SALEM — The School Committee is conducting a review of how Salem Public Schools Superintendent Margarita Ruiz immediately replaced high school principal Jennifer DeStefano after her abrupt resignation in March.
In a statement released Monday afternoon, Mayor Kim Driscoll said the committee has "launched our own review of the actions that have transpired. We are collecting data on what occurred and how it was communicated, including the email information obtained by The Salem News."
That email information, the result of a public records request by The Salem News, shows that Ruiz was seeking an interim high school principal in January, six weeks before DeStefano's resignation. The emails also show that new principal Vittoria Pacifico had applied for her principal's license in 1995 but that her paperwork "got lost in the red tape."
The state Department of Secondary Education later confirmed that Pacifico does not hold a Massachusetts principal's license and has 90 days to get either a license or a waiver. Pacifico has worked as a principal or a president at four different private schools, and was not required to hold a state license in those positions.
“There have been legitimate concerns raised about the process followed by the Superintendent and the veracity of her statements surrounding the previous high school principal’s recent resignation and the immediate appointment of a successor," Driscoll wrote. "In addition, questions have been raised regarding the licensing status of the successor principal and the failure to share that information in an upfront manner. Finally, as a result of public forums held regarding these changes at the high school, students and parents raised other reasonable and, I know, frustrating concerns regarding teacher vacancies and communication gaps among students, staff, and families at Salem High."
The statement came out hours before a meeting of the School Committee — the board's first meeting since DeStefano's resignation and Pacifico's hiring.
Driscoll also called attention to an impending "360-degree performance review of the superintendent," which Ruiz and the School Committee had previously agreed upon.
That review "includes interviews with direct reports, as well as principals and school leaders who have left the district over the last year," Driscoll wrote.
"When we analyze the progress being made as a district, we routinely look at data related to student achievement and academic goals," she wrote. "This year, in addition to that data, we intend to gather feedback and information via interviews with district leaders about how they view their role in the district, what they feel is going well, and what areas need improvement. These interviews also include feedback from former district leaders and principals. We think that all of this information will help us more comprehensively understand and assess the performance and leadership of the Superintendent."
In regards to Monday night's meeting, Driscoll wrote that the committee "will listen to the public in open session and welcome your input as we do our due diligence surrounding the most recent concerns."
"Your feedback will be taken into consideration as an important part of our work," Driscoll wrote. "At our meeting on April 22nd I expect that we will address concerns related to the recent high school principal transition, as well as other areas of concern that have been raised by parents and students about teacher vacancies and a general lack of communication regarding matters at Salem High. "
The School Committee meets in the committee's chambers at Collins Middle School, 29 Highland Ave. The meeting begins at 7 p.m. and includes public comment periods toward the beginning and at the end of the meeting.