Kate Carbone

Courtesy photo

Salem Assistant Superintendent Kate Carbone

SALEM — Kate Carbone has been named the acting superintendent for the Salem Public Schools.

Carbone, the district's assistant superintendent, was officially appointed to the role this week by the School Committee as it continues to negotiate a separation agreement with Superintendent Margarita Ruiz.

Ruiz has received harsh public criticism over the past month, following the abrupt leadership change at Salem High School and the subsequent revelations that she began recruiting the new principal several weeks before Jennifer DeStefano suddenly resigned and Ruiz hired Vittoria Pacifico to an 18-month contract the same day.

It further came to light, after public records requests, that Pacifico, who has extensive experience in private schools, does not hold a license to work as a public school principal. The entire process was conducted out of the public eye, or even consultation with the School Committee, which Ruiz answers to.

A letter from Mayor Kim Driscoll, on behalf of the committee (which she chairs), was sent to parents and school employees on Thursday to share the latest update.

"We realize that change is difficult, and we are committed to supporting you as we collectively strive to provide every student with the best educational experience possible," Driscoll wrote. "To that end, in the short term we have asked Assistant School Superintendent Kate Carbone to serve as Acting Salem Public Schools Superintendent for the duration of the school year as we map out a more formal leadership transition plan."

Driscoll noted that Carbone has worked for the district for about eight years and described her as "very capable" of stepping in to fill the leadership void for the time being.

"We will be working closely with Kate throughout the next several weeks and throughout the duration of the leadership transition," she wrote.

The letter does not identify an end date for Ruiz's employment with the district. Driscoll only said that negotiations were still underway between both sides.

The mayor first announced Ruiz would be leaving on April 22, following a lengthy closed-door executive session of the School Committee. The board had promised to review the circumstances and actions surrounding the high school situation.

In her letter, Driscoll again said that after conversations with Ruiz, there was mutual agreement on both sides that a change in leadership was the best course of action for the district to move forward.

Ruiz was first hired as superintendent in 2015 and just signed a new contract with the district last summer.