The City of Haverhill and its schools have agreed to keep a joint maintenance department and hire a Harvard-educated director to oversee the revised effort.
A compromise, coming despite two different School Committee votes against the concept, was brokered during a closed-door session of the board Thursday night when the city agreed to chip in $25,000 towards the new facilities director’s $145,000 annual salary. The school administration also agreed in a written pact that a city-paid “associate director” would report to Mayor James J. Fiorentini. The mayor told WHAV why the agreement is important to him.
“I said—for me personally, Jim Fiorentini—it’s not in my interest to have anything to do with maintenance, but I’m also the mayor. If I have nothing to do with it, then I avoid all of the people saying, ‘Why is the roof leaking? This is all your fault.’ But, in fact, I have nothing to do with it, but my job is to take care of the whole city and if I were to get the blame, then I want the responsibility too. So, this is a compromise,” he said.
School Superintendent Margaret Marotta is hiring Stephen D. Dorrance of Georgetown, who is expected to begin at the end of the month. Dorrance resigned last week as Belmont’s facilities director. Besides having a master’s degree from Harvard in organizational development, Dorrance has a bachelor’s degree from Suffolk University. Before working in Belmont, he was the bureau director of facilities for state Department of Public Health hospitals.
Most school hiring is the responsibility of the superintendent under state education reform law. A School Committee vote was required, however, because Dorrance’s salary came in above the maximum $120,000 members previously approved. In a statement, Marotta said, Dorrance “emerged as the universal choice of the interview team.”
“The management of our 17 school houses and 23 city buildings encompasses 1.7 million square feet of space that is inhabited daily by the children, seniors, employees and residents of the city. With the advent of COVID, now more than ever, we need to step up our facilities management planning and execution. Given our school buildings projects which include several large-scale, multi-million-dollar initiatives such as district-wide HVAC repairs, a new HHS gymnasium roofing project nearing acceptance with MSBA and the ongoing Consentino School building project, in addition to our day-to-day and COVID related custodial management and supervision expectations, we are particularly pleased to have such an impressive leader joining the team.”
Dorrance and his future assistant effectively succeed Facilities Supervisor Heather Forgione, who left last week after her position was eliminated from the school budget.
Fiorentini said the position of assistant will, at least for the time being, be filled by an existing city employee who will be paid a stipend to take on the added work.
As recently as Oct. 22, the School Committee rejected the mayor’s request by a vote of 4-3 to have a joint department and give him shared control of it along with Marotta. This time, School Committee member Gail M. Sullivan agreed to favor the arrangement. While, she said, she still believes there are too many buildings for a shared department, the addition of an associate director and the added supervision over the planned renovation or replacement of the Dr. Albert B. Consentino School convinced her to support the effort for one year.
Besides Sullivan and the mayor, favoring the plan were School Committee Vice Chairman Richard J. Rosa and member Paul A. Magliocchetti. Opposed were members Scott W. Wood Jr., Maura L. Ryan-Ciardiello, and Toni Sapienza Donais.