HAVERHILL — Maureen Lynch, formerly Whittier Regional High School’s principal, was named successor to Superintendent William DeRosa by the Whittier School Committee last week, but not without some of its members raising concern about the limited search taken to fill the position.
The decision to appoint Lynch came after the board decided to accept applicants from the Whittier staff only, instead of having the job open to people outside the school as well, as a board member demanded last month.
Although the school issued a press release indicating the Whittier board voted unanimously to hire Lynch, Haverhill member Scott Wood said one board member was not present during the vote.
“We took a first vote, which was 11-2 and was officially recorded, with myself and Nelson Burns of Newburyport voting no,” Wood said in reference to his and Burns’ opposition to the board having conducted an internal search only.
Wood said that Haverhill’s other representative to the Whittier board, Richard Early Jr., voted yes during the first vote after previously noting his opposition to conducting an internal search. Wood also said board member Dave Mansfield of West Newbury was not present at the meeting.
“We then conducted a second vote, a standard symbolic vote taken by school committees when hiring a superintendent, which showed that we want her (Lynch) to succeed and want the best for the school,” Wood said.
Wood said the meeting got a bit heated after board Chairman Charles LaBella of Amesbury and Vice Chairman Brett Murphy accused him and Haverhill’s School Committee of conducting an internal search only when it hired James Scully as superintendent of Haverhill schools.
“Unfortunately it was not true, according to the facts,” Wood said in reference to what he said were assertions made by LaBella and Murphy. “When the Haverhill School Committee met last Thursday, it voted to send a letter to LaBella and Murphy correcting the record and providing them with official documentation to show there was an external search (for Haverhill superintendent) and that all applicants were invited to apply.
“I absolutely 100 percent support Whittier Tech in what it does,” Wood said. “What I don’t support is a rubber-stamped School Committee that distorts records and blatantly lies to further their agenda.
“We should always try to find the best person for the job,” he said. “But the way the process was run, meaning an internal search that resulted in four applicants, one of whom was disqualified, and with only one candidate being brought forward to the full School Committee, we will never know what other qualified applicants were out there. I think it was a disservice to Ms. Lynch to conduct a search this way, as she enters the job under a cloud of controversy. I think the search could have been handled better.”
Lynch will succeed DeRosa, who will retire Aug. 11 after a 34-year career in education, including eight years as Whittier superintendent. Lynch will become Whittier’s fifth superintendent in its 41-year history.
“I’m really honored and excited to have the opportunity to lead this amazing school,” Lynch said. “I plan to continue to focus on student achievement, which has made Whittier Tech the school it is. Bill (DeRosa) has moved us forward during some difficult economic times and challenges by the state, and he has also laid the groundwork for the important growth that lies ahead.”
“There is absolutely no question that under Ms. Lynch’s direction, Whittier will continue to thrive and move forward in a positive direction to serve the students in our district who seek a technical education,” DeRosa said.
After the in-house search, Lynch came out on top, according to Whittier board member Joanne Testaverde, who said Lynch has been a dedicated member of DeRosa’s leadership team for the past five years.
Testaverde represents Georgetown on the board.
“With Bill and his team, we have become a Level 1 school in the state. We have an excellent graduation rate and wonderful MCAS scores,” Testaverde said. “We have such positive feedback from our parents and that’s because we have such strong leaders who care about the kids and have excellent interactions in the community. Maureen has been a part of all of that.”
Whittier educates 1,300 students from 11 cities and towns. Lynch will oversee the school’s $21 million budget, 123 teachers and about 30 other staff members. Her salary will be negotiated by the school board.
“I am grateful for the continued support from the residents of the Whittier district,” Lynch said. “I think we have shown that we are serious about educating the future generations of students and we are lucky to have a dedicated, top-notch staff, and students who are happy to be here and work hard.”
Board member Johanna True, who represents Newbury, has two sons who are sophomores at Whittier. True said at first she struggled with whether to conduct an outside search for a new superintendent. In the end, she said her decision also landed on Lynch’s obvious commitment to the school.
“In Newbury, we had 10 principals in 15 years and unfortunately that is not unusual,” True said. “I really value that five-year commitment she (Lynch) made as the (Whittier) principal. During that time, she clearly demonstrated that she is an effective leader.
“We wanted someone who wasn’t just there for the competitive salary, but to lead the school in the direction we are going,” True said. “With Maureen, what you see is what you get. She looks me in the eye and tells me exactly how it is. She also loves the kids, and she is always proud when a parent tells her how the school has changed their child’s life, which happens often.”
Board members referred to Lynch as a “visible leader” who attends school sporting event and awards ceremonies and is highly involved with both students and their parents.
“To start over again would not be in the best interest of the school,” said Testaverde, who has been a committee member for 12 years, and served on the Georgetown School Committee for nine years. “We have a positive leadership team that works well together.”
Last fall, Whittier’s school board approved raises for several school administrators.
DeRosa’s total compensation jumped by $8,212 to $209,400 per year, including perks.
Lynch also got a pay bump from $129,312 to $133,192. Lynch also receives a $5,000 retirement payment and a $750 longevity payment on top of her salary, boosting her total annual compensation to $138,942.
Lynch’s principal position was posted internally and externally, with the final selection to be made by Lynch.
Lynch was first hired at Whittier in 2006 as the director of guidance and admissions and was appointed principal in 2009. In that role, she assisted in designing and implementing the school budget, participated in the Building Grounds Subcommittee that resulted in the completion of the Whittier Waste Treatment Plant. She worked with administrators, department heads and teachers to develop academic and career vocational programs, supervised and evaluated the standardized testing program, and developed and implemented a mandated educator evaluation system.