With Pfifferling Leaving, Haverhill School Committee Considers Reduced Role For Replacement

Assistant Superintendent Michael J. Pfifferling details budget components at workshop March 7. (WHAV News photograph.)

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With Assistant Superintendent Michael J. Pfifferling on his way to Marblehead, Haverhill School Committee members talked over changing the title, and potentially responsibilities, of his role at Monday night’s budget hearing.

Alternatives include business administrator, which would only oversee three departments—as opposed to the assistant superintendent of finance and operation’s six—and chief operating officer. The operating officer position would be quite like Pfifferling’s, with the new title aimed at attracting more candidates, according to Superintendent Margaret Marotta.

“It’s a well-known fact that there’s just a dearth of people that can do these positions well out in the community, and I think that’s why some school systems are changing the names up a little bit to see if they can attract people from the business world,” she said. “Whether or not that’s a tactic that works, I don’t know.”

Member Jill Story spoke against hiring outside of the education field. “I think when you go into the business world, that does not always work out well for schools, at least for educators.”

A business administrator would not oversee technology, facilities and security, which currently fall under Pfifferling’s purview. He spoke highly of the heads of technology and facilities, with Marotta adding she already works closely with those departments. Asked by member Yonnie Collins about his experience, Pfifferling said transportation was the most time-consuming part of his job.

“It’s just constant. It is never-ending. Late buses, missing kids, missing buses, sending buses back out to pick up kids who weren’t at the stop on time,” he said, taking a deep breath. “It is quite enormous. Athletics on transportation is a nightmare. Just to get buses at 2:30 when Mr. O’Brien needs them. It just, it does not end.”

“The people over there are fantastic. It’s not their fault,” he added.

On member Thomas Granneman’s suggestion, the Committee voted to have a subcommittee look more closely at which position to choose. Pending contract negotiations, Pfifferling took the post of assistant superintendent of finance and operations for Marblehead Public Schools over a week ago, as WHAV reported first.

In his formal letter of resignation to the school board, he wrote, he “decided to pursue new opportunities that align more closely with my core values and a positive work environment. This decision was not made lightly, as I have thoroughly enjoyed my time working with the staff and talented teams at HPS under my supervision.”

With six weeks left in the school year, Pfifferling is not done with Haverhill just yet. He informed members there is only around $600,000 available in the current budget, with an undisclosed amount of the money going toward contract settlements with staff. After questions were raised this week, he said the district will be bringing back a certified nursing assistant position at Bradford Elementary School. He said he would “take the blame” for the miscommunication that initially led to the cut.

Only one member of the public gave comment on next year’s proposed school budget, the stated reason for Monday’s special meeting. Jay Faxon, who has worked on school HVAC systems, advised the Committee to keep facilities properly maintained.

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