Exiting superintendent to get 8 months pay

Margarita Ruiz

SALEM — Outgoing schools Superintendent Margarita Ruiz will collect about eight months of pay as part of the deal ending her contract with the School Committee.

Ruiz will be paid for two months of administrative leave ending June 30, and then six months of severance in exchange for releasing the school district from the last two years of her current three-year contract, according to Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll.

The School Committee is expected to vote on ratifying the exit agreement at its meeting on Monday. Also on the agenda is a vote to confirm the appointment of Assistant Superintendent Kate Carbone as the acting superintendent — which would last at least through June 30 — and adoption of a $59.8 million budget for the coming school year.

As part of her separation agreement, Ruiz will assist the district "through the end of this (fiscal) year on transition issues," Driscoll said. "We're paying her for 25 percent of what her remaining contract terms were, and really, that's it."

A copy of the agreement was not available Friday, pending a mutual statement to be issued by both sides.

"This was a mutual decision," Driscoll said. "She recognized that this was in the best interest of the schools, and her, and the community."

Ruiz made $199,420 in 2018, covering half of the 2017-18 and 2018-19 school years. She was the second highest paid city employee.

Ruiz came under fire after announcing the abrupt resignation of the Salem High School principal in March and, at the same time, announcing she had already appointed an interim principal for the next 18 months. The change in leadership was made without input from the public or, apparently, the School Committee.

It also came to light that the new principal, Vittoria Pacifico, did not have a license to work as a public school principal. State education officials later said she had 90 days from her date of hire to obtain the license or a waiver.

In the aftermath, the School Committee met behind closed doors April 15 to discuss complaints and the character and reputation of Ruiz. Then, at a School Committee meeting on April 22, Driscoll announced that Ruiz would be leaving.

"Over the past week, the School Committee and superintendent have been discussing the future of the district," Driscoll said at the meeting. "As a result, the committee and Superintendent Ruiz have agreed that a change in leadership would be desirable."

The committee met for an hour on April 25, behind closed doors, to discuss negotiations with the superintendent. No news came out of that meeting. Then, on Friday, Driscoll said the two sides had reached a separation agreement.

Also on the School Committee's agenda for this Monday, May 6, is discussion of an Open Meeting Law complaint that was filed regarding the April 15 meeting.

The complaint has three parts, Driscoll said: That the committee met on a holiday (Patriots Day), that they didn't take a roll-call vote before starting the executive session, and that the committee conducted an evaluation of a city employee behind closed doors, rather than in public session.

Contact Salem reporter Dustin Luca at 978-338-2523 or DLuca@salemnews.com. Follow him on Facebook at facebook.com/dustinluca or on Twitter @DustinLucaSN.