Haverhill Picks Silva for Asst. Superintendent Subject to Reference Checks

Maria Silva answers Haverhill School Committee questions. (WHAV News file photograph.)

Maria Silva will likely be Haverhill Public Schools’ new assistant superintendent come July 1.

School Committee members unanimously named her to the post, but added a condition when they realized no one had yet conducted reference checks. Silva, the current business manager for Greater Lawrence Technical School, is expected to take the $120,000 to $140,000 post assuming a successful background check. The job of assistant superintendent of operations and finance combines both traditional business manager responsibilities with oversight over personnel, food service, maintenance and technology.

Impressing most members were her length of employment at Greater Lawrence Tech, bilingual and bicultural experience and dual master’s degrees in both business and education. Silva explained her degrees reflect her long-term goal to become a school superintendent. Others expressed concerns about her lack of experience in a larger, non-vocational school district.

School Committee member Scott W. Wood Jr., who is also one of the city’s two members of the Whittier Tech board, noted there are differences in the ways vocational and comprehensive school districts handle budget problems, such as an unexpected special education cost. Unlike vocational districts, he said, ordinary school systems do not have the flexibility of so-called excess and deficiency accounts. Silva responded by explaining how she handles similar problems at Greater Lawrence Tech.

“Sometimes when we have—whether it’s a budget issue or it’s a cash management issue—we stop the budget. We stop all of the expenditures across the board,” Silva said.

Wood and Gail M. Sullivan were the School Committee’s representatives on the dozen-member screening committee that interviewed candidates. Mayor James J. Fiorentini asked if they believe Silva is both the best overall candidate as well as the best business manager applicant. While Sullivan said Silva excelled in both areas, Wood said she did not possess the strongest business skills among the 13 who applied.

In response to member Richard Rosa’s concerns about managing Haverhill’s $11 million special education budget, Silva said Greater Lawrence Tech also has a relatively high SPED population.

Asked by School Committee member Maura Ryan-Ciardiello about her experience with school building projects, Silva said she Greater Lawrence Tech’s $51 million renovation was already underway when she went to work there. However, she has worked with the Massachusetts School Building Authority on heating and cooling installation and other energy projects.

Vice Chairman Sven A. Amirian said he is confident Silva will grow in any areas unfamiliar to her, while member Paul A. Magliocchetti said Silva will be a needed role model as a bilingual and bicultural woman.

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