hgazette.com, Haverhill, MA

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June 13, 2013

Payout for principals blocked

Two were in line for inflated retirement packages until questions raised

The sharp eyes and good memories of two School Committee members have saved the school district $26,000.

The original school budget proposal for the fiscal year that begins July 1 included the money as severance-related pay for two principals retiring at the end of the school year — Stephen Sierpina at Consentino Middle School and Chris Jayne at Silver Hill Horace Mann Charter School.

Most of the money was due the principals because they were cashing in more than 10 days of unused vacation pay, according to school administrators. Each principal was also set to receive a $1,000 bonus for giving the district advance notice of his resignation.

But School Committee members Scott Wood and Shaun Toohey said they remembered voting on a new policy several years ago that capped the number of vacation days employees can cash in at 10. They also said they never heard of any policy giving workers bonus pay for early notice of resignations.

Wood said he would not support the school budget until Superintendent James Scully researched the matter.

Scully looked into it and found Wood and Toohey were correct on both counts.

The payouts to the two principals were eliminated from the revised $90.5 million school budget that was approved by the School Committee last week.

“It was a mistake on us,” Scully said of the erroneous severance packages. “There’s nothing in their contracts about early leave notice or cashing in more than 10 days of unused vacation.”

Scully noted a teacher had been paid a bonus for early-leave notice a year or two ago, but he said that was at a time when the district was trying to get an early estimate of teachers and administrators who would return the following year.

“It was not an official policy and should not have been offered to these two principals,” Scully said.

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