MARBLEHEAD — The School Committee accepted the resignation of Superintendent Maryann Perry, according to a statement read out at the start of a leadership transition workshop Monday evening by Chairman Meredith Tedford.
The school's business manager has also resigned and will be leaving in a couple of days, Tedford said.
"Recognizing our responsibility and the current budget challenges, the School Committee has accepted the superintendent's resignation effective June 30, 2019," Tedford said in a prepared statement. "The superintendent's last day in the district will be late May as the School Committee has required that she use her accrued vacation prior to the effective day of her resignation. Otherwise, as required by law, the committee would have had to pay out that accrued vacation."
The announcement brings to an end Perry's six-year tenure as superintendent, and seven years in the district. Perry's contract calls for her to earn a salary of $189,000 this school year.
At the end of January, Perry had announced her intention to retire as of June 30, with Tedford saying at that meeting Perry needed to stay on for the time being. This triggered weeks of uncertainty as the School Committee met twice in marathon sessions behind closed doors to resolve the issue of Perry's status.
A couple of weeks ago, the committee said an announcement on Perry's resignation would be forthcoming.
The way the district handled a midyear school budget deficit for special education out-of-district placements led to the leadership crisis that has led to four of the school district's top six leaders resigning.
Amid a growing budget deficit in this line item, which at one point grew to approximately $731,000, an audit report found the schools intentionally, and illegally held back $592,000 in bills from fiscal 2018 and paid them in fiscal 2019, without a vote of Town Meeting. The audit found that this practice exacerbated this year's budget deficit amid a spike in the number of special needs students placed out of district this school year. School officials denied any wrongdoing, saying town officials were aware of the growing deficit last spring. The audit also found there was breakdown in controls between the schools and the town's accounting department for allowing the transactions of the fiscal 2018 bills to be paid in the following fiscal year.
The School Committee and town officials have worked to close this year's budget gap. Last year's budget gap of $592,000 would have to be addressed at Town Meeting, the committee said Monday.
Tedford said the School Committee had begun discussing the hiring of a new superintendent, and it may have an interim in place prior to Perry's last day in the district to facilitate a smooth transition for faculty, staff and students.
"As the district and the current superintendent will be working on the transition," Tedford said, "we have excused her from School Committee and Building Committee meetings. Other administrators will be in attendance at these meetings on an as-needed basis. This plan allows the School Committee to maintain continuity in the district, and is both fiscally responsible and educationally appropriate."
Tedford said the School Committee has also accepted the resignation of Amanda Maniaci, the business and finance administrator, effective Thursday, Feb. 28. The plan is to work with the town administrator and town finance director on any time sensitive issue such as accounts payable and payroll until the committee fills her vacancy. The schools plan to post an ad for this vacancy, at least on an interim basis, as soon as possible.
The School Committee also acknowledged the retirement of Robert Bellucci, the director of student services, as of June 30. The committee has posted for an internal interim position, and they plan to interview two candidates.
In addition, Rachel Bowen, the director of human resources, will be leaving March 8, Tedford said. She'll be managing job postings in the meantime.
"The School Committee will keep the community aware of any decisions regarding next steps in our hiring processes at our publicly posted meetings," Tedford said.
On Monday, the School Committee held a workshop that looked at the superintendent transition process, in the face of a school department being down a business manager and a human resources director this spring.
The district should "have an interim for a longer period of time, and not rush the search process," advised Dorothy Presser, field director of the Massachusetts Association of School Committees, who said the process should not to be rushed to find a permanent superintendent.
She said even if the committee started now, it would be June before the committee could start the search, due to the process to hire a consultant. Presser said June is not the time to find a superintendent, as most would not be looking to leave their posts at the end of the school year.
"I don't see how you could have someone in place by July 1st," Presser said.
What is a common practice, Presser said, is interim superintendents are in place for a year.
Jennifer Schaeffner made a motion for the School Committee to accept a timeline for July 1, 2020, start date for a permanent superintendent, and the motion passed unanimously.
School Committee member David Harris was concerned about the lack of a permanent superintendent for more than a year, and he wanted the committee to try to hire a superintendent sooner rather than later.
Tedford said she preferred to bring on an interim to help push for a new, $55 million elementary school to replace the Coffin, Gerry and Bell elementary schools with a single school, with a vote on this project coming up at Town Meeting in the spring.
Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @TannerSalemNews.