SALEM — The School Committee met for an hour behind closed doors Thursday night to discuss negotiations with outgoing school district Superintendent Margarita Ruiz, but there was nothing new to report as the members left the executive session.
The School Committee held its second closed-door executive session meeting on Ruiz Thursday night. The talks came as the district and Ruiz part ways just months into her second contract with the city.
The meeting was held to discuss "negotiations with the superintendent of schools." At the end of the meeting, committee Chairperson and city Mayor Kim Driscoll said there was nothing to report in the way of votes, discussions or outcomes.
Ruiz has been at the center of intense public scrutiny since March 13, when she announced the abrupt resignation of recently hired high school principal Jennifer DeStefano and the near-immediate appointment of Vittoria Pacifico as an interim replacement for an 18-month period.
But emails obtained by The Salem News showed Ruiz contacted Pacifico — who has extensive experience in private Catholic schools — about the job several weeks before DeStefano resigned. Ruiz then personally intervened with the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and its commissioner, Jeff Riley, when she learned Pacifico did not have a principal’s license.
Neither Ruiz or an attorney acting on her behalf attended the meeting Thursday night, nor did either take part in the regular School Committee meeting on March 22 or the first executive session meeting on March 15. Though she is still technically the superintendent, assistant superintendent Kate Carbone has been carrying out leadership duties in her absence.
At the March 22 meeting, Driscoll announced that Ruiz and district leaders had been "discussing the future of the district. As a result, the committee and Superintendent Ruiz have mutually agreed that a change in leadership would be desirable at this time."
Ruiz, who inked a new three-year contract last July, made $199,420.54 in 2018. With performance review-based raises worth as much as 3 percent coming each year, Ruiz's contract wouldn't expire until June 30, 2021.
Ruiz is still collecting pay as she is still the district's superintendent, Driscoll said.
In the meantime, Pacifico remains principal of Salem High School, and there is nothing expected to disrupt that contract, Driscoll said this week.
There is also no news on Pacifico's licensing status, according to Driscoll. She has 90 days from March 13 to either get a license or a waiver from the state's Department of Elementary or Secondary Education in order to continue leading Salem High.
There have also been no complaints about Pacifico's leadership, now a little more than a month into her tenure, the mayor said.
“(Pacifico has been) building alliances with students and staff, a very visible presence in the school, working on areas in need of improvement and leading some of the daily operational challenges,” Driscoll said.