HARVARD — “I’d like to officially welcome Dr. Joseph Connelly,” said Harvard School Committee Chairman Keith Cheveralls.
“I’ll be Joe Connelly, please,” said Connelly.
Soon thereafter, the committee unanimously agreed Monday to enter into a one year contract with its new interim School Superintendent Joseph Connelly. The Reading resident is currently wrapping up a one-year interim superintendency stint in Gloucester.
Connelly notified the committee that his Gloucester replacement is coming aboard and largely flying solo starting the week of May 16. The move means Connelly will be increasingly available to attend community events and committee meetings and meet key staffers before his July 1 official start date.
Connelly stated he intends to be an audience member for the May 23, June 13 and 27 School Committee meetings. “Refer to me or engage me all you want,” said Connelly who said he hopes to mainly “sit back and get a sense of how you conduct a meeting. My intent would be only to come as a spectator.”
At the outset of the meeting, Cheveralls, then Connelly put pen to paper and signed a simple three-page employment contract. Connelly’s salary will be $143,000, an increase over the $140,000 salary earned by outgoing Harvard School Superintendent Thomas Jefferson and more than the $141,395 included in the school’s $11.4 million omnibus budget approved at the April 2 Annual Town Meeting, though the department has a degree of flexibility with its budget.
Jefferson starts work July 1 as Lynnfield’s new school superintendent. Jefferson will earn $175,000 in his new post. Jefferson was not at Monday’s meeting.
Connelly, who otherwise retired in 2007 as the superintendent of schools in Stoneham, has continued to work on an interim basis under state issued “critical need” waivers in several school districts. Connelly comes to Harvard upon the granting of such a waiver, approved by the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE).
Commissioner Mitchell Chester granted the waiver on April 13 with a notice that any extension beyond June 30, 2012 may only occur with DESE approval and a “good faith effort” showing that the district otherwise exhausted a search for a superintendent who has not otherwise retired. The committee had to make such a case this spring in detailing why Connelly outshone the competition.
Connelly’s contract signed Monday extends from July 1, 2011 through June 30, 2012. It includes 25 vacation days atop legal holidays and routine sick and vacation earnings. Dismissal may only be achieved on a two-thirds vote and for “good cause.”
Not like the committee had any of that on its mind. Rather, each committee member warmly welcomed Connelly. Then, at his request, committee members detailed for Connelly their concerns for the coming year over the course of the next two hours.
“Joe needs to hear from us what it is we want him to work on,” said Cheveralls. “Joe’s encouraged us to keep anything and everything on the table. Different eyes and different minds may see things differently.”