The North Shore Technical School Committee's decision to raise its superintendent's salary to $195,000 has drawn fire from North Shore officials, but at Gloucester's representative on that committee said she supports the raise — for now.
"My expectation is that any superintendent that comes in after the school is built, there would be a reduction because of the less responsibility," said Melissa Teixeira.
Teixeira serves on North Shore Technical High School's school committee, and Gloucester's School Committee. She said Monday she believes North Shore Technical's committee was justified in raising superintendent Daniel O'Connell's salary by more than $16,000 — and she voted for it.
She said the extra pay comes as O'Connell has assumed extra responsibilities as North Shore Tech merges with Essex Agricultural Technical School. She said the committee decided that he should be compensated for extra hours and time devoted to pulling the schools together and helping craft the new Danvers facility.
O'Connell had been making just over $178,000 every year, and Teixeira said a $16,000 increase was in line with the additional work that he's done so far.
But, when the new Technical school goes up in 2014, and the committee looks for someone to head the school, Teixeira said the salary baseline won't be as high.
The new North Shore Technical School is still on the architect's desk, but Teixeira said the school expects to break ground by the end of this Fall. The schools, though operating in separate facilities, have merged, and she serves on the committee for the new school as well as North Shore Technical.
"We're heavily into the designing phase," she said.
Gloucester pays roughly $1 million per year to send students to the regional school, at a tuition of nearly $18,000 per student. Each year, Teixeira said, 55-62 students attend North Shore Technical, while 6-8 attend Essex Agricultural.
The member communities will also share in the remaining building costs — in Gloucester's case, some $2.7 million. The rebuilding project costs around $133 million, with $98 million of that funded by the State Division of Capital Asset Management, and the Massachusetts Building Authority.
The regional district, however, required communities to sign on by last December — and Gloucester, Rockport, Manchester and Essex all chose to remain part of the program. Gloucester also continues to offer vocational-technical programs serving some 140 students at Gloucester High School.
Mayor Carolyn Kirk said she still has concerns with the school committee's accountability. She said she had concerns with a superintendent making nearly $200,000 while running a school of 450 students. Gloucester School District Superintendent Richard Safier makes about $155,000, while running a roughly 3,200-student district. She has described the salary hike as one of the reasons why she vetoed Gloucester's participation in the district.
That veto was overturned by the City Council last year.
North Shore Technical School Committee members George Harvey, of Essex, listed as the chairman on the school's website, and Manchester's representative Joe Sabella, could not be reached for comment. Sabella voted against the salary increase.
Kirk said many committee members seem motivated by the interests of their own communities, most of which do not have their own vocational school.
The regional committee's vote for the salary hike shows "there's no one fighting for the taxpayer," Kirk said.
Steven Fletcher may be contacted at 1-978-283-7000 x3455, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @stevengdt.