UPDATE: New Superintendent ‘Inspired and Humbled’ During Visit to Haverhill

By a vote of 5-2, Haverhill School Committee members chose Salem Assistant Superintendent Margaret Marotta-Smith to succeed James F. Scully as superintendent of the city’s public schools.

Members Scott W. Wood Jr. and Maura Ryan Ciardiello voted to promote the city’s assistant superintendent, Jared Fulgoni.

A third candidate, Dr. Anthony Pope, an assistant superintendent in the Boston Public Schools, received no votes.

Marotta-Smith has been assistant superintendent in Salem for the past eight years, tasked with turning around the city’s Special Education program.

“It’s not a question of who’s going to be the best superintendent, but who is going to be the best fit for Haverhill,” said Mayor James J. Fiorentini.

In a prepared statement, Marotta-Smith said she believed she would be the best choice for Haverhill because of her “passion for equity, love for children and education, calm leadership style and expansive view of the future.”

“I’m truly excited about the prospect of being Haverhill’s next superintendent,” she said.

The arduous application and interview process that culminated with Thursday night’s selection demonstrated Haverhill’s commitment to the city’s children, schools and its future, Marotta-Smith told the committee.

“On my visit to Haverhill’s schools I was inspired and humbled. I enjoyed my visit to the Nettle school where they showed me their data room. I was blown away by the passion of the staff at the TEACH program. And I was amazed by the Hunking School. It’s the only school I’ve been in with a water feature,” she said.

On Thursday night, the School Committee interviewed Fulgoni and Pope before voicing their public votes. Marotta-Smith’s public interview was on Tuesday, March 6, before a series of ill-timed snowstorms canceled and delayed the other two interviews until Thursday. They were preceeded by public receptions at which members of the public could meet the candidates.

Although Fulgoni, who has been Haverhill’s assistant superintendent for the past 18 months, received only two votes, his backers were vocal and passionate in their support.

“I supported Mr. Fulgoni because he was the most well-rounded candidate,” Wood said after the meeting.

Ryan-Ciardiello said she received copious messages from school staff and members of the community in support of Fulgoni. She read one letter, from a Consentino teacher who urged the committee to back the assistant superintendent to end the “revolving door” in school administration.

Not only did Wood praise Fulgoni, but he explained his inability to support the committee’s eventual choice.

“Ms. Smith simply did not have the qualifications for the position. She has never served as a teacher or a principal,” Wood said. “The students of Haverhill do not have the time for a superintendent to get on the job training, which is why I could not support her to be the next superintendent.”

But Fiorentini said his visit to Salem was eye-opening.

“I have never heard anything like the outpouring of support I heard in Salem for Margaret Marotta-Smith,” the mayor said, noting that he was “torn between Margaret and Jared” but in the end swayed by his visit to Marotta-Smith’s home district.

A doctoral candidate at Boston University, Marotta-Smith holds a CAGS certification from Suffolk University, an MPA from Suffolk, a Master’s of Science from Suffolk and Bachelor’s degree from Assumption College.

A three-member subcommittee of the School Committee will begin contract negotiations with Marotta-Smith.

Scully will retire at the end of this school year. Marotta-Smith is expected to assume the district leadership on July 1.