By Bethany Bray
---- — DANVERS — The superintendent of Essex Agricultural and Technical High School is resigning effective April 1 to take a job with the Boston Public Schools.
The news of Roger Bourgeois’s exit comes more than one year before Essex Aggie is set to merge with North Shore Technical High School and just eight months into a two-year contract he signed intending to steer the school right up to the transition.
Bourgeois, who has worked at Essex Aggie since 2007, has been hired for a newly-created position in the Boston Public Schools: assistant superintendent for technical/vocational network.
”This is a once in a lifetime opportunity,” said Bourgeois. “(Essex Aggie) has been a great school to work at. It was a very difficult decision to make ... I have mixed emotions.”
Essex Aggie’s upcoming merger influenced Bourgeois to begin looking for other positions, he said Tuesday.
”If Essex Aggie wasn’t merging, I wouldn’t be leaving,” he said. “It was going to be an issue, (having) two superintendents vying for one (job at the new, merged school). Less than a year and a half from now, Essex Aggie’s going to dissolve.”
”... As difficult as it is to leave Essex Aggie, this is just something that felt like it was the right place, the right time to move on.”
Essex Aggie’s Board of Trustees voted unanimously last week to accept Bourgeois’ resignation.
The board’s personnel subcommittee will meet next week and will likely recommend an interim superintendent to fill out the remainder of the school year, said Chairman Joseph Edwards. Essex Aggie’s principal, Joy White, is licensed to work as a superintendent, Edwards said.
”My feeling is that she (White) will be chosen (as interim),” said Edwards. “I don’t think there will be an issue at all with her taking over, if she chooses to do so.”
Essex Aggie includes has 482 students from 47 cities and towns across the region — including from Gloucester, Rockport, Manchester and Essex.
The state-owned school is set to merge with Middleton’s North Shore Technical High School and Peabody’s high school vocational programs into a new, 1,440-student school slated to open in 2014. The new school — Essex North Shore Agricultural and Technical High School — is currently under construction on the Essex Aggie campus on Route 62.
The four Cape Ann communities have also signed on to be part of the merged regional vo-tech program, while Gloucester will also continue to operate its own vocational technical program at Gloucester High School.
Edwards said there’s no hard feelings over Bourgeois’ resignation, and the staff he’s built at Essex Aggie will provide a smooth transition as he leaves.
”Roger’s done a superb job for us ... I would recommend him for a superintendent’s job anywhere in the state,” he said. “We’ll miss him, but it’s not going to adversely effect the school at all.”
In Boston, Bourgeois will start at the same salary he’s making at Essex Aggie: $164,307/year. He’ll receive a 2.5 percent raise on July 1, pending a performance review, according to the Boston Public Schools communication office.
Bourgeois will oversee Madison Park Technical Vocational High School in Roxbury, including the school’s search for a headmaster, and be responsible for voke/tech programs across the district.
Bourgeois has worked for 30 years in vocational and technical education, starting out as a carpentry teacher at Shawsheen Valley Technical High in Billerica before he became an administrator. He was the assistant superintendent of community services at Shawsheen Valley before being picked to head Essex Aggie in 2007.
Edwards said Bourgeois hasn’t applied for the superintendent position at the merged school, nor would he have the votes to be hired by the new school’s board.
”He wouldn’t have been superintendent of the merged school, that’s certain,” Edwards said. “... We (the Essex Aggie board) knew that with his talent, he needed to go somewhere.
”I think it’s a perfect place for him to go,” he added. “We’ll all be reading about Roger and his accomplishments at the city of Boston.”
In June, Essex Aggie’s Board of Trustees approved a contract for Bourgeois that lasts through the 2013-2014 school year.
The deal rolled the costs of benefits he had already been receiving, such as compensation for life insurance and travel expenses, into his base salary so they could be counted toward his retirement pension.
In June, as the contract was finalized, Bourgeois told the Salem News, sister paper of the Times, that he was interested in staying on until the new school opened.
“I’ve had an outstanding experience at Essex Aggie,” Bourgeois said Tuesday. “I couldn’t speak more highly of the students, board of trustees and staff, (which) made it a difficult decision to leave. I just felt it was the right time.”
Bethany Bray can be reached via email throughat firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @SalemNewsBB.