last four years that conducts superintendent searches. He said the School Committee should be able to hire a permanent superintendent by December.
“It would be a challenge, and at this stage of my life that’s what I want,” he said. “You want to have a little fun and do something that’s challenging.”
Argenziano, 71, served as superintendent in Somerville from 1993 to 2005 and has a school in the city named after him. He has held several positions over the years, including assistant superintendent in Lawrence and president of an association of 16 American schools in Mexico.
Ten years ago he and his wife moved to Salem, where his mother was born and raised.
Committee members said they received very positive reports about Argenziano from his references, including Congressman Michael Capuano, a former Somerville mayor.
“He spoke glowingly about him,” Scanlon said.
Argenziano will be paid on a per-diem basis as negotiated with the School Committee. The board wants him to start in June in order to have a transition period with Galinski.
Staff writer Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2675 or email@example.com.