By Katina Caraganis
TOWNSEND — North Middlesex Superintendent of Schools Maureen Marshall will be handed a hefty severance package when she retires later this month, and some School Committee members are outraged she would accept the package in light of fiscal restraints facing communities.
School Committee member Jonna Clermont, of Pepperell, said last week the district is facing difficult economic times and Marshall should reconsider taking many of the cost benefits.
According to Marshall’s contract, which expires Aug. 31, she has a buyback clause that allows her to be compensated for up to 50 unused vacation days at her daily rate and reimbursement for part of her salary for the year prior to her retirement.
Marshall was also entitled to 100 sick days immediately on the day her contract was executed, but that’s not included in her buyback clause.
Additionally, Marshall will receive 5 percent of her salary as severance — in lump sum — upon retirement because she remained with the district for at least six years.
“This is just the way she thinks. I don’t think she gets it. It’s all about a sense of entitlement for her,” Clermont said. “She has spread that attitude on to other administrators and teachers. Nobody is keeping her time clock. Someone should have discretion there.”
Clermont said after an override failed to help fund the district’s operating budget for the upcoming school year, the focus should be on the students in the district.
“It is really about the kids and she could give the money back and pay for a teacher,” Clermont suggested. “Things are what they are. Gone are the days where you get an automatic raise every year. It doesn’t work that way and we can’t sustain these salaries.”
Clermont said “Our priorities aren’t where they should be. It has to be about the kids first. It doesn’t look that way now."
Ken Brown, Ashby’s representative on the School Committee, was not involved in negotiating Marshall’s contract, but said he was involved in the process for Marshall’s replacement, Superintendent of Schools Joan Landers. He said there has been a push to move away from such clauses as in Marshall’s contract.
“First of all, most of the clauses Dr. Marshall has in her contract were in her old one. When she came to the district, they carried over,” he said. “We had instructed her (Marshall ) to try and get away from certain types of benefits and obligations and move them into more traditional pay categories.”
Brown said in the past, people have felt that teachers and other school personnel have been underpaid and things like these clauses were put in to contracts to make up for the lack of pay.
Now, however, “I think there’s definitely a move to try and get away from those things,” he said.
One reason Marshall opted to retire now is because she was maxed out in terms of her retirement and didn’t feel she could commit to another three-year contract.
Because of the number of years she has spent in education, Marshall is eligible to receive 80 percent of the average of her last three years of salary in pension, which is paid monthly for the rest of her life.
In the 2009-10 school year, Marshall received $185,391, in 2010-11 her salary was $191,880 and in 2011-12, her salary was $198,595.
Marshall’s contract was extended for two additional months to help in the transition process. For that she is being compensated at $33,100.
During the last few years of Marshall’s term at North Middlesex, she worked in a shared-services agreement with the Quabbin Regional School District, which compensated North Middlesex for half her salary.
Members of the Quabbin School Committee have expressed interest in employing Marshall for at least one year while they search for a new superintendent
If Marshall accepts an offer from Quabbin, she would only be eligible to work 960 hours a year, and cannot make more than the difference between her last year’s salary and pension amount.
Derek Moitoso, who works in the state pension system, said if Marshall chooses, she could work all those hours from Sept. 1 to Dec. 31 in Quabbin, but could not work any additional hours until after her one-year retirement anniversary.
However, he said, if Marshall was to work in another state, there would be no cap on how many hours she could work or be compensated.
Marshall did not return multiple calls last week seeking comment on her contract and compensation.